Congratulations on your decision to adopt a dog! We all dream of finding the perfect pooch to bring home and share our lives with. Finding the perfect dog is about finding the dog that is a good match for your lifestyle and needs. Here are some tips to prepare you for your quest and help you find “the one.”

Even before going to a shelter sits down and makes a list of reasons why you want a dog. This list should also include a clear picture of what a “perfect” dog looks in your eyes: is he mellow, energetic, younger, older, friendly, reserved, playful? The truth is every dog is perfect but one dog can not be perfect for everyone. Good temperament and personality is relevant to the person’s needs and desires. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • How much space do I have at home for my dog? Dogs need space both at home and individually. Think of your dog carrying a bubble space around them. For that cute and shy dog you find at the very back of the crate you will need more space. This dog might feel uncomfortable having strangers in close proximity. If you live in a high rise or the city you might think about getting a dog that doesn’t mind his bubble space getting invaded by stimuli (such as in the elevator). For excitable dogs, the closer the excitement the more intense the reaction.
  • How much time daily can I dedicate in exercising my dog? While every dog needs exercise some breeds require more than others. Most behavioral problems are developed when a dog has too much energy that has not been released properly through mental and physical stimulation. Some common outlets to release energy when left to the dog are: chewing, barking, jumping, pulling and/or window and gate guarding. I always say a tired dog is a happy owner.
  • How much money can I budget for grooming? Training? Daycare or walking? Sadly, many dogs are surrendered or returned when the owners find themselves not ready for the financial responsibility that comes with having a dog. Certain breeds might require frequent visits to the groomers and daily brushing. Grooming is not only important for their health but also to prevent behavioral problems. Matting can cause discomfort which can lead to aggression in some dogs. Every owner should go to at least a basic positive class to learn how to communicate with each other, teach basic cues and learn how to properly handle problems. Lastly, if you have a full schedule and your job might not allow for you to walk your dog mid-day consider the option of either daycare of dog walking to prevent any behavioral problems while you are at work.
  • Why am I getting a dog? To take to parks, socialize in outdoor cafes, hang out with my friends, to run, compete in dog sports to keep my other dog company? What type of home environment do I have? Some dogs can not handle busy environments, families with small children or being around a lot of dogs or people such as in a doggie daycare settings or outdoor events. There are dogs that will rather be in a quiet home with a consistent routine and some that thrive in urban environments.

DURING

You are ready to adopt and visit your local shelter or rescue group. As humans we tend to let our rational side go out the window the moment we set eyes on a cute dog and fall in love. While some people call it love at first sight you have to make sure the dog’s personality fits your list to it can be eternal love. To avoid, adopting a dog that is not suitable for you here are some things to remember:

  • Picking the shelter or rescue group:There are many great shelters and rescues out there which can be overwhelming when choosing one. A reputable rescue agency will ask you questions do a home check and help you choose a dog. Some even offer foster to adopt which is great to really get to know the dog outside the shelter environment. The adoption counselors should also be able to answer any questions and be willing to take the dog back in case it’s not a good fit. Many reputable rescue agencies are protective over their rescue dogs as should be so that they find a forever home. Anyone that is willing to let you adopt a dog without meeting you first or asking you question should be avoided.
  • Bring your list with you and share it with your adoption counselor before you even look at any dogs. It’s helpful to have a neutral perspective to help you stay focus.
  • Be Honest! Often I have found people lying just to adopt the dog and while you might be saving a dog at that moment every shelter wants to make sure their dogs are saved and happy long term. Lying to your adoption counselor will only lead to trouble. If your counselor has your list she/he can help you stay focus! Lets face it; dogs have those eyes that just melt your heart.
  • If you are interested in a dog ask some questions!How is the dog with people, strangers, other dogs, children? What is the dog’s energy level? Has the dog received any training? How long has the dog been in the shelter? Is the dog currently sick or on medication? This is an important questions to ask since many dogs are not themselves when they are not healthy and might be lethargic rather than mellow. While your adopter might not have the answers to all of your questions they should have a good understanding of the dog or its personality. Ask many questions; it’s better to get all the information before you make the big commitment. Adopting the wrong dog and returning it can create more problems for the dog.
  • Once you have found a good candidate spend some time with him or her.Many dogs, just like people, hold back when they are in new situations. It takes time for some dogs to come out of their shells. Fostering to adopt is a great way to know the dog outside the shelter environment. If the program is not available ask to see if you can take the dog for a walk or other settings as well. Take your time getting to know the dog like you would if you were on a first date.

AFTER

You are ready to start a new chapter in your life with your dog. Like every relationship, it takes time and commitment to build a healthy relationship with your dog. To avoid any misunderstanding between the two of you or problems here are some things to consider:

  • Structure for Success:Crates and pet gates are indispensable management tools I use to prevent and minimize problems. Giving too much freedom too soon without any guidance can lead to the development of bad habits. Make a list of potential problems you can see your dog creating such as barking at the window, chewing your shoes or other items, barking at the door etc. When you are unable to supervise your dog he/she should be kept away from temptation. By utilizing management tools like dog crates and pet gates, we are able to give our new pets 100% of our attention and nothing less. A long line for outdoors is also a great way to prevent your dog from running away from you get allow them to get more room to run
  • Balance:Many people like to adopt during their vacation time. While this might be a good idea to get to know and bond with your pup it can also cause problems in the transition process. Most rescue dogs will exhibit some separation anxiety or fear of been alone. While some separation anxiety might be common it can easily escalate if not handled right away. Staying with your pup for a week and then jumping into a 9-5 routine without proper introduction might be easy for humans but not for many dogs. If you decided to stay at home with your pup make sure you balance their day and have him spend some time alone (preferably in the crate to avoid any destructive chewing). Start with small time increments at a time. Make sure your pup is well rested and has something to do in the crate like chew a stuffed kong. Having the time off work can actually work in your favor by giving you flexibility and control over the time he is left alone.
  • Training:Most dogs that have lived in shelters might be either more shy than normal or in a high aroused state due to the shelter environment. Once you adopt your pup you should immediately get her/him into a positive training class to balance him out. There are many self-control exercises your instructor can teach you along with confidence building games. A rescue dog might have old habits but a new environment can help teach new ones through proper training. Do not wait until those bad habits surface to seek training- the sooner the better. (To find your local positive trainer go to www.apdt.com)
  • Exercise:Every dog requires some amount of exercise daily that goes beyond walks. Give your dog an outlet to burn some energy through a game of fetch, play, or by running. How much exercise your dog requires is based on the individual. The dog should be coming home well rested rather than energetic and ready to play some more. If you are going to leave your dog home alone, have guest over or want to have a quiet relaxing day make sure you exercise your dog prior so he can also enjoy your planned activities. Remember: a tired dog is a happy owner!
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