They say some of the best things come in small packages, but we think they may just come with paws instead.
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed dog lover or are merely seeking a newfound sense of companionship, you may just find yourself contemplating adoption in an attempt to expand your happiness while earning a new best friend in the process.
But while you may go into the shelter with the best of intentions, it’s important to remember that adopting a new dog requires incredible amounts of dedication, time, and responsibility. Although every dog deserves a loving home, they also need an owner that’s willing to make that extra level of commitment, too.
1. Evaluate Your Level of Time Dedication
When you go to the shelter and see a smiling face that makes your heart melt, your immediate reaction may just be to take this four-legged companion home with you. But if you find yourself with little spare time to dedicate to this animal throughout the day, think again before you sign those final adoption papers.
Remember that shelter dogs may need more time to adjust to their surroundings and thus require more effort on your part as they become an established part of the family. Realize that adopting a dog requires hours of training, exercise time, and simple bonding time, too.
2. Know the Financial Commitment
When you adopt a dog, you agree to become that animal’s future care provider — an act that may cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in bills.
From potential injuries to regular vet checks, adopting any dog is a financial investment. The annual cost of pet ownership is projected to be roughly $1,270 per year and may be even higher for first-time dog owners. Remember to establish an emergency fund while preparing your finances if you decide to adopt.
3. Find the Ideal Fit for Your Family
If you have small children or babies in the household, you may be tempted to adopt that smaller dog waiting for you at the shelter.
Toddlers who have not grasped the concept of the effect of their actions may be more likely to hurt an animal during playtime unknowingly. Remember always to evaluate the needs of your family when adopting while prioritizing the best circumstances for the potential adoptee, too.
4. Be Ready for Walks
If you adopt a new animal, Pet experts recommend roughly 30 minutes to two hours of active exercise every day. Remember that even two days in the shelter can feel like two years to an animal, so it’s a no-brainer that they’ll want to get out and run once you take them home.
Prepare yourself for endless hours of playtime when you adopt a new furry friend. Exercise is not only essential to their overall sense of well-being, but an active lifestyle also makes for a happier pup, too.
5. Be a Source of Friendship and Guidance
It can be difficult to retrain a dog, especially when they’re older or more accustomed to a different mode of living. But while you may find yourself assuming a position of authority at first while you lay down the rules, remember always to be a trusted companion as well.
Realize that uprooting their old life and starting a new beginning with you may be scary at first for your new adoptee. Always be their trusted friend while helping them navigate their new start with you, too.
6. Keep Your Dog Happy Through General Care
You can enjoy a little pampering every now and again — and dogs do, too. Think of adopting a dog as similar to adding a new family member to your home. You take on the responsibility of being this animal’s future provider for the rest of their life, much like a new child.
Remember to schedule monthly nail clipping, grooming and bathing sessions. Invest in all of the proper flea-preventative measures while keeping your dog in top shape so that they can look good and feel good, too.
7. Be Prepared to Spay or Neuter
When you pick up a puppy or younger dog, it’s important to play your role in controlling the pet population by spaying or neutering your new furry friend.
Not only does spaying or neutering your dog prevent future animals from potentially ending up at the shelter, but it also helps improve your dog’s overall health. You’ll find that your pet will be much less aggressive, less likely to contract tumors and more likely to establish a healthier existence through the simple act of neutering.
8. Prepare For Pet Loss — Especially With Elder Dogs
Not every dog at the shelter is a puppy. In fact, you may find that a significant portion of the furry creatures in need of an adoptable home are seniors. But just because they found their way to the shelter later in life doesn’t mean they’re any less deserving of a fun and loving home.
If you decide to take on the noble task of caring for an elder dog during their final years or days, then prepare your family for the loss that will one day come. When your animal passes, remember that 87 percent of pet owners experience at least one symptom of grief and 35 percent experience grief after six months, so it is important to let yourself and your family grieve.
Before you make that next big jump and establish an everlasting sense of friendship with that pup at the shelter, be sure you’re prepared mentally, physically, and financially to give your future companion the life that he needs.
By Emily Folk / Twitter @EmilySFolk