How to Adopt a Dog

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Adopting a dog is a big responsibility, but it can also be an incredibly fun, rewarding experience as long as you consider some important factors. What breed of dog best suits your personality or lifestyle? How much room can you offer your new pet for running and playing? Do you want a puppy or an adult dog? There is a lot to consider, but following these simple steps will help you make a decision that will result in a special friendship that will last for years to come.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
  • Research notes
  • Phone
  • Research breeds to determine which type of dog best suits your personality and lifestyle. For instance, if you have small children, a small breed with a high-maintenance personality such as a Jack Russell terrier or chihuahua stands a greater likelihood of being injured by or nipping at a child who is too rambunctious. Web sites such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), those for specific breeds or for the local animal shelter will often offer some personality profiles on various breeds to help in your decision.

  • Be prepared to pay a considerable sum if buying a purebred from a breeder. Keep in mind that a purebred very often carries a certain set of characteristics such as hard-and-fast personality traits or health issues. Poodles, for instance, tend to be yappy but love to curl up in your lap. Spaniels may jump up on people, but they are usually playful dogs that are great with kids.

  • Check online for rescue organizations in your area. Web sites like PetFinder provide links to rescues and shelters in your area. Rescues have fees that are often much less than a breeder, but their adoption procedures will most likely be more stringent, often requiring a home visit from a rescue volunteer. After all, rescue dogs have most likely been abandoned or surrendered, and the rescue personnel want to make sure the dog is being placed in its forever-home.

  • Check the dog pound or shelter (Animal Control) that is usually operated by your city or county. Often times, you can find a real diamond-in-the-rough and the fees are generally low. City shelters often have limited resources and need to find homes for dogs quickly so they do not have to euthanize them. Purebred dogs are sometimes abandoned to the pound, but animal control is also full of loveable mutts.

  • Consider how much room you have in your home before you bring a dog into it. If you have a big yard and house, then a larger dog like a Labrador retriever or collie mix might work well for you. Likewise, if you live in an apartment or small house with little or no yard, a smaller lapdog like a miniature schnauzer or llaso apso might be best.

  • Take into account how the breed you select might interact with or tolerate your children or another pet in the house. Some breeds like heelers are herding dogs by nature and tend to chase something smaller than themselves, resulting in your kids or cat being corraled around the house or yard. A big floppy dog like an Irish setter is a hunting dog, liking to run and swim and play outdoors, perhaps more suitable for children.

  • Bring along a leash or pet carrier (for smaller dogs) when going to pick it up. This is for the animal's safety as well as for your own.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rescue or shelter organizations will almost always require the dog to be sterilized (to prevent future breeding) or have you sign a contract before you take the dog home promising you will sterilize the dog within a certain period of time.
  • A city pound may often offer coupons from local vets for discounted immunizations and spaying or neutering services.
  • For seniors, retirees or older singles, shelters will often offer a Seniors-for-Seniors program, offering senior humans the opportunity to adopt a senior dog (5 years old or older).
  • Shelters and rescues are full of adult dogs that are housebroken already and no longer indulge in puppy behavior like chewing.
  • When taking in a shelter dog, ask about the shelter's policy on illness or behavior. Some offer to replace your dog should it die of an illness or exhibit behavior problems within a set time from your adoption date.
  • Before taking in a dog, consider how much you may travel for work. Make sure you have someone, such as a neighbor or friend, who can watch after the dog if you need to be out of town, or that you can arrange for lodging with a local vet.
  • If you are away at work during the day, consider crate-training your dog so it becomes used to staying in a crate while you are gone for the day.
  • The more purebred a dog is, the more prone it is to health issues such as allergies and disorders. Consider that a purebred dog, the older it gets, could wind up costing you a lot more in vet bills over its lifetime.
  • Make sure to start a new furry member of your family off from the beginning with preventative measures such as heartworm and flea treatments.
  • Do not get a certain breed just because it is a hot, trendy dog at the time you are looking. A trained dog in a movie or on a TV show is very cute, but remember that these animals are handled by professional trainers. Just because a dog acts cute and sweet on television doesn't mean that breed will fit well within your family. These are the kinds of dogs that often fill the shelters and rescues because they failed to meet their owners' unrealistic expectations.
  • Spaying or neutering a dog is the best way to be a responsible pet owner. If you signed a contract promising to sterilize a dog, you have signed a binding agreement, and not providing documentation of proof within that time frame can be a punishable offense.

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