As dog trainers, we hear heartbreaking stories and see ongoing angst involving a new pet that could have easily been avoided, simply if there had been more planning, truthfulness, and homework before acquiring the new puppy or dog. Before you decide to adopt, be sure this is the right time to add a dog to your family.
Shelters and rescues are busting out at the seams, and thousands of animals are euthanized every day.
With 90.5 million families in 2022 (around 70% of American households), families have plenty of options if they want to add a dog to their families.
But even though dogs are available, that doesn’t mean families should rush to adopt a dog.
Lack of forethought and planning could mean the difference between life and death for a puppy or dog.
By being honest and asking yourself five straightforward questions, you can avoid adding to that unfortunate reality.
Why do you want a puppy or dog?
Truthfully ask yourself, what are the reasons you want to include a new pet in your family and home? Is this animal really for you? Are you just getting a dog as a projection of your self-image?
Do you want a dog because “everyone else” has one? Or is it because “no one else” has one?
Is it because YOU always wanted a…? Do you think your children will “want” one? Or do you think your children will “learn to love” the puppy once you get it home?
Is your family ready for a puppy?
Truthfully ask yourself if your family, especially one with young children, is ready for a pet? Fact is, some children are not animal lovers and never will be. Are your children old enough to deal with the unpredictable behaviors of a puppy? Do you and your family members have time to take care of a puppy?
Are you willing to be held reliable and accountable for what will happen to that animal if your children categorically reject the new pet? And will you responsibly rehome it, or will it end up with thousands of others in a shelter, rescue, or even perhaps abandoned?
Can you afford a dog? First-year expenses include a series of vaccinations and spaying or neutering.
Do you have other pets? If you have an older dog, an older cat, or a kitten, are you prepared to help them bond? This is especially crucial if you don’t know how to introduce a hyper dog to a kitten.
If you’re worried about the costs of adding a pet and want to earn extra money, consider participating in affiliate programs in the pet niche.
What do you know about the breed?
How much research have you done on the breed you have chosen? Keep in mind; there are exceptions to every breed. Slipshod breeding and illegal puppy mills have contributed to many breeds that at one time were highly recommended for families to now have serious health, temperament, and behavioral issues.
Some behavior problems may be modified; others, especially those concerning temperament, will never change!
Rule No. 1: Never purchase a puppy without meeting the parents. If the breeder doesn’t let you meet the parents, walk away. The parents’ temperaments are, as a rule, an excellent barometer of what their offspring will inherit.
Again, there are exceptions! Do meticulous homework! Talk with owners of the breed, dog trainers, dog behaviorists, and veterinarians. Learn all that you can before making your decision. They may suggest another breed, so remain open-minded.
Who gets to pick the dog?
When choosing a family pet, the entire family needs to be involved in the final decision! If there is any hesitancy, there ends the discussion. Do not be impulsive! Take your time when making this decision. If need be, leave a non-refundable deposit on the animal you have chosen, go home, think it over and talk it out! Go back if necessary, and check to see if your initial thought was a good one. If it is wonderful! If it isn’t, all you’ve lost is a few bucks!
Remember, this puppy or dog you have chosen has to be as excited to be with you as you are with them. If the puppy shows little or no interest in you, odds are, it’s not going to work out. Avoid overzealous animals and avoid shy, fearful ones. You want a happy, self-confident, yet middle-of-the-road kind of personality with a well-balanced temperament. If the animal shows any signs of misplaced aggression, walk away.
What’s your plan if the puppy isn’t right for your family?
Here comes the hard part! What if it doesn’t work out? How long are you going to hold on to the animal? What is going to happen to that puppy or dog finally? Have you given any thought about what the cost may be to the animal? Does it end up in the backyard, like a forgotten toy? Are you the type to take it for a ride and dump it in “a nice neighborhood,” irresponsibly hoping someone will take care of your problem for you?
It could be a matter of life and death! Shelters and rescues are, more often than not, full. Every day, countless animals that were not the perfect pet for one family yet may be the ideal for another never get the chance to show what they can offer. They are hurriedly euthanized purely because of overcrowding. This is especially true for black dogs. They are innocent victims of what is called Black Dog Syndrome. Would you want that for your pet?
You don’t want to know what happens to many puppies and dogs that are offered for “FREE!” Regrettably, some people make a decent living, going around collecting “free” puppies, dogs, kittens, and cats…then selling them for experimentation to laboratories and even schools.
Do you have a workable plan to find a loving forever home if your puppy or dog need to be rehomed? If not, start thinking about it. Your pet should not have to suffer unspeakable consequences due to your lack of forethought and planning.
Bottom line: Is this the right time to add a dog?
For most people, rehoming a pet is one of the most heartbreaking experiences they will ever have. You also don’t want to add to the statistics of unwanted pets. With due diligence, do your homework. Be truthful with yourself about your family’s desire for a pet. Think of every possible scenario and have a Plan A and a Plan B.
Adding a pet to your family should receive the same consideration and preparation as adding any new member. A pet is a life, not a toy. You should be prepared to make a solid, well-thought guarantee to that animal; you are ready to care for and love them for the rest of their life. If you are not ready to make that commitment, you are not prepared for a pet.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.