Are you ready to adopt a dog?

As you no doubt know, adopting a dog into your home is a very big decision and not one to be entered into lightly. Does that sound like what most ministers say at the beginning of a wedding service? Although adopting a dog is definitely less important than your marriage vows, some of the principles are the same. Bringing a dog into your home should be a commitment made until the dog dies, and you should be agreeing to love and cherish the animal, at the very least. So how do you know if youíre ready? Below are some of the questions you might want to ask yourself.

dog adoption
Most kids are not fully capable of taking care of all of a dogís needs.

Do you have time to properly care for the dog?

Dogs can fit very well into an active lifestyle if you plan carefully how to make it work. Not only will you need to have time to feed the dog and let him or her outside on a fairly regular basis, you will also need to figure in time to go to the vet at least annually and to get the dog some regular exercise.

Very active dogs need to have time every day to stretch their muscles, either with a romp in a fenced yard or, preferably, on a long walk, hike, or jog. If you donít have a fenced yard, will you be able to clear time in your daily schedule for a walk or a trip to the dog park? If not, you might want to consider a less active breed such as a Basset Hound or an older dog who might be content to just sit on your lap or at your feet most of the time.

Donít count on your kids to do all of the work, even if they have promised you they will. Kids need to have time to be kids, including all of their activities such as sports, band, dance, and all the other places you are sick of driving them to. Most kids are not fully capable of taking care of all of a dogís needs. They have to go to school most days, so they simply are not available for 24 hour care. Besides that, you are asking them to be fully responsible for another living being. The dog may not be quite as hard to care for as a baby, but there is still a certain amount of responsibility involved, and young children just arenít up for the task quite yet. At the very least, you will have to supervise.

When you first bring your new dog home, someone will have to spend quite a bit of time training him or her and socializing the animal to new surroundings. If you choose to bring home a puppy, expect the time involved in these steps to be multiplied by about 1,000. Puppies are pretty much like human toddlers and must be fully supervised at all times they are not crated.

If you choose a breed with long hair, you may spend anywhere from 10 Ė 30 minutes each day just on grooming, in addition to all of the time mentioned above. Even if you have your dog professionally groomed, you will need to take care of day-to-day grooming needs yourself.

Do you have enough space for a dog?

dog adoption
If you donít have a fenced yard, will you be able to clear time in your daily schedule for a walk or a trip to the dog park?

The size of the dog doesnít necessarily correlate to the amount of room you will need. For example, Great Danes are one of the biggest dog breeds, but they are quite comfortable in apartments because they donít typically need a lot of room to romp. On the other hand, if you take in a Weimeraner, he or she will need lots of room to run, even though a health Weim weighs about a third of what a Great Dane does.

At a minimum, your new dog will need a warm, comfortable place to sleep and a small space to eat, as well as someplace to go to the bathroom. Consider where you will accomplish this. Very few dogs are going to be happy out in the garage or in the backyard. Dogs are pack animals and usually consider themselves to be an important member of your family. They will want to cuddle with you when you watch TV or follow you around when you move throughout the house.

Decide before you bring the dog home which rooms or which pieces of furniture are going to be off-limits, and make sure the whole family agrees to support the plan. If you donít want a dog taking over your beds or couches, everyone in the family has to be consistent in keeping them on the floor.

Do you have a plan for your dog when you travel?

If you plan on taking your dog on vacation, or even on trips around town, think about the size of your car vs. the size your puppy will grow to be. Do you have room to transport him or her safely? At a minimum, your dog should be harnessed into a seat. Better still, the dog should be crated for all trips. Donít expect your dog to ride loose in the hatchback or behind the seats of your van. Itís simply not safe. If you wouldnít let your kids ride there, donít let the dog ride there.

If you plan on leaving the dog at home when you travel, who will take care of him or her? Will you pay a professional to come to your home or hire the neighbor kid? Will you board the dog at a kennel? All of these options cost money and must be figured into the cost of your trips.

dog adoption
If you plan on leaving the dog at home when you travel, who will take care of him or her?

Can you keep your dog mentally stimulated?

Dogs who are bored can become very destructive. Do you have the resources to keep your dog from destroying your home in an attempt to entertain himself while youíre away? At a minimum, your dog needs chew toys or bones. Even better are puzzle toys that make him or her think to find the hidden treat inside.

Are you willing to see your dog through to the end?

It is an unfortunate fact that dogs live a much shorter life than we humans do. The lifespan depends somewhat on the size of the dog, but you can expect your dog to live anywhere from 8 to 18 years. At the end, your dog will need you more than ever. Probably the worst part of having a dog is that you will eventually have to make a decision as to whether to put your dog down when he or she becomes so ill that pain becomes an everyday reality.

This can be the hardest decision you will ever make in your life, and there is no one right answer. Your vet and your gut will guide you. If you do make the decision to put the animal down, please stay with them during their final moments. Itís scary enough to be at the vetís office, so itís time to pull up your big person panties and stick with them as they make their final journey. Youíll never be sorry if you do, but you will likely regret it if you donít.

If you can answer all of the above questions with a resounding yes, you are ready to adopt. If not, take some time to consider carefully before you make a decision. There are few things worse than having to drop your dog off at a shelter because you werenít prepared for the experience of having a new family member. Be sureÖbe doubly sure before you adopt so you donít add to the problem of over-crowded shelters.

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