In honor of Bear’s birthday week I’m posting a highlight on finding your next canine companion through adoption. As many of you know, I adopted Bear as a silly 9 month old ‘reject’ from a shelter that I worked at in Iowa. That was nine years ago.
It’s been quite the journey: full of ups and downs, laughs and frowns. It’s not always been easy, but its been more than worth it! I’m a huge proponent of adoption (that doesn’t mean I don’t agree there are other appropriate methods of obtaining a dog!) and believe it can be a great solution for many families, but again will admit is not right for everyone. Disclaimer over let’s move on.
If you happen to be on the search for a new canine companion, I’ve got a few tips you may want to keep in mind. Thorough research is really the key to finding a good canine match for you and your family.
I suggest that you begin the search for your new companion at your local animal shelter regardless of your intentions to adopt. Simply visiting a shelter can give you a good idea of what type of dogs are available and what to expect from the adoption process. A visit to your local library is also a great start for your research, especially if you already have a few specific breeds in mind. They will have general canine books as well as breed specific books for you to browse.
Important Questions to Consider:
1. Can I afford a dog?
Dogs are expensive to keep and maintain, so its a requirement that certainly needs to be considered before making any decisions. On top of the basic fees like food, treats, toys and medications there are sometimes sneaky fees that come with dogs. For instance, if you’re not prepared to take your dog to the groomer every 4-6 weeks don’t adopt a shih tzu who needs this type of service on a regular basis. On top of a purchase or adoption fee, you may be looking at several hundreds of dollars in vet bills when your new dog needs shots and a spay or neuter surgery. Consider your best options- a lot of shelters give vaccines and spay or neuter pets before adoption- all these fees are built into the adoption fee so you end up getting a lot more for your money.
2.How much time do I have to spend with my new companion?
If the answer is ‘not much’ then consider adopting an older dog (or a cat or bunny!) from a shelter or rescue organization. Without the added requirements of housebreaking and puppy- proofing the house, an older dog is generally more able to fit into a new lifestyle quickly and seamlessly. Older dogs, especially those adopted from shelters are grateful and wonderful companions to have around and are better able to entertain themselves when left alone- I frequently catch my 10 year old Bear sleeping when I get home.
3. What type of activities do I want to do with my dog?
This should be a given, but if you’re a couch potato looking for a snuggle buddy, please know you are going to be miserable with a dog who needs ample and regular exercise like a German Short hair. Same goes if you’re an avid jogger and adopt a short-legged dog like a basset hound who honestly has no chance or desire of keeping up with you. To do: Jot down a list of your favorite outdoor activities/ways to exercise and label them on a level of 1-10 of physical exertion. Come up with an average level of exertion and try to find a dog who fits within your level. The Animal Planet Dog Breed Selector (discussed further down in post) can be a great asset when looking at this aspect of dog ownership.
4. What personality type will fit my life?
If you’re looking for a dog to protect the home there are certain breeds that are better suited for the job than others. Likewise, if you’re looking for a lap dog, smaller breeds like Pomeranians, Lhasa Apsos and Papillons (among others!) have the right personality, and size for this. When conducting research, consider what the breed was created for, and try to envision similar activities you and your potential canine companion could do together.
Visit pet rescue sites like Petfinder and browse adoptable pets. You can learn a lot about specific breeds and can search for pets in your area. Petfinder lists thousands of animals at any given time (317,000 listed just as I looked now!) and allows you to search for pets all across the US or in your local area.
Animal Planet’s website has a great resource for potential pet owners who may be having difficulties choosing a breed or identifying the right dog for their lifestyle. Called the “Dog Breed Selector” this short and informative quiz asks basic lifestyle questions and then comes up with compatibility ratings (in percentages) for your top 10 breed matches. The quiz can be found here , and only takes a few minutes to complete. When I took the quiz, some of my favorite breeds were my top matches, leading me to believe the quiz does a really accurate job if you take the time to answer the questions honestly.
If you have a specific breed you’re looking at, I recommend picking up a book specifically on that breed, maybe several and reading through them. Most breed specific books are written by someone who actually owns the breed or has bred them for years and thus has a great understanding of the nature of the dogs they work with. You can also check out a lot of dog care and dog breed books at your local library. I’ve always had good success with the Barron’s Dog Breed books: they’re cheap ($5-10), but I’ve always found them very thorough and they always come with great pictures and illustrations.
In reality, finding your perfect companion is going to take some initial legwork from you. But anything worth keeping is worth working for, and a little research before committing can be just what you need to ensure your own happy ending.
Sooo, now it’s your turn! Is anyone out there on ‘the search’ for a new (or another) dog to add to their family? What venues are you looking through, and how has your experience been so far? I’m dyingto add a third furry member to our family…so let me live vicariously through you!