Everyone knows a dog is man’s best friend. But how much of a friend are you back to your pet? May is Responsible Animal Guardian Month, and what better time to look at some of the responsibilities involved in adopting a new pet, especially if he/she is rescued?
Committing to adding a new furry family member before you’re ready can be a tremendous disservice, both to the dog and to you. Here are a few questions to ask before adopting a new dog, to make sure you’re being a responsible guardian.
Is Anyone Allergic?
Before bringing a furry friend home, it’s important to ask: can everyone in the house be around them safely? Are you or your family allergic to pet hair or pet dander? If so, how serious is the allergic reaction? Is there a pill or a shot you can take to mitigate the symptoms?
In short, will this new pet cause you or your family physical discomfort just by being around them? If you don’t know, ask your doctor for allergy tests for your household before adopting a dog. If any of the tests come up positive, forego the adoption; at least until you can find a permanent solution for keeping those allergies at bay.
How Much Time and Resource Is Required for Proper Training?
Regardless of how much training the dog you are looking to bring home has had in the past, be prepared to spend some time and possibly even some money training him/her to successfully adapt to a happy life in your household.
There are a number of reasons why you want to ensure your fur baby is well trained. First, obedience training with positive reinforcement may be necessary for your dog’s safety, and the safety of those around them. If they’re unknowingly heading into danger, the ability to respond to your voice commands can keep them safe. Second, proper training leads to harmonious living for both your fur baby and the human members of your family. You need to be able to prevent your pet from doing things like peeing on the rug, digging up the garden, chewing on the furniture, etc. Another good reason is that a well-trained dog could live a more active and happier life because he/she can be a fully participating member of the family and join in on family gatherings, games, hikes, swim sessions, etc.
Training is especially important for a rescue dog. If you’re adopting them as an adult, they may already have certain behaviors ingrained in them that can’t be tolerated. Getting rid of bad behaviors that have been ingrained for years isn’t impossible, but it’s important to realize that it can be a long, uphill battle.
So take the time to talk to the shelter or the rescue organization to learn about the dog’s history, any known behavior issues, and consult a trainer on how much time, effort, and resources that may be required before deciding to adopt.
Do You Need to Spay or Neuter This Dog?
As Bob Barker used to remind us, it’s important to help control the pet population by having your pet spayed or neutered. There are so many unwanted dogs out there already that you really shouldn’t bring any more dogs into the world unless you know for certain that they will be loved and taken care of.
Additionally, there are health benefits. Spaying your female dogs helps prevent infections in their uterus which can cause serious pain and shorten their lifespan. Similarly, neutering your male dogs helps prevent testicular cancer and certain prostate issues.
So, is the rescue dog you’re adopting already spayed or neutered? If not, do you have the money to have the procedure done? The operation can cost up to $200, though you might be able to find low cost spay/neuter services in your area with a little research. If you’re adopting an adult dog, it should probably be done as soon as possible after you get them. If the rescue is a puppy, veterinarians typically recommend the procedure between 5 and 9 months. Talk to your vet to find out about the best time for your rescue dog.
How Big Will the Dog Get?
If you’re adopting a puppy, keep in mind that they’re going to get bigger. If you don’t know the dog’s specific background, it can be hard to know exactly how big, but if you do a bit of research and ask your veterinarian, you should be able to get at least a rough estimate. With that knowledge, you can assess if you have room for the adult-sized version of this dog in your home?
The bigger the dog, the more room they’ll need to roam around, rest, and get exercise. If you live in a small apartment, a large dog is probably not suitable. Unless you reside on a big piece of land, plan on taking your large fido to a dog park where they can run around freely at least once a week.
Are There Health Considerations for This Dog?
With any dog, there are physical needs that you’ll need to take care of. On the basic level, know how much food your fur baby needs to stay healthy, does he/she have special dietary needs, and if you can afford it? Even if your dog is perfectly healthy, there are other duties and expenses related to their health, such as necessary shots and regular checkups at the vet.
With rescue dogs, their needs can be much greater. If you don’t know the dog’s background or history, they may have any number of hidden health problems. First, many rescue dogs may have fleas, ticks, viruses, and other issues caught from being in close quarters with so many other dogs.
There may also be more serious health issues, especially with older dogs. Aside from being more prone to catching things like colds or flu, they may have or develop chronic problems that you’ll need to treat and provide medical care for for the rest of their lives. Being a responsible guardian for your fur baby means knowing your capabilities and planning ahead.
Can You Tend To Them Emotionally?
Aside from their physical needs, dogs’ emotional needs attribute to their quality of life. Many dogs may feel shy or scared with the sudden changes in environment - going from their previous home, to the shelter where they spent much of their time locked in a cage, to your home can be jarring.
Furthermore, taking care of the emotional needs of a rescued dog with a difficult past is often more involving and more intense than that of a regular dog. They may have abandonment issues, or issues from being mistreated or abused by their previous owner. Be prepared to help them get through trusting, antisocial or even violence issues.
Also keep in mind that their past and personality may not be fully understood at the time of adoption. There may be trigger(s) that can cause your pet to freak out or even become aggressive. Be prepared to invest time and effort to get to know your rescue dog and overcome any personality issues they may have. Until then, it’s not advised to leave the dog alone with your small children. Introduce your pet to your family members slowly and gradually, make sure the dog feels safe and loved, and be there to step in if needed.
Will This Dog Get Along with Your Other Pets?
If you have other pets, there’s no telling how the new dog will react to them or vice versa. The best thing to do is to introduce the pets to one another on some sort of neutral ground - a dog park, outside of your house, or a neighbor’s house. Let them get to know each other before forcing them to live together. Be cautious and mindful about leaving them alone together, at least at first.
Can You Give This Dog the Attention They Need and Deserve?
All dogs, especially rescue dogs, need love and care. If you leave them alone in an empty house most of the day or providing little to no interaction with them, they’ll get lonely. Overtime, it can lead to behavior problems such as excessive barking, destroying their surroundings, and even trying to escape.
If you’re going to adopt a dog, be willing to give them the love and affection they require and deserve. Bonding with your pets can be one of the most rewarding feelings to experience both for you and your fur baby. This can happen during cuddle sessions, play time, walks, and family activities.
Adopting any dog, but particularly a rescue dog, is a big responsibility. As long as you are emotionally, physically, and financially prepared to take it on, it can be one of the best decisions of your life!