Things You Need to Know Before You Adopt a Dog

Millions of pets each and every year end up in shelters. Overloaded and overcrowded, shelters do everything they possibly can to provide a haven for these dogs, but most of them are in desperate need of a forever home. Too many healthy, sound dogs are euthanized each year because they don't have anywhere to go. That's where you come in. In many cases you are not just providing a good home for a dog—you may be saving his life. Here's what you need to take into consideration before you adopt a dog:

Finding the Perfect Dog for Your Lifestyle

There are few people who don't have the impulse to run to the nearest shelter and scoop up the first dog they see. But it's important to take the time to consider which dog will best fit in with your family and lifestyle. Shelters will do their best to match you up with a good fit, but think about the following before you set off for your local shelter:

#1: Preferred Activity Level

This may be the number-one question to ask yourself. Getting a dog who doesn't match your energy level is a recipe for disaster. If you are looking for a low-key dog who doesn't need tons of exercise, avoid sporting, herding, or terrier-type dogs unless the shelter workers have tagged him as "mellow." Otherwise you may end up with a dog who needs hours of exercise each day. If you're hoping for a jogging partner, stay away from short-nosed dogs or toy dogs—they won't be able to keep up.

#2: How Often You're Home

Do you have a long commute to work? Is the house empty all day, or is someone home? No dog wants to be left home alone all day, and if you are considering adopting a puppy or juvenile, you will need to provide him with extra time and attention during the day. Even an older dog who is thoroughly housetrained shouldn't go for hours on end alone. If someone else is home during the day, you have an advantage; if there's not, you may need to look into a pet sitter, dog walker, or doggy daycare.

#3: Other Pets

Do you have children? Well-run shelters perform a lot of temperament testing on their dogs to see if they react to different types of adults, children, cats, and other dogs. Do not go against their advice. If they suggest that a certain dog does best in a quiet house with no small children around, don't assume that you can work around this caution. It's for everyone's safety that dogs are placed in homes best suited to their temperaments.

#4: Your Backyard Setup

This isn't always a deal-breaker. After all, plenty of people live successfully in apartments with dogs. You just need to have a plan that includes lots of outdoor walks, potty breaks, and trips to a dog park. If you do have a yard, securely fence it as soon as possible.

#5: Allergies

Don't assume that this automatically precludes you from having a pet. First, go to an allergist and get tested. You may find that you aren't allergic to all animals. If you have very mild dog allergies, think about adopting a dog with a wiry or curly coat, as these coat types tend to cause fewer allergies. Even better, try fostering a dog first to see if he triggers any reaction.

#6: Financial Capabilities

You'll need to budget for food, yearly checkups, and emergency vet visits. Take a realistic look at your budget. Estimate how much food you'll be spending a month to feed your dog. That Great Dane/Mastiff mix you are considering down at the shelter might look great on paper, but think about what it will cost to keep him in kibble! Plus there are yearly trips to the veterinarian, vaccinations, various necessities like collars, leashes, dog beds, etc.—and it all adds up. Don't adopt a pet you can't afford. Wait until you are financially secure to make life less stressful for you.

#7: Maintenance Level

Take a close look at the dog you are thinking about adopting. Does he have long, luxurious hair? Add some extra time to your day for grooming. Is he a puppy or a juvenile? You will definitely need to spend time housetraining and teaching him basic manners. If this sounds like fun and you are up for the challenge, then go for it. If it sounds like a chore you just won't have time for, consider a dog with a short, easy-to-care-for coat and who's already had some training.

Adopting a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Find a shelter with a good reputation and make an appointment with one of its experts. As long as you've thought about your lifestyle and what is important to you, you're sure to find the perfect match!


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