Pet adoption offers an opportunity to foster the human-animal bond in a unique way. With shelters over-flowing, there exists large numbers of dogs available to meet the needs of any prospective adoptive parent. With a few considerations, this process can go very smoothly and ensure a forever home is provided for the canine.
Question one when considering adoption is deciding the type of dog one wants to adopt. While many pure breed canines are available, one should never discount the value in mixed breed dogs. Such animals tend to be much healthier overall due to a phenomenon called hybrid vigor. Used primarily in the cattle industry, hybrid vigor affords crossbred animals the best traits of multiple breeds of cattle, building a thriftier individual more adapted to its environment. Hybrid vigor also minimizes the risk of genetic anomalies or breed-specific health conditions that are seen in pure breed species, especially when indiscriminate breeding practices are in use.
Consider the current lifestyle you enjoy and how a new pet will fit into that. For example, if you are single, live in a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of an urban complex, and work twelve-hour shifts, a Border Collie may not be the best match for you. Full of energy, this breed needs a “job” and lots of exercise. Failure to provide such can lead to separation anxiety and potential damage to your home. Likewise, if you are looking for a pet to join you on long walks in the park or your jog on the beach, an English Bulldog is the wrong match, especially in hot climates. Puppies will require many nights of interrupted sleep during the house-breaking period, so factor that into your lifestyle and requirements for rest.
While often difficult to obtain, gather as much history as possible about the prospective adopted animal. History regarding length of time in the shelter, reason for surrender, personality around people and other animals, comfort in the cage/run (especially if that will be the housing situation when you are away), are all questions that should be asked.
While puppies are the most popular age group for adoption, consider an older animal. These age groups are usually much more abundant so there are more to choose from, and many of the behavioral/health issues have already been experienced, addressed, or have passed. Consider senior-age animals as a compassionate and loving way to assure that the remainder of these older dogs’ lives are in a peaceful and caring environment.
Always calculate the added costs involved in pet ownership. A key financial responsibility often forgotten about is the cost of veterinary care. Avoid “sticker shock” regarding veterinary services by visiting with your prospective veterinary care provider regarding costs. This leads back to the decision on type of dog adopted, as some breeds/age groups require more veterinary care than others. Older dogs are more likely to suffer serious health issues with obligatory increased costs of care. Your veterinary care provider represents a valuable source of information regarding breed specific concerns while you consider potential dogs to adopt.
Finally, make sure your home is prepared for the new arrival. “Dog-proof” your home by making sure that he has no access to potentially toxic houseplants or foodstuffs normally kept out on the table. Assess risks of objects falling from shelves and tables should they be bumped. Consider closing doors to areas where access is not desired or place baby gates in doorways. If a puppy is adopted, have many toys available to occupy his chewing time to avoid damage to personal property. If young children are in the house, assure proper hygiene is maintained after contact with the dog.
Responsibility comes with pet adoption; a responsibility to provide a caring home to animals that have often suffered in the past. With proper planning, the past can remain just that with a safe and bright future for the human-animal bond.