Adopting A Dog

So, you’re thinking about adopting a dog—how exciting! Whether you live in the city or country, are young or old, there’s a dog out there who’s just waiting to come into your life. But how do you know which is the right dog for you and if you’re truly ready to take on the commitment of bringing a furry canine pal into your home?

The old Beatles song says “All you need is love”—and of course that’s a huge component in most successful dog–human relationships—but the wise potential pet owner knows there are other things to consider as well. Dog needs your commitment and dependability, and thinking now about the right match will go a long way toward ensuring a happy future.

For example, consider other members of your household—does a particular dog get along well with children? Other pets? Conversely, how do the people and animals in your life who will be a big part of your dog’s life feel about a new dog? Do they have questions or concerns? Have you discussed who will be responsible for different aspects of taking care of the dog? Always remember, too, to check any apartment or condo guidelines you might have to ensure they allow you to have a pet.

As adorable, sweet, and fun as dogs can be (and they certainly are!), they do need multiple walks every day, affection, consistent feeding and grooming, and appropriate playtime. Though this is a commitment, it can also be a great thing—my friend Sam’s kids always used to grumble when he invited them to go on after-dinner walks around the neighborhood. But now that they have a dog, the boys are much more likely to be excited about going on a family walk with the dog!

And how about looks and size? We all know looks aren’t everything, but will it drive you crazy if your black-haired dog sheds on your pristine white carpeting? Or would you be ok with this? And consider my cousin Emily, who has a tiny apartment and even tinier car, and who decided that the dog who’s bigger than our grandma was just not going to fit into her life. You get the idea… there’s compromise and change in every relationship, but think about what you’re really willing to take on and what might end up creating a really stressful situation down the road.

On another note, are you looking for a dog that’s already fully trained, or do you have the time and inclination to start from scratch and teach a pup all he needs to know? General behavior and temperament are also important concerns. Talk with the staff at the agency you’re considering adopting from to see what they can tell you about different dogs’ behavior and temperament. Also look at how the dogs interact with other dogs and people.

Even if you feel you have the resources—time, money, patience, and more—to take on a special-needs pet, when you’re considering different dogs, you’ll want to get an overall idea of their health. The adoption agency you’re working with should be able to provide you with some health history, but what does a healthy dog look like in general, and what are signs that could indicate there might be a problem? A healthy dog has:

  • Eyes that are clear and show your reflection; discharge or milky and foggy eyes can indicate a problem
  • A nose that is wet and cold; a warm, dry nose could indicate a dog needs a drink because he’s dehydrated
  • Ears that are free of black clumps of earwax (which can be due to brain damage) and that do not have a strong odor
  • Curiosity about his world and the people and animals in it
  • Regular, easy movement; no limping
  • A good appetite and no unusual bad breath
  • Teeth that are intact and clean
  • Regular daily bowel movements and urination
  • Supple, shiny fur without bald patches; no habit of excessive scratching, licking, or gnawing at the fur

Remember that the adoption agency you work with and other important people in your life such as family, friends, and your vet are there to help you think through this exciting—and important!—decision and support you as you begin the adventure of incorporating a new furry pal into your family. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and ask for help if you need it. In addition to these important people in your life, the Internet offers a plethora of resources for pet owners, and your library likely has multiple books, magazines, and other resources that you can consult when you’re faced with questions or just want to learn more.