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Before You Decide to Adopt a Dog: Determining if You're Ready

Are You Really Ready To Get A Dog?

Tips for deciding if this is the right time:
  • Have you done homework, such as reading about housebreaking, training, behavioral problems, and daily care of a dog? And what kinds of dogs are best for you and your family? (See suggested reading at the end.)
  • Will your working hours allow enough time to provide the care and exercise a dog needs every day?
  • If you have children, will you have time to provide the daily care and exercise a dog needs every day?
  • Will you have enough money to cover food, toys, annual vet exams, vaccinations, monthly heartworm preventative, flea control, unexpected medical costs, grooming, training, and boarding the pet when you travel?
  • Are you ready to live with a pet? Can you depend on your children not to pester a dog and let a dog out the door? Will you be able to watch the dog at all times when children visit your home?
  • If considering a puppy, will you be able to arrange for midday visits -- since puppies need to go out every 4 hours or so to become housebroken?
  • Do you have time for obedience training and teaching house manners as necessary to help the dog become a good companion?
  • Do you travel frequently, and if so, what are your plans for the dog?
  • If you move, can you be sure your next place will allow dogs?
  • Can you make the commitment to care for this animal for his or her lifetime?

Which Dog Is Right For You?

How to choose the best companion:
  • Do you have a busy schedule or long hours? Puppies and young dogs require a lot of time and attention. Puppies can hold their bladders only 4 or 5 hours. Young dogs and even older dogs of active breeds require lots of exercise every day or behavioral problems will arise. A more mature, calmer dog will be a better choice.
  • Do you have children under 12 or 14? Getting a dog is like adding another child to your household. And a puppy is even harder. Many families find that with the demands of raising children and driving them to various activities, they don't have time to housebreak or train a puppy. And soon the little puppy becomes a big dog jumping on children and guests, begging for attention, and even getting into trouble. Obedience training is recommended for every household member, so everyone is practicing the same techniques (consistent practice is the key to training). We strongly recommend families consider a more mature dog whose size and temperament is known. A dog who seems happy, active, likes to be touched, and is not sensitive to handling and noise is typically a good choice for homes with children.
  • If you want a puppy, why? No matter how adorable, all puppies grow up, and grow quickly. A cute, sweet little puppy can become a rough and difficult dog if not given consistent, effective obedience training. Being good with children is highly dependent on the breed, temperament and practicing good obedience training. If you have a busy household, a puppy is not the best choice. Puppies require more supervision and training, especially for discouraging common behavior such as jumping, chewing and nipping.
  • What size is right for you? If you have children in the home, tiny breeds are a poor choice, since children can accidentally hurt the dog, and many small breeds are naturally wary of children. Choose a dog with whom the children can safely play. And size does not indicate energy level; some small boisterous terriers seem to take up more room and time than a large calm dog. If you live in an apartment or condo, look for a reasonably quiet dog -- and practice techniques for avoiding separation anxiety from day one. (A dog with separation anxiety will often howl and bark, as well as destroy things out of fear, when left alone.)
  • What about fur? Regardless of size, certain breeds require more grooming. And if you have allergies, think twice about getting a dog. While many believe that a dog who sheds less will be easier on allergies, the allergic reactions are triggered by dander and urine. Many people with allergies do fine with their dogs, but it helps to keep the house vacuumed, keep pets off your bed, use dander neutralizers on the fur, and to wash hands after petting the dog.

What Supplies Will You Need?

