When adopting a dog, making sure the pooch is a good fit for your family is key to a seamless transition period and long, happy life together! When picking the best dog for your family- it’s important to factor in your lifestyle, the dog’s personality, the breed’s characteristics and more.
“Growing your family by adopting a dog is always a big decision. Every dog has different characteristics, and some might be a better fit for your lifestyle than others,” says Dr. Ken Sieranski, the medical director of Hearts Alive Village, a Las Vegas nonprofit dedicated to supporting animals and their rescuers both in their homes and on their journey to find a home.
With Dr. Sieranski’s help, we’re outlining some of the key things to consider when adopting a dog that’s perfect for your family.
Be Ready to Commit to Your Dog’s Health and Happiness
Our dogs aren’t just an extension of our family—they are our family. In the same way you stay on top of your own mental, physical, and health needs, dogs require consistent care and attention. That includes annual vet visits, impromptu vet visits to address health concerns, and those grooming needs we mentioned above.
They also require physical activity and mental stimulation in order to live their happiest life. Having a community at your fingertips, like the purrch app—the world’s most collaborative and supportive app for pet owners—can help you navigate some of the joys, woes, and (let’s be honest!) messiness of pet parenthood.
Consider Your Own Lifestyle
To ensure your dog’s able to live their happiest life, you must be able to commit time, money, and emotion. This is true even if you’re able to delegate responsibility between other members of your family.
“For example, if you live alone, work a 10-hour day, and can’t make it home during your lunch break, bringing home a puppy might not be a good idea. Puppies need a lot of attention, enrichment, and training,” notes Dr. Sieranski. “Adopting an older dog might be a better option for you.”
In either case, you’ll need to make arrangements for a dog sitter and/or dog walker to meet with your pup during the day. They really shouldn’t be alone longer than four to five hours at a time, and puppies require check-ins more frequently than that.
When adopting a dog for your family, it’s a good idea to match your energy level with the dog’s energy level. For instance, if you’re super active and enjoy hiking, running, and walking, then a dog that’s able to keep up is a better fit than one who’s more of an at-home lounger.
Conversely, if you prefer to take it easy, then getting a more mellow dog is ideal. Otherwise, your pup may go stir crazy.
“If they don’t get enough exercise, you could be buying a new couch or plenty of headache medicine,” says Dr. Sieranski. “It’s key to find a dog whose energy level can be managed with your daily routine and energy level.”
Learn What You Can About the Dog & Its History
When adopting a dog for your family, having a broad understanding of your dog and its history can help you determine whether it’s a fit for your family.
“If you are working with a rescue organization, the information that is provided by the foster or previous home can be extremely helpful,” notes Dr. Angie Krause, a veterinarian with I and Love, and You. “They will most likely know the dog best.”
Ask as many questions as you can think of. Here are some questions to ask when adopting a dog:
- How does the dog act with other pets?
- Does the dog have any health concerns?
- Does the dog seem affectionate or is it more of a loner?
- How much energy does the dog have?
- What is the dog’s favorite way to play?
Take Note of Your Space
Whether you’re a big city apartment dweller, country bumpkin, or something in between, your space must accommodate your new pup. Even though your dog will want to be with you most of the time, they do need safe spaces of their own.
Big dogs mean big crates and beds. Energetic dogs fare better in larger spaces, too, especially ones with a big fenced yard. Having a small yard is also nice for things like allowing your dog to easily poop and pee.
“If you live in an apartment or a house with a yard, potty time is a big deal or a deal breaker,” notes Dr. Sieranski. “Puppies can typically hold their bladder and bowels only about one hour for each month old they are. Understanding realistic expectations is key.”
Keep Your Kiddos in Mind
If you have children, it’s vital to adopt a dog that is OK with kids. Of course, make sure your child is OK with having a pup around, too. We imagine they’ll be thrilled, but it’s always good to test the waters prior to adoption.
“Not all dogs are well suited for very young children that are unsteady on their feet, and very small, fragile dogs could be accidentally injured by a child,” notes Dr. Sieranski. “Dogs who share our home are typically tolerant, but it’s not fair to allow a child to provoke a pet. Even the most laid-back dog can become stressed and feel threatened.”
He adds that if you can safely manage interactions, there are countless benefits for kids who grow up with dogs. From a strengthened immune system to a deeper sense of empathy, responsibility, and emotional intelligence, adopting a dog may be one of the best decisions you ever make for your child.
Note Your Dog’s Grooming Needs
All dogs require some level of maintenance, including ear cleanings, nail trimmings, bathing, brushing, and hair trimming.
“Some dogs do need extra grooming—and grooming isn’t just for show,” says Dr. Sieranski. “Dogs with long hair will suffer if they aren’t maintained regularly. Hair mats can grow so tightly that they can restrict blood circulation and cause terrible injury.”
Always consider what level of grooming maintenance is manageable for you before adopting a dog with high-grooming needs.
Understand the Financial Cost
The average cost of owning a dog costs between $650 to $2115 per year, says Rover.com. This includes food, grooming, and veterinarian care. Sometimes unexpected costs arise, as well, and as a pet parent it’s your responsibility to cover those costs. Having pet health insurance can help alleviate some of that burden so your pup is always able to get the care they need.
Try a Foster to Adopt Program
If you’d like to test the waters before wholly adopting a dog, look into “foster to adopt” programs offered by some rescue organizations. This allows you a trial period to ensure the fit is solid.
“In all fairness, it takes some dogs months to settle in and understand all the rules of the household along with getting into your unique family’s rhythm,” says Dr. Sieranski. “Managing your expectations to consider this initial period is so important. Sometimes it takes a little patience to give a dog the time and structure to become a wonderful family member.”
If the foster to adopt program isn’t available near you, then work closely with the agency to meet with your potential new pup several times—ideally with the whole family—before finalizing the adoption or purchase.
Rehoming a Pet
Though in many cases we can figure out a way to work with our newly adopted fluffs to integrate them in the family, sometimes the fit just isn’t right.
“If you find yourself in a situation where you have adopted a dog that isn’t a good fit, it’s unfair to both yourself and the dog to continue the placement,” says Dr. Krause. “I encourage my clients to work with a rescue to find a better fit for the dog. This can be done without ever sending your pup to the shelter or posting on Craigslist.”
A Few Final Thoughts
It goes without saying that, even if you’ve marked all the boxes and done ample research pre-adoption, one can never expect a “plug in and play” experience with their new furry family member. Just like humans, dogs are complex creatures that require time to acclimate to their new lives.
“Dogs are remarkably capable of adapting if given the opportunity to fit in,” says Dr. Sieranski. “However, let’s not forget that these incredible creatures can also inspire change in us.”
Whether it’s getting us up in the morning to go for that foggy jog we never considered before they came into our lives, opening ourselves up to a new social circle, or finding yourself talking to your pup like they understand every word you’re saying, being a dog owner is an incredible experience.
It’s only a matter of time before you start saying things like, “Who saved who?”
You May Also be Interested in these Pet Related articles:
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