If you’ve been thinking, “should I adopt a dog?” you’ve come to the right place.
Rescue dogs can come from the pound, a no-kill shelter, a rescue group, or even someone you know, such as friends, family, or acquaintances.
You should adopt a rescue dog over buying from a breeder, because not only will you help save a life, but you also open up space that a shelter or rescue can use to help the next animal in need of adoption.
Getting a new dog is a fun experience, but you should make a few considerations before you bring your new friend home.
Should I Adopt A Dog, Is Your Family On Board?
Check-in with your family and make sure that everyone is as excited about getting a dog as you are. Talk with them about what adding a new family member will mean for each of them, along with responsibilities.
Will your kids be responsible for daily walking? Who will feed your pup every morning and night?
Make sure that everyone is aware of what expectations this new dog comes with.
Fostering a dog before committing to adopting an animal may be a good way to ensure a rescue dog is the best option for your family.
Consider the time investment
Dogs are higher maintenance than some more unaffected pets may be, such as a fish. Here are some activities that you and your family will want to consider when preparing to bring home your new four-legged family member from the shelter.
The AKC recommends a minimum of an hour walk a day to keep your dog healthy. A puppy will need shorter walks that occur more frequently throughout the day, whereas an adult dog will be able to go on one much longer walk. A senior dog will still need a walk but may need a shorter hike that’s easier on their joints and bones.
Your new adopted dog’s breed will also play a part in how much walking they will need. High energy dogs such as Belgian Malinois and Border Collies will need a lot more exercise than the notoriously lazy bulldog.
Before you bring your new rescue dog home, decide:
- When you will take your walks, such as in the morning, after work, etc.
- Is there a dog park close by that you can take your dog every day?
- Will you play fetch or try agility training for exercise instead of regular walking?
Other types of exercise could include:
- Joining you skating
- Body-intensive work such as drafting, dog sledding or bikejoring
- Obedience training and exercise
- Dog-related sports such as agility, diving, scent work, flyball, and more
There are indoor exercises you can do as well, such as playing fetch. Up and down stairs, playing hide and seek, training your dog to use a treadmill, lots of tug, and agility over homemade obstacles.
Depending on the breed of your dog, it may need more frequent grooming.
Longer hair dogs need a lot of brushing almost every day. Whereas a short and wiry-haired dog like a terrier will be fine with a brush once or twice a week. Even hairless dogs, like a Chinese crested dog, will need to be groomed every other week.
Talk to your veterinarian on how often they suggest grooming your dog at home, as well as how often they recommend bringing your fur friend to a professional groomer.
Other grooming needs include:
- Trimming and cutting nails
- Getting clipped
- Moisturizer or sunscreen
Cleaning up the yard
If you have a yard, you will quickly realize how often it will need to be cleaned up.
Some dogs may dig holes, some may dig up plants, and some may even try to climb fences. Consider the time investment required for picking up poop, filling in holes and training not to dig, and any other types of less than ideal behaviour.
No matter if you adopt a short-haired or long-haired dog, there will be extra housework that you will need to consider before bringing your new friend home.
Types of extra housework could include:
- Vacuuming up of excess hair
- Cleaning accidents, especially during house training or housebreaking
- Foraging in the trash bin (and training to not do so anymore)
- Other types of “house” behavior that may arise, such as rearranging furniture, destroying pillows and toys, and more
Spending quality time with the dog
In the beginning, it will be crucial to spend extra time with your new friend. The first few months will be spent developing trust and increasing your bond.
This is an especially important time. Reinforcement of training and acceptable behaviors will be taught during these first few months.
Some adopted dogs have behavioral issues. You should prepare for the worst, and be surprised by the best.
There is a stigma that a lot of shelter dogs are broken, or have high medical bills, but this is not the case. Many shelter dogs are very well-trained and even-tempered. Some rescues even specialize in already housebroken and trained dogs!
However, don’t be scared off by dogs who are:
- Anxious, scared, or seem aggressive.
- Initially destructive, as some dogs may destroy things when they first come home
- Protective of resources, such as food, toys, and beds.
The first 30 days are critical for training, as you’ll want to address:
- Crate training
- In-house manners
- Outside manners
- Positive words
- Their name
All dogs can be trained, but you may need to put in extra time with a rescue dog than a non rescue. They will be frightened when they first come home, but with lots of love, patience and persistence, you will end up with a loyal and loving best friend.
There are a lot of financial concerns with a new dog. Can you afford a new dog? Can you afford a dog as it grows from a puppy or young dog to senior, as some breeds can live to 15-20 years old?
The Simple Dollar gives lifetime costs of a pet, which can help you to figure out your weekly, monthly, and yearly budget for your new pet.
