With temps slowly warming and the smell of spring in the air now may seem like the perfect time to add a dog to your life. Before you start daydreaming of hiking National Parks and taking road trips with your new furry companion, there are several things to consider first.
We recently adopted an Australian Shepherd mix from our local shelter in September 2021. She was 10 weeks at the time and she’s 8.5mos now. Six months ago I would’ve told you that all the research I did a year before was enough. Visiting multiple shelters, talking with the kids about various breeds, energy levels, etc, I had it covered.
Fast forward to January 2022 and I quickly realized just like with our human children. There is no amount of research that can prepare you for puppyhood and dog adolescence. It has been comparable to the severe PPD I had with my first daughter in 2004-2005. They go from adorable balls of fluff to velociraptors, who somehow appear to have forgotten any training overnight. I’m not exaggerating.
We have laughed and cried over the last few months. Even with all of the crazy days, we still love Chanel and she loves us. We’re learning to understand each other.
Here are some things that are important to consider before bringing home your new bestie.
Your Lifestyle and The Dogs Age/Breed
You want to find the best match possible. It’s unfair to bring a breed such as a Malinois into your life and expect it to be a couch potato. If you work 60+ hours a week, a puppy probably isn’t the best option as they will need to be potty trained, and require lots of your time.
An adult dog between the ages of 3-6 or a senior dog, 7+ years with a personality you can already see and knows basic commands may be a better fit for you.
No matter the age or breed, don’t expect it to magically fit into your life without some changes being made on your part.
Give a dog another chance at life with your loving family. Shelter dogs will always have my heart. Every one I’ve owned from childhood, through my twenties until now has come from a shelter.
There are many benefits of adopting from a shelter. Firstly, you’re saving a life. Secondly, the cost is lower. Thirdly, you skip the puppy/adolescent stage by adopting an older dog. Older dogs will already come spayed or neutered. Older dogs will already be house trained.
Puppies can be fixed courtesy of the shelter before you take them home, or you can make an appointment to bring them back. The shelter will also provide the first set of shots and deworming if you get a puppy. You can find mixed breeds and even purebred dogs with AKC registered papers.
Some cons of adopting a shelter dog. If they come in as strays, the staff doesn’t know their history. Sometimes they are owner surrenders, or they could have been abused by their previous owners, which causes the dog trauma and trust issues. If you get a puppy, you will not know the dog’s temperament until they get older and there’s a low chance of meeting the parents.
The Home-to-Home network is a great way to find a dog or for owners to vet potential adopters. You can search for a variety of animals on their site. It can be narrowed by zip code, radius, or sex. You can also search by adoption, fostering, or both.
There are so many reasons people rehome their dogs. Finances, illness, behavior, not enough time. I personally think if a family or person cannot meet the needs of the dog, then it is best to go to another home. It’s the kind of loving thing to do. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t have the dogs they do know if it weren’t for them being rehomed. This also gives you the option to see where your dog is coming from and keeps dogs out of the shelters or homeless.
AKA Reputable or Responsible Breeders are for those looking to ensure the temperament of their dog as much as possible, in need of a service dog, or looking for a rare breed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a great place to start in helping you identify what to look for in an Ethical Breeder. You can also ask for recommendations from friends who have prior experience in this area.
Cons of breeding. Overpopulation of dogs. The average price of a purebred dog is $800-$3000. Sometimes eople buy these purebred dogs because they’re trendy, not realizing the care and needs of the dog. This can attribute to more dogs in shelters or ending up abandoned on the street.
Breed-specific Rescue – Let’s say you’re looking for a Great Pyrenees, Border Collie, Standard Poodle, or Akita. There are breed-specific rescues out there that take in these dogs and have years of experience in working with the breed. You can often adopt at a much lower cost than an ethical breeder but more than your local shelter. Petfinder is a great website to help you adopt through a breed-specific rescue. You can also set up alerts when a dog in your desired filter setting becomes available.
Maybe none of the above sounds exactly right for you and that’s ok. Fostering is another great way to help dogs in the shelters find their perfect match. The shelter or rescue will provide all of the resources and supplies needed to take care of this dog while in your care. You would be responsible for taking the dog to the vet if needed but the shelter pays for that as well.
You’ll be able to let potential adopters know the dog’s temperament and if they are good with kids, cats, etc.
Who knows, after fostering for a while, you may come across a dog you can’t live without and those are called foster fails in the dog world, and we love to see it.
Equally as important as finding the right dog for you is training.
While some people still stand by the ‘be the Alpha” mentality or think punishing dogs is the way to go, there is now quite a bit of research stating the opposite. Anyone who has ever looked into a dog’s eyes can tell you they have feelings. There’s a reason we call them Man’s Best Friend and a lot of people, myself included, would much rather hang out with their dog and consider them family.
Finding A Dog Trainer
If you’re going to bring a dog into your life, do the responsible thing and train it. It is one of the safest and most loving things you can do. Plus, it’s a fun way to bond with your friend. I’m not saying you and your dog need to be on the expert or pro level, but you would be surprised by how far basic commands go. Plus, training can be fun and helps build the bond between you and your new furry friend. You will learn how to understand each other.
Dog training is unregulated, so make sure you are getting someone who is certified and has the hours to back up their claims. I learned the hard way. The wrong or inexperienced trainer can cause damage and set you and your fur baby up for failure.
I could call myself a dog trainer or behaviorist, set up a website, and start taking clients because I’ve researched and experienced issues with our dog. I would never because that is so unethical but many people do not care and do it anyway. Check the CCPDT website for credentials and to find the best fit for you and your dog.
Having a trusted vet is top of the list for dog ownership. Your new pup may need shots, could get sick, or suffer an injury. I know our local Sicsa and Humane society are starting to do low-cost vet services on a sliding pay scale because owning a pet shouldn’t just be for the wealthy.
Why wouldn’t you want an expert in pet behavior, health, and medicine to keep you and your dog safe and healthy?
Your local shelter, rescue, or breeder should be able to provide you with resources on where to find a vet. You can also ask friends, family, or do a google search and read the reviews. I suggest calling or visiting three different offices and asking questions like these from the AKC website.
Aside from some supplies – crate, leash or multiple leashes, dog collar, puppy pads, food, toys, training treats, baby gate, possible dog playpen.
Pet Insurance – It’s a thing. Chanel wasn’t feeling well and I had to take her to the vet. You should’ve seen my face when they told me it was going to be $189. That was promptly followed by the words no it’s not coming out of my mouth. Again, anything can happen and you want to be as prepared as possible.
You’ll also want to consider other pets in the home – are they going to be compatible with cats, birds, hamsters, and the like? Talk to the shelter or breeder about this and set up a time for the potential dog siblings to meet.
The 3-3-3 rule. It’s used for shelter or rescue dogs but I think it applies to all new dogs coming into the home. This gives everyone a chance to learn and settle into their new life.