What To Consider When Adopting a Dog
Owning a dog takes lots of work and time but most people would say it’s well worth it. It is also a lifetime commitment since dogs bond deeply with you and everyone in your family. Don’t just think about the here and now, but 10-15 years from now. Giving up a dog after he’s bonded with you and other family members is a very traumatic experience for the dog so be absolutely sure about your decision! What kind of dog is right for me? Check out AKC’s Dog Breeds List with alphabetical pictures to see the pros and cons of each breed.
Adopting Dogs vs. Buying
How to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter – Adoption saves a dog’s life and that should be the focus. But with adoption your new dog often carries baggage from a past where they were abused, neglected or abandoned so sometimes they’re a little more challenging to regain their trust. I’ve adopted many dogs and most trust you pretty quickly because, well, dogs are sweet trusting souls who love unconditionally. But some take longer to accept their new masters fully and are independent and ignore your commands half the time. Some of this has to do with breed traits too – like being more independent by nature than others. See my article ‘How to Adopt a Shelter Dog – Tips for Success’
Usually around the six-month mark you’ll see your adopted dog giving you lots more outward love and doing the things you want him to do on a more consistent basis! It’s such a great feeling to see the love and appreciation in their eyes and to know that they know you saved their life! Find a dog to ADOPT HERE!
There are many pedigree dogs in need of re-homing that are up for adoption. Before you spend money on a breeder check online for clubs devoted to a particular breed. They often have pedigree dogs available for adoption! Find your dog breed here with this Animal Planet Dog Breed Quiz. This will help you find nearby rescues who specialize in that breed.
I always wanted an Old English Sheepdog and finally got one from a reputable breeder. I did my due diligence and found one of the top OES breeders in the country. Never buy from pet stores who use ‘puppy mills’ or, what are known as ‘backyard breeders’ who don’t follow the proper rules for breeding healthy dogs. They’re both in it for the money and not the love of the breed.
Find a dog breeder – a good dog breeder will charge around $2,000 or more and ask for a down payment of $500 and up. When you look at the expense of being breeder you’ll agree it’s a fair price. Good dog breeders do it for their love of the breed and spend tons of their own money on veterinarians, breeding expenses and traveling from state to state participating in dog shows.
Expenses for the Upkeep of Your Dog
Average expense for one dog includes food, supplies and basic vet care for between $800-$1,000 a year. Emergency care can range from $250-$5,000 a year. Getting pet insurance is a good idea for unexpected vet bills. Dogs with long fur will need a groomer (if you can’t do it) and that will cost between $50-$150 per session.
Finding a Good Veterinarian
Get your puppy or dog vaccinated and spayed or neutered as soon as possible and take your puppy or dog to the vet for its routine checkups. Your dog will live a much better (and longer) life with regular vet checks. Consult your veterinarian as to your best options. Find a good local vet in preparation for the arrival of your new dog. There are online resources like Vet Street Search to help you.
Prepare Your Home to Prevent Mishaps
Puppies and dogs are curious and they like to investigate and try everything so make your home a safe space for them! Make sure you have lots of chew toys available for your puppy or dog and keep all expensive things (like shoes and clothes) out of its reach. Also, “dog-proof your home” keep anything dangerous away and out of reach (like poisonous plants, toxic chemicals, tin foil, plastic bags, xylitol, chocolate, etc). If you’re not sure call the Poison Pet Helpline. Don’t give rawhide to dogs or puppies it’s not good for them.
Get the Supplies Ahead of Time
DOG FOOD – Get a good grain-free and limited-ingredient dog food like Merrick or Taste of the Wild. If you have a puppy, get puppy food. I like to give a can in the morning and two cups of dry food for dinner to my Great Pyrenees. Please see my post on grain-free dog food ‘What is Grain-Free Dog Food?’
BOWLS – Food and water bowls (steel, glass, or ceramic preferred) come in all sizes to match the size of your dog. There are collapsible silicone travel bowls too for extended hikes with your dog! For large dogs it’s a good idea to use a bowl stand so they can eat at a better angle so as not to gulp too much air while they eat and digest better. This avoids stomach bloat or ‘twisted stomach’ which is very dangerous and even sometimes fatal. It also keeps the bowl from being pushed around the kitchen floor or dumped over by the dog. There are also effective ‘slow-feed’ bowls to help slow down your dog if he eats too quickly and wolfs down his food. This can lead to vomiting and/or serious digestive problems like bloat.
COLLARS – Make sure you have all the basic supplies ahead of time. First and most important, when you get your dog registered at the local animal shelter also get them microchipped in case they ever get lost. You can also get a GPS wi-fi collar to prevent them from getting lost. They’ll wear the registration ID tag and rabies tag on their collar. Most collars are the ‘snap-n-go’ kind but they can sometimes break open so I like to use the old-fashioned (but effective) buckle collar. You can get less expensive, non-leather versions with buckles too. Be sure the collar is tight enough to put two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. If your dog is good at squirming out of a regular collar, get him a Martingale collar to eliminate that risk. And a prong collar is a good training collar for dogs who are pullers.
