Dear Pet Column,
I have never had a dog before and am feeling overwhelmed about knowing if I am ready for a dog and then how to pick the right dog for me. Please help.
Dear Dazed, I totally get it. I feel as though I am ready for a home but not sure how to pick the family. So I designed this interview process to assess candidates before I consider going home with them:
- Do you have the time to give me the love and attention I deserve?
- Can you provide me daily exercise and interaction with people and other dog friends?
- Can you afford the costs involved (food, routine vet care, potential extra/emergency medical costs)?
- Are your emotional expectations realistic? (A dog is not a furry little person – well, not all of us anyway.)
- Will I be living in the house as a valued family member? (We are pack animals and don’t do well living alone outside.)
- And my personal favorite: are you prepared to have your life expanded through the love and joy of doggiedom?
So once you pass my initial dog-readiness screening you will need to consider if you are the right kind of person for me. For instance, are you looking for a puppy or an adult (or in between? - at 11 months I am just getting ready to leave my puppy stage behind)? And you know if you choose a young puppy you need to quadruple the time and attention you have available for a dog, right? To blossom into well-mannered and safe dogs, puppies must be well socialized amongst different environmental settings, people, children, and other dogs.
Beyond the adult vs. puppy issue there is of course size and breed decisions and these should be aligned with your home environment (apartment with no yard vs house with yard) and lifestyle (couch potato vs energetic adventurer).
All dogs like to get out to play and run but some of us need to do so far more often and longer than others. As a Yorkie/Poodle I am not as high energy as many dogs but I certainly still will want you to take me out on nice walks every day.
Many “behavioral issues” are a result of dogs having too much pent up energy that we don’t know what to do with. Thus, investigate different breed types and temperaments when making a choice, my staff here at Second Chance can help you in finding your match.
I would also want to assess your expectations of me. What are you looking for in temperament (a dog that alerts you to threats outside of your home like squirrels, strangers and other dogs or one that is super passive?) Do you have children or other threats to a placid life (depending on how civil they are I would likely enjoy them but I would have to meet them first and see how comfortable I am with them). What is your tolerance for shedding (I don’t really shed but I will expect you to keep me well groomed).
I also will want to have a quality first date before making a commitment – come and spend some time with me at the Second Chance shelter and bring the whole family. Because I grew up in a place that was not safe I am a little timid upon first meeting people but once you earn my trust I will show you a love like no other. You will need to continue the progress I have made with leash training. I love other dogs but my priority will be you, and cuddling. My goal is to have a home for Valentine’s Day – come meet me today!