Tips: Adopting a Dog or Pup
Before You Adopt…
- Before you adopt, make sure that your lifestyle can accommodate a dog or pup. How busy you are and the amount of time you spend at home will dictate the kind of dog you should get. For example, if you are very busy, you may find it difficult to find the time for a dog that needs a lot of exercise and/or grooming.
- Determine whether or not you can actually afford a new pet. Food and unexpected vet bills can be expensive. Talk it out with your family, consider the implications of having a pet, do your research. Don’t be pushed in getting a new pup because (for example) your youngest child simply wants one – only to realize later that you really can’t afford the extra responsibility or having a pet doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle!
- Do you have any allergies? If you do suffer from severe allergic reactions, consider testing yourself for canine allergies before bringing a dog home. Then again, some people with allergies might adapt to their own pet but still be allergic to other dogs. A safe bet is to choose a dog with low allergens. Consult your vet, books, or animal shelter employees for suggestions. Please don’t adopt and then find out you can’t keep the dog. Research first; make sure this is the right decision for you.
- Consider adopting two dogs so that they have each other for company when you are away from home. Also, when you adopt a pet, remember that you should be adopting for life. You become the dog’s family and, unlike your kids, your pet is not going to grow up and leave home!
- Consider adopting a senior dog from a shelter. These poor animals have often been given up because the guardian has passed on, or for financial reasons and they can no longer be cared for, or simply because they are no longer “cute”. It can be so very rewarding to provide a safe haven for an older, less energetic, but still very loving pet… keeping in mind that with this special privilege one must also be prepared for the likelihood of more vet bills.
Doing It Right From Day One…
- Once the decision has been made and you’ve selected your new four legged friend, before bringing him home take him for a checkup and immunizations. Then try to be home with him for the first few days – to facilitate bonding and help him get accustomed to him new home.
- If you have adopted a pup be prepared for him to cry a lot at first. Even older dogs might whine or bark for a couple of nights because they are confused and unsettled about the move. Sleeping in your bedroom provides added security. So are routines, like the same time for meals, walkies, etc.
Be aware of “interesting places” where a tiny pup might hide, get trapped and/or seriously hurt, e.g. open cupboards, open fridge, open dryer, open washing machine, a wood stove left open and unattended, or a pile of clothes about to be laundered. Teach your children to lift pups by always putting a hand under their bottoms. Lifting by the tummy can damage tiny organs!
- Pups love to play. Balls and other toys especially designed for pups can be bought at most pet stores. Playthings needn’t be expensive (they can even be homemade), just make sure there’s enough to keep your dog happy, active, and mentally occupied. Make sure the toys are large enough that they won’t get lodged in the dog’s throat and that there are no small bits that can be chewed off that could present a potential choking hazard. Always supervise when your dog plays with squeaker toys. The squeakers are usually small and when the toy is “killed” by your pet the exposed squeaker can be dangerous.
- Have your pup spayed/neutered at 5 or 6-months-old. Spayed/neutered dogs are happy dogs; they are content to stay home and not get into fights or spray the furniture. Spaying and neutering also helps to prevent a host of ailments like certain types of cancers… and, in the long run, it’s easier on the wallet!
Ongoing Needs and Routines…
- If possible, make sure you start a grooming routine early. Bathing, brushing and trimming claws should be an event to look forward to, rather than something to dread. Also, to avoid dental issues, brush your dog’s teeth daily, keeping in mind that human toothpaste is like soap and not to be used on pets. Only use specially formulated pet toothpastes.
- Puppies can hold their water for one hour longer than their age. For example a three month old pup will need to relieve himself every 4 hours (3 months old + 1 = 4). Crating your pup will help with training but when the dog is young take him outside immediately after eating or waking from a nap. Try to get him out regularly so the dog will associate the outdoors with doing his business. If you can’t do that, leave the dog in a secure, safe area with his crate door open and place newspaper or, better still, doggie pee pads (available wherever pet supplies are sold) on the floor a little ways from his crate.
- NEVER rub your pup’s nose in an accident. NEVER punish your dog for an indoor accident. If you see your pup begin to squat, distract him quickly with a sudden noise, like clapping your hands or making a verbal sound to interrupt him… and immediately take him outdoors to eliminate. ALWAYS praise your puppy for doing his business outdoors. You can teach a dog to eliminate on command. Use your chosen command word(s) when the pup is eliminating and he will come to associate this command with doing his business. Your vet or a good dog trainer can advise on these issues.
- Make sure you buy well-balanced, age-appropriate food for your dog. Not all puppy foods are created equal. Large breed dogs will need puppy food longer than, say, a Pomeranian. They also will need a different sort of puppy food because of the rate of their growth. Some dogs can be weaned from puppy food before they are a year old and others should be on a puppy diet until they are 18 – 24 months old. Always consult your vet and/or your breeder for advice about food.
- Use stainless steel dishes with the rubber ring on the bottom; the ring prevents the dish from sliding. Stainless steel is easier to clean and sanitize. There are also stainless dishes that come with containment racks to hold them in place; and some that have velcro on the bottom that will attach to a mat. (In my experience many pet store employees do not have the necessary knowledge or training to give proper advice on diet)
- It’s big mistake to give your dog one of your old shoes to chew on! When you think about it… how is he supposed to tell the difference between an old holey running shoe and your brand new $300 leather boots? Puppies need to chew as they teethe and there are plenty of durable chew toys on the market. Kong brand chew toys are excellent. Should you catch your pup chewing on something inappropriate, a quiet “no” and substituting the item with an appropriate chew toy is the way to go.
- Make sure your pup can be identified if lost. Options include name tag, tattoo, and/or microchip. Tattoos are good but they can become distorted with growth. Name tags are easily removed. Microchip the only real safe way to identify a lost and/or disputed pet. If you choose to microchip, be sure to contact the manufacturer if your contact information changes. PetLynx, located in Alberta, Canada provides a data base for pets in case they are lost or stolen. For a one time small fee your contact details, pet photo, identifying markings, vet details, etc. can be uploaded onto their website and you will receive a special tag for your dog’s collar. The information can be updated anytime – for example when you are travelling (with or without your pet) – and the page can be downloaded to your PC for easy printing.
- Take your dog to a veterinarian at least once every two years for checkups. Consider purchasing vet insurance. The monthly cost will be minimal and if pup gets sick or injured vet bills can be extremely expensive. For more information about vet insurance talk to your vet.