BARK COLLARS – All dogs bark now and then when they get excited during play or when they hear something at the front door they perceive as a threat to their family. You want that! But when a dog just keeps barking and barking (most likely out of boredom and not enough exercise so make sure those are not the reasons) you can get your dog a progressive bark training collar. These collars are humane and start at a very low volt setting and increase very gradually until the dog stops barking. They really do get your dog’s attention and do work very quickly.
LEASHES – You’ll need a strong four-six foot leash and there are many good ones out there with good features. I prefer either a one-inch pliable real leather leash or the kind with the two shock-absorption handles for hand comfort and superior control of my dog on walks. Another good feature is the reflective safety trimmed leashes for better visibility and the duo tandem leash has the shock handle that I like too. If you have a medium to large sized dog, I have a review on some great leashes in my recent article ‘Dog Leashes for Large Dogs – Strong & ? I recommend strong collars and leashes for medium-sized dogs too. They are a lot stronger than they look!
HARNESSES – I make it a practice to use a good, strong ‘front range’ harness on all sized dogs for added security. ‘Front range’ is a leash attachment on the front of the harness which really helps with dogs who pull hard. Most have an alternate leash attachment on top of the dog’s back too for easy walking dogs. Get the right size harness so your dog won’t slide out and get free or get a rash under the arms from one that is too tight! Dog harnesses for small dogs are available with a snug padded design to keep them warm. See my article ‘Dog Harnesses for Large Dogs – Comfort & Control’.
CRATE & BEDDING – The best dog beds are the orthopedic memory foam ones and they come in all sizes. If you have a puppy he will first need to sleep in a heavy-duty folding metal dog crate (also in different sizes) with washable pad and bedding until he is fully housebroken. This is what is known as “crate trained”. Another good item to get for puppies in addition to a crate is an exercise playpen for extra space to roam while still being separated from the rest of the house during crate-training.
TOYS – Most dogs are puppies at heart so have plenty of toys available for them to stimulate their brains and exercise their bodies. There are thousands to choose from. Chew toys, Nylabones, rope toys, tennis balls, Chuckits and automatic ball launchers, Frisbee and plush toys to name a few.
Grooming Your Dog
BATHS – Grooming your dog is an important regular responsibility. They need a good bath about every two months. You don’t want to bathe them too often because it dries out their skin and makes them itchy. You can bathe them in the bathtub but first lay a wash towel over the drain to help catch most of the dog fur. Use a good shampoo designed for dogs and make sure you use conditioner for a shiny coat.
BRUSHING & CLIPPING – If you don’t have at least three or four hours every week to brush and comb out your dog’s coat, there are short-hair dog breeds that require only an occasional brushing. This can cause back strain for some people and a great solution is a good hydraulic grooming table. Taking your dog to a professional groomer (they’re around $75-$150 depending on size of your dog) is another option and they also can trim your dog’s nails if he’s used to it.
CLAWS & EARS – You must get your dog used to getting groomed and getting his nails trimmed first by doing it yourself with nail clippers. You start with short sessions and gradually extend the time when your dog gets more used to it. Most dogs hate having their nails clipped so be gentle but firm. Check their ears often for yeast infections (brown ‘tar-like’ substance) or mites (little black bugs) especially if you see your dog shaking his head. Use a good ear cleansing solution and go deep to get all the way to the bottom of the ear. Be extremely gentle using cotton rounds with hemostat forceps.
TEETH & GUMS – Dogs need their teeth brushed two or three times every week to keep their teeth and gums clean. The vet can do dental cleanings (around $175) every two-three months and giving your dog Greenie’s dental treats is also very helpful for healthy teeth and gums.
Backyard Play & Walking the Dog
Dogs need to be leash-trained and walked daily and/or have an escape-proof fenced backyard with six-foot tall fence. There’s a slight chance your dog can escape somehow anyway so for peace of mind there is nothing like having a GPS collar on your dog ‘just in case’. There will be poops to pick up daily and your grass will die in spots from repeated peeing. There might also be big holes being dug in your yard since dogs dig instinctively. All you can do is consistently let your dog you don’t like this and it should subside. People who love dogs will put up with it and occasionally plant grass seed or lay new sod.
You’ll need to walk your puppy to places where there are other dogs so he can have good social skills by getting used to other dogs and their owners. Keep up the practice into their adult years because dogs are pack animals and love the company of other dogs. Some people do their dogs a disservice by over-protected them and keeping them away from other dogs. This usually causes a dog to develop anti-social behaviors like fear-aggression towards other dogs.
Find out where there is a dog park near you: Find your local dog park HERE!
Getting your car ready for a dog
You’ll need to occasionally take your dog to the vet or other travel so be sure to get the following safety items for your car before you get a dog: a seat cover or hammock to protect your upholstery, a car harness that attaches to the seat belt to secure your dog and for small dogs a booster seat.
If you decide to get a dog it’s a big responsibility but there is nothing like coming home from a hard day and seeing your best friend greeting you at the door each day!
Not to mention the feeling of security that comes with having a dog. Even small dogs are good watch dogs and would-be burglars will almost never choose a house with any type of dog living there!
And a woman (or man) alone will enjoy the added security of walking a dog as opposed to jogging alone. Not to mention the exercise requirements are great for making you get out there and get your own exercise!
Once I got a dog I understood immediately how wonderful they are and I would never want to be without at least one dog. I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I will reply within a day or two.