As the school year winds down, this is the time of year when many families think about adding a dog to their homes. Fortunately this works out most of the time, especially for those who know what they are getting into and have asked themselves a few important questions as they begin their search (for a complete list of questions and information on what to do next, see Open Paw). Sometimes, however, it doesn’t turn out so well. It ends up being the wrong fit, or the dog has serious behavior problems, or the family was not really prepared to get a dog. Here are some things to avoid and some things you can do to stack things in your favor:
1. Rushing into it. The new dog could ideally be part of your family for 10-15 years, which is a huge commitment. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information on what to do. Slow down. Take your time. Use your mind as well as your heart. You won’t regret it if you do.
2. Letting pressure from someone else drive the process. A dog takes a lot of time, energy, money, and emotion to care for properly. Getting one for the wrong reasons, like guilt or pressure from a family member, the dog’s owner, or others, is no way to start off a successful relationship. (Note that children cannot be the dog’s primary caretakers, for reasons adults are not aware of until it is too late and they are up to their eyeballs in stress.)
3. Pity. Getting a dog mainly because you feel sorry for him is not the right way to start a healthy relationship. The dog or puppy you are considering might be the right dog for you, but it’s crucial to be sensible in evaluating him or her, or you could both end up regretting it. Learn what to look for, what to ask, and adopt the dog who would truly be the best fit for both of you.
Resources to help you succeed:
Paws to Consider: Choosing the Right Dog for You and Your Family by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. Honest descriptions of many breeds, mixed breeds and what you should know before you start looking. You might be surprised!
Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg. What to know before looking for a dog online or at a shelter, step-by-step instructions on what to do when you meet dogs and puppies, how to smoothly integrate the dog or puppy into your household, including housetraining and basic obedience instructions. A great resource regardless of where you plan to adopt or buy your dog.
Both of these books are very popular and available at most libraries. The Open Paw link above has free training advice, videos, and information on what to do before and after you get your new dog. For specific advice on how to find the right dog for children, see Happy Kids, Happy Dogs: Building a Friendship Right from the Start, also available at libraries. Happy searching!