Supplies you'll need before bringing a dog home:
  • I.D. tag with your address and phone number. A dog should wear this at all times.
  • Fitted collar (buckle is better than adjustable). Its key function is to hold the all-important I.D. tag.
  • Leash. Choose one that's comfortable on your hands. Choose a 4 or 6-foot. Retractable leashes are unreliable for active/larger dogs.
  • Head harness, choker collar or neck/chest harness. Use one for walking the dog. Don't keep chain collars on the dog except for walking; the dog can get injured.
  • Crate (we recommend the folding wire type), or baby gates. Choose a safe, secure place to confine the dog when you cannot watch him for the first few days or weeks until you can allow freer roam. Confine the dog in a family area, such as a family room or kitchen. Never in a basement (confining in damp, darker quarters lead to housebreaking/behavioral problems), never in a garage, never left outside unattended.
  • Bowls for water and food.
  • Comb and brush.
  • Dog bed.
  • Decent brand of food (the better the food, the healthier the dog).

What Medical Care Will the Dog Need?

All PAW dogs come with a medical history record. PAW dogs receive rabies and DHLPP vaccinations, a heartworm test and spay/neuter (as medically appropriate for the dog's age). We put the dogs over age 3 months on monthly heartworm preventative. The adopter agrees to do the recommended medical work after adoption, which includes spay/neuter and shots for puppies adopted before old enough for PAW to do this. In addition, the adopter will obtain a heartworm pill supply and register the dog at the adopter's vet within 2 weeks of adoption, and then visit the vet for annual exams and vaccinations, as well as for any special medical care or emergencies.

How to Set "Home Rules":

  • Before bringing a dog home, work out doggie duties in advance with the other members of your household. Decide: who will walk the dog...exercise the dog...feed the dog...and when? Which areas of the house are off-limits? Where will the dog sleep? Will the dog be allowed on furniture? Tip: Don't allow the dog on furniture until the dog has begun obedience training and the people in the home have established themselves as leaders of the pack. Trainers warn that when a dominant dog sleeps on the people's beds, the dog may consider herself equal or greater in leadership than the humans in the house.
  • Start day one by teaching your dog appropriate behavior through consistent, positive reinforcement.

Planning for a Successful Homecoming:

  • If you have other pets, arrange the homecoming so that your other dogs can meet the new dog on neutral territory. If you have cats, make sure your cats have a safe haven to escape from the dog. Keep the leash on the dog indoors for the first hours or days (only when you're with him), and give a swift firm leash correction if the dog attempts to threaten the cats or engage in other undesirable behavior. To avoid other pets becoming jealous, be sure to pay attention to them too.
  • Schedule your time so you can introduce the new dog to his potty place, the yard, the house, his crate, as well as all household members. Practice putting him in the crate, leaving awhile, and returning. Teach him that is natural for the people to leave the house, and that they will come back. This will help the dog avoid separation anxiety. Resist the urge to spending all of the first day or weekend with the dog; leave the house for varying periods at the beginning so he gets the idea you will eventually return, and that he doesn't have to fear being alone.

The Key to a Happy Relationship: Commitment!

  • The keys to success are consistency -- and commitment. Be committed in helping your dog adjust and in integrating him into the family. Realize this living being is counting on you...that nobody is perfect...and that adjustment and training take time. Sign up for obedience training from the start.
  • Enter pet ownership as a lifetime commitment. Don't get a dog until you're sure you have the resources and time to care for this animal for the rest of his or her life. In return, you will be rewarded with unconditional love.

Recommended Reading:


Books
  • Mother Knows Best...Second Hand Dog...The Chosen Puppy...Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence - all by Carol Lea Benjamin
  • The Dog Who Loved Too Much - by Dr. Nicholas Dodman
  • Good Dog Bad Dog - by Mordecai Siegal & Matthew Margolis
  • The Adoption Option - by E. Rubenstein & S. Kalina
  • Don't Shoot the Dog - by Karen Pryor
  • Good Owners, Great Dogs - by Brian Kilcommons
  • How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend...The Art of Raising a Puppy - both by the Monks of New Skete
Websites:

Author: Robin Tierney

This publication is copyrighted. Requests for permission to reprint any portion should be sent to Robin Tierney (tierneydog@yahoo.com). Any usage would be accompanied with acknowledgement of PAW and the author.

Last Updated: April 15, 2014 (LET) PawSupport