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6 Things to Do Before You Adopt a Dog

Young girl looking at dogs in shelter
David Tadevosian/Shutterstock

Adoption is one of the best ways to get a dog, but you need to prepare for this new member of your household. As fun as a new furry friend is, there are some serious considerations to make.

What kind of considerations? You need to pick the right dog for you and your family, for the size of home you live in, for the time you have to commit to a dog, and for the amount of money you can afford to spend on pet care. Failure to take into consideration the type of dog breed, the needs of the breed, and how the dog will fit into your living situation and family life increases the chance that you’ll need to rehome the dog. You can avoid that stress by considering the following things before you pick a pup and before you bring them home with you.

Do Some Breed Research

Even when adopting a shelter dog, you might find a pure breed. Even if you don’t, you can get to know some of the common breeds that might make up the dogs you find.

By researching breeds, you can learn the best temperament in a dog that fits into your lifestyle. Finding a dog that works with your life is essential. For example, if you opt to get a dog breed that is considered a working breed (such as an Australian shepherd or mix thereof) it’s important to understand that working dogs that don’t get a lot of work, even if the “work” is just frisbee and agility training, can have behavioral problems. That kind of dog is an excellent match if you’re looking for a companion for your super energetic ten-year-old child to run around the yard with, but not such a great match if you live alone and work long hours.

Both small and large dogs come with their issues, and all breeds are different. They also have varying lifespans.

Visit Shelters

Take some time to go to a few different shelters and see what they have available. While there is a chance a dog you’re interested in may get adopted while you “shop around,” you’re better off taking your time and making sure you find the right dog.

Shelter visits will help you see what breeds are available for adoption, so you can better do your research. Talk to the people working at the shelter about the health and temperament of the dog you’re interested in as well as the kind of home you’re bringing them into to.

Spend Some Time With Potential Candidates

If there is a dog (or a few) that you think might be right for you, spend some time with them. Many shelters and animal rescues have rooms where you can go hang out with the dog you’re thinking of taking home. Be sure to bring your family along too. A dog that might be perfectly fine with you might have a different reaction to your spouse or your kids.

See how they act around you. Do they seem shy or open? Do they growl at you or seem happy with a wagging tail? While dogs may be frightened living the shelter life, and first meeting you, a stand-offish dog may also stay that way when you get them home, and could be a problem down the road.

Prepare Your Home

Pet proofing your home is essential. Young and old dogs alike like to chew on things that they aren’t supposed to chew on. Put away your shoes, have children find a safe home for their stuffed toys, and put anything that may be harmful to the dog away in a closed cupboard.

Preparing your home also means making sure everyone is ready for the dog. Do you have space outside for him to do his business? Who’s walking the dog each day? Who’s feeding him? If the dog is everyone’s responsibility, another step for preparing your home would be to make a schedule that lets everyone know when it’s their turn to scoop the poop in the backyard or take Fido for a walk.

Buy the Things They Need

Dogs need a lot of things, and you’re going to need some of those things before that pooch even gets to your home. A couple of things you should have with you when you go pick your new dog up at the shelter is a leash and collar. Get the right size depending on the size of the dog you’re adopting.

At home, the dog is going to need a food dish and a water dish. If you’re adopting a senior dog or a large breed, you may want to invest in an elevated feeding station to make eating easier. You’ll need to invest in a dog bed (of an appropriate size) and some dog toys. Even old dogs like to play with toys sometimes.

Other important things to purchase for your new furry family member are dog shampoo (he’ll probably need a bath right away), dog brush (especially for long-hair breeds), treats, and dog food.

Things you can invest in after your dog has moved in include nail clippers (or you can pay your vet to do it for you), training aids (like a clicker), and obedience classes. When you adopt a shelter dog, there’s no way to know how much training they’ve had, so it’s always a good investment to take them to a doggy class.

Pick a Vet

One of the first stops you may want to make when you adopt a dog is a veterinary clinic. Depending on the type of shelter you’ve adopted your dog from, he may or may not be updated on shots. There are chances your dog has a minor (or maybe a major) illness. A quick trip to the vet will let you rest at ease.

You should also establish your new dog with the vet in case of other issues. Shelter dogs often have stress and anxiety issues, at least in the beginning. Your vet can help you and your dog be calmer and happier in this new living situation.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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