You’ve made the decision to welcome a new member into your family. You’re excited, and rightly so! You are about to have a whole lot of new fun and beautiful new love in your life, and that is a wonderful thing. But before you jump in with both feet, take some time to think about what would make a dog a good fit for your family and lifestyle. Try these tips to help with your important decision, and congratulations!
1.Consider your family’s needs. It’s so easy to get caught up in that baby’s deep, soulful eyes and beautiful, sleek coat, and forget that though she only weighs a few pounds now, she is going to grow! And in rescue, we often don’t know much about the puppies’ parentage, so we don’t really know how big they’ll get. You need to consider your family members, your activity levels, and previous experience with animals before you make the important decision to bring someone new into the mix. Do you live in a small apartment or a spacious house? Do you have elderly relatives who live with you who might be knocked over by a rambunctious teenage dog? Do you like to spend a lot of time outdoors, playing sports? Or are you more of a chill on the couch with a book type? Do you have small children, or do you plan to? How much outdoor exercise space will your dog have access to? Does the foster of the puppy you like consider him a good first dog, or a better fit for a more experience owner? All of these are important considerations and should be discussed with family members and, if applicable, the foster parent.
2.Consider your current pets. It’s absolutely possible to have multiple pets, even of multiple species, cohabitating peacefully. All it takes is a little planning. If you have cats and you want a puppy, you need to make sure that the puppy you want has been cat-socialized. If you have dogs in your home, it usually works best to bring in a young puppy who will naturally come in at a submissive position, aware that he has to abide by existing rules, rather than an adult who might have her own ideas about how things should work, which can lead to dog fights. Best practice is to let the foster of your prospective adoptee know about your full home situation and ask if she has any recommendations. (btw, Lee Shore’s adoption application has a space for you to talk about current pets, so we’ve got you covered!)
3.Don’t fall prey to breed bias. People often think that they know for a fact that a golden retriever is just right for them. Or a Maltese. Or a beagle. That breed has the right personality. It will grow to the right size. It will have the right energy level. You’ve done research. Your friend has one. It’s the right choice.
The fact is, dogs are individuals. Just because you adopt a dog that is the same breed as your old one, does not mean that the puppy you get will be anything like the dog you think you want. Two puppies in the same litter might even have completely different personalities.
What to do instead: Read the puppies’ descriptions, and then talk to the foster parent. They are the ones who know the puppies best. They’re the ones who will be able to say, “This one is very playful and high energy, and this one is more quiet and cuddly,” or, “If you have someone in your home who has a risk of falls, maybe you should consider an older dog instead of a baby.” Fosters and animal rescue experts know the dogs they work with, and they can make the best recommendations.
4.Make sure everybody is on board. Before you bring a puppy into your house, you need to discuss it with everyone in your house and make sure that the are okay with it. Talk about it and come to an agreement, not only with spouses and family members, but also with roommates if applicable. Everyone should be aware of the associated work and costs and their roles in covering those responsibilities
5. Be sure to have a training plan. One of the worst things you can do is adopt a puppy with no plan for training him. Puppies are babies. They know nothing, and they need guidance, both from other dogs and from humans. Lee Shore works hard to make sure their dogs receive proper human and dog socialization as long as they are with us, but once they leave, the rest is on you.
Your puppy, if she’s under five months old, will probably need to be housebroken. He might need to practice walking politely on a leash. She will need to learn basic commands like sit, come, and leave it, not just for convenience’s sake, but because if your puppy runs into traffic, or tries to pick up something sharp or otherwise dangerous, these commands could save her life. He also needs to learn basic manners to make him manageable so that you don’t have to bring him back in a year when he’s out of control.
It’s okay if you don’t know how to teach these important skills, but if that is the case then you should hire a reputable trainer who will teach both you and your dog so that the two of you can have a long, happy, healthy relationship.
Adopting a puppy is a wonderful thing. You are not only saving a life, but you are also helping the rescue to save more dogs in the future, and setting yourself for a lifetime of love and joy. Follow these tips, and your experience should be a great one.
Joy Shanahan is a student at Appalachian State University with a passion for community service. She can be found in the dance studios at ASU or researching helpful animal tips for Lee Shore.