With more than 6 million animals surrendered to shelters each year in the United States, there’s never been a better time to adopt a dog. Although providing homeless pets with a loving home is an urgent matter, anyone considering adoption must take great care in finding the right match. If a person isn’t right for a particular dog or vice versa, the dog may end up homeless again. Here’s what to consider before adopting a dog:
#1: KNOW IF YOU’RE READY TO ADOPT A DOG
Before anything else, you must decide if you’re truly ready to add a new dog to your household—and being prepared means more than simply loving your new dog.
Consider Your Finances
You need to be able to afford your new pup’s food and provide him with regular veterinary care. A yearly exam won’t stress your budget too much, but monthly heartworm pills and flea-and-tick treatments can add up, as can emergency medical care.
Consider Your Schedule
Dog parents must have enough time to devote to their pet. People who work full time can certainly have dogs, but they must enlist the help of family members, dog walkers, or doggy daycare for when they can’t be home to care for their pets’ needs.
Consider Other Family Members
Consider whether everyone in your home is on board with the idea of adopting a dog. Spouses, children, and any extended family members who share your home should be comfortable with welcoming and caring for a new dog. Having young children is also an important factor. They must be taught how to interact with dogs, and even the best-behaved young children should never be left alone with an animal.
#2: FIND A PET THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
Start Searching Online
Fortunately, we can easily browse through photos and descriptions of dogs at local shelters online. The internet is a great place to start your search. Just keep in mind that you’ll be able to gather only so much from these profiles. Never make a decision to adopt until you’ve met the dog in person to get a feel for his temperament and personality.
Fill Out an Application
Some shelters and rescues require potential adopters to fill out an application before allowing them to meet any dogs. This process can take up to a week or two because the rescue will need to check your references and perform a home visit. Try not to stress over the idea of the home visit—the volunteer will not be testing your housekeeping skills, but rather making sure that your home is safe and appropriate for a pet. If you live in an apartment or condo, you’ll also need to produce proof that you’re allowed to own a dog.
Carefully Consider Your Options
Shelter and rescue volunteers can also help determine which dogs could the best match for you. They have experience bringing dogs and owners together, as well as the advantage of knowing the dogs’ individual personalities. For example, some dogs do best as the only pet in a household whereas others are happiest around other dogs.
#3: MEET YOUR NEW DOG
Just like people, some dogs don’t make the best first impressions, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t make great pets for the right people. Take your time, allow them to open up, and carefully consider who your perfect match would be.
Make Key Observations
If the initial meet-and-greet goes well, shelter workers may allow you to take the dog for a walk or play session to get a better feel for his personality and activity level. Take advantage of this time. Watch how the dog interacts with you and your family. Does he seem excited to be with you? Does he know any commands? How does he interact with other dogs? There are no right answers across the board—just answers that make a dog right or wrong for you.
#4: WHAT YOU NEED WHEN BRINGING HOME A NEW DOG
Once you find the perfect dog to adopt, you will need to make some plans before bringing him home.
Start by dog-proofing your home. This task includes placing dangerous objects out of your dog or puppy’s reach and putting away anything that he could ruin by chewing.
You will also need to make a trip to the pet supply store. Items you’ll need right away include:
- Crate and liner
- Food and treats
- Set of dog bowls
- Leash and collar or harness
- A few toys
You may also want to sign up for a dog obedience class. This can help you teach your new dog basic commands and provide him with regular socialization. Even older dogs can benefit from this training time—plus, it’s a great opportunity for you to meet other dog people and bond with your new companion.