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Are You Ready? 5 Things to Know Before Adopting a Dog

Whether you’re adopting for the first time or a seasoned puppy parent, there are things to know before adopting a dog — things that will make or break that dog’s transition into his new home and life.

To raise a well-trained dog, you need a great plan. The best ones include communicating with everyone in your family about the basic expectations you have of your dog, the goals you hope to achieve, and the strategies you’re ready to use to get there.

In short, you need to talk honestly and openly about what to expect from your dog and how you are going to train him — all BEFORE you bring him home.

Having a dog is a lifetime commitment. That’s why it is important to understand what’s really involved with having one before you make that choice. Take a few minutes to consider what you want from your new dog and how you are going to introduce the dog in your home.

Here are five things to know before adopting a dog.

Adopting vs. Purchasing

While you are saving a life when you adopt from a shelter, what you see is not necessarily what you get. In the case of puppies, you won’t see the animal’s parents, so you won’t get a clear picture of an adult dog’s psyche (i.e. emotional baggage). What happened to him with his previous family? Why is he afraid of men? Why does he cringe when small children are around him? These are important things to know before adopting a dog.

When you purchase a purebred, chances are he will be from a breeder and will be a puppy. At least one of the parents should be nearby so you can check for size, temperament, and condition. The cleanliness of the facility, the breeders’ knowledge of the breed, the point at which they are willing to let the puppies go (it should never be before eight weeks of age) and the puppies’ socialization skills should be tip-offs to the quality of the kennel.

Those who adopt from a shelter tend to be much more open-minded in their expectations. Conversely, if you are dealing with a breeder, you most likely have done some homework and decided this is the breed for you.

Puppy vs. Adult Dog

If you’re a potential puppy owner, there are certain questions you should ask yourself before considering adoption. Do you want puppies that are lovers or loners? Will your puppies spend their lives outdoors or indoors? Will your puppies be massive or miniature when full-grown? Do you need to be cautious of puppies that set off allergies or not? Do you want puppies that will be solo or sociable? The answer to those questions will vary by breed, so always know what you’re getting into.

When bringing home an adult dog, you should first work with the breeder or shelter to evaluate the dog’s temperament and behavior. Again, breed matters, but whether they can determine the dog’s breed or not, breeders and shelter personnel can interact with him and walk him to determine his energy level and interests. And, they’ll expose him to different situations. Does he need to run and jump? Is he happy to saunter along and curl up at a person’s feet? Does he beg and charm to get human attention? Would he rather chase squirrels? How does he relate to men and women? To children? To other dogs? To cats? Once you know all of that, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

Are Your Home and Family Ready?

While breed is vitally important when picking the right dog for you, you also need to make sure you have the right environment for your new family member. Looking for the right pooch to fit an apartment-living lifestyle? Dogs that do well in apartments, condos, and flats tend to be lower-energy, small- to medium-sized, enjoy human company, and are less prone to behaviors such as herding.

Got a big yard and a big family? Selecting the right dog for your family is an important decision. But, there is no single breed that is best suited for the job of “family dog.” Again, the temperament and personality of the dog must be considered. A family dog should be social and outgoing, have moderate energy levels that meld with the family, enjoy people (especially children), and not exhibit aggressive behavior around food, toys, or other valued possessions. For assistance, check out this list of breeds that are good with children, and this list of breeds that are NOT good with children.

Is the Timing Right for Adopting a Dog?

If you’re thinking of bringing home a dog, timing is everything. After all, your new-found companion will look to you for a lifetime commitment of love and security. Assess your family and financial situation, the season, and special circumstances — and don’t be discouraged. If you’re thoughtful and realistically assessing your situation, you may still find time to care for and enjoy a pet.

Holidays are notoriously bad times to welcome a new dog into a new family. Irregular schedules, rich foods, and a steady flow of strangers through the house cause stress in even veteran household dogs. Also, if you’re planning a vacation, starting a new job, expecting a new baby, or moving to a new home, postpone getting a dog until you’ve adjusted to the changes in your life.

Do You Have Everything You Need?

Before bringing your new dog home, you should stock up on some necessary supplies to make his welcome much easier. This also gives you time to scout the area for the best and most convenient pet supply store.

It’s wise to get your shopping done before bringing in your new dog. There are few differences in what you need for a puppy versus an adult dog, but most of the items are the same, including:

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