Who’s Rescuing Whom? What to Think About When Adopting a Dog

InquisitiveCanine-Georgie-CloseUpThinking about bringing home a new canine companion?

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.

 


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Before You Adopt a Dog, Preparing for Your New Pooch

Dear Inquisitive (& Expectant) Dog Guardians,

If you or someone you know intends on spending the pawliday season giving or receiving the gift of a puppy or adult dog, then yippee and woohoo! As a dog mom, I know how meaningful the human-animal bond is. I’m truly thankful each and day for the relationship my sidekick (Poncho) and I have.

Speaking as a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest that being proactive and planning ahead before bringing a new puppy or adult dog (or any pet, for that matter) into your home, can help ease the transition and reduce stress — for everyone, including the dog. So for those who are in pet-parent-to-be mode, we’re here to assist you in making the transition a little easier by providing a few simple tips to help start you out on the right paw.

Planning to Succeed Leads to Success

Health and Wellness:  Similar to human health practices, prevention is key! So we encourage you to schedule a wellness exam for your dog, to be sure he or she has been evaluated, and is receiving all they need to maintain good health. This goes double if you have zero health history about your dog. If you feel your dog doesn’t need a full exam, ask if you can bring your dog in just to say hi, meet the staff and get a treat. This will leave a nice impression the next time your dog has an appointment (FYI, this goes for any dog, not just newbies).

The Right Resources: If you’re in the market for a groomer, dog training services, dog walker, petsitter or daycare facility, you’ll want to start investigating for names and places sooner than later.

For day-to-day needs, look to local pet supply stores, garage sales, thrift stores, friends cleaning out their garages (checking expiration dates on products) and, of course, the Internet. When hiring someone who provides such services, an Internet search, along with word of mouth from friends and neighbors, is a great way to begin your hunt. As for those you’d hire, we feel interviewing two or three is a sensible approach. If possible, have your dog meet each provider as well, since your dog is the one who’ll be spending the most time with the person.

Start with the Basics. There are thousands of pet products on the market nowadays. For sure you’ll need a collar with ID, as well as food, water bowl and leash. Depending where you live, a license might be required as well. Check with your county animal services department. Microchips are optional, but quite handy; ask your vet for information regarding the insertion of a chip. If your dog came with a chip, the facility or person you got your dog from should be able to provide you with what you’ll need in order to update the contact information.

When it comes to toys, beds, treats, and games you can play with your dog, we suggest you test out a few you think your dog might like, at least until you get to know his or her preferences. Then you can go nuts and start spoiling them silly. (Guilty!)

Social Director Extraordinaire: Depending upon the age, breed, temperament, and likes and dislikes of your dog, you’ll want to plan activities that enrich your dog’s life — both physically and mentally. The following is a list of things you can do with your dog (most all are budget-friendly):

  • Neighborhood walks for fun and to show your dog his or her new neighborhood. Until your dog learns to stay with you and has a good recall, staying on leash is highly recommended. (Plus, it might be the law). Bring along treats to reward behaviors you like, and when introducing your dog to new people and other dogs.
  • Field trips to places you frequent. Many dogs love car rides and running errands. Make sure your dog is kept safe while going for rides. Seat belts and car seats are easy to find, inexpensive and help protect your dog from injury.
  • Meet-and-greets with friends and neighbors. Allow your dog to set the pace as to how quickly he or she wants to socialize. It might be overwhelming with all the new changes, so be patient.
  • Dog training classes. No matter your dog’s age or skill level, classes with emphasis on manners or sports are enjoyable activities for having fun, learning new skills and enhancing your bond.
  • Yard play. Playing games in your own home and yard — fetch, tug, hide ‘n’ seek, scavenger hunts or just chillin’ with each other and giving belly rubs — is quality time and enjoyable for everyone, and often the best part of the day.

Huddle Up: No matter how many people will be caring for your dog, delegate responsibilities and how they’ll fit into your current schedule.  Feeding, walking and exercise, potty outings, clean-up, vet appointments, grooming and training are just a few general responsibilities that make up your dog’s daily agenda. Make sure everyone knows the routine, his or her list of duties and that maintaining consistency is essential to your dog adapting and learning what you want.

Environmental Management: No matter the age of your new dog, he or she will need to learn about, and settle in to, your environment. Puppies will require additional guidance on house-training, which includes rewarding desired behavior, tighter management and observation. Older dogs still need to be taught where the bathroom is, and get rewarded for using it. For a step-by-step plan on how you can house-train your dog, check out our free eBook.

Puppy- and dog -proofing your home will also set your dog up for making better choices. Take the time to section off off-limits areas,  safely putting away those things you don’t want your dog to get to (lead your dog not into temptation, and not into danger). As you learn more about each other, you can slowly increase your dog’s boundaries, allowing more freedom.

Sleeping arrangements: You’ll need to decide where your dog is and isn’t allowed to sleep. Will your dog slumber in his or her own bed? Crate? Your bed? Floor? Couch? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make sure you’ve approved it, it’s safe and you’re able to monitor your pooch — at least initially, until you know his or her sleeping patterns.

Pet siblings: If this is a second dog or second pet, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to introduce your new dog to the seasoned residents. Allow each of them to set the pace on how fast they want to establish a relationship. Keep the vibe positive and easygoing, while at the same time safe. Read more tips on introducing a new dog to a resident dog.

Tracking down resources, gathering supplies, delegating responsibilities and establishing a dog-friendly environment are key components in setting you and your new canine companion up for success. We encourage new pooch parents to begin developing a plan of action to help your dog feel welcomed!. By doing this, you’ll make the adjustment easy on everyone, which leaves more time for fun and games (and belly rubs).

Happy Pawlidays
On behalf of Poncho, myself and The Inquisitive Canine, we wish you and your family a joyous and pawsitively reinforcing holiday season. Your readership is the ultimate gift, and we thank you for being part of our family. (Want to see the official Mayer Family holiday photo? Check out our Inquisitive Canine Facebook page where we’ll be unveiling it mid-December).


 

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple, common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine, and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, which highlights her love-of-dog training approach and the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog has questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.