So, you are thinking about adopting a dog. Now what?
Well, first- let me just say welcome to the light side. Life is so much better with at least one dog.
Second- I’m glad you are doing some Google searches to help prepare yourself. However, from my experience, both as an adopter and years in the rescue fields, I think we often don’t know enough to know what we don’t know. And so therefore, we don’t think to Google it.
I’m in several online dog groups and I thought I would crowdsource some advice. Coupled with my own experience, I picked the best comments to share with you.
I apologize for the quality of these screenshots. I tried to improve them to no avail.
Introducing new dogs to your other dogs. Let everybody decompress in their own time.
We’ve seen new adopters just bring the new dog home, plop it down on the kitchen floor and open the gate to other dogs.
Please don’t do this. Even the most mild and sweet dog will react less than gracefully in this situation. The dogs that live there will not be happy to have stranger in their home.
Introducing dogs on neutral ground is the best idea. A place where nobody feels it’s their territory. A dog park, or on a trail where you can hike for a bit with someone else and the dogs are on leashes.
Dogs are more defensive on leashes or behind fences, but you do need to have some control over the situation. Even if you are on a trail that nobody ever goes to, you should leash them. Each person with one dog.
Take a good hike side by side with your friend. Just let them meet and be in each other’s company. Don’t encourage them to play. Don’t allow for a great deal of face to face and sniffing. Quick meet… start hiking.
At first you can keep the dogs on the outside of you and your friend. Then slowly allow them to get closer and be in front of you.
Do Some Dog Breed Research
You don’t need to be an expert. Just have a pretty good idea of what you can generally expect from certain breeds and groups.
Even mixed breeds will often have the characteristics of the recognizable breed in them. The AKC has recognized 193 breeds. It has also broken them up into categories including toy, herding, working etc.
Each of these groups has some basic characteristics and then the individual breeds within those groups have more specific traits.
Expectations in Dog Adoption
Keep your expectations reasonable.
Sometimes it is hard for us to understand that we really don’t know much of anything about a particular dog. Just because it is this breed or that does not mean it will fit that description.
I know I just suggested that you do some bred research, and now it sounds like I’m telling you to not bother.
The younger the dog, the more likely it is to be in line (generally) with a breed trait. However, even very young dogs can have experiences that knock them out of their category.
Anytime we adopt a dog, we need to be flexible and open to what we get and who they are. And we do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Shelter or Rescue? Foster or Adoption
The last thing I want to do is turn anybody off from a shelter. I’ve worked with shelters for over 30 years. They are necessary and most-often, staffed by the most well-meaning people with the biggest hearts.
However, they are usually understaffed and underfunded and get a bad rap for the decisions they are forced to make.
Having said that, rescues can often offer a better history and experience. Rescues often utilize foster families who can then tell you of their personal experience with the dog you are thinking of adopting.
Consider that many dogs at shelters arrive with no history. They were picked up on a road and never claimed. Their age, temperament.. pretty much everything other than their sex, is just a guess.
They are placed in a cage or kennel and allowed to exercise and are fed. Sometimes a volunteer will notice something that makes particular dog a bit different.
A quizzical look.
What excites him. What doesn’t.
If Possible- Foster before you Adopt.
But oftentimes, there is one person doing their best to make sure everybody is fed and cared for and they really don’t have the opportunity to notice that silly floppy ear or the fact that Rusty doesn’t like getting his feet wet.
A foster can. Personally, I’d like to see the entire system become foster-based. I think there was a time when we needed a single physical place where all strays and abandoned are taken.
With access to the internet, though, I’d love to every dog taken in to a family, even if only for a day or two. However, this is another whole post.
All this to say, that if you have the option, work with a rescue who uses foster families. You’ll know a great deal more about your potential new family member