Things to Consider Before You Adopt a Dog
In honor of National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, we bring you the following important points to consider before you adopt a dog, courtesy of our friends at Petfinder.com, the virtual home of 352,660 adoptable pets from 13,583 adoption groups.
Selecting the family dog should be a well-researched and carefully soul-searched activity, as you must be willing to make a 10 - 15 year commitment to your four-legged family member. America has unfortunately become a nation of disposable pet owners. That said, it is important to choose wisely, for when the bond breaks, everybody concerned suffers. Make selecting your new family dog a life-affirming act. Here are some important questions to discuss before you make the leap:
How Old Are the Members of My Family?
If the youngsters in your household are under seven years old, they are usually not developmentally suited for puppies 5 months old and under or toy-sized (under 15 pounds) dogs of any age. Puppies have ultra sharp "milk teeth" and toenails and often teethe on and scratch children, resulting in unintentional injury to the child. The puppy can become something to be feared rather than loved.
Toy dogs are fine-boned, touch-sensitive creatures that do not weather rough or clumsy handling well. They break relatively easily and are quicker to bite than their larger boned, mellower relatives.
Unless your children are unusually sensitive, low-key, respectful individuals, a medium-to-large sized dog over 5 months old is usually the safer choice. Regardless of size, all interactions between small children and dogs should be monitored by a responsible adult. When there is no one to watch over them, they should be separated.
Who Will Be the Dog's Primary Caretaker?
Some parents bow to the pressure their children put on them to get a dog. The kids promise with tears in their eyes that they will religiously take care of this soon-to-be best friend. The truth of the matter is, during the 10 - 15 year lifespan of the average dog, your children will be growing in and out of various life stages and the family dog's importance in their lives will wax and wain like the Moon. You cannot saddle a child with total responsibility for the family dog and threaten to get rid of it if the child is not providing that care. It is not fair to child or dog.
Choosing the family dog should include input from all family members with the cooler-headed, more experienced family members' opinions carrying a bit more weight. The family dog should not be a gift from one family member to all the others. The selection experience is one the entire family can share.
Do I Have the Financial Resources to Care for My Pet?
The purchase price of a dog is a very small part of what the dog will actually cost - many soon to be owners forget the necessary expenses such as veterinary care, food and treats, a training crate, obedience classes and grooming.
And then, there is the veterinary emergency! Very few dogs live their entire lives without at least one accident. Your puppy eats a battery or pair of pantyhose, your fine-boned toy breaks a leg, your big boy has bad hips, your dog gets hit by a car or beaten/bitten by the neighborhood bully. These surprises can cost $500 or more.
How much time and energy can you spend on a new dog? Various breeds and ages of dog make different demands on our precious spare time. In general, the Sporting, Hounds, Herding, and Terrier breeds will demand more time in training and daily exercise than will the Guardian or Companion breeds. A puppy or adolescent will need more exercise, training, and supervision than will an adult dog. And the first year with any new dog regardless of age or breed type will put more demands on the owner than any other time, for this is when you are setting up house rules and routines which will last for the lifetime of your dog.