All over the globe people are becoming dog owners for the first time. The local Humane Society is good at reminding us there are many dogs in need of a good home. The stories we hear tug at our hearts. Dogs are cute and their "wanting eyes" draw us in. The desire for companionship is two-way, and dogs certainly do a good job at providing unconditional love to steam up anyone's heart.
But before getting all swept away with the idea of adopting a dog there are a few things to consider in helping you make a well-informed decision. A dog needs a strong leader, a schedule, human interaction, affection, and training. They need activity, and will resort to all types of antics to get your attention--antics you may not be ready for. Taking care of a dog is hard work and takes commitment, not just this week, but for years. Are you ready for that?
Before drawing up the adoption papers, it's important to educate yourself well on not only the benefits of owning a dog, but the realities. Here are a few common questions and some answers to them:
Should I Get a Dog?
- Yes, if there is a walker or outdoorsy person in the family already. No, if your family is made up of computer-glued, television couch potatoes or individuals who are too busy already. A dog should get a 30 minute walk daily (in suitable weather) and has to be picked up after. No matter how many promises are made by other members of the family, and no matter how excited they are in the beginning, chances are their participation level will wane quickly. Walking a dog and picking up after it, has to be taken on by someone who is serious about it and available.
- Yes if you can afford to take care of it. Don't be fooled into thinking dogs are inexpensive. Adequate care requires regular checkups and vaccines as well as food, flea and tick control, boarding costs while you're on vacation, accessories and chew toys, and funds in case of emergency medical treatment.
- Yes if you have time in your schedule to fit the dog in on a regular basis. No if it will be left alone for long days at a time.
Should I Get a Dog for the Children?
- Newborn babies and preschoolers are a handful, and adding a dog can cause extra stress for all. A dog probably won't get adequate attention or exercise when competing with small children in a busy family. In addition, some children aren't good with dogs and some dogs aren't good with children. Safety should be considered.
- If your child is around 12 years old and up, adopting a dog may be the perfect time. By then the children are more responsible. A dog is good for the growing child to transfer his affection to when cuddling with mom or dad is no longer cool. A dog can also fill a spot for the mother who's missing the children as they are growing up, since owning a dog is like having a two year old. Don't expect a teen will take on the full maintenance though, no matter how many times you remind him. Only adopt a dog if a responsible adult is willing to put in the effort.
When considering adopting a dog, ask questions and visit as many adoption centers as you like. You can get good information from the staff and volunteers at the adoption centers as well as from books, the Internet, speaking with vets, groomers or other dog owners. There is no question too basic to ask. Be prepared, however, there is no "one-size fits all dogs" answer. Dogs each have their own personalities and your family situation is unique to you. What works for one dog owner may not work for you. As a matter of fact, you may speak to two different experienced dog owners and get two very different pieces of advice. Take what they offer you and try it for yourself, or trust your gut.
If at first you don't find a dog that fits what you have in mind, hold off. There are new dogs available for adoption all the time.
Once you feel you've covered most of the bases, and find the pooch of your dreams, go for it!