Before You Adopt
Selecting the family dog should be a well-researched and carefully soul-searched activity. Are you and your family willing to make at least a 10 –15 year commitment to this sentient being in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, for as long as all shall live? Let’s pose some of the questions family members should discuss before obtaining a dog. Before you decide to adopt a dog, please make sure you have considered the following:
One of the biggest contributors to the plight of rescue animals is a lack of commitment by owners. The average dog lives 10-15 years, and some animals live much longer. Much can change in your life in that amount of time, so it is important to be sure you are considering your new pet as a member of the family who will be with you through thick and thin.
Pets are expensive. Vet bills can be very expensive. Of course we do not want to think about anything bad happening to our dog, but be sure you are financially prepared to handle vet costs if your dog was to get sick or hurt. Pet insurance is an excellent option to be prepared should the worst happen.
HOW OLD ARE THE MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY?
If the youngsters in your household are under seven years old, they are usually not developmentally suited for puppies 5 months and under. Puppies have ultra sharp “milk teeth” and toenails and often teethe on and scratch children, resulting in unintentional injury to the child. The puppy becomes something to be feared rather than loved.
Unless your children are unusually sensitive, low-key, respectful individuals, a medium-to-large sized dog over 5 months old is usually the safer choice. Regardless of size, all interactions between small children and pets should be monitored by a responsible adult. When there is no one to watch over them, they should be separated.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, are there frail elderly or physically challenged individuals in the household? If so, strong vigorous adolescent dogs or animals are not a wise idea. No aging hips or wrists are safe from these yahoos. People who were one-breed fans throughout their lives may one day find that their favorite breed demands more than they can physically handle. The new animal must fit the current physical capabilities of his keepers with an eye toward what the next 10-15 years will bring.
WHO WILL BE THE PET’S PRIMARY CARETAKER?
Most adults have to go to work and the kids head off to school. This leaves the family pet to be sandwiched in between lessons and sports and household chores and so on. One parent should be designated Primary Caretaker to make sure the animal does not get lost in the shuffle.
Some parents bow to the pressure their children put on them to get a pet. The kids promise with tears in their eyes that they will religiously take care of this soon-to-be best friend. The truth of the matter is, during the 10 – 15 year lifespan of the average dog, your children will be growing in and out of various life stages and the family dog’s importance in their lives will wax and wain like the Moon. You cannot saddle a child with total responsibility for the family dog and threaten to get rid of it if the child is not providing that care. It is not fair to child or dog.
Choosing the family pet should include input from all family members with the cooler-headed, more experienced family members’ opinions carrying a bit more weight. The family pet should not be a gift from one family member to all the others. The selection experience is one the entire family can share. Doing some research and polling each family member about what is important to them in a dog will help pin down what you will be looking for. Books like Daniel Tortora’s THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU or The ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs can be tremendously helpful and can warn you away from unsuitable choices for your family’s circumstances.
Be sure you are able to do some formal training with your new addition. It is important for bonding, socialization and behavioral skills.
A well trained dog is a happy dog! We utilize all positive reinforcement and humane science-based methods with our animals. Should you need training advice, classes, etc, our President is a professional trainer and is happy to be of service!
BREED DISCRIMINATORY LEGISLATION
Make sure your city/town does not have breed specific or zoning legislation in place. If they do, be sure you are prepared to handle their particular regulations. We are happy to discuss this more case by case.
HOW MUCH CAN I SPEND?
Too many folks spend all their available cash on a quick purchase and then have no money left for initial veterinary care, a training crate or obedience classes–all necessary expenses. Remember, the purchase price of a pet is a very small part of what the dog will actually cost. Save money for food, grooming, chew toys, outerwear, and miscellaneous supplies (bowls, beds, brushes, shampoos, flea products, odor neutralizers for accidents, baby gates, leashes, collars, heartworm preventative etc.).
And then, there is the veterinary emergency! Very few dogs live their entire lives without at least one accident. Your puppy eats a battery or pair of pantyhose, your fine-boned toy breaks a leg, your big boy has bad hips, your dog gets hit by a car or beaten/bitten by the neighborhood bully. These surprises can cost $500 or more. Unlike our children, most of our dogs are not covered by health insurance.
But “How much can I spend?” is not only a question of money. How much time and energy can you spend on a new dog? Various breeds and ages of animals make different demands on our precious spare time. In general, terrier breeds will demand more time in training and daily exercise. A puppy or adolescent will need more exercise, training, and supervision than will an adult dog. And the first year with any new dog regardless of age or breed type will put more demands on the owner than any other time, for this is when you are setting up house rules and routines which will last for the lifetime of your dog.
America has become a nation of disposable pet owners. Doesn’t your family dog deserve better? Choose wisely, for when the bond breaks, everybody concerned suffers. Make selecting your new family dog a life-affirming act.