To begin, the adoption cost will vary based on the source, but consider that it could cost upwards of $800 to adopt your new friend. (Some shelters do free or low-cost weekends, which are great times to adopt your new pet and help to clear a shelter!)
Once you select your dog, you will need to see if the shelter or rescue have already microchipped, treated for fleas, ticks, and heartworm, as well as spay or neutering.
Some shelters and rescues will handle these expenses before you adopt, but if not, all of that could run you around $500 or more.
There will be both regular and unexpected medical costs. Routine vet visits can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Depending on the vaccines and dental care your dogs will need, and preventative medication for fleas & ticks will also increase that vet visit.
Pet insurance is a monthly expense that can ease those costs in the long term but will need to be considered.
Grooming costs will include at-home tools such as brushes and lint rollers, whereas groomers can run $20 to $75 per visit.
Food costs will vary depending on the size of your dog. Small dogs will need smaller amounts, whereas a Great Dane will need significantly more food a day.
Check your local pet store on costs, and ask your vet what type of food they recommend. Puppies and seniors need specially formulated food to help their systems.
There will be equipment costs that vary from very small to quite expensive. These could include:
- New backyard fencing
- Water & food bowls
- Activity & training tools
- Crate or “house” for your dog
Training, while optional, is an integral part of helping your dog learn “good” manners”. Classes can run upwards of $150 per class, and each class usually consists of 4-8 training sessions in group or solo settings. Or you can read one of our top picks for puppy training here.
If you travel semi-frequently or even just occasionally, make sure that you budget for pet setting when you go away. If you are super busy and work long days, you may also want to consider daily dog walking to keep your dog exercised and entertained.
Some dogs will be more expensive to adopt than others. A dog of unknown parentage from the shelter could cost you $50, whereas an English Bulldog from a rescue could cost you $5,000 or more.
If you rent
If you rent, you will need to ask your landlord about their pet policies.
Important questions to consider are:
- How long is your lease? Will you need to add pet rent to your current lease?
- Will you move to another house soon? Will that house or apartment allow dogs?
- How many rentals allow a dog in your area? If you already have another pet, how many pets are allowed per household in your location?
Do you need to dog-proof your home?
Especially in the beginning, it is crucial to dog-proof your home while you establish what “inside” manners are and the rules of your home.
Some things to consider while dog-proofing your home are:
- Is the yard fenced?
- Will your dog be outside during work hours, or have access to the yard to go potty?
- Will snow or extreme heat need to be addressed?
- Are there any areas that need to be fenced off, such as gardens, ponds, or swimming pools?
- Do you have any plants poisonous to dogs?
- Do you have breakables or valuables that are low enough the dog could accidentally knock them over or break them?
- Do you have any exposed wiring (such as the plug for your computer or TV) that a curious dog could chew on?
What size and gender dog are you after?
It might not be the best choice to have a large, or hyper dog in a small apartment. However, a calmer or little dog might be a better choice.
It is essential to know how much it is going to cost to feed the dog you want. Another point to consider is how much room they need to move around, how much exercise they will need, and common illnesses that may arise for that breed.
It may be helpful to write down the pros and cons of each type of dog breed, and then decide if that breed will fit into your current lifestyle.
Consider The Energy Level Best Suited To Your Home Environment
It is vital to match the level of energy of your dog at your current level. Dogs in the working breeds may misbehave if they get too bored, so it’s essential to match your energy with your dog breed.
If you are not an active person, a lazier dog like a bulldog may be better suited. If you are always on the go and want a dog that will keep up with you, herding breeds like an Australian Shepard might be best.
If you’re looking for a laid back companion, like a lapdog, the Mastiff is massive but calm and gentle, and the pug is outgoing but even-tempered.
High energy dog breeds that will be able to keep up with your super active lifestyle include the energetic Yorkshire Terrier and Siberian Husky.
Depending on your neighborhood, you may have concerns to consider.
Will your dog bark a lot? Will your neighbors hate you, and will that be a concern to you? Are there sidewalks you can walk on, parks or trails you can go to, or green spaces to play on?
When you are at the shelter or rescue center, ask if the particular dog you like tends to bark a lot.
The dogs most likely to bark are:
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- Basset Hound (they have a distinct howl!)
- Miniature Pinscher (and its full-size counterpart)
- Beagle (and its trademark siren call)
Are you excited?
While there are many concerns for initially bringing home your shelter dog, there is also a lot of excitement.
Check out your current living situation, and if you’re renting, look into the extra steps bringing a dog home will require.
Make sure that you can afford to own a dog, as there will be monthly and yearly costs that can pile up. These include preventative medication, food, routine vaccinations, and grooming.
Finally, if you have found this helpful, please share it with your family friends!