It’s summer. The kids are out of school, the weather is nice, there’s a certain welcome laziness in the air. All of a sudden, you stop mid-porch swing and think to yourself… “This is nice. We should get a dog.”
And just like you should finish the other half of that swing, you should finish the other half of that thought before someone gets hurt! In all seriousness, getting a new dog is a wonderful idea (rescuing a new dog is an even better idea), but only for some people and in certain situations.
There are many things to consider before getting a dog, whether from a breeder, a shelter or a rescue group. Here are a few things to think about before you hop on the Internet or over to the closest shelter to find your next dog:
- Consider why you want a new dog - Is it for the companionship? Is it to keep your kids entertained for the summer? Is it because you’d like to have a motivational walking buddy? Is it because you think your existing dog needs a play pal? All of these might be valid reasons to get a dog. But think down the road a year or two. Will the dog still be serving the same purpose as when you had adopted him or her? A dog is a huge time and financial commitment anywhere up to 10-12 years of your life, so double check that you aren’t getting a dog as a creative solution to a short-term problem. That wouldn't be fair to your dog.
- Consider the age of your new dog – Are you part of a young couple just starting out on your own? You might choose a new puppy to adopt. A young couple has lots of recreational time, a smidge of post-college income, and most importantly, the energy to train and play with a young puppy and foster it’s development over time. Or, are you a little older in life, say retirement age, and are you looking for a fuzzy companion to mostly lay at your feet and quietly snooze the day away? You might choose to adopt an older dog that is closer to 5 or 6 years of age, or even older.
- Consider the breed of your new dog – This is the hard part, especially if you choose to adopt from a shelter. There are so many mixed breed dogs available for adoption that it can be nearly impossible to decide. It is overwhelming to walk into a shelter and see all those sweet faces just begging you’ll open the door for them. To avoid falling fast for “the cutest one,” it is absolutely essential to do your research ahead of time. There are many great internet resources that can help to educate you on specific breeds (listed below). Breed-savvy shelter and rescue workers will give their best educated guesses on the primary, or even secondary, breeds of dogs in their care. Each breed has their own unique purposes for which they were bred, all of which can predetermine their behavior and temperament, to an extent. Consequently, each breed lays claim to their own typical exercise requirements, play styles, medical issues and overall energy levels. Ensure that the breed you choose – or think you might be choosing – is compatible with you and your family’s lifestyle.
- Lastly, ask lots of questions of the breeder/shelter/rescue – If it’s a shelter environment, ask how long the dog has been there, how they came to be there, and what type of enrichment they have done with a specific dog. Enrichment might include regular activities like walking, playing, obedience training or eating from food puzzles, like a Kong or Buster Cube. If you adopt from a breeder, ask if the pup’s mother – or better, both parents – are onsite. The litter’s parents will give you good insight into a puppy’s temperament and personality as it matures. Of course, there are no guarantees, since both nature and nurture will be influential in a puppy’s life. Lastly, ask the breeder what types of socialization the pup has experienced in its first 8 weeks of life. Veterinarian and animal behaviorist, Dr. Ian Dunbar, would recommend that a puppy meets at least 100 different people in the first 12 weeks of life as a part of proper socialization!
Now that you know what to consider when adopting a new dog, here are some resources to help you research specific breeds, and determine which breed(s) might be right for you:
And finally, resources to help you locate your new furry friend: