What you should know about Pet Adoption
Dogs and cats are living, feeling beings with needs and emotions. They are a big responsibility requiring time, patience, work and money. They need your care every day, no matter how busy you are. Make sure this is the right time in your life to adopt a pet. Before you start looking, ask yourself the following questions suggested by the AKC and animal behavior specialists:
* Have I read extensively about breeds and breed mixes?
And about housebreaking, training, behavioral problems and daily care of a pet? Knowlege is key to success.
* Why do I want a pet?
If the children are begging for a pet...you just moved to a bigger place...or you're lonely...these alone are not good reasons to get a pet. Make sure you are ready for the daily effort and the lifelong commitment.
* Is everyone in my home ready to have a dog or cat join the family and live with us for the pet's lifetime?
Very young children often cannot control themselves around pets, or may be frightened of them. Can you depend on your children not to pester the pet and not to let a pet escape out the door? Will you be able to watch the pet at all times when children visit your home? A tip: It can help to pet-sit a reliable dog of a family member or trusted friend to see how your family members respond to the presence and responsibility of having a pet.
* Is now the right time to have a pet? Are you just starting a family - with stressful adjustments ahead?
Are you beginning a new job that could mean late hours, frequent travel or relocation? Wait until your life is more stable and under control.
* Does my lifestyle match the pet that I desire?
If you cannot commit to vigorous daily exercise, avoid getting a young dog or dogs of active breeds. Kids in your home? Don't get a herding breed with a tendency to nip or a reactive "protection" dog...and avoid puppies too. Instead, consider mature, calm animals whose personalities are known. Also remember that a small pet can feel pretty big when behavior problems arise. Come to terms with the size, energy level and temperament you can handle, and match your choice to your lifestyle and living situation.
* Do I have the right environment for the chosen animal?
Do you have enough room, in the home and outside, to meet a particular dog's exercise needs? Is the yard fenced in? If you live in an apartment or condo, where can the dog be walked? Will your apartment neighbors complain about barking and romping? Also keep in mind that a fearful pet may be a poor match for a congested, noisy city.
* Do I have time for a pet?
Your pet can't take care of himself. Complete care is required on a daily basis, and dogs require training. Do you have the time to housebreak and obedience-train a puppy, or train a kitten to use a litter box? Can you adapt your schedule to allow for obedience training and teaching the dog good house manners so that he can become a good companion? Delay choosing and getting a pet until you're sure you have time each day.
* Who will take the pet out for exercise and pottying at least four times a day?
Chores should be discussed and assigned before adoption.
* How many hours of the day will the pet be left alone?
Is this too long for a dog to hold his urine? If so, are you prepared to have a petsitter or pet walker come by each day? If considering a puppy, will you be able to arrange for someone reliable to take the pup out every 4 hours or so to become housebroken?
* Where will the animal be kept when no one is home?
A crate is advised for use during the transition period to help in housetraining, particularly for young dogs. And a safe, pet-proof room is advised for any animal.
* Can I afford a pet?
You'll need to budget for daily care items such as food, brushes, leashes, ID tags and toys, plus crates (highly recommended for any dog you adopt), beds, litter boxes, pet carriers...pet sitters or boarding at times you travel without the pet...and ongoing expenses for vet care and grooming. Put aside money to cover medicines, heartworm preventative, flea control products and major medical emergencies. If you're adopting a young or active pet, expect to pay for the replacement of a few shoes, cushions and valuables now and then.
* Do I have the patience for a pet?
Behavioral problems come with the territory, so you'll want to read about ways to avoid and solve problems and practice obedience training. Prepare for challenges from muddy paw prints to furniture scratches, fleas to accidents on the carpet, fur on rugs and couches, and a few destroyed shoes and other personal items. Time, patience and training can help you eventually solve most problems, but ask yourself if you're honestly ready for the challenges of having a pet.
* Can I make sure my dog gets regular interaction with people?
This is important for socializing a dog. He needs supervised, positive exposure to other people of various ages and backgrounds. He also needs enough exposure to other animals so that he is at least reasonably calm and controllable when passing them on the street. Socialization is needed from the start; it cannot be postponed, or you will likely have problems when going out in public with your dog or when having guests to your house.
* How big the dog will grow? How active the dog will be?
That cute little puppy may well grow into a large, rambunctious dog.
* Do I have a good veterinarian and puppy kindergarten class or obedience trainer lined up?
Don't wait until you have an immediate need for help. Obedience training will help you instill good behavior from the start. And puppy kindergarten is ideal for socializing young canines.
* What will happen to my pet when I travel, or if something happens to me?
Pet owners need to plan for those times when they're unable to care for their pets. Before getting a pet, make sure you can find a good petsitter or boarding kennel. Make plans with friends and family in case you are stuck at work for extra hours, or in case of an accident. Remember, a companion animal is totally dependent upon you.
* What if I have to move?
Shelters nationwide euthanize hundreds of pets daily for this very reason. Take the effort to find a new home that allows pets. Save money in advance so you can afford pet deposits. There are resources for locating pet-friendly rentals.
* Does anyone in the home have allergies?
What will you do to make sure allergies do not interfere with your ability to keep the pet? If anyone in the home is prone to allergic reactions, it's wise to consult an allergy specialist in advance.
* Is my child driving the decision to get a pet?
The simple fact is that kids are kids: When they are young enough to be at home most of the time, they are too young to take care of a pet. When they are old enough to assume this responsibility, they are developing interests and friendships outside the home and probably won't be around enough to follow through.
* Will I be a responsible owner? Make sure you can give a pet a long, healthy life in your home. After determining the kind of dog you want, attend dog and adoption shows, talk to owners of breeds under consideration, check out websites and books, and seek out only responsible breeders if you're set on buying an animal, or adopt from a breed rescue group, mixed breed rescue or shelter. Make your decisions based on reason, not emotion.