By Maureen Patin CPDT-KA ,Founder / Head Trainer of What a Great Dog! Training Centers
Congratulations on your decision to add a furry canine member to your family. A bit of looking in the mirror and pre-planning will go a long way toward a successful adoption!
First, think through the practicality of this adoption ONE MORE time prior to committing to add a dog to your family:
- Does your lifestyle (work, social, family obligations) TRULY have space for a very time consuming new family member?
- Is your current home suited to a dog? Is there any chance that you’ll have to move to a home that is not suitable for a dog. Remember, adoption is for life!
- Do you have any other pets and how will they react to a new dog?
- Do you have a plan for your new dog during vacations and/or work travel?
- Is your entire household on board with adding a dog to the family, along with all the hair, dirt and allergens that come with them?
- Is there an adult in the family who has agreed to be ultimately responsible for the dog’s care? It’s great for kids to participate in the care. But, it is not fair TO THE DOG for a child to have primary responsibility.
- Are you financially able to handle the extensive costs that come along with a dog? The adoption fee and initial supplies are a very, very small fraction of the lifetime costs of veterinary care, training, quality food and supplies.
Things to consider when selecting a particular dog
- How do you want to spend time with your dog (hiking, running, snuggling, dog sport)? Be realistic and choose an age and breed of dog that fits.
- If selecting a puppy, be realistic about your willingness and ability to deal with housetraining, chewing and energy management.
- Carefully consider your ability and willingness to work through potential behavior and/or medical issues.
- If you have children (or may have children in the future), the dog’s suitability toward children is of paramount importance.
- Choose size carefully, always taking a puppy’s mature size into account.
Tips for Integrating a New Dog into the Family:
- Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a major, potentially traumatic, transition for your new dog. A puppy will have the stress of leaving his mother and littermates. Many rescued dogs may have recently endured the trauma of being stray, housed in a noisy shelter, neglected or even abused. While you know he is now safe and loved, it will take your new dog awhile to understand that. Give him time to adjust before inviting people to meet him. Quiet time at home with you is the best agenda for the first week with your new dog.
- A training class which utilizes positive, reward-based training is an essential step in integrating your new dog. If your new dog has significant behavior issues (separation anxiety, aggression, fear, resource guarding, etc.), schedule a private session with a qualified trainer right away. Having a good strategy for safely and correctly modifying these behaviors is critical. Much of the dog behavior information you’ll find on the internet is outdated, dangerous or just plain incorrect. An expert is best able to steer you in the right direction.
- Play it safe with introducing your new dog to other pets in the family. Many dogs view smaller pets as prey. Don’t assume that your new dog will understand that your cat is not to be harmed. Also, take care in introducing your new dog to other dogs in the family. Parallel on-leash walking in neutral space is the best way for dogs to meet. A qualified trainer can give you further tips and even help with the process.