Having a new dog to join the family is no doubt an exciting decision. It's easy to get swept up in puppy fever when you meet a friend's new pup or browse through lists of adoptable dogs in your area. Before taking the plunge into adopting a dog, though, there are a few very important things you should consider.
1. Choosing a dog that fits your lifestyle
Take some time to really think about what an average day looks like for your household. Are you the type that goes for a jog every day after work, or do you prefer to take it easy and hang out on the couch? Do you have a large and busy family with children, or do you have a smaller and more mellow home life? What type and frequency of mental and physical exercise can you realistically provide for a new dog? There are no wrong answers here, and the more honest you are, the better a fit you can find for your family. One of the best things about dogs is that there are so many different dog breeds and personalities out there!
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Try to avoid adopting a dog to help fulfill aspirational goals, and instead focus on your current lifestyle. For instance, if you are usually more of a homebody but you would like to start exercising and adventuring more, that