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8 Questions to Ask Yourself When Adopting a Dog

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It’s easy to fall in love with all those shelter dogs and puppies, but before you adopt, ask yourself these questions to ensure a happy experience for everyone involved.

Sharing your life with a dog is a joy. But it also comes with great responsibility and commitment. Adopting a dog should therefore be a well-thought-out decision. Are you ready to make sacrifices to meet your dog’s needs in the years to come? Do you have the time, energy and financial means to provide the care and attention a dog requires in order to thrive? And how do you choose the right dog for your lifestyle? Here are eight questions to ask yourself before bringing a dog into your life.

1. Why Do I Want a Dog?

Do you want to add a dog to your household to complete the picture of a perfect family? Or is it because your children have been begging for a puppy? Growing up with a dog can be a wonderful experience for kids, and it teaches them to care for another living being.

Reminder: Only get a dog if you want one too, because the ultimate responsibility will lie with you.

Do you live alone and long for companionship? Dogs provide comfort and make life less lonely, but they too have needs, so be prepared to make your new friend’s well-being a priority.

2. Am I Willing to Commit to My Dog for the Rest of His Life?

Depending on the health and age of the dog when you adopt him, he may be with you for ten to 15 years or even more. Are you committed to attending to him every day during all that time?

The type of care you need to provide your dog throughout his life will vary during different life stages. Young dogs are active and usually require more exercise than older ones.

Reminder: Senior dogs may require special care as their health declines.

Are you also prepared to address potential behavior problems? Dogs are individuals with their own personalities. They can display challenging behaviors based on their previous experience, or lack thereof. Their behavior may also change as they get older. Ask yourself if you’re willing and able to dedicate the money, time, and emotional commitment it takes to address any potential future behavior challenges and/or medical issues.

3. Do I Have the Time to Care for a Dog?

Dogs are social animals. It is unnatural for them to be left alone regularly for long periods of time. Consider if you are able to provide your dog with daily physical and mental exercise, training, play time, and socialization. If you work long hours, like to go out a lot, and/or travel frequently, you may not have enough time to dedicate to a dog.

4. Do I Have the Financial Means to Care for a Dog?

Caring for a dog throughout her life can be expensive. Costs for healthcare, food, training, grooming, toys, treats, daycare, boarding, and dog walking services add up quickly. Make sure your budget will cover those expenses. It’s wise to have savings set aside for unexpected emergencies or veterinary expenses.

Reminder: Consider buying pet insurance to help cover unexpected veterinary costs.

5. Is My Housing Situation Suitable for a dog?

Many dog breeds do well in apartments as long as they are given plenty of opportunities to go outside and get adequate exercise. But if you live in a rental home, make sure animals are allowed before you adopt a dog. Also, check your lease agreement for any weight or breed limits. If you need to climb several flights of stairs to reach your apartment, this might be a problem for large older dogs or those with injuries who may be unable to walk up and down stairs.

Reminder: Keep in mind that excessive barking will disturb other tenants.

If you have a home with a yard, make sure it’s securely fenced, hazard-free, and that your dog cannot ingest any poisonous plants.

6. Is Everyone in my Family on Board?

It’s not uncommon for one person in the family to become the main caregiver for the dog. However, if your significant other dislikes dogs, or your kids are scared of them, conflicts are inevitable. In these situations, the dog all too often ends up living in the yard or garage, or given up for re-adoption. Getting a dog should be a decision made by the entire family.

7. Do Other Animals Live in my Household?

Are your existing animals friendly with dogs? Before bringing a new dog home, arrange a meet and greet between her and your existing dogs or cats. Allow for a safe introduction in your home. Remember that you are bringing a stranger into your dog or cat’s territory. Supervise all interactions until you are sure that all your animals get along, before you ever leave them alone together.

8. Do I Have Realistic Expectations?

Dogs are not born knowing how to navigate the human world. You will need to invest time and energy into teaching your dog the behaviors you want from her. Depending on her previous experience, you may have to start from the beginning or work towards changing some established habits or emotions. Be patient and give your dog time to get used to you and her new surroundings. If you encounter problems, seek help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement training methods.

If your answers to these questions are all positive, then you’re ready to adopt a new canine companion! Now it’s time to think about how to find the right dog for you and your lifestyle. Enjoy your new best friend!

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