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5 Questions to Ask before Adopting a Dog

woman holding and petting dog during sunset

Are you ready to adopt a dog? Bringing a new dog home sounds like a lot of fun: long walks around the neighborhood, playtime excitement, cuddles on the couch. But dog ownership isn’t all fun and games. After all, you’ll be responsible for your dog’s health and well-being for the rest of their life.

Adoption is a long-term commitment. Remember: Whether it's a puppy, adult or senior dog you're considering adopting, the newness soon wears off and you're left with a loving companion for, hopefully, many years to come.

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Questions to Consider before Adopting a Dog

Ask yourself: Do you really want a dog? Do you want to wake up early on a cozy Sunday morning to take them out in the rain? Are you ready to spend as much time as you can with them? Are you prepared for the lifestyle change, the financial impact and grooming considerations? Are you up for cleaning various messes? Getting up in the middle of the night with a sick dog?

Before you adopt, it’s smart to ask yourself these important questions. Some reflection and planning before adopting can help ensure a good fit — for both you and your future pet.

Is Now a Good Time for You to Adopt? 

For a dog waiting for their "forever home,” it's always a good time to be adopted. But don't let them down by bringing them home and then deciding it's simply not the right time for you. Dogs take lots of care and attention, especially when they first come home.

Is this the right time in your life to take on a big commitment? Does your lifestyle allow for the flexibility it takes to acclimate your new dog into your life? Are your current commitments overwhelming, or very manageable?

Have you considered fostering a dog? Fostering has many of the perks of bringing home a new pet — walks, cuddles, playtime — with a shorter-term commitment compared to adopting, and still helps a rescue dog in need.

Why Do You Want a Dog? 

Consider what you're looking for in your future pet. Are they going to be a fun playmate for your children, or will their main job be accompanying an older person on quiet walks? Do you want them to go jogging with you, or will they stay home guarding the house? Certain breeds and personalities of dogs are better suited for different lifestyles.

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What Breed of Dog Do You Want?

You can still consider particular breeds of dogs when adopting from a shelter. Many shelter dogs aren’t purebred, but shelter workers can often make very educated guesses at their lineage.

Let's say you've always wanted a Lab. It's a good bet you'll find an adorable Labrador-Rottweiler cross that will display the physical and temperamental characteristics of both breeds. Or maybe you’re looking for a "working" dog, but not in the market for a "hound" dog.

It’s a good idea to research the characteristics you want in a pet and which breeds may be a good match before you visit the shelters — and before you fall in love with a gorgeous sweetie that just isn't right for you.

Have You Budgeted for Dog Ownership? 

Are you prepared to pay for the care and upkeep of a dog? The ongoing financial commitment of dog ownership can really add up. Besides the cost of quality dog food and  treats, there are toys, doggie beds and blankets; vet, training and grooming costs; medical emergencies and more. Be sure you can afford a dog — and all the expenses that come with them — before you bring home a new pet.

Is Your Location Suited for a Dog’s Exercise Needs? 

Whether you live in a house or pet-friendly apartment, or in the city, country or suburbs, it doesn't really matter how big or small your home is — as long as your dog gets plenty of exercise. 

Are you ready to give your new dog the daily exercise their particular breed needs to stay healthy and happy? Almost every book on dog breeds provides general exercise requirements. Many small breeds require more activity than large breeds.

Did you know dogs don't need a yard to thrive? In fact, they may get bored hanging out in the same backyard with the same smells every day. Opt for exercising a dog on walks (bonus points if you switch up the route) or at dog parks so your pet can meet new people and dogs while enjoying the excitement of a new environment. Areas designated for off-leash dogs give your pet the chance to romp around as much as they like, play with other dogs and fetch balls and toys. Remember, these parks are only for trained, socialized, friendly dogs.

The Benefits of Rescuing a Shelter Dog

Now that you have a better idea of what kind of dog is your perfect match, it’s time to head to a shelter to save a dog’s life.

No matter what shelter you go to, you'll find lots of dogs in need of a good home. With a shelter adoption, you're saving more than one life; you're making room for another dog in need, or allowing a different rescue dog to stay at the shelter for a longer period of time, giving them a better chance of being adopted, too.

Yet another rewarding aspect of shelter adoption is the special bond many owners develop with their rescued dog. Opening up your heart and home to a rescue usually results in an extremely strong relationship. That can mean a loyal, affectionate and attentive dog for life.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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