Before you decide for sure remember…..
If you read my ‘Buying a Puppy’ article, you already know that I am a huge supporters of doggie adoption. Approximately 15,000 dogs ended up in Irish Pounds in 2014 – that number does not include those surrendered to rescues and shelters. So, if you’re considering adopting from a pound or shelter – well done! You are part of the solution to this national problem.
Before you adopt, however, be aware that those shelter dogs were probably originally acquired by well-meaning people rather like yourself, who just didn’t think it through. So be sure you’ve considered the full ramifications of a dog and the fact that it is approximately a 15 year commitment.
Also keep in mind that the very best dogs on the planet urinate, defecate, bark, make noise, need arrangements when you go out of town, cost money every year in food, gear and medical care. They shed hair. They rarely know how we expect them to behave without investing in training. They require companionship and exercise every single day (the back garden doesn’t cut it).
If you are prepared to live with all of the above - great, read on….
Selecting the Right Dog
Bring everyone in the household to meet the dog. Breed or breed mix info is sometimes illuminating though one must be good at deciphering breed standard euphemisms to get the full import. “Fiercely loyal”, “aloof” or “discerning” usually translates into “fearful or aggressive to strangers” and “profuse double coat” into “dog hair on everything”.
Shelters often have puppies, pedigree breeds as well as some lovely mixed breeds but one of the huge benefits of shelter adoption is the fabulous selection of young adult animals. Dogs in the one to three years age range. What you see is what you get with these guys in terms of size but also the dog’s temperament and personality. Look for a dog who is friendly – approaches wagging, with ears plastered back and on a mission to lick your face, and one whose exercise requirement (the shelter staff can help you here) is a realistic option for you.
If a prospect emerges, take him for a test drive: a walk in the shelter grounds. How does he react to kids? To other dogs? Is he handleable or does he cower from touch? Don’t judge him too harshly on his leash manners. Often shelter dogs spend 23.5 hours of the day alone in their kennel so walking nicely on leash is unlikely to happen when they finally get out but this is something that can be worked on once you take him home.
You will quickly notice that the cliché of shelters being full of problem dogs has little truth. People relinquish dogs for people-related reasons, rarely dog-related reasons. If you find The One, be aware that there will be an adoption fee. A lot of people can feel incensed at being asked to pay when they are trying to do the right thing and adopt rather than shop. However, there are good reasons for the shelters not giving animals away for free: 1) they need the money to continue doing their good work, 2) an adoption fee is a means and seriousness filter. Anyone blanching at the initial fee is also likely to blanch at routine maintenance and medical costs. 3) The shelter will have invested much more money than they will recoup from you. They will have paid for a spay-neuter surgery which alone is worth more than the adoption fee. Combine this with vaccinations, micro-chipping, etc, and a shelter adopter is way ahead of someone acquiring a dog from another source.
When You Get Him Home
For the first several weeks, confine the new dog to one well dog-proofed room (e.g. no shoes, rugs, curtains, chew-able furniture etc.). Pet gates are great for this. Put in a comfy bed, water and a large variety of chew toys. Dogs differ in how much they chew and what they like to chew, kind of like how we differ in how much we read or watch TV and which kinds of books or programs we like. Set up a walking, feed and bathroom routine (dogs who have been kenneled often need a refresher).
Come and go a lot in the first days to teach the dog that when you leave, it’s no big deal, you always come back. Many brief absences is best. Before the first few long (2+ hour) absences, tire him out with hard exercise, a long walk or a training session. Give him more of the house once he’s proven himself house trained and chew-trained.
And finally, best of luck with your new best friend!
"It's time you knew. You're adopted, guys"