'Tis the season for gift giving, and what better gift is there than a brand-new puppy? That's what a lot of people think, and thousands of dogs that weren't quite right for their adopted family get surrendered to shelters every year. But how do you know if a dog will be right for you?
It's amazing how many families abandon dogs because they grew too large. In mixed breed dogs, it can sometimes be difficult to estimate adult size, so think about the maximum size dog you can accommodate. If you live in a small apartment, for instance, a Labrador, Rottweiler, or Great Dane may not be the best choice.
2. Activity Level
Dogs need exercise to thrive. There are a lot of fun ways to keep pups active, too, from walks and runs to fetch and tug of war. If it isn't possible for you to invest time every day into an exercise routine with your pooch, it may be ill advised to adopt. Those who work long hours or have no access to a large enough area to play are among the best examples.
3. Medical Care
Paying for your dog's care is more than just dog food! In addition to regular vet visits, grooming, and feeding, consider how it would affect your budget if your dog suddenly became ill and needed surgery, or required expensive, long-term medication. If it would break the bank and put you in permanent debt, it might not be worth the risk. Some dogs are even adopted without getting their shots or a spay/neuter surgery, so you may face up-front costs.
Do you have the time to train your dog? Can you remain consistent in the training for years? If not, you might be electing to have an unruly pet. Barking, aggression, destruction of property, and poor housetraining are just a few examples of how your perfect puppy can become a menace. But have no fear: there's a number of services that can help you train your dog if you aren't sure how, and even guides online that can show you the way if you can't take a class. But remember: if you and everyone in your house (children included) don't remain consistent in the training, your dog will slip into bad habits!
I've been very lucky to have helped raise many long lived dogs. With good care, a dog can reasonably live to 15 or even older! That's great news for pet owners wanting a long-term companion, but it comes with strings attached. Geriatric dogs tend to have more health problems, require medicine, or need special food, beds, or equipment. Definitely reconsider adoption if caring for an old dog doesn't appeal to you, but if it does, consider giving an elderly dog a home!
Enjoy the holidays, and if you're gifting a furry friend, be sure you're ready!
Photo: Original, Melissa Selleys 2019. "Zazi" the Pitbull Mix