By Karen A. Soukiasian
According to statistics compiled by the Humane Society of the United States, 6-8 million, (yes, you read correctly,) dogs and cats are cared for at humane society shelters across the country. That’s not counting the dogs in rescues! Approximately one half, 4-6 million of them, will be euthanized. Those numbers are mind-boggling and grim!
People surrender animals for a myriad of reasons. Countless puppies and dogs are killed, allegedly humanely, daily because of age, illness/disease, the sheer volume and unfortunately, severe behavioral issues.
Before you even contemplate rescuing or adopting, you need to sit down and have a talk with yourself and your family.
Be honest with yourself
You need to be completely honest about just how willing, how far, and how long, you will be ready to work with the puppy or dog that may have behavioral issues.
You also should take a hard look at your finances and consider whether you have the financial resources to add a dog to your family. Consider vet costs, food costs and more. For some help stretching your dollars, check out this handy guide to saving money on pet care costs.
If there is any doubt that you and your family are unable for any reason, to make a serious commitment to a possible rehabilitation project, do not adopt, do not rescue!
The fact is, when you rescue or adopt, you must always go into it with eyes wide open: expecting the worse and hoping for the best.
Take your time
Keep in mind, a good number of rescues and shelters will tell you only what you want to hear. They have to keep the “inventory” moving. Take your time, and be darn sure this is the right puppy or dog for your family. In most cases, it takes a good 4-6 weeks for a puppy or dog to show its real personality and behaviors.
Behavior problems are quite common for pets that are rescued or adopted. Adjusting to a new family and life can be stressful and traumatic.
Even though your heart may be in the right place, your mind must be open to hearing what you may not want to hear. Furthermore, your mindset must be willing to assume the challenges you will face, to help the puppy or dog that has stolen your heart, should they require your time, patience and resources.
Do your homework
Before you venture out, do your homework! Take an honest assessment of the type of family you have. Honestly answering just a few questions can make an enormous difference in your life and the life of the dog. Here are a few things to consider:
Is your family a high-energy bunch or are they couch potatoes? A wrong mix can be unsuccessful and incredibly frustrating!
Unfortunately, thousands of dogs are rescued or adopted for the wrong reasons. The kids saw one in a movie, and now they want one. The So and Sos down the street have one, and it’s “so darn cute!” You “always wanted one.” You saw one at the dog park. Blah, blah, blah.
What do you want?
Do you want a puppy or an older dog? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Puppies, unless they come from poor breeding, are as a rule a clean slate as far as behavior problems. However, that puts the burden of appropriate training and coping with their inexhaustible energy on you! Older dogs are typically housebroken, and calmer, but they sometimes carry uncertain baggage from their previous life. Can and how would you deal with that?
What do you know about the breed of the puppy or dog you are considering? How much have you researched it? Have you talked with owners of that breed? Do you require a high-energy or low-energy breed? This is not to say, a known high-prey drive, high-energy breed doesn’t have laid back “hand me the remote” members. Nor, are all dogs in the “Are you kidding me? I’ll wait here, you go chase the ball.” group, inactive, stationary, and dull.
Is everyone in the family willing to accept the challenge if the dog needs help, or will the burden fall on one person…namely you! All too often, once the initial excitement of a new pet is over, the responsibility usually falls on one or two family members.
Seek professional help
Are you willing to seek professional help as soon as possible, if need be, or do you plan to either suffer silently or surrender the animal rescue or shelter?
Trainers see this every day. For whatever reasons, people more often than not, wait until the situation becomes unbearable and harder to correct; before they seek help. Or, they are so frustrated they return the animal.
Find and enroll in positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten or Obedience class as soon as possible. Learn how to effectively bond with your pet. More than half of the skills required for dog training are used in training the owner. The dogs are the easy part!
Are you ready to listen to, and follow the instructions of the professional, or, are you going to challenge and make excuses for everything. You must be geared up to follow through.
Do your homework. Take your time. Find the right breed for you and your family. Consider the age of the animal. Who will ultimately be responsible for him or her? Are you willing to seek professional help before you give up? Are you prepared to listen and follow the recommendations of your trainer?
If you are willing to take the risk, you may find the perfect pet. Time and patience can help turn a dog into the ideal companion. No doubt, there is a rescue or shelter near you; with a puppy or dog that is patiently waiting for you to find them, love them and give them a forever home.
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