Adopting a dog is not a simple decision. Heck, it’s a freaking life event of its own because you are basically adding a whole other living being to your family. There are a lot of things you need to consider before deciding not only adopting a dog, but any pet (even fish).
But first, let me just share some exciting news before I dive into this post.
On January 31, 2021, Mike and I officially became new dog parents to our adorable Dominic! As new dog parents, we have learned a lot in just two weeks. While these new experiences are still fresh in my mind, I figured I’d detail some of the things I learned as a new dog mom to an adopted pet from the shelter.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a trained professional when it comes to dogs, dog healthcare, dog diets, animals shelters, or anything that requires professional consultation from a veterinarian, animal behavioral experts, or dog trainers. Please remember to seek professional help for very specific questions as I am simply speaking from personal experiences. If it helps you sleep at night, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an issue. Thank you.
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My Past Experiences with Dogs
Before I move forward, I do want to say I have taken care of dogs before.
Enzo, the Tejada family’s family dog who passed away in November 2018. Was a pomeranian mix who my dad mainly took care of. Since Enzo was the first dog I ever lived with, I can confidently say that I did not know what it really took to own a dog. Sure, you have to feed, walk, and bathe them, but there are many other responsibilities, such as obedience training, medical, and dental needs.
In 2018, I also started living with another dog in Virginia at Mike’s house whose name is Ace, a Staffordshire Pitbull. Ace is the Huynh family dog, essentially, and is now 7 years old. Knowing what I learned from the good and bad from having Enzo, I am more aware of what dogs need to live a happy, healthy life. Although he wasn’t my dog, I did what I could for Ace such as a jacket for the winter, making sure his paws are clean to fend off potential infection or allergies, and up to date flea prevention. As a result of living with Ace, I learned a lot more things since Ace is a completely different breed than Enzo.
After living with and partially taking care of two dogs since 2004 as well as Mike and I discussing adopting our own dog for the past year, we finally made the decision to start looking for our new fur baby.
What to Do Before Adopting a Dog
1. Think Long and Hard Before You Adopt
Whether you live alone, have roommates, have a family, or are co-adopting with your significant other, you must discuss and think thoroughly about adopting a dog. Again, this is not a simple decision.
Although there are a lot of questions to ask, here is a list of questions I asked myself and Mike before adopting a dog:
How much space do you have?
- Is there enough space for a crate, dog feeder, dog storage (i.e. toys), dog bed, etc?
- Is there enough space for the dog to play?
- Is there enough space for everyone to live comfortably?
Is your location fit for a dog?
- Is there enough space in your area to take the dog around, such as parks, dog parks, trails, pet stores, etc?
- Can you easily access the vet, groomers, training facilities, etc.?
- Is it loud where you are? (i.e. traffic, live music, neighbors, sirens, etc.)
- Is your area dog friendly? Your area doesn’t have to be dog friendly, but it sure helps.
How much time can you dedicate everyday to taking care of the dog?
- Do you have time to walk the dog?
- If you live in an apartment, do you have enough time to take the dog out multiple times a day to potty?
- Do you have enough time to do basic training?
- Will your work schedule interfere with taking care of the dog?
- Is your schedule flexible enough to tend to the dog’s needs, such as visits to the vet and/or groomer?
- If you are co-adopting, can everyone dedicate enough time to taking care of the dog?
Do you have the financial means to support the dog? This includes
- Medical needs (visits to the vet, medications, pet insurance, medical emergencies, etc.)
- Food and diet (some dogs have allergies to certain foods and may need special food)
- Toys to keep the dog stimulated throughout the day
- Training (some dogs may need professional training)
- If you are co-adopting, who will be responsible for the finances or will you split it?
Do you have the energy to adopt a dog?
- Most of the time, puppies and young dogs tend to have a lot of energy compared to adult and senior dogs. Younger dogs may also require a lot more training such as potty training and crate training. Make sure you are ready to deal with potty accidents or whining if you’re adopting a younger dog.
- If you have kids, are you ready to take care of another kid in the form of a dog?
- If you have other pets, are you ready to socialize and train all the pets to ensure a smooth transition for your new fur baby?
Are you aware of situations that will require professional help?
- It is okay to not get everything right as a dog parent. With that being said, as a dog parent, you need to know when to bring in professional help if something is not quite right with your dog. A good example is sudden increase in weight, allergies, or aggressive resource guarding behavior.
Are you ready to be responsible for another living being?
In other words, if you cannot take care of yourself, you are not fit to take care of someone else.
2. Do Your Research on Dog Breeds Before Adopting a Dog
I believe knowing what kind of dog you want to adopt is extremely important.
You are setting yourself up for success.
By knowing what kind of dog you want to adopt. By doing your own research on the different breeds you are interested in, you discover which breeds better fit your lifestyle, such as activity level, grooming, size, diet, training, etc.
Access to resources and communities.
Once you narrow down your options, you can find specific resources or communities that may have important information for all levels of dog owners: first-time adopters to experts, single dog parents to dog parents with multiple kids and/or pets.
You can prepare yourself to ask important questions when inquiring about a certain dog.
For example, pitties tend to have skin allergies. So Mike and I made sure to ask the shelter if Dominic has shown any signs of excessive paw licking or biting. Turns out, he did. So we made sure to ask the vet to take a close look at his paws to find out if he needs medication.
You can better answer the questions in the previous section when doing your research and find out the needs of certain dog breeds.
Basically, doing your research on different dog breeds will make the adoption process a whole lot easier.
Doing your research on different dog breeds will make the adoption process a whole lot easier.
3. Consult Your Friends Who Are Dog Parents, Work at Animal Shelters, Veterinarians, Behavioral Specialists, etc.
If you have friends who are dog parents, make sure to talk to them to find out about their experiences. If you are lucky and have friends who work with dogs in some way like we did, definitely consult them.
Thanks to our friend, Jen Yang who works at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria in Virginia, we learned about the difference between adopting from an animal shelter versus a private animal rescue. She also told us the new procedures shelters across the DMV area are taking due to COVID-19.
Most of all, her best advice from our conversation was to look around as much as you can. All of these beautiful animals deserve a forever home, but do not be hasty when adopting a dog. However, shelters have seen adopters return their adoptions and quite honestly, it’s heartbreaking.
Please, whatever you do, think carefully about every step you take throughout the adoption process.
My Final Thoughts on Adopting a Dog
Adopting Dominic was one of the best decisions Mike and I made. Even though we did not have a smooth start when we brought him home, we were prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally thanks to our “pre-adoption prep”.
In addition to our preparation, we also had lots of post-adoption guidance specific to Dominic from the shelter we adopted him from (thank you, Animal Welfare League of Arlington in Virginia). After Dominic’s visit to the vet, we had even more guidance on dieting, mediciaton, wellness, and more.
All in all, adopting a dog is a wonderful thing and we just absolutely love Dominic. We cannot wait to share more moments with him and we hope you are all too.
So tell me, are you looking to adopt a dog?