How to Know if You're Ready to Adopt a Dog

If you think an adopted dog may be right for you, the next step is deciding whether you would make a good adoptive owner right now. Dogs in need of homes come in a full array of sizes, shapes, and personalities. They can also have drastically different needs. When potential owners do their homework, they can find pets whose needs best match their abilities and lifestyles. Even the best match, however, must come along at the right time in an owner’s life.

Know Why You Want To Adopt

Many people adopt a dog because their kids want a pet or because they want their children to experience the joys and responsibilities of dog ownership. Others adopt because they want to help a dog in need. As reasonable as these goals may seem, none of them should be the driving force behind your decision to adopt a pet. You may want to make a difference in the lives of your kids and the dog you choose, but above all else you must want to bring this particular dog into your life. You must fully understand what caring for a particular dog entails before deciding to adopt him.

Some people want to adopt because their previous pet has passed away and they miss the companionship a dog offers. Or they may have an interest in training and wish to enter a dog in obedience trials. Neither of these reasons is better than the other, but there are certain reasons no one should ever use for adopting. If you want a dog to protect your home, for example, a wiser choice would be a security system. Likewise, you shouldn’t adopt a dog because adoption seems like the fashionable thing to do. Also, avoid selecting a dog based on appearance alone. You may love the look of a Border Collie, for example, but this breed, like many others, has very specific needs.

Get the Timing Right

If your children are extremely young, it may be smart to wait a while before adopting. Kids younger than six years of age typically have a hard time understanding the ground rules for how to properly treat a pet. Even the best-natured dogs may growl or bite in reaction to having their ears or tails pulled. Larger dogs can inadvertently knock over toddlers or preschoolers. For the safety of all involved, timing is crucial for families considering dog adoption.

Consider Your Circumstances

In addition to carefully selecting a dog, you must also consider your own personal circumstances:

  • Do you have enough time for a dog? Some adopted dogs need considerably more training (or retraining) than others.
  • Do you work long hours? While a handful of breeds may be able to spend large chunks of time alone without a problem, this scenario is far from ideal.
  • Can you make it home on your lunch break for a quick walk? If not, is someone else in your household able to perform this important task? Most dogs need to relieve themselves at least every four to six hours.
  • Does your job require you to travel frequently? If so, who will care for your dog during these times you are away?
  • Can you afford to care for the breed you have chosen? Bulldogs, for example, tend to need more veterinary care than a lot of other dogs. Larger breeds mean higher food bills. Even a healthy dog needs regular veterinary exams and preventive medicines.

Think Over the Commitment

You must be willing to fulfill all your dog’s needs, even when you are tired or not in the mood. When you arrive home at the end of the day, your dog still needs to be taken to his potty spot, exercised, and fed, and then taken to his potty spot once more. All dogs need daily companionship and stimulation to remain emotionally and mentally content, so you will need to spend some quality time with your pet each day. The good news is that caring for your pet can be a great way of improving your own mood. Going for a walk with your best canine friend can be an excellent way to recharge your own battery or make the day’s stressors seem a little less important.

Evaluate Your Home Environment

When you consider kicking back at home with your new pet, remember your home will be your dog’s new home. How will this work? Many apartment buildings and condominiums allow dogs, but some have very specific requirements relating to breed and size. Even if you are certain your landlord or management company allows pets, be sure to get it in writing. The worst time to find out that a policy has changed is after you have already adopted your new dog.

Be sure your home environment complements the breed you choose. Alaskan Malamutes, for instance, are a poor choice for apartment dwellers because they delight in being outdoors, even in the coldest weather. Retired Greyhounds, surprisingly, do not need as much exercise as people suspect, but these sighthounds cannot resist the temptation to chase a passing squirrel, so they need high fences in their backyards or they must be leashed whenever outdoors.

Consider Behavioral Needs

Aside from time and money, you must also consider whether you have sufficient knowledge of and experience with the type of dog you wish to adopt. A 20-pound Poodle mix whose owners moved to an apartment building that didn’t allow dogs may transition easily into your home, regardless of what other types of dogs you have owned in the past. A 90-pound Rottweiler who was given up due to growling and other threatening behaviors, on the other hand, will need considerable training by someone with specific experience dealing with aggression problems.

Prepare a Support System

If you live with other people, you also must consider if they are ready for dog adoption. The entire household should be involved in the decision-making process. Having a plan in place before you adopt is ideal. Who will share the responsibility of caring for the dog? Who will help to train him? If there are children in the household, are they old enough to understand and demonstrate the proper way to treat a pet? If kids will be helping to care for the dog, who will be following up to make sure important tasks aren’t forgotten?

No one, not even a person who lives alone, should enter dog ownership without a proper support system. Rescue volunteers and trainers can be invaluable resources for information regarding pet care, but occasionally you will need some help carrying out certain tasks as well. Ask your friends and family if they would be willing to help you when necessary. You will need someone to feed your dog and take him outside when you have to work late, for instance, or to care for him overnight when you travel.

Once you find the dog who is right for you, you can then take the next step in your journey to changing both his life and yours through the rewarding process of adoption.

Excerpted from Terra-Nova The Happy Adopted Dog by Tammy Gagne, copyright 2009 by TFH Publications, Inc.


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