A Life with Dogs

Chapter 4. Tips for adopting a dog

Chapter 4. Tips for adopting a dog

Chapter Four

So, you’ve done your homework, and you’re definitely getting a dog. You can afford to keep a dog, but you’re thinking the cost of a thoroughbred might be a bit too much for you. Or, you’re just not sure if you want a pedigreed pooch, or a pre-loved-but-now-abandoned soul that needs a home.

What do you do?

If you would prefer to adopt, rather than shop for your new dog (and get the bonus of being able to tag #RescuedIsMyFavoriteBreed on Instagram), consider bringing home a pet from a shelter. 

 Thousands of dogs are available for adoption in your area, and Petfinder.com is a great US based resource, as is Pound Paws in Australia. Both organisations will help you narrow your options. Listed below are tips for getting started.  *Please note, some references in this blog contain sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing. 

“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”  - Karen Davison


Determine your Needs
Before going to the shelter, have an idea of your needs. Are you looking for a dog of a particular breed, size, or gender? Would you prefer a puppy or an older dog? How much space do you have, and how many hours per day are you away from home? Contrary to popular belief, even purebred dogs wind up in shelters or rescues, and almost every preference can be accommodated. These are decisions of the heart strings and not the heart.

Brian Hunter, renown Dog Trainer says, Picking a dog at a shelter can be very difficult. The biggest mistake is taking the dog "that picked you." I have had many clients that flat out picked the wrong dog for them. I am a trainer and one of the services I offer is accompanying clients to the shelter to give opinions on the dog of interest or a dog that was not initially picked but has the ingredients of a better match.

Ask trainers in your area if they provide this type of service and use them. Aside from knowing the breeds and their typical traits, they can also read the dog's energy level to identify a good match for you. Many times, the dog you see at the shelter is not the same dog you see in your home a month later."

Research your Options
There are many different opportunities to save a dog besides your local animal shelter. If you have your heart set on a specific breed, such as a beagle, consider looking for a Beagle-specific rescue (warning:  it may be impossible to leave without saving all the dogs). Rescues exist for nearly every preference, including seniors, tripod pets, and those rescued from abusive pasts.  Do not limit yourself to one option, and take time to check out as many dogs as possible.

For further advice and information visit Breed Advisor the ultimate guide to Dog Adoption

Have an Open Mind
Even though you may arrive at the shelter or rescue with a specific idea of what you want, keep an open mind. Many people walk into the shelter adamant on bringing home a puppy, only to leave with a one-eyed, three-legged soul mate.

Go Slowly
Adopting a dog is different in many ways from bringing home a brand-new puppy. Any new dog will require an adjustment period, but this fact may be especially true for a shelter pup. For instance, if the dog was relinquished by a family or if the owner passed away, there may be a mourning period. 

If the dog was found as a stray, there may be growing pains in learning how to coexist with humans. Ultimately, respect that your new dog has experienced many changes in a short period of time and do not expect too much, too soon.

Benefits of Adoption
Are you considering adoption but still unsure if it’s right for you?  There are numerous benefits to bringing home your new dog from a shelter or rescue.

1. Save a Life
The most obvious reason to adopt is that you could be saving a dog's life. Rescue dogs take all forms and for some euthanasia could be imminent. In the United States alone, nearly 2.7 million dogs are euthanized each year. Even if the shelter is “no-kill,” adopting from the shelter opens-up space for another animal that would otherwise be turned away.

2. Know the Personality
A puppy’s true personality will take time, possibly years, to develop. If adopting an adult dog, you will already know the animal’s personality quirks, as well as any potential behavioral problems. This knowledge will save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run. 

3. Already Trained
Many rescued dogs already know basic obedience skills; or, at the very least, the word “no.” While many people would like to start with a puppy because they feel it is a “blank slate,” the truth is that training a puppy from scratch is a lot of work. Training an adult dog often requires less time, due to increased attention span and willingness to please.

4. Unconditional Love
Sure, a puppy will provide unconditional love, but the affection that a shelter dog shows is special. These dogs seem to have a unique understanding that a different world exists, and that you provided a second chance. This is especially true for senior or special needs dogs.

Still not sure which option is best for you?
Statistics reported show that:
1. Each year, close to 7.6 million companion animals (approximately 3.9 million dogs) enter Shelters in the U.S.
2. The percentage of dogs entering shelters who are adopted is nearly 35%, with 31% euthanized, and 26% who enter as strays reunited with their owners.

Greater Good is an independent charitable US Organisation devoted to improving the health and well-being of people, pets, and the planet

The next article will discuss an alternative option that is often overlooked: Fostering a Dog.
Chapter Five - Coming Soon

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