Monday, December 7, 2009

Adopting a Dog: What You Need to Know

By Linda Cole

Adopting a dog is fun and exciting for the entire family. However, it's not as easy as simply walking into a shelter or kennel and walking out with your new friend. There are a few things to keep in mind before and during your search for the perfect dog. Regardless of whether you adopt a dog from a local shelter or visit a reputable breeder, knowing what characteristics you are looking for in a dog will make your search easier. When adopting a dog, you first need to know what kind you want – a purebred or mixed breed. With that behind you, there are a few other considerations which can help ensure your new dog is a good match for your family.

What size dog do you want? How much space you have, both inside and outside, is a factor in deciding what size dog to get. Certain breeds are more active than others and require more space. If you live in an apartment, a larger dog may not be a good fit. However, some bigger dogs are couch potatoes and the only extra space you would need would be on the couch. Small dogs are great for your lap and don't need as much room to stretch their legs. All dogs require exercise, though, and you need to be able to control them on the leash during your walks. If the dog outweighs you, a smaller one might be a better choice.

Adopting a dog requires some knowledge of different breeds. Not all dogs are good with kids. Since children have a tendency to run around and can be loud, especially while playing, it helps to understand how certain breeds could react with children in the home. If you decide to adopt a dog that isn't a purebred, understanding breed characteristics can help you determine how a mixed breed would fit into your family. A dog with mixed characteristics doesn't always show traits from each breed, but it can give you an idea if a dog could be excitable or more laid back. It also gives you an idea about any genetic or hereditary concerns the dog could develop later on.

When adopting a dog, consider other pets already in the home. Cats and dogs don't always get along. A playful puppy can be very stressful to an older dog or a cat at any age. Even a more mature dog that's been adopted from a shelter creates an unwanted change in the beginning for any pet already in the home. When adding any new pet, you need to know how to help them socialize with each other. The goal isn't to get them to be best friends. Proper introductions can ease a new meeting so all pets in the home feel secure knowing they still have your love and attention.

Exercise, food, grooming and any medical conditions need to be considered. Puppies and younger dogs have more energy and need to run and play. Most younger dogs are eager for a romp when you get home – do you have the time and energy for more than just a walk around the block? Bigger dogs will eat more than smaller dogs, and if you are adopting a dog from a shelter (especially an older dog), you need to know any medical conditions the dog has. Long haired dogs will require more grooming.

If you want a purebred puppy, buy one from a reputable breeder. Responsible breeders want to make sure their puppies are going to responsible pet owners. The puppies will be well socialized to people. They breed only healthy dogs and do testing to make sure puppies are healthy. Reputable breeders will provide you with information on possible genetic or hereditary diseases your dog could develop as they grow older. People who sell specific breeds do so because they love that particular breed of dog and they will be able to tell you everything you need to know about the dog. They will also have lots of questions for you.

Understanding what you need to know before bringing a new dog home can help you find the best dog for you. Whether you are adopting from a shelter or buying from a responsible breeder, you will find people who know the dogs and can answer your questions to help you find the perfect match. Be prepared for lots of wagging tails and eager eyes. With all the dogs and puppies to choose from, it won't be easy – but it will be fun!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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