First, congratulations on your decision to adopt! At this moment, there are millions of dogs waiting in shelters, rescues and foster homes for that perfect someone to walk into their lives.
While these strategies may not make you perfect, they will help put you and your new dog on the path to a beautiful, lasting relationship.
1. Lifestyle Assessment
Before you walk into the shelter and fall for the first cute pooch you lock eyes with, think about your lifestyle. Whether this is your first dog, or you’re a veteran dog parent, the most important question to ask yourself and your family is how your new companion will get all of his or her needs met and still fit into your current lifestyle. This evaluation includes your work and travel schedule and the availability of other family members.
Will someone be there for daily walks and playtime with the new addition to your home?
Bottom Line: Make sure your schedule allows you to devote the time necessary for training, exercising and bonding with a new canine family member—and not just for the first few weeks of their arrival! If not, you might want to rethink the timing of your adoption.
2. Energy Level Evaluation
Being honest about your energy level is key to ensuring both your new dog and you a satisfying life together. For example, if you’re a couch potato at heart, don’t convince yourself that once you get a dog you’ll be training for marathons together. Get a dog whose energy level matches yours.
While all dogs need daily physical exercise and mental stimulation, some breeds and mixed-breeds are super high energy and demand tons of exercise and maybe even competitive training—and I do mean demand! So the working and herding breeds are probably not your best match if you fall lower on the energy scale.
Bottom line: Evaluate your energy level and that of your family members, and talk with the shelter staff about the energy level of the particular dog you’re interested in—they will be able to help you decide if you’re a good match.
3. Home Review
Speaking of evaluations, do a once-over of your home to “dog-proof” it before bringing your new pet home. This includes safely storing poisons, medicines, and even food out of temptation’s reach. If you’re new to pet parenting, you’ll have to “train” yourself to store potentially hazardous items (and this could simply mean your favorite chocolates) away from your dog’s prying paws.
If you have other pets, make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations and in general good health—a wellness check with your veterinarian is a good idea, making sure to discuss your potential adoption. And perhaps most importantly, talk with shelter staff about how the particular dog you’ve chosen gets along with other dogs and cats.
When I adopted my dog, I had a cat who was still mourning the loss of our elderly pooch. The shelter tested my prospective new dog with their “house” cat and detected no aggressive tendencies toward felines. I was even allowed to bring my soon-to-be new family member home for a half-day trial run.
You also should discuss your new dog’s caregiving schedule with your family members, and agree on the boundaries and rules you’ll all establish together.
Will he or she be allowed on the furniture, to sleep in your bed or have full run of the house?
Consistency is crucial to acclimate and train your new dog in house etiquette.
Bottom Line: Determine how each person in your household will follow through with caregiving before you bring your new dog home. Remember that a dog is a full-fledged family member and benefits from consistently enforced rules, boundaries and of course, lots of affection—just like your human family!
Why take the time to evaluate and plan before you adopt a dog?
Because you’re making a commitment for the life of your new family member, and preparation is key to a smooth transition for both your new pooch and you. Here’s to saving a life and gaining a most loyal companion!
Joan DeMartin is a freelance writer, adjunct college instructor and recovering attorney. Since 2009, she and her dog, Bocci, and cat, Bella, have collaborated on the pet blog, , to promote pet adoption and rescue. Joan, Bocci and Bella live and work in Columbus, Ohio. You may contact her at: