Definition of Dog Adoption
In the domestic dog world, the words “adoption” and “rescue” are used interchangeably to refer to acquiring an abused, abandoned, neglected or otherwise unwanted dog.
Though animal shelters and rescue organizations can have many dogs in need of rescue, they are not the only option. Dogs can also be in need of a new home when their current owners must surrender them because of some sudden change in personal circumstances, such as eviction from a rental residence, onset of a serious medical condition or divorce.
The decision to adopt a dog requires a great deal of thought, time commitment, resources and affection by the prospective adoptive parents. Before making a decision, potential owners should think carefully about whether they are really ready to adopt a dog and which breed will best suit their lifestyles. With time and research, you can decide if adopting a dog is the right choice for you.
Identifying a Dog That’s Right for You
Things to Consider
Acquiring a dog is a big commitment of time and resources. Dogs come in so many shapes and sizes, with widely diverse temperaments and personalities, that potential owners should take as much time as necessary to identify the traits and characteristics that will fit best with their lifestyle.
Rarely is the best choice made spontaneously at a shelter or pet store. A good place to start is by researching various dog breeds. The American Kennel Club website is a wonderful resource and contains descriptions and breed standards for all of the breeds that it recognizes.
Each of those breeds has a Parent Club, which will have its own website dedicated to the particular breed. Frequently, those websites have breeder referrals organized by state. Responsible breeders will welcome your emails, calls and questions.
Once you narrow down the breed or breeds of interest to you, you will be in a better position to move forward with your search, whether for a purebred or a mixed-breed companion. Here are some things to consider before acquiring a dog.
Size and Space
Think about your household living environment, including your yard. If you have a small home, then a smaller dog might be best for you. Large dogs typically require more space.
If you rent, does your lease permit pets, and if so does your landlord have any size restrictions on the dog you adopt? Do you have a fenced yard? If not, how will you manage your dog’s trips to go potty? Also, keep in mind that if you plan on taking frequent walks with your dog, you must be capable of controlling it physically in unanticipated situations.
If you work outside of the home, what will you do with your dog during your work hours? An isolated dog is a lonely dog, and lonely dogs can become noisy and destructive.
Children should always be taken into consideration before a dog is adopted. Some dogs by nature are not well-suited to being the typical “family dog.” Middle-sized dogs can work best for younger children.
Smaller dogs can be accidentally injured by children, and larger dogs can accidentally cause injury to children during periods of roughhousing or play. Young children should not be left unsupervised with any dog, as kids are prone to poke, pull or otherwise torment dogs either accidentally or purposefully.
Are their other pets in the household? If so, how will you introduce the new animal to the existing one(s)? Some dogs have an inherently high prey drive and may not be well-suited to households with cats or very small dogs.
Many people do not realize that different dog breeds have different activity levels and daily requirements for exercise and mental stimulation. Before adopting a dog, potential owners should realistically and honestly assess how much time they have available to go on walks or other outings with their four-legged family member, and where these activities will take place.
Many breeds require room to run, so city-dwellers should think twice before acquiring a breed known to have high activity requirements. If you are a fairly sedentary person, a less active breed may be the best fit for you.
If you enjoy hiking or jogging, a sturdy athletic dog may be your best match. Matching the breed with your lifestyle will go a long way to ensuring that both you and your dog live happily together.
There are a number of coat types and lengths in different breeds. Familiarize yourself with the coat of the breed you are considering. Short-haired breeds can shed as much as long-haired dogs, although they typically require much less grooming.
Dogs with thick, long coats tend to develop mats and may require regular trips to a dog groomer. Some breeds “blow their coats” several times a year, leaving piles of fur everywhere.
Does anyone in your house have allergies to animals? Some breeds, such as poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs, are known to have less dander and can make a good choice for people with allergies.
It is important to spend time with any dog before making the decision to adopt it. Take the time to play with the dog, pet it and see how it interacts with children. Most dogs need time to get used to new people.
If you are getting a dog from a breeder, discuss the particular animal’s temperament with its breeder. When you are interacting with the dog, be sure to evaluate different aspects of its personality.
Is the dog playful? Does it enjoy retrieving and playing fetch? Is it overly shy or overly outgoing? Does it enjoy being petted and handled? Is the dog secure or timid? Does the dog bark frequently or excessively? Is it known to be a “yappy” breed, and if so how will your neighbors tolerate nuisance barking?
Do you have the financial resources to care for a dog for the next ten or more years? This requires more than simply providing food, water and shelter. Will you be able to pay high veterinary bills if your dog has a medical emergency or requires long-term medical attention? If you are buying a purebred dog from a reputable breeder, the initial purchase price can be well in excess of $1,000. If you are adopting a shelter or rescue dog, there typically are adoption fees of fifty to several hundred dollars.
Do you travel frequently, for work or pleasure? If so, how will you provide care for your dog when you are out of town? Do you have a reputable boarding facility or second caregiver available for these occasions?
Alternatively, will you bring your dog with you on your trips? Dog owners increasingly travel with their companions, and it is not difficult to locate pet-friendly lodging in most areas.
