Owning a dog is a big commitment, therefore the decision to adopt should not be taken lightly. Remember the average life span of a dog is thirteen years and you will be responsible for the dog for his whole life, not just until the “novelty” wears off.
There are many points to consider before deciding to adopt a dog – here are 10 of the more important factors to take into account:
Can you afford a dog?
Owning a dog is expensive. Apart from good quality food, there are other expenses like baskets and bedding, equipment such as a lead and harness/collar, toys and treats and grooming. Veterinarian costs also need to be factored in, vaccinations, deworming, microchipping (highly recommended) and general and emergency medical expenses. Having a dog sterilised is expensive but fortunately, most shelters will have this done before homing them. These are lifetime costs and do not cease after the initial purchase of your dog.
Do you have time for your dog?
Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation daily to avoid boredom which is one of the most common reasons behind unwanted behaviours. Destructive chewing and excessive digging in the garden are two of the more frequent of these behaviours and are also a primary reason why many dogs are surrendered to shelters. You must be able to spend quality time with your dog daily.
Do your homework
Before adopting a dog you need to research what breed of dog you would like and even more importantly what breed would suit your lifestyle and environment. If you want a dog that will curl up on your lap while you watch TV, then a 75kg St Bernard might not be the wisest choice. Likewise, you need to consider the physical environment that your dog will be living in – a high energy working dog may find it difficult to cope in a small confined garden setting.
Fostering before adopting
If you are a first-time dog owner, consider fostering a dog before you commit to adopting. Most shelters have this option and it’s a great way for you to determine if you are ready and able to make that permanent commitment to adopting a dog.
At the Shelter
Gather as much information as you can about the dog you may be interested in. The caregivers will be able to give you vital information regarding the dog, things like his general health, where he came from, his personality, is he fearful or anxious, how he reacts around unfamiliar people and in particular children and how he reacts to other dogs or cats. Asking these questions will give you a better understanding of the dog’s background and needs and whether you can provide the necessary environment for him to live in happily.
Dog-proofing your home
Dogs like to roam (remember many shelter dogs are there as strays) so your property perimeter must be firmly secured. Gates, walls and fences need to be jump proof. Special care needs to be taken regarding storing toxic or poisonous items like garden fertilisers and pool chemicals. Puppies especially love to chew anything they find lying about.
Introducing your new family member
If you’re adopting a dog into a family where there are existing dogs then a proper introduction is essential. Take the resident dog/s to the shelter to meet the prospective new addition before bringing it home. Doing this will give a good indication of whether the match is suitable. Again, introduce the dogs on neutral territory before entering your property for the first time.
Meals times are important to your dog so they must not be put under any stress whilst eating. If you have more than one dog ensure they are fed a suitable distance apart to avoid any potential resource guarding issues. (this is quite common in shelter dogs). Twice daily feeding is recommended and do not leave food down all day for the dogs to eat if and when they feel inclined to.
Dogs are high energy animals and require both physical and mental stimulation daily. Taking your dog for a walk or playing games like fetch or hide and seek will help release energy and provide exercise. There are numerous brain toys available on the market designed to give the dog mental stimulation, combined with scent work type games, will keep the dog happy and contented.
Part of the family
Make your dog part of your family. If you lavish him with love and affection he will respond in a like manner and give you years of fun and enjoyment.