8 Things to Do Before You Adopt a Dog

Numbers are just numbers. They are representative of real things but carry no real meaning without association. Two apples. Three children. Ten dollars. If I don’t put at least one word at the end of those numbers, they wouldn’t mean much to you. You can’t just walk up to somebody on the street, blurt out, “Fifteen,” and expect them to understand what you’re trying to get across. The words which surround the number give it power. The opposite also holds true.

If I say to you, “4 million,” that probably doesn’t mean anything. If I say to you, “dogs put to death,” that probably carries some emotional strength. But if I combine numbers and words and tell you that a conservative 4 million dogs are put to death every year in the US alone, that might give you pause. It certainly raised my eyebrows, particularly because it’s an accurate figure.

With so many dogs needlessly facing a premature death, the banner has gone up. There are dog rescues everywhere. There are good people devoting time and energy to give these poor animals a second chance. Most importantly, there are folks like you and me who are willing to adopt these lovable creatures in the hopes of sparing a life and making them a part of our family and I applaud every one of you who has done so.

For those of you considering joining our ranks and adopting a dog in need, I wish you years of love and companionship. But it would be irresponsible not to warn you to know what you are getting into before you take the plunge. Better to save the right dog for you and your family than to make a failed attempt and be turned off the experience. With that in mind, consider the following points before you head off to save a life and remember that it is important that you adopt the dog which best fits your lifestyle and personality. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The more you know the better!

1. Try to find out some history on your prospective pooch. Was he a stray? Did his former owner turn him in? A little background investigation can help you and your new friend adjust as you begin your new life together.

2. If the dog was turned in by its previous owner, try to determine why. Most common reasons such a moving, landlords and divorce don’t make much of a difference. But behavioral problems are certainly relevant factors.

3. Try to estimate the dog’s age or have a veterinarian provide you an educated guess. An older dog may require more medical care. That’s not a reason not to adopt. Old dogs need love as much as (or more than) young dogs. But it may mean additional considerations you want to be prepared for.

4. Does the dog have any known medical or behavioral issues? If so, are they extreme? You should know what you’re getting into before you take your pup home and be sure you’re qualified and capable of providing the additional time and patience required for a “special needs” dog.

5. Has the dog shown aggression towards other animals? If you already own pets and are adopting an addition, try to find out if the dog has had problems with other animals while at the shelter or rescue. Regardless the answer, introduce your new pet to the existing “pack” cautiously.

6. How long has the dog been living at the shelter? A continuously caged environment isn’t a natural environment for a dog. They will often unlearn previously understood rules such as housebreaking. A lengthy stay does not rule out a pet as adoptable, but, knowing the length of its stay will prepare you to be patient with its training when it comes home with you.

7. What breed is the dog and what are that breed’s characteristic traits? Be sure to get a dog that matches your life style! If you are a couch potato, a high energy dog which requires a lot of exercise may not be the best fit for you.

8. Finally, what is the shelter or rescue group’s return policy? Despite your best intentions, you may discover you and your dog are not a good fit after you bring him home. If you do need to return the dog, it is a good idea to know the official return policy in advance. Most rescue groups insist that you return the dog directly to them rather than gifting it to another owner or taking it to another shelter. In fact, it is often stated in the contract you sign with them during the adoption process.

Rescuing a dog is a wonderful act! Having decided to adopt, take your time, ASK QUESTIONS and get the pup that best fits your personality and lifestyle. A little advance recon will better prepare you both for a lasting, happily-ever-after friendship worth all the time spent and more.

David is a contributing writer for www.bunnyroobeagle.com, a site devoted to the love, care, feeding and adoption of dogs, cats and more exotic pets.

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