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Adopting a Dog: The Ultimate Guide to Dog Adoption

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

Read By: Pet Lovers
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Being a pet parent can be one of life's greatest joys; however, adopting a dog is not a decision to be taken lightly. Owning a pet is very similar to having a child; there are many responsibilities and commitments involved. Before you adopt your canine companion, read this guide to help you ready yourself for your new pet and to help you make the right decisions along the way.

Are You Ready for the Responsibilities of Having a Dog?

Adopting a dog is a big responsibility. Ask yourself the following questions, and answer them honestly. Evaluate your current life situation, and determine if you can appropriately provide for a dog.

1. Is your home large enough to comfortably house a dog? Dogs should never be expected to live their lives confined to one small area, such as a single room or a crate.

2. Do you have enough free time to provide a dog with the attention he needs? More than eight hours alone is not advisable for most dogs.

3. Will you be willing and able to provide a dog with ample exercise every day? Most dogs need at least one hour of exercise each day.

4. Will other pets and members of the family be comfortable with having a dog? Allergies, phobias and dislikes of dogs, and nervous or ill pets are things to consider before adopting a dog.

5. Are you willing to provide a home, medical care, and appropriate nutrition for the duration of a dog's life? A dog is not disposable; he is a lifelong commitment.

6. Are you able to financially afford annual checkups, spay/neuter, vaccines, heartworm and flea prevention, emergency room visits, quality dog food, and any other needed pet supplies? A puppy's care costs about $640 to $1,125 in his first year. Routine maintenance of an adult dog costs about $440 - $775 per year. Go to, What is costs to own a dog.

7. Are you willing to handle the normal frustrations that come with having a dog (e.g. barking, house-training, accidents in the home, chewing, shedding, etc.)? No dog is perfect.

8. Are you willing to spend time on a consistent basis helping your dog to be obedient, socialized, and well-mannered? A polite dog will be more enjoyable and easier to handle in public.

Why Do You Want a Dog?

As you consider Adopting a dog, answering this question will help you select the correct size and breed of dog. Do you want a dog to play with your young children? Do you simply want some quiet company, perhaps a lap dog, or a companion for your daily strolls? Is the dog going to have a job: therapy, herding, hunting, protecting, etc? Are you looking for a running partner? Consider your expectations of your dog when selecting the right canine companion. Do NOT select a dog purely on looks.

Selecting the Right Size Dog

Before selecting the breed your desired breed, think about what size will be appropriate. A very small dog is generally not safe around small children. Children may be too rough with the dog and cause injury. Small breed dogs also get underfoot easily, so they may not be appropriate in a busy household. Small dogs are great for the elderly or for a small, quiet family who is looking for a lap dog. They are also a good option for someone who lives in an apartment and doesn't have space for a larger dog.

Large breed dogs may not be appropriate for someone who is elderly or weak and is unable to control the strength of these dogs. They are also not suited for very small homes or apartments. Large dogs are hardy and usually do well with children. It is important to remember that the larger the dog, the more expensive they are to maintain; food, vet bills, pet supplies... it all costs more for a large dog.

Selecting the Right Dog Breed

If you have a particular temperament in mind, you may find it helpful to research PetPlace's breed profiles to find your ideal dog. While each dog is unique and has his own personality, the profiles will give you a general idea of what to expect from a particular breed. Listed below is a general overview of the characteristics of the AKC's canine groups.

  • Sporting Group - These dogs are quite active and require regular exercise. These intelligent dogs make great family companions. They enjoy hunting and participating in field sports.

  • Hound Group - This group is extremely diverse and difficult to generalize. These dogs are talented, driven hunters. They also require regular exercise.

  • Working Group - The dogs in this group are best known for their jobs, such as pulling sleds, guarding, and rescuing. These large dogs are intelligent and easily trained. Because of their size, it is important that they receive appropriate obedience training. They require regular attention, exercise, and mental stimulation.

  • Terrier Group - Terriers are known for their spunk and feisty attitudes. Terriers often do not do well around other pets, but their high energy level is well-suited for active children. Many terriers require regular grooming.

  • Toy Group - These tiny pups are famous for being itty-bitty. Despite their size, many are packed with attitude. Toy dogs are ideal for people living in a small home and for those looking for a lap dog.

  • Non-Sporting Group - Like the hound group, the non-sporting group is quite diverse and difficult to generalize. This group includes a wide range of breeds, from very common to unusual.

  • Herding Group - This group is known for doing exactly what their name states, herding. These dogs, some very small, are capable of herding large groups of farm animals. Some dogs from this group that live as a family pet will gently herd children or other pets in the house! They make great companions and are quite smart.

    A dog does not need to be recognized by the AKC to be a wonderful pet. There are countless mixed breed dogs that are equally special. Mixed breed dogs can be a "grab bag" of the characteristics of their parenting breeds. Some mixes have an adorable, unique combination of traits that is tough to find in any other dog. Often these dogs do not develop the medical problems common to their parenting breeds.

    Selecting the Right Age for Your New Dog

    Before you begin the search for your dog, consider what age is best for you and your family.

    A puppy is an adorable bundle of joy. There is something very special about watching a dog grow from puppyhood to adulthood. It is very much like raising a child. You are given the opportunity to shape the dog's life, and you have a hand in who he becomes. Along with these joys, come many extra frustrations and expenses. You are responsible for completing the series of puppy vaccines, spaying or neutering, giving obedience training, and house-training. There are also the inevitable messes, chewing disasters, and sleepless nights.

    Adopting an adult dog may give you the opportunity to bypass the stresses of puppyhood. Often an adult dog is already obedience and potty trained. You may also be able to avoid the extra costs of spaying and neutering and the initial series of vaccines. However, it is also possible that an adult dog will come with "baggage". His previous home may have been abusive, or he may struggle with the stress of separating from that family.

    Adopting a geriatric dog brings the satisfaction of knowing that you have offered a loving home to an animal that may not have otherwise found that security. It is very difficult to find a home for an old pet, because most people are looking for a pup or young dog. Older dogs are usually very relaxed and laid back, and, in their wisdom, they are quite grateful for the love you offer.

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