Once you have considered these issues and taken the time reflect on how a dog will fit into your life, you should be in good shape to make an educated decision on what particular dog is the best fit for you and your family.
Remember, adopting a dog is not a short-term decision. Many breeds live well into their teenage years, and prospective owners should make sure they are committed to their companions for the long haul.
Adopting a Puppy vs. Adopting a Mature Dog
Adopting a Puppy
Puppies normally require significantly more attention than do older dogs. They should not be left alone all day and typically will need to eliminate every two or three hours. The housebreaking process can be protracted and difficult unless the puppy is supervised in the house and taken outside at regular intervals to potty. Puppies require training in the basic commands (sit, stay, come, heel, down), which mature dogs often know.
During the teething process, where razor sharp puppy teeth are replaced by adult teeth, puppies can be especially destructive. Anything within reach is at risk of becoming a new source of fun and festivity for exuberant puppies – like your favorite slippers or sunglasses. As with any dog, an ill-behaved or poorly socialized puppy is not a pleasure to be around.
On the other hand, a puppy can be a joy to live with – especially in homes with children or other companion animals or where the owner has a flexible schedule. Puppies can be easier to train than older dogs that are set in their ways.
Puppies also are free of the mental, physical and/or emotional scars that older dogs can bring with them. If you are thinking about adopting a puppy, be sure that your lifestyle and living arrangements are compatible with an energetic bundle of love.
Adopting a Mature Dog
Mature dogs often fit seamlessly into a new home. This is especially true if you have information about the animal’s past so that you can avoid potentially problematic situations.
Adult dogs typically are potty trained and many know their basic commands. Dogs are intelligent creatures and quickly pick up on the ins and outs of a regular household routine. While adult dogs still require daily attention, they do not require the constant supervision and mental stimulation that puppies demand.
That being said, mature dogs can come with emotional and behavioral baggage, particularly if they come from an abusive home. The new owner of an adult dog whose history is unknown must be patient and committed to working with their new companion with a consistently gentle hand.
Abused dogs often are fearful and shy in unfamiliar situations and with unfamiliar people. They require a calm, secure living environment and time to develop trust in their new guardian.
Adult dogs may not live as long as a puppy, but that will depend on chance and a multitude of other factors. Many people relish the opportunity to provide a safe and loving home for older dogs that deserve a second chance.
Sources for Finding a Dog to Adopt
Sources for Adoption
There are many places you can look for a dog when you decide it’s time to adopt. Local breeders often advertise in the newspaper, and this may end up being the easiest and most convenient way to choose a new puppy.
If you are looking to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group, the internet is a great starting point. You can make a list of local shelters and organizations, and you can usually browse many of the dogs online.
They will provide a picture and a short bio of their dogs stating their name, size, age, sex and a little about their personality. This means you can narrow your search from the comfort of home.
Once you’ve done some initial research, you can contact the breeder or shelter to set up a time to meet with them and see the dogs you are interested in so that you can get a better feel for where your potential dog is coming from.
Research the Breeder or Facility
Before selecting a breeder, shelter, rescue group or individual to adopt a dog from, you should conduct thorough research. If you’re looking for a pure breed, check the breeders licenses and certifications.
A reputable breeder will be happy to show you these documents. You can also ask to speak with other pet owners who have adopted from their facility so that you can get a good idea of what to expect from your new dog.
Shelters and rescue organizations should be researched as well. Ask to take a tour of the facility and look to see how clean the facilities are and how the animals are kept and cared for.
The main purpose of these groups is to help homeless animals find homes, and you’ll find that they will usually be very accommodating in an effort to match dogs with loving families.
Fees for adopting should also be reasonable. Research how much puppies of your breed of choice are selling for from other breeders. Understand why some breeds are more expensive than others or why dogs who come from certain stock are more expensive than others.
If it seems like you are spending far too much money that you should, or if you are not spending enough, this might be a red flag. Consult other dog owners, breeders or rescue groups to get a better understanding of the fees associated with adopting a dog.
About Pet Stores
You should avoid purchasing a dog at a pet store if possible. A lot of these purchases are impulse purchases, meaning you didn’t start out your day intending to adopt a puppy but an adorable dog at the pet store caught your eye. If you haven’t put consideration into adoption, don’t make an impulse purchase. Many dogs who end up in shelters were once pet store purchases.
Some pet stores are very reputable and purchase their puppies from respected breeders, but many pet store puppies come from puppy mills. Puppy mills, sometimes called “commercial breeders” operate strictly for profit.
They often over-breed females and inbreed dogs, which leads to behavioral and health problems. The conditions in puppy mills are often quite horrible. The dogs are kept in small cages and are never allowed to roam freely.
Though they are legal, they are considered inhumane by breeders and humane organizations around the world. It’s very important to understand where your potential puppy came from before choosing to adopt.
If you do choose a pet store, ask where their dogs come from and research that facility. If the pet store is evasive, it may indicate an association with puppy mills.