If ever you have considered adopting a dog, you know the amazing journey dog adoption takes you on and ultimately how your life can change after adoption.
However, with over 3 million dogs a year which are abandoned, or find themselves in rescue shelters, in the US there is a long way to go.
Each year the month of October is marked as adopt a dog month, and is used by shelters up and down the country to try an encourage to-be dog-parents from buying a puppy and to adopt a rescue dog.
Adopting a dog really starts with understanding why you want a dog and what relationship you want with a dog. Dogs are man’s oldest friend for a reason. Historically dogs have been used for transportation, hunting, shepherding, guarding and companionship. But not one dog can undertake every role. Just like one human can’t make a team.
Different breeds of dogs have different temperaments and tendencies which make them more, or less, compatible with different family homes.
Take for instance a timid chihuahua which is adopted by a young boisterous and energetic family. The chihuahua is most likely to become more timid and shy in such a demanding environment; the effort to rehabilitate, socialize and integrate the chihuahua might be too much for a young family with lots of other commitments.
It’s important to understand why you, or your family, want to adopt a dog and then to work backwards to understand the type of family you are and what dog would best integrate into that family.
In order to understand this you will also need to understand your family and existing commitments which is the second lesson of dog adoption.
Nobody can predict the future, but, most of us have a good idea of what we would like from the future. Being able to understand how your family may change in the future, where you will live and future work or social commitments is an essential planning stage for a dog.
Lots of dog owners, give dogs back to rescue homes because of immediate changes to their circumstances within less than six months of adoption.
It would be much easier to take the time and understand what may change in the future to better plan for a dog today.
Are you thinking of moving to a larger home, will the landlord (if rented) allow a dog in the home, are you willing to not move into the home and find an alternative for your dog? Do you have enough free time in order to train and bond with your dog? The first six months can be very demanding, especially if they require re-socializing, you could spend up to an hour each day.
Of course, we can’t all plan the future exactly and unexpected events do happen. A job promotion and transfer there and a house move there. This leads us to our final lesson on responsibility.
Once adopted, your rescue dog becomes your responsibility. In many ways like a child requires love, educating, and shelter; so does a dog.
While many humans expect a dog to be house broken, listen to their every word and “behave well” at all times – this simply isn’t realistic; especially from the day of adoption.
A rescue dog-parent must be responsible enough to understand this and to research dog training, behavior and spend the necessary time training and bonding with their dog. A dog isn’t a machine which can be easily programmed they are an animal.
Don’t be mistaken, with consistent, regular training and bonding a dog will become very responsive and well adjusted to living with you and your family, but a responsible owner must spend the time in order to achieve this.
Responsibility doesn’t just start and finish with training, are you financially responsible and can you afford to own a dog?
These questions must all be answered far in advance of adopting a dog. In order to achieve the best outcome when adopting make sure you understand why you are adopting, understand dog temperaments and your current lifestyle and be responsible.