In honor of Adopt a Shelter Pet Day (April 30th), I thought it would be an ideal time to discuss ways to approach this life-changing decision. After all, it’s not just your own life that is impacted; it is the inquisitive canine’s life as well.
Here are several things to consider when thinking about adopting a dog of any age, from puppy to older.
First of all, ask yourself, WHY?
Literally, make a list that answers the question, “Why do I want a dog?”
And then do some follow-up thinking.
For example, consider what you’ll want your new dog to do as a member of your family. Cuddle on the couch? Take daily walks? Accompany you to work? Be a companion to your children, partner, or another pet?
Once you understand why you want to adopt a dog, then it’s important to ask how that will work within the confines of your current lifestyle. This may mean a change in your home life is necessary; it may even be what’s behind your why. Maybe becoming more active by walking is something you’ve wanted to do, and a new dog will motivate you to get you out of the house.
Timing is everything.
If you’ve started a new job, or have plans every weekend for the next few months, you might want to consider waiting until you have the time to help your new family member acclimate to his or her new home and living conditions. Like all animals, dogs are adaptable, but having that extra time to be more involved will be key in helping the transition go more smoothly. Also consider whether or not your immediate future holds any major life changes. Adopting a new dog when you’re about to get married or move across the country could be too stressful and be worth waiting on until you are settled in.
Love is free, but pets are not.
Many shelters and rescue groups make it easy for dogs to be adopted out, with relatively modest adoption fees that range from free to about $200, according to Petfinder. From there, you have to take into account the necessities (basic gear like collars and leashes, food) and consider the luxury items, too. According to Petfinder, average annual costs the first year of owning a dog start at around $766 to adopt and get your household set up for your new pet. Petfinder estimates subsequent years start at an annual average cost of $526 and go up from there, depending on what’s going on in your dog’s life, and how much outside services you pay for (i.e. dog walkers and sitters, vet care, training, etc.) For the most part, dogs are certainly simple, loving creatures who don’t ask for much, but expenses can add up. Make sure you have the financial ability to take on caring for a pet for his or her entire life.
Identify the type of dog you want.
You may have in your mind a certain type of dog that you want – small or large, puppy or older, a specific breed – but keep in mind that selecting the right dog for you and your family is like choosing any other friend or mate. The choice should not be made on superficial attributes, but should really take into consideration things like behavior, temperament, common interests, etc. Truly consider how your new pet will fit in and enhance your life, and vice versa.
To help articulate those aspects of your dog-to-be, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where will your dog spend his or her days? At home alone, at doggy daycare, with a friend or family member, at work with you?
- Where will he or she spend nights? In a crate, on a dog bed, in your bed?
- Will you have time to groom your dog yourself or will you need to find a groomer?
- Do you entertain a lot, requiring your dog to be around a lot of strangers, meeting and greeting?
- Are you active, and do you want a canine running partner? Or is your life more sedentary? (Keep in mind a dogs’ size doesn’t necessarily match his or her energy level).
Breed is in the eye of the beholder.
Once you’re clear on the type of dog you want, then you may want to consider a certain breed. In my opinion, however, dog breed descriptions are subjective labels.
For instance, can you determine which breed I’m referring to with these attributes: powerful, fearless, watchful, energetic, friendly, and sturdily built?
What about: calm, affectionate, and friendly?
And then there’s: calm, tranquil, aloof and attentive, yet loyal, and alert.
The three breeds I’ve just described, based on information I obtained off of the American Kennel Club’s website, are Swedish Vallhund, Whippet, and Xoloitzcuintli, respectively.
I randomly chose these particular breeds to show that descriptive words used can overlap between all the groups. My point is that you should consider choosing your dog based not only on physical preferences, such as small or large, short coat vs longer coat but on his or her individual traits — especially personality traits; objective behaviors specifically. Realize that other variables, such as DNA mutations, environmental situations, prior learning history, and current conditions may make it such that your dog acts much differently than his or her breed description would otherwise imply. It also makes it imperative to find out as much as you can about the true nature of the pet you’re considering adopting. Be inquisitive!
April 30th may be the special day we recognize and promote the adoption of shelter dogs, but no matter the when, where, why, and how, it’s important to ask the right questions of not only the organization from which you’re adopting but also of yourself and anyone else involved in the process, such as family members or roommates. After all, you want to do your best to ensure your new inquisitive canine will have a happy life with his or her new humans, and that she or he will return the favor in kind.
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