Important things to consider when bringing a new dog home

As a dog trainer, I handle quite a few cases that could have been avoided if people had taken just a bit more time to make sure they were truly ready to bring a dog into their lives. People need to honestly evaluate their own lifestyle and pick the dog that is best suited for them, rather than the cutest puppy they happen to see one day.

This process can save you and your new dog heartbreak and pain. Returning a dog is very hard on them. Yet another bump in the rocky road to his or her forever home, making it harder to once again trust that humans will someday provide that stable loving home.

If you are considering adopting or buying a dog, please take the time to consider the following:

  1. How much time will you realistically have in the first couple of weeks to a month after adoption, to spend with your dog? Settling in and bonding takes time. Adopting a dog right before you start a new job is not a good idea.  Taking time off from your current job, or getting a dog while you are in between jobs for a month is a better situation for you and your new dog.
  2. Have you ever had a dog before? If you have not, asking the shelter or rescue to help you find a dog appropriate for a first time owner would be a good idea. Note, this is not breed specific! While breeds can have certain characteristics, individual dogs within each breed have distinct personalities. Plus dogs in shelters or rescues may be already experiencing difficulties usually caused by their previous situations. Some of these challenges are easy to help a dog with, and others will take a more experienced dog owner.
  3. Do you have children?  Are you willing to teach your children the correct way to interact with a dog? (Politely and with respect!) Do you think that a dog is a “toy” for your kids? (In which case, please do not get a live dog. Get them a stuffed one!)  Will you be able to supervise your children and their friends AT ALL TIMES when they are interacting with the dog?  Will you require that your children help take care of the dog if appropriate?  Be sure to tell the adoption or rescue organization that you have children and ask which dogs they know FROM  EXPERIENCE  would be appropriate with children.
  4. Are you looking for a specific breed of dog? Why? Do you have personal experience with the breed? Do you just think that kind of dog “looks cool”?  Again, each dog has an individual personality, but also breeds can have characteristics such as pointers need a tremendous amount of exercise daily, northern breeds can be independent and herding breeds need a lot of mental stimulation and exercise. Smaller breeds are not “toys”! They are DOGS! They tend to get over handled and start to bite and snap to try to tell people to respect them as a dog, not a toy. Learn about the breed characteristics and also, within that breed, get advice from the rescue or shelter about which individual dog would be appropriate for your situation.
  5. Do you have other dogs already? Why do you want another dog? Do you want a new dog to make your other dog behave better? (This usually does not happen. Dog behavior depends mostly on their humans, and if your dog is misbehaving, look to yourself and get your dog trained. It is not the new dog’s job to train your current dog. It is your job.). Do you think your dog wants a “friend”. (Sometimes this happens, but often your current dog may or may not want another dog in the house.)
  6. Did you have the best dog in the world that just past away?  Yes, it is great to get another canine companion. But realize that this will be a new individual and you will have a new and different relationship.
  7. Do you have roommates? Do your roommates have dogs?  This will involve making sure your roommates are ok with a new dog, and that their dog will tolerate a new dog.
  8. Do you have the appropriate living situation for your new dog? Some dogs are fine in an apartment or condo while others need a yard.  Do you have a fenced yard? How high? All of this matters when selecting a dog.

Bringing a new dog home is a wonderful experience full of hope and dreams of a life together. Set up for success. Be patient, Do your homework. Be willing to honestly search your soul and realistically look at your lifestyle. Find that right dog that is out there waiting for you.

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