When adopting a dog, making sure the pooch is right for your family is key to a smooth transition period and a long and happy life together! When choosing the best dog for your family, it’s important to consider your lifestyle, dog personality, breed characteristics and more.
“Growing your family by adopting a dog is always an important decision. Every dog has different characteristics, and some might be better suited to your lifestyle than others,” says Dr. Ken Sieranski, Medical Director of Village of Living Heartsa Las Vegas non-profit organization dedicated to supporting animals and their rescuers both at home and on their journey to find homes.
With the help of Dr. Sieranski, we outline some of the key things to consider when adopting the perfect dog for your family.
Be ready to commit to your dog’s health and happiness
Our dogs are not just an extension of our family, they are our family. In the same way that you control your own mental, physical and health needs, dogs need constant care and attention. This includes annual vet visits, impromptu vet visits to address health issues, and the grooming needs we mentioned above.
They also need physical activity and mental stimulation to live their happiest lives. Have a community at your fingertips, like the shopping app– the world’s most collaborative and supportive app for pet owners – can help you navigate the joys, woes and (let’s be honest!) mess of parenting.
Consider your own lifestyle
To ensure your dog is able to live his happiest life, you need to be able to commit time, money, and emotion. This is true even if you are able to delegate responsibility among other members of your family.
“For example, if you live alone, work 10 hours a day, and can’t come home on your lunch break, bringing home a puppy might not be a good idea. Puppies need a lot of attention, enrichment, and training,” notes Dr. Sieranski. “Adopting an older dog might be a better option for you.”
In either case, you will need to arrange for a dog sitter and/or dog walker to meet your pup during the day. They really shouldn’t be alone for more than four to five hours at a time, and puppies require more frequent checks than that.
When adopting a dog for your family, it’s a good idea to match your energy level with the dog’s energy level. For example, if you are very active and like to hike, run, and walk, a dog that is able to keep up is better suited than a dog that is more laying around the house.
Conversely, if you prefer to relax, the ideal is to have a softer dog. Otherwise, your puppy may go crazy.
“If they’re not getting enough exercise, you might buy a new couch or a lot of headache medicine,” says Dr. Sieranski. “Finding a dog whose energy level can be managed with your daily routine and energy level is key.”
Learn what you can about the dog and its history
When adopting a dog for your family, a good understanding of your dog and its history can help you determine if it is a good fit for your family.
“If you are working with a relief organization, information provided by the foster family or previous home can be extremely helpful,” notes Dr. Angie Krause, a veterinarian with I and Love, and You. “They’ll probably know the dog better.”
Ask as many questions as you can think of. Here are some questions to ask yourself when adopting a dog:
- How does the dog behave with other animals?
- Does the dog have health problems?
- Does the dog seem affectionate or is he rather lonely?
- How much energy does the dog have?
- What is the dog’s favorite way to play?
Take note of your space
Whether you’re a big-city apartment dweller, a country hoodlum, or something in between, your space needs to accommodate your new pup. Although your dog will want to be with you most of the time, he needs safe spaces.
Big dogs mean big crates and big beds. Energetic dogs also do better in large spaces, especially those with a large fenced yard. Having a small yard is also nice for things like allowing your dog to poop and pee easily.
“If you live in an apartment or a house with a yard, potty time is a big issue or a deciding factor,” Dr. Sieranski notes. “Puppies can typically only hold their bladder and bowels for about an hour for every month they have. Understanding realistic expectations is key.
Keep your kids in mind
If you have children, it is essential to adopt a dog that accepts children. Of course, make sure your child is also OK with having a puppy around. We imagine they’ll be thrilled, but it’s always good to test the waters before adoption.
“Not all dogs are suitable for very young children who are unsteady on their feet, and very small, fragile dogs could be accidentally injured by a child,” notes Dr. Sieranski. “The dogs that share our home are generally tolerant, but it’s not fair to allow a child to provoke a pet. Even the most laid back dog can become stressed and feel threatened.
He adds that if you can manage interactions safely, there are countless benefits for children growing up with dogs. From a boosted immune system to a deeper sense of empathy, responsibility, and emotional intelligence, adopting a dog can be one of the best decisions you can make for your child.
Note your dog’s grooming needs
All dogs need some level of maintenance, including ear cleaning, nail trimming, bathing, brushing and hair trimming.
“Some dogs need extra grooming, and grooming isn’t just for show,” says Dr. Sieranski. “Long-haired dogs will suffer if they are not groomed regularly. Hair mats can grow so tightly that they can restrict blood circulation and cause terrible injuries.
Always consider what level of grooming maintenance is manageable for you before adopting a dog with high grooming needs.
Understand the financial cost
The average cost of owning a dog is between $650 and $2,115 per year, says rover.com. This includes food, grooming and veterinary care. Sometimes unforeseen costs also arise and as a pet owner it is your responsibility to cover these costs. Having pet health insurance can help ease some of that burden so your pup can always get the care he needs.
Try a Foster to Adopt Program
If you want to test the waters before fully adopting a dog, check out the “foster-to-adopt” programs offered by some rescue organizations. This allows you a trial period to make sure the fit is solid.
“In all honesty, it takes months for some dogs to settle in and understand all the house rules while fitting into your unique family rhythm,” says Dr. Sieranski. “Managing your expectations to accommodate this initial period is so important. Sometimes it takes a little patience to give a dog the time and structure it needs to become a wonderful member of the family.
If the adoption program is not available near you, work closely with the agency to meet your potential new puppy several times, ideally with the whole family, before finalizing the adoption or purchase.
Relocate a pet
Although in many cases we can find a way to work with our newly adopted stuffed animals to make them part of the family, sometimes the fit just isn’t right.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve adopted a dog that isn’t right for you, it’s unfair to you and the dog to continue with the placement,” says Dr. Krause. “I encourage my clients to work with a shelter to find a better fit for the dog. This can be done without ever sending your pup to the shelter or posting on Craigslist.
Some Final Thoughts
It goes without saying that even if you have checked all the boxes and done a lot of research before the adoption, one can never expect a “plug in and play” experience with their new furry family member. Just like humans, dogs are complex creatures that need time to acclimate to their new lives.
“Dogs are remarkably able to adapt if given the opportunity to fit in,” says Dr. Sieranski. “However, let’s not forget that these incredible creatures can also inspire change in us.”
Whether it’s waking up in the morning for that foggy jog we never thought of before they entered our lives, opening ourselves up to a new social circle, or finding yourself talking to your puppy like he understands every word you say, owning a dog is an amazing experience.
It’s only a matter of time before you start saying things like “Who saved who?”
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