I’ve been knee deep in a website re-design for a dog rescue these past few weeks which has opened my eyes to a number of aspects of the adoption process I wasn’t familiar with before. According to the Humane Society, animal shelters in the United States provide care for between 6 to 8 million dogs every year. Because of space and health concerns, between 3 to 4 million of these shelter dogs are euthanized annually.
Adopting a dog from an animal shelter is an opportunity to save a pet’s life and improve your own. Since October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to dispel some common myths associated with rescue dogs as well as provide you with questions you should ask before stepping into the adoption process.
I’m sure you’re aware responsible pet ownership requires more than simply agreeing to take an animal into your life; the potential adopter should be ready to make a commitment that will enhance the lives of both the human and the animal.
I’ve developed a list of some important questions to ask in the dog adoption process below:
1.What Kind of Dog Should I Get?
You may have your heart set on a certain breed. Breed-specific rescues exist, such as the California Shar-Pei Rescue whose website I’ve recently re-designed. It’s worthwhile to conduct internet searches for these rescues as many of them are not open to the public, nor do they post available dogs on petfinders.com or adoptapet.com, etc.
Even if you’re not set on a specific breed, you should still have an idea of the type of dog you want. Consider age, size, grooming needs, health issues and activity level.
2. Should I Get a Puppy Or An Older Dog?
Many adoptees turn to puppies assuming they know what they’re signing up for behavior-wise with this clean slate. One myth is with an older dog you never know what you’re getting so the best resort is to get a much younger dog. However, it’s not until a dog hits sexual maturity that some innate behavioral problems can start to surface. The advantage of turning to a rescue for adoption is since many are run at a private facility with passionate volunteers monitoring the temperament and health of the dog, you’re more likely to get an honest answer as to the dog’s medical problems if they exist. The same isn’t always true for a breeder or pet shop owner who is only in it for the money.
3. How Can I Be Sure of the True Health of A Dog?
It’s not always easy to track down the medical history of the dog you’re interested in so it’s important to ask those in charge of the rescue. If a dog came to a rescue with medical problems, these issues are treated before the dog is adopted out. A majority of rescue dogs are perfectly healthy and may have been turned over to a shelter do to the following reasons:
1. The owner passed away
2. An irresponsible owner didn’t get their dog spayed/neutered so they found themselves with a litter
3. A dog was purchased or adopted by someone who did not take into consideration all of the responsibility that caring for a pet would entail
Again, you’re more likely to get an honest answer as to the background of a dog from a rescue volunteer who is there because they care about animals as opposed to a the alternative such as a pet shop owner.
4. How Much Time And Energy Do You Have To Invest In A Dog?
This is very important! If you don’t have the time to spend running or playing with a high-drive dog like a herding or working breed, please don’t adopt one! High-energy dogs demand atleast two intensive exercise sessions a day and if this energy is not released, can lead to behavior problems surfacing in the dog. If you don’t have this time due to work or other pre-occupations, a laid-back breed or older dog might be in order.
5. What Are Your Behavioral Deal-Breakers?
On a scale of one to ten, rank potential behavioral issues based on your lifestyle and what you’d like to do with you dog. Can you tolerate potty training? Dog aggression? Stranger Aggression? If you live in an apartment, will separation anxiety rank high on behavioral deal-breakers? It’s important to discuss behavioral issues the dog may be experiencing with your rescue before making the decision to bring the dog into your life.
6. How About Grooming?
If you are a housekeeper and are not going to enjoy having dog hair everywhere, Golden Retrievers are probably not for you. How often do you want to brush your dog? Poodles are low-shedding but need daily brushing to avoid matting. Again, weigh the pros and cons based on your preferences and lifestyle in determining the breed for you.
7. Are There Other Pets?
Bringing a new dog into the house can change the dynamics of you living situation. If your present dog is not a barker, remember than another dog may create a noisemaking situation. Consider how much time and energy you want to put into training them to coexist happily, or whether you’re willing to manage the situation to keep everyone safe. The unique personality of the animal, your attitude, and determination to make it work contribute to how this coexistence pans out.
I found this Breed Breakdown that compares dog breeds by size, popularity, shedding, protection, and trainability.
It’s also a good decision to have all your family members meet the dog before you consider adopting him. If possible, go someplace quiet away from the shelter to see how he reacts.
If you’ve made the leap and adopted a dog, these videos will help your new pet make a much smoother transition into their new home.
You can find a loving companion that adds to your life by adopting them from a dog rescue shelter. Arming yourself with the right questions beforehand ensures issues don’t arise down the road, making the process of finding the right companion much easier.
Do you have questions to add to this list? Please let me know in the comments!