“I’m scared. What is this place? It doesn’t smell or look like the Vet. Why are other dogs crying? I don’t like the smell. Something’s not right this time, I know it. My human family was sad when they walked away. Hope they come back and get me soon, or are they never coming back? Did they abandon me? What did I do wrong? I love them so much. Please come back!!! please! please…“
Sadly, the above story is an all too common cycle. The family sees a ‘Puppy for Sale’ ad; puppy is adorable, so they decide to get it. Puppy soils the house, is destructive, cries, and is hyper. Family decides puppy is too out of control because, well, it’s a bad puppy. So, they drop puppy off at the local shelter. Maybe next time, they will get a good puppy that learns faster. Or, family adopts a dog from the shelter; the dog might have experienced trauma in the past. As a result, it exhibits negative behavior. Family does not want to work with the dog in correcting the issue; therefore, return the dog to the shelter.
WANTED: Matchmade in Heaven – Seeking the Human of My Dreams
‘7 Traits I am looking for in a human companion: Must smell like food, good at throwing, enjoy long walks, come when barked, is generous with treats, likes to cuddle on the couch...cheap, lazy, loud, and obnoxious need not apply.’
If we would only put in as much effort and research into finding the right fit for our lifestyle expectations as we do in finding a lifelong partner, maybe, just maybe, we can reduce the number of dogs that end up in the shelter.
However, it sounds more comfortable than it is. The thing is, even though you find one that is or will be the closest match, it is up to you to develop the kind of relationship that you want with your dog. It takes time, patience, consistency, and knowledge on your part.
The dog will naturally want to please you, love you, and be part of the pack. The responsibility is yours to communicate your expectations of their role in your pack. If that is something you do not know how to do, then I highly suggest you learn it before you decide to bring a puppy or dog home.
I understand there are unforeseen circumstances that can happen. You decide that you are no longer able to care for your best friend. In that case, there are plenty of non-profit rescue organizations that will take your dog into foster care until the right home is found. The foster home environment is generally a less stressful environment than being in a shelter.
OK! You want a loveable furry thing to follow you around, look at you with adoring eyes, shower you with unconditional love, and sometimes drool. Don’t forget some snoring, tracking mud in the house, chewing stinky treats on the floor, but hey; it’s so darn adorable! The mud thing… don’t worry, it’s sooo worth it. Oh, and uh, not to mention the hair, but do you know how many hairs we as human beings lose in a day? 100-125! Yeah, that’s right! So reserve your judgment, will you? And don’t think for a second that a shorter hair dog sheds less because the hair is short, there is no logic in that; you’re only kidding yourself.
So, ARE YOU READY? No, seriously, are you ready for a dog? It is not the same as saying, “Okay, I am ready to parachute out of the plane.” It’s more like, “Okay. I am ready to learn how to fly a plane.” It’s a big commitment.
So, let’s figure out if you are, then we will go over some tips on finding the closest match.
“YIKES! Treatment costs what!??”
FINANCIAL AFFORDABILITY $$$
“Can I afford it?” ask yourself this question. Sit down, write down, or speak with someone. Take a little time to figure out your budget. Remember, a dog can live anywhere from 10-15 years or longer; yes, there have been dogs that lived to 22.
Take into consideration:
- Adoption or Purchase fee. Training Classes. Microchip or Tattoo.
- Recurring costs like food, treats, toys, regular grooming (Brushing, bathing, nail clipping, ear cleaning, trim), up to date shots, vet bills, yearly check-ups, dog sitting services, annual tag registration.
- Supplies such as food and water bowls, leash, harness, collar, crate, bed, booties for winter.
- Treatments for chronic ailments or medical conditions. Not to mention the unforeseeable emergency, an accident, injury, etc.
COMMITMENT. TIME. PATIENCE. KNOWLEDGE.
Am I willing to commit to long-term care? Do I have the time? Do I have the patience? Do I have enough basic knowledge of dog behavior? Am I willing to further educate myself?
Raising and taking care of a dog is a big commitment. It takes a lot of patience and time, whether you are raising a puppy or adopting an adult dog. Training needs to be consistent. With puppies, you can’t leave them alone for too long. You will need to take it out for potty every couple of hours or less, depending on how young it is. You need to keep an eye on them regularly. You will have to clean up after them. You will need to fit in daily exercise and consistent training into your schedule.
Are you planning to start a family right away? If you are, then hold off awhile. Wait until your home environment is stable enough, your schedule routine enough, and the family dynamic is calm. Make sure everyone in your family is on board the ship, and they each know their roles.
Get a basic understanding of dog behavior and training down. Dog sit for a friend to get a sliver of an idea what it is like. Talk to dog owners about the challenges they face. This is the preparation that must happen BEFORE you start looking and become blinded by a cute face and make an impulsive choice that may not be a fair one to either of you.
Do you have the space? Does your living situation allow you to have a pet? Do you have a backyard? How big is your house or apartment? Do you live in the city or the country?
- There should be enough space in your house since the dog must sleep and eat somewhere.
- There should be a place outside where they can go potty. A yard big enough for it to be able to play in.
- If you’re renting, make sure your landlord allows it. Make sure you have a Plan B in case you need to move out.
This is all common sense, I know. Unfortunately, people are too willing to easily give up their furry friends at the first sign of distress because of unpreparedness, lack of understanding, or unrealistic expectations.
Now, after all this considerable amount of thought, if you are still confident that you can and will commit, read on.
***3 TIPS TO FIND A MATCH***
1. “Puppy, Adult, Senior, OH MY!”
Which one do you want? Is this for companionship or work? All three require a commitment. All three are rewarding.
Puppies require a lot of resources, energy, and time. It can be expensive raising a puppy. Time, patience, endurance, consistency, discipline, routine, exercise, knowledge of behavior and instinct, and so forth. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing that! It is a lot of work. But If you put in the proper training and socialization, the puppy can grow up to be a happy, well-behaved adult who will love you unconditionally for the rest of its life.
Adult dogs can be a great addition to your family if you don’t want to go through the potty and house training. Usually, they are already house trained and don’t believe the adage that you cannot teach an old dog tricks, of course, you can! An adult dog should most likely have their up to date shots and vet checks. You can leave them at home longer than a puppy, and hopefully, their previous owner taught them some doggy manners. Sometimes though, there are dogs that have had a traumatic puppy life, resulting in some fear or aggression issues that will need addressing. This is not the dogs’ fault, and it certainly can be helped. It will require work and time to gain its trust to help it heal from old painful scars. And when that happens, it is one of the most rewarding gifts you will ever receive. To see and feel the transformation of their unconditional, loving soul is indescribable.
Seniors! Now don’t write them off just yet. I prefer to call them Furry Wisers; because they are full of wisdom. These beautiful souls have lived long enough to be confident in who they are and the environment. They have long developed their character that you do not have to question it. Some will surprise you with the amount of energy they still have. They still love going for leisurely walks. They do not require as much energy from you. All they want is to love you and to have it reciprocated till their last moment. A strengthened bond does not correlate with a young age or length of time. These Furry Wisers deserve just as much love too.
2. Lifestyle. Energy. Characteristics. Size.
The type of dog you get should fit into your lifestyle. The type should match your energy. You should have an idea of a few character traits you would like to see in your dog, and most importantly, what kind of relationship you would like to have. It would help if you wrote a list of what you would like in one column and another, a list of descriptors of your lifestyle. Then research! Research! Research!
Research! Research! Research!
If you want a purebred, research different breeds. If you plan to adopt, research the mix of breeds in the potential adoptive dog. It is imperative to match your energy level, lifestyle, physical environment, home, size of the yard, and your expectations.
- If you are a high energy, adventurous, active person who likes to run and hike every day, then ‘Boris the Basset Hound’ would not be the best choice.
- If you live in a tiny apartment, try sticking with something smaller than a Great Dane.
- If you live in the city, a 120-pound working-dog suited for a farm or acreage is not going to be happy stuck in a small yard with no job to do or no space to roam.
- If you want a dog to stay close to your side on walks, then don’t get a scent tracking dog such as a beagle whose nose will lead it astray.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Different Types of Dogs.
The following are a few practical ways to get a feel for the different personality traits:
- Spend time with friends’ dogs
- Go to dog parks and observe different dogs’ behaviors and energy levels
- Volunteer at a shelter or fundraising event and talk to other dog owners about their experience with certain types of dogs.
Now you’re ready to compile a final checklist of what you are looking for in a dog. Remember, though, no matter which dog you get, understanding dog behavior and how you interact in terms of training and discipline will make the difference in the strength and bond of your relationship. The goal is to find a dog that best suits your energy, lifestyle, and personality so that it is fair to both of you. Then you can embark on a journey of growth together. Now happy searching for your furry friend!