Adopting a dog is a very noble decision, and it can be extremely rewarding. In the United States, homeless animals outnumber homeless people 5 to 1. Of the dogs that find their way to a shelter, ⅔ will be euthanized due to overcrowding and lack of funds. By choosing to adopt a dog you are helping an animal who is in desperate need of saving. However, adopting a dog can have it’s own unexpected challenges, so here are the 5 things you need to know before you adopt a dog.
- Needs Training
Most rescue dogs come with some emotional baggage. In many cases we don’t know where they came from, or what they’ve experienced in their lives. This means that they often come ripe with behavioural issues. These dogs will typically need some extra training in order for them to understand the rules of the home. In most instances rescue dogs are superb to train because they are so eager to please. Introduce your dog to new things (like cars, people, and other dogs) slowly just in case he has any “skeletons in the closet” that you weren’t aware of. Be prepared to invest time into training your new rescue dog in order to help him settle into his new home.
- Prone to Separation Anxiety
Many rescue dogs will develop a condition called separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a psychological condition where the individual (in this case a dog) feels extreme fear when separated from someone, or something, that is has a strong connection to. Rescue dogs are prone to separation anxiety because many of them have never had a stable environment in their lives, and are therefore afraid of being abandoned. They have a hard time understanding that when you walk out the door it does not mean that you’re leaving forever. When they find a family that they like, they don’t want to let them go. As understandable as separation anxiety is in this case, it can be a major problem for dog owners. Separation anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, such as barking excessively, destroying things, or the dog injuring itself. Not all rescue dogs will develop separation anxiety, but do be prepared to deal with this issue should it arise.
- Financial Investment
Many people believe that adopting a dog will be cheaper than buying a puppy because the initial cash investment is less (puppies can cost $1,000+ to buy, whereas many rescue dogs are around $200). Though adopting a dog may be slightly less money initial, the average rescue dog will still cost the owner $1,000-$2,000 in the first year alone, and that’s not including unexpected medical costs (which often pop up after you bring the dog home). This price varies depending on the needs of your dog, the items you buy, and the quality of the items. This includes everything from flea and tick medicine, to food, to spay and neutering. Whether you buy a puppy or adopt a dog it is not cheap, so make sure that you are financially able to provide for the dog before you bring him home.
- Time to Adjust
Many rescue dogs have never had a constant environment, so it may take them a little while to settle in. The average rescue dog will take about 3 months in order to fully settle into their new home. This time varies depending on the dog, and depending on the nature of the home environment. The dog that you have after 3 months could be completely different than the dog you had on day 1. As time goes on, and a constant schedule is kept, your new dog will begin to feel comfortable, which will help him to show his true colours. This can be a very fun and rewarding process to watch, as your new dog begins to trust you and his new environment. Many new rescue dog owners will not give their new dog that time to adjust, and will make rash decisions before the dog has been given a chance to settle in. Before you make any such decisions about your new dog, make sure that you give it that time to adjust. Remember, his life is changing drastically, and it can be quite scary for him, so have some patience.
- Lengthy Adoption Process
All rescue organizations have different protocol when it comes to their adoption process. In some cases the process is fast, and in others it can take quite some time. Most rescues will require you to fill out a form about yourself and your home environment. They will ask you to provide references for them to call. Many rescues will also interview you before judging that you are fit to take the dog. This can be a lengthy process, so don’t expect to walk into a shelter and bring home a dog the same day. Not only will the rescue never let this happen, but you don’t want to base your decision on an impulse. When choosing a dog you will want to visit as many as you can, and spend some time thinking seriously about which dog will fit best in your life, and with your family. Ask questions, research the breed, find out as much as you can about the dog’s background. If you’re worried about someone adopting the dog that you want while you’re taking the time to think, then have the rescue put the dog on hold for you (some rescues will do this, and others will not). Remember, a dog can be a 14 or 15 year commitment, so you want to make sure that you make the right choice before you bring him home.
The last thing that you want to do after adopting a dog is to return it to the shelter because you weren’t aware of how much work it would be. Make sure that you know the facts before choosing to adopt a dog. Do your research, and spend the time thinking about what sort of dog would fit into your lifestyle. As many rescue dog owners will tell you, choosing to adopt a dog can be one of the most rewarding things that you do in your life. When you adopt a dog, you’re not only saving a life, you’re gaining a family member.