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Before You Adopt or Purchase That Cute Dog...

Maintaining a proper perspective of a dog as one who has "Fur with Feelings" and is a family member is a necessary component to dog ownership. A parent who is committed to the health and welfare of the dog for his entirety is a responsible parent. Not just in infancy, not just in adolescence or adulthood, but in the senior years. In sickness and health. In the good times and the bad. Sacrifices are inevitable. Lifestyles need to be adapted. Proper supervision and care needs to be embraced. Do you have the resources and desire to care for that dog for his entire life?

Here are some factors to consider before welcoming a furry family member into your home:

  • Match your lifestyle and home with a similar dog. If you have a small home and a small yard, generally speaking, a smaller dog might be a better fit. If finances are limited, a smaller dog is less expensive to feed. If you are a health nut who runs often, that might mean an energetic dog who can keep with you. If you have children, that means looking for a kid friendly dog. Couch potato? There are plenty of senior dogs who fit the bill with lots of love to give.

  • Consider the best match for your current dog. If your current dog is not very welcoming toward other dogs or has a history of aggression or pre-aggressive behaviors, it's a better idea to invest your time in the dog you have and hold off on adding another. Otherwise you may be at risk of needing to re-home your new dog which is not ideal.

  • Consider the longevity of your current living situation. If you need to move, can Fido come with you?

  • Foster to adopt. This allows you to see if Fido is a good fit and helps provide crucial information for shelters and rescues in the event he is not.

  • Budget accordingly. That not only means having the money to adopt or purchase but also to maintain. Would you rush to purchase a vehicle if you could not yet afford gas, maintenance, and repair? You must have enough money for the dog's needs such as

  • food, treats, health care, preventative measures, training, crates, bedding, toys, collars, clothing, grooming products, etc.

  • Consider pet health insurance. This can help offset the cost of unexpected expenses and having to surrender a dog with an illness due to lack of finances.

  • Hire a dog trainer. This goes without saying however some parents decide to attempt to train Fido on their own using the internet. This results in confusing advice and sometimes harmful techniques.

  • Hire a dog walker. If you work full time and you have a moderate to high energy dog, you will need to ensure your dog has adequate exercise. A dog walker can also provide some companionship during the day while you're away at work.

  • Intact vs spay and neuter: If keeping a dog intact is your preference (for confirmation, performance, or health reasons) that means an extensive amount of supervision and training that most parents are not prepared for. That could mean leaving the dog park if an opposite sex intact dog is present. That means confinement when necessary. That means an exceptional recall. That means a well bonded and behaved dog who quickly responds to basic and advanced commands. Some parents will be ill equipped for this level of supervision and extensive training.

  • Priorities: The main idea of owning a dog is not what your dog will give to you but what you can give to your dog. Those cuddles, snuggles, companionship, etc. are bonuses. Those cute "Fur with Feelings" creatures deserve more than just "oh he's cute...let's take him home."

  • Bonding: Spend time bonding with your dog. Teaching basic commands and tricks is a great way to do this in addition to providing clarity in communication. Dogs need to understand what to do and when it's over. Marking behavior with a word or clicker and having a word that means the desired behavior is over and he is free to do something else helps bring clarity to the expectations. I use the words "nice" for marking behavior and "free" for when it's over but you can use whatever you'd like provided you teach the appropriate association. Also, learning to read Fido's body language is key to discovering what he needs. For example, panting, yawning, and licking lips may signify anxiety.

  • Have an end of life game plan. While we don't like to speak of our death, it is part of life. Who will care for Fido in the event of your death? Get prepared in advanced and enlist the help of family or friends to prepare accordingly.

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