Adopting a dog can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things you will ever do. In my 20 years working as a dog behavioural trainer and volunteering with rescue groups and shelters, I’ve seen so many people take so much joy by giving a once-neglected dog a happy and loving home.
But unfortunately I still see too many cases where bringing a dog into a home is not the right thing for an individual or family to do. Adopting a dog is a major life decision and should be treated as such, with careful research and consideration.
Australia is quickly becoming a ‘disposable pet’ society where the responsibility of adopting an animal is frequently overlooked. As a dog lover and trainer I find it heartbreaking to see a dog taken into a home and not given the love, care and attention they need and deserve.
This post will take you through a few of the most important things you need to think about before adopting a dog. Time and Energy Dogs need your time, and there’s no two ways about it. In my experience, just how much time is the number one factor that people misjudge when taking on a dog. Daily walks are the most obvious factor, with most breeds needing a minimum of two half-hour walks per day. Add in playing, grooming, bathing and feeding, as well as important bonding time, and it becomes clear that a new dog isn’t just going to fit neatly around your busy schedule. Dogs thrive on human companionship and to ensure they get it they must be a priority in your life. This is especially true for puppies, which need round the clock care and companionship for the first few months in your home. A good and realistic way to assess whether you have enough time to take on the responsibility of a dog is to write a timetable of your week. How can you modify and adapt your life to ensure you are able to devote the necessary time to looking after a complex and sometimes demanding animal? Finances Owning a dog isn’t cheap, and needs to be viewed as a long-term investment. Over a period of 12-16 years costs such as vet’s bills, food and grooming can really rack up. Then there’s the price of caring for your dog when you are not around. Dog sitter fees quickly add up too and good quality kennels often charge a premium. As with timetabling, it’s a good idea to draw up a chart of your finances to see whether you can accommodate the extra costs a dog will bring into your life. Be realistic, and allow for little surprises like big vet bills. Personal Qualities Before jumping in and saying yes to that adorable puppy, it’s worth taking some time to reflect and ask yourself whether you really have the right personal qualities to take on a dog. As with many things, the reality is often a lot different to the idea! How would you react for example, if you came home and found that your new dog has chewed up your shoe or a $5,000 leather couch (I’ve seen it happen!)? What if your dog has some training and behavioural issues like poor recall or aggression towards other dogs? Are you happy to go through the toilet training stage? And what if your dog develops an anxiety disorder, OCD or a phobia of some sort? It can be a difficult thing to do, but being honest with yourself about how you might deal with these tough situations can help you make the right decision as to whether a dog is for you. Choosing the Right Breed If you’ve gone through the stages above and feel you have the time, money and personal qualities to adopt a dog, the next step is to consider the breed you would like. It is imperative that you choose a dog that suits your lifestyle and environment. Read up on the different breeds and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. There are many cross breeds or multi-breeds out there, all of which have different qualities and requirements. Don’t be blinded by appearance either; the dogs with the nicest natures aren’t always the best looking (a bit like people really!). Make sure you meet the dog too – each dog has their own unique personality and may not live up to the ‘stereotype’ of their breed at all. And don't ever adopt a puppy without seeing the puppy first as well as BOTH Mum and Dad dog! Rescue Dogs Finally, don’t disregard the idea of taking on a rescue dog – they make wonderful pets. Personally, I can’t recommend retired greyhounds highly enough. They are smart, loyal companions who will love you from day one. In Summary I hope the advice above has provided you with a good starting point if you are thinking about adopting a dog. This was by no means intended as an exhaustive list of all the things you need to consider, so it’s definitely worth discussing it further with a professional dog behavioural trainer or staff member from a rescue group or shelter.
If you’re in the Newcastle or Lake Macquarie area and need help with adopting a dog, feel free contact me. I’ve worked as a Dog Behaviour Consultant and Trainer and volunteer with rescue organisations for over 20 years. I am always happy to help people choose the right dog for them!
Pictured: Meet Eden - She was saved by Dog Rescue Newcastle and re-homed.