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Essential Factors to Consider when Adopting a Dog

So you’ve decided to add a dog to your family, congratulations! Deciding to add a furry member to your family is highly rewarding, but can be very overwhelming as well. Carefully considering your lifestyle and choosing the right dog for you are integral to making the adoption process as smooth and easy as possible. The following are the most important things to take into account before adopting.

–Age: Puppy or Adult dog? This is one of the biggest factors to consider before adopting. They both have their pros and cons and it essentially comes down to how much time you will have to work with the dog. Puppies are a lot of fun, but when adopting a puppy one must consider house training and obedience training, in addition to the destruction they cause if left unattended. Young puppies can only hold their bladders about one hour for every month old they are plus one (i.e. a two month old puppy can hold it for three hours, and three month old puppy for four, and so on...), so it may mean taking time off from work, coming home early, or hiring a service to let them out. This also means that they cannot go an entire night without waking up and having to go to the bathroom. Puppies require extensive training and socialization to prepare them for the rest of their lives. And finally, with a puppy, especially a mixed breed, there is no guarantee of how large the dog will grow or what he or she may look like.

When adopting an adult dog, you have a pretty good idea of the size and temperament. While we cannot guarantee that a dog is housebroken or trained, a number of adult dogs who come through our shelter and were raised in households know basic obedience and are crate trained. If they were surrendered to us by their original owners, we may have a brief history of their past and details such as if they were raised around children or get along with other animals. An adult dog will probably be done with their destructive puppy phase and will be less likely to do damage in your house. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of adult dogs who go into shelters are not there because of temperament or behavior problems but because their owners fell on hard times or had a lifestyle change, they are not ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’.

–Temperament and trainability: After deciding on an age, temperament and trainability are the next important things to consider about a dog. What kind of dog are you looking for? An unflappable and easily trained family dog that loves the company of children? A smaller dog that will be easy to travel with? A determined and strong-willed companion that will excel at obedience or agility? Do you lead a very social lifestyle where your dog will be around new people often? Or do you tend to keep to yourself, so a shy or more cautious dog will be okay with you? Consider these questions carefully and look for a temperament that matches your lifestyle.

–Energy Level: Dogs vary vastly in energy levels, and one breed may work very well with your lifestyle where another may be a very poor fit. If you’re looking for an avid running partner, it’s probably best to bypass the short-legged companion breeds and look into athletic sporting and herding dogs, such as retrievers and cattle dogs. If your idea of an active afternoon is a walk around the block and a little yard work, you may find that a maltese, pug, or Chihuahua is more your speed. Most importantly, consider what your activity level is right now in your life, don’t anticipate that once you adopt a dog you will suddenly become drastically more active. Of course, activity level changes as age changes, so a senior border collie may end up being the perfect companion for someone with a laidback lifestyle. Consider the breed specifics as well as the individual dog.

Some examples of high energy breeds:

-Labrador retriever

-Border Collie

-Cattle Dog

-Pit Bull



-Jack Russell Terriers

Some examples of low energy breeds:

- Maltese

-Bichon Frise

- Chihuahua

- Grey Hound

- Pug

- Mastiff

- Bernese Mountain Dog

–Size: The size of a dog is something to be considered, especially if you do not currently own the space where you live. Double check the policy of your apartment or condo to insure that there are no breed or weight restrictions. If there are, remember that you cannot guarantee the size that a puppy may grow to be, so carefully consider adopting a fully grown dog. Keep in mind that larger dogs will end up costing more once you calculate how much they eat and that heartworm and flea/tick medication are more expensive for large breeds. One last point, if you have children small dogs will be more easily injured and will need extra protection from clumsy handling; larger breeds may be more tolerant of children falling or uncoordinated petting.

–Coat type: While this may not be the most important factor to consider, certain breeds may require a large degree of grooming from you (not to mention extra vacuuming!) or professional grooming, which can add up in monetary costs quickly. Make sure that you are prepared to either groom the dog yourself or hire someone before committing to a dog with a high maintenance coat.

Breathe! Yes, all of these factors can seem very overwhelming, but it is essential that you arm yourself with this information to choose the right member for your family and make the transition process as uncomplicated as possible. After carefully considering each of these factors, you will know just what you are looking for. Congratulations and good luck!

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