5 Important Considerations Before Adopting a Puppy or Adult Dog
By Joan Hunter Mayer
“Oh! What a cute little doggy…Let’s bring him home!” So, you’re thinking about adding a cuddly puppy or snuggly adult pooch to your family.
Those big soft eyes. That sweet face. Visions of camaraderie, joy, and pure contentment. Ah yes, there is little that compares with a companion who provides true unconditional love and loyalty… and doesn’t care what you look (or smell) like at the end of a long day! However, before making a life-changing decision, such as acquiring a puppy or adult dog, please consider the following:
Consideration #1: Why Do You Want a Dog?
This is by far one of the most important questions to ask yourself, and one you will want to answer as honestly as possible. Is it because you want a dog for companionship? A nice addition to the family? Because the kids want one? All your friends have one? A pandemic trend? A present for someone? To keep the other dog company? For protection?
Exploring your own personal motivations can help you figure out whether or not acquiring a dog makes sense right now and if so, which pet would be best for your situation and family. A decision of unity is ideal, by all who will share responsibility for pet care. Try to avoid basing the ultimate determination on pressure, begging, guilt, or ‘promises’ made by others.
Consideration #2: Is Now the Right Time in Your Life to Bring Home a Puppy or Adult Dog?
Daily socialization, physical and mental exercise, as well as training, are all essential components for building the strong, loving, and healthy human-canine relationship we all strive for. Knowing that, do you feel your current living arrangements are suitable for a dog? (More importantly, are you permitted to have a dog where you live?)
Are you currently willing and able to exercise a dog to meet mental and physical requirements and keep that up in all sorts of weather conditions? What resources are available for you and the pup if you are unable to fulfill specific needs? If you have a particular pal in mind, does the dog you want match your current lifestyle? For instance:
- Can you go on ‘Pup-ternity’ leave from work?
- What is your routine daily schedule? Is it open and flexible enough for the extra care a puppy or newly adopted adult dog needs?
- Is someone in your household generally home during the day? Evenings?
- How about travel? Do you travel for leisure or business? How often? If so, will you be able to take your dog with you? If not, who will take care of Fido when you’re away?
Consideration #3: Potential Life-Changing Events in Your (Your Family’s) Future
Although we lack the ability to predict for certain, expected changes in employment, marital/relationship status, as well as children in your home (either currently or in the future) all should be factored into your decision:
- Where do you see yourself over the next few weeks, months, and even years? A relationship beginning (or ending)? Relocation? New job?
- Do you think others in the household might be moving in or out? Note: Parents getting a puppy now for their preteen kids will probably still be caring for that dog even when the ‘children’ leave home.
- Apologies for the unpleasant, yet necessary thought, but what if something happens to you? Who will take care of this dog?
Consideration #4: Your Budget
Pet care costs can be high. Will you be able to pay for acquiring the dog and then all the scheduled, as well as unscheduled, visits to the veterinarian? Even the basics add up. Additional financial expenses to factor into your budget include (but are not limited to): regular flea and tick control, grooming needs, food, treats, a flat collar for tags, ID/microchipping, licensing, vaccinations, bed(s), leash, crate, and toys. You will then want to multiply these costs by the number of years you expect your dog to be with you. Remember, this could be up to 10-17 years!
Consideration #5: What Type of Dog Do You Want?
One reason we often find dogs so charming is because of their cute little doggy traits. For the most part, all dogs perform normal behaviors such as ‘talking’ (barking), exploring the world with their mouths and paws (chewing and digging), communicating with everyone in their world (eliminating in areas that aren’t ‘appropriate’ to us humans, and again by barking), and playing all sorts of fun games (chasing things, rolling in smelly stuff, ‘keep away’).
Consider that certain dogs demonstrate some of these inherent behaviors more than others. Know your animal and know your breed! For example, terriers may enjoy chasing and ‘hunting;’ herding dogs may use their mouths to ‘move things;’ retrievers like to pick items up with their mouths; and hounds love to stop and smell everything - and anything.
Educating yourself about normal doggy behavior and breed tendencies can help you plan and prepare. Remember, think about your schedule, lifestyle, and how you want your dog to be a part of that. Then ask: Do you prefer a specific breed or a mix of two or more breeds (mutt)?
Small, medium or large? Male or female or doesn’t matter? Long or short hair? A dog who is likely to shed less? High energy or more of a ‘lapdog’?
Think of matching yourself with a pooch in much the same way you’d match yourself with a person. Although we’re talking about dogs, you are still forming a friendship. Who would you want to be friends with? Are you looking for a companion to go on long hikes or travel with? Bring to the office? Participate in dog shows or dog sports? Or simply a buddy to chill out with on the sofa?
Although the loving relationship between a dog and his or her family is like no other, this is not a decision to be entered into lightly. After careful consideration, if you do decide to acquire a pup this holiday season, we wish you a lifetime of happiness together! (Stay tuned for our next post here which will help you get started on the right paw!)
The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Santa Barbara canine behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer Joan Hunter Mayer. Joan and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Here’s to barking with the dogs, cheering for the humans, and having fun!