Hello! I love your blog even though I've never messaged before ^^; You seem like a good person to ask this to tho. Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to adopt their first dog as an adult? I've grown up around them but this will be my first time picking my own. PS: i'm sorry you're missing your puppies :(
I am glad that you asked me! I’m more than happy to answer this question.
A few things to consider before you choose Your Very First Dog Of Your Own:
- What age dog do you want? Are you comfortable raising a puppy? Are you going to be home enough to raise a puppy? Puppies are like toddlers, they need constant supervision and cannot be crated for long periods. If you’re not going to be home for most of the day - or someone isn’t going to be home who is committed to helping you raise this puppy and watch it like it is the baby it is, then don’t get a puppy! But that’s okay because there are a LOT of adult dogs who need love and forever homes. It’s not an admission of failure to say ‘I can’t have a puppy.’ That’s being responsible.
- Where does a dog fit into your life? Do you want a cuddle buddy? Do you want a dog to go on walks with you a couple of times a day? Do you want a dog that will be active with you, that will like water? Are you capable of handling a big dog? Would you prefer a small dog? If so, how small? If you get a dog that requires grooming (like a poodle, for example), is that a manageable expense? Do your research up front so you don’t regret it later. Read up on breeds, give yourself an honest, soul-searching appraisal of what you want in a dog, and don’t rush headlong into falling in love. You’re making a commitment for life.
- Start thinking about dog-proofing your house before you even look at a dog. Cap, our puppy, is an inveterate shoe-chewer. We have to put ALL SHOES up out of his reach, because he’s still a baby and we’re working on that bad behavior. What might you have to do in order to make your home safe for a dog, especially one that might have issues you can’t foresee, like separation anxiety or house-training issues (even housebroken dogs can un-housebreak if they’re in shelters too long)?
- Do you have a local rescue you can work with for fostering? Some of the best adoptions are what we call “failed fosters.” That’s when a dog is saved from euthanasia by a wonderful human, that dog and that human bond, and then that dog stays with that human and they are bestest friends. That is, in fact, how we got our big fuzzy floomph, Lex. We snatched him out of the jaws of death – committed to rescue him less than an hour before his PTS deadline – and we only intended to foster him. We meant it. Our first dog had just passed and we weren’t ready for another permanent dog yet. Lex made that decision - he fell in love with @dadhoc, and he refused to go anywhere else. In fact we almost named him ‘Shadow’ because he clung to DadHoc just like one. Think of fostering as ‘doing a good deed while also auditioning a dog.’ For someone in your situation, that might be exactly what you need.
- If you don’t have a local rescue - and I bet you do - check your local shelters. Can you volunteer there? If not, can you just go in and hang out with some dogs? Your local shelter will appreciate it a lot if you can do that. Even if you don’t adopt that dog, maybe someone will see you playing with a particular dog and go ‘wow, that dog is great! I love that dog!’ And keeping dogs active and socialized helps them get adopted, because they’re in a better mood and healthier.
- Do. Not. Buy. A. Dog. Unless. You. Need. A Specific. Breed. For. A. Specific. Purpose. And. Are. Buying. From. A. Reputable Breeder. There are more dogs than there are homes. If you want a companion animal, rescue one! It’s totally okay to work with a reputable breeder – do your research! – if you need a specific breed for issues like ‘trainability’ or ‘big enough to help me up off the floor if I fall down’ or ‘can reach a lightswitch’ or ‘allergies.’ That’s totally fine! What’s not fine is supporting puppy mills. Many places that used to sell dogs now adopt them through from high-risk shelters – we got Cap through a local pet store but we have papers confirming he came from a shelter in West Virginia, which we were able to contact and independently verify that we were adopting from a legitimate shelter. There is no excuse for supporting a puppy mill. (Nope, none. I feel very strongly about this.)
- Fix your dog. No, fix your dog. FIX YOUR DOG, or get a dog that is already fixed. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. There are more dogs than there are homes, and while I’ve typed this answer, several dogs were euthanized - killed - are now dead - for sheer lack of space. Unless you have a papered purebred dog and intend to breed them in a responsible manner, fix your damn dog. Do not “backyard breed” your dog or allow your dog to become part of a “backyard accident.” (Exceptions exist here for people who breed their own non-purebred working dogs, but you aren’t running a farm, are you? No? Okay.) You are only contributing to a) shelter overcrowding and b) the idea that having an unfixed dog is okay if you don’t fix your damn dog. Too many people believe it is ethical to let their dogs wander about unfixed. (There are a lot of behavioral reasons, too, why it’s good to fix your dog, but let’s talk just about ethical ones here.)
- Get your dog microchipped. It’s really not that expensive, many places run clinics for it, and will help you find your friend if they slip their collar. Every dog I’ve ever had has been microchipped. It’s massive peace of mind.
- Consider how your schedule is going to have to change for your dog. You’re going to have to get up a little earlier and go to bed a little later. That’s just a fact.
- Discuss this decision with anyone you live with. Discuss it over time. Let everyone think about it.
- Give yourself time to find the right dog for you. It’s okay if you find the right dog on the first day and you fall in love and the dog loves you (of course the dog loves you). But if you don’t click? That’s okay! It’s really okay. When we were looking for a dog after Mia passed, we looked for three weeks. When I was looking for a companion for Mia before that? I was looking for a couple of months - actively looking. I visited puppies at our local pet store’s adoption center for a couple of months before we happened upon Cap, and we bonded immediately.
- Give yourself time to settle in. Remember your dog is going through a huge, wonderful, but stressful life change when it comes home with you. Give your dog time to settle in and get to know you, and give yourself time to understand and know your dog. Your dog has a personality, and so do you.
- Consider obedience classes. Seriously consider it, and almost definitely do it. Even if your dog is amazingly well-trained already, because you adopted a dog who was previously owned by a great person who fell on hard times and had to give up their dog, going to classes is a great way to bond with your dog! And it will let you find out where the ‘holes’ in your dog’s training are.
- Don’t go to the dog park or a big park with lots of other dogs right away. Let your dog get settled in before you take them to deal with other dogs. That will let you learn your dog’s body language, too, so you know if they’re having fun or really stressed out and about to lash out or pee on your shoe.
- Accidents are going to happen. Be ready for them. Don’t beat yourself up about it if your new dog piddles on the floor because you didn’t get the leash fast enough. Your dog can’t tell you if it ate something bad and has to poo really bad at 2 AM. I mean, it can bark at you but … it cannot say ‘friend, I have an upset stomach because I ate part of your shoe/a bug/some grass. Please be ready to take me outside tout suite because otherwise I may do something indelicate upon your lovely rug.’
- Set aside money for vet bills, or consider finding a vet that will allow you to pay into a health plan (we do this with Banfield and it’s very helpful for budgeting). You will be responsible for making sure your dog is up to date on its shots, so don’t skip this.
- Make sure you know ahead of time what the licensing laws are, what your landlord might require for a dog, etc. You don’t want to get caught on a snag once you’ve fallen in love.
- Consider adopting a black dog. They are the hardest to adopt and are often the first euthanized. Look at the black dogs first. Be a great person like that.
- Go out there and fall in love with the Best Dog In The World.
Good luck my friend. Dogs are so good. You’re going to be very happy! I would love to see pictures of your new friend once you have fallen in love.