There are so many benefits to owning a pet, both for you and for the world at-large. It’s no wonder that the APPA reports that 68% of households include at least one pet, with pets owned throughout the U.S. including 90 million dogs and 94 million cats.
Much of the reason why people love dogs, in particular, is that they’re so loving in return. While virtually all pets give affection in one way or another, few give affection to quite the extent that dogs do. Dogs actually express their love through their wagging tails, their excitement when you come home, and their desire to initiate games with their owners.
If you live alone, bringing a dog home can help you feel less isolated. There’s a reason why they’re often recommended by mental health experts. The affection you receive from a dog makes you feel good, and it’s proven that petting a dog when you’re stressed can help you calm down. For that matter, owning a dog gives an individual a kind of purpose that is crucial for their long-term mental health. A dog needs to be walked multiple times a day, given attention, and fed regularly. Having a routine with your dog can help you transition out of a mentally difficult period and into a routine again. Dogs have definitely been majorly helpful for people living through the pandemic.
But there are also practical reasons that make owning a dog, and especially adopting a dog from a shelter, beneficial. For one thing, while not all dogs are going to be great guard dogs, most dogs can be watchdogs. This means that if you’re worried about an intruder breaking into your home, you can at least trust that your dog will probably bark or otherwise alert you that someone unexpected is coming to the door. When it comes to rescuing a dog, it’s important to remember that there are millions of ownerless dogs within animal shelters and millions more on the streets. It’s better for both them and the people living around them that they have safe, loving homes. When you rescue a dog, you’re genuinely doing a good deed for the dog, yourself, and your community.
But there are things to know before adopting a dog, both to ensure that you and your dog are a great match and to ensure that you are the best possible dog owner that you can be. Here are just four considerations to keep in mind if you plan on adopting a pup of your own.
1. How Will You Prepare to Budget For Your Dog?
Most dogs are not a major expense to maintain, but they do cost money. In fact, when you adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue, it will most likely come with a not-insignificant adoption fee. While this may be surprising to some at first, it’s essentially the shelter or rescue tipping you off about one of the most important things to know before adopting a dog. They cost money and will cost money to maintain for the rest of their lives.
Of course, it’s important that you buy your dog high-quality dog food, which will add up over time. But there are also toys and crates to consider, as well as leashes, dog beds, and a number of other things that they will probably outgrow or wear out over the course of their lifetimes. When adopting a dog, you’re committing to an animal that may live for another decade or more, so you’ll be responsible for various costs that only tend to grow as your dog gets older.
One of the biggest costs that come with owning a dog are veterinarian bills. A good veterinarian probably isn’t going to be cheap, but luckily, most animal shelters and rescues will take care of some of the basic check ups and other matters before you adopt your dog. This is another reason why adoption fees are sometimes steep; rescues and shelters need to pay for the dog’s initial round of vaccines, as well as their spay or neuter surgeries.
Though your goal should be to have your dog visit a vet for a regular check up at least once a year, there are also affordable ways to take care of some of the more basic needs. If you’re considering bringing a dog into your home that has yet to be spayed or neutered, one of the most crucial things to know before adopting a dog is that you must have this taken care of quickly. This will not only ensure that your dog doesn’t procreate, but it will also make your life and your dog’s a lot easier by reducing the risks of them developing cancer, making them less likely to mark their territories, and simply creating a calmer pet. You don’t have to go to an animal hospital to have this done. Affordable spay and neuter clinics can be found online, with some of them being permanent and others traveling. These same clinics often offer vaccines, many of which (like rabies vaccines) are required by cities if you want to get a dog license.
2. Is Your Household Right For A Dog?
As much as you may already want a dog, if you don’t live alone, you’ll need to consider your family’s needs overall. Everyone in the family should be educated about things to know before adopting a dog, even if you feel certain that you’ll be the only one caring for your pet. Ultimately, chances are that everyone will end up loving the dog and want to pitch in on occasion, and they need to be educated about how to do so.
But the most basic thing to keep in mind before welcoming a dog into your home is whether or not anyone in your home has pet allergies that will make this kind of addition impossible. Pet allergies can range from being easily treatable through over-the-counter medication to seriously life-threatening. Now, there are dog breeds and mixes that are easier for people with pet allergies to live with than others. Many poodles and poodle crosses, for example, do not shed. As pet hair and dander are often what irritate people with allergies, this makes them much more ideal for a home with allergies. However, there are also hairless dogs available, which, though harder to find, need love and attention like any other dogs.
When considering your household on your list of things to know before adopting a dog, you also need to consider whether you rent or own your home. If you own your own home, the choice is really yours. While your neighborhood and city may have general requirements regarding how you can keep and license your dog, there are other problems to consider when you don’t own your own house. A lot of landlords do allow dogs within houses, but they may require you to specifically stick to a certain breed. Oftentimes, breeds more associated with aggression (fairly or unfairly) like pit bulls, German shepherds, and Dobermans, may not be allowed in rental units. Most landlords will also require you to pay a pet fee when you keep a dog in your house. Those that live in apartments will also need to consider adopting small or low energy dogs, as a large or high energy dog may become frustrated and destructive within an apartment.
3. How Will You Prepare Your Home?
Once you’ve figured out whether or not your landlord will allow you to adopt a dog, or if you’re on the verge of buying a home of your own or already own one, you need to think about how best to prepare your home for a dog. A grown dog will have needs that are different from a puppy or adolescent dog. Keep in mind, however, that some dogs maintain puppyish behaviors like chewing throughout their lives. Indeed, it takes most dogs two years before they fully grow up.
As such, you need to dog-proof your home. In fact, this is one of the most important things to know before adopting a dog. No matter how calm a dog seems, it could very well have separation anxiety and become destructive when you’re away. Therefore, you need to gate off or otherwise divide the areas where you don’t want your dog to go when you’re gone and remove all chewing or choking hazards from their reach. You also need to consider crating your dog when you’re away from home. Not all dogs respond well to a crate, but if your dog is crate trained or can be crate-trained, this is a valuable tool that will not only keep them safe but often help calm them as well.
Another issue to put on your list of things to know before adopting a dog is whether or not you can fence off your yard, if you have one. While walking your dog is beneficial, if you have a backyard, you may want to let them out there sometimes — or perhaps hang out with them and throw a ball. No matter how loyal or well-behaved your dog is, however, they can become distracted and run out of a backyard if given the chance, which is why you need to take the time and money and invest in fencing. A good fence needs to be both difficult for your dog to dig out from underneath and high enough for dogs that may be tempted to jump over it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider your own aesthetic preferences. Luckily, a professional fencing company can offer you plenty of options to choose from. But this is one important thing to take care of before your dog arrives.
4. Will You Consider Personality As Well As Appearance?
There are dogs that get adopted because they are cute in the moment, and then are brought back to the rescue or shelter because the adopter didn’t consider the things to know before adopting a dog. You never want to be that kind of owner. Ideally, everyone wants a dog to be well-matched to its family. If you want to raise a young dog or puppy, that’s absolutely fine. But just know that you’ll probably need to invest in more pet stain removal solutions and basic obedience training than you would if you adopted an older dog.
This certainly doesn’t mean that all older dogs are sedate, however. Some have ingrained bad behaviors from previous homes that can be difficult to train them out of — though if you’re up to the challenge of training a young or misbehaving dog, there can be a lot of bonding and rewards involved. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do this alone, either. Working with family or even a professional dog trainer is okay, and if you need to help to ensure that your dog settles in well, then trust us when we say it will be worth it in the long term.
One of the most vital things to know before adopting a dog is that you’re really adopting a family member. You’ll want your dog’s personality to gel well with your own. Your dog can be your best friend and your personal stress relief therapist. They can be your jogging companion and your protector. You need to do your research on what types of dog breeds have certain personal traits, though every dog is different. Even if you adopt a mixed breed dog rather than going to a breed-specific rescue, knowing this, and having an idea of the type of mixed-breed dog you’re adopting, can give you an idea of whether or not they will suit you. And of course, ask the shelter and rescue you’re working with extensive questions about the dog’s personality. If they know what they’re doing, they’ll probably ask you a lot of questions, too.
Of all the things to know before adopting a dog, you should keep in mind that it’s challenging. There will be great days and there will be bad days. But adopting a dog may very well be one of the best things that you ever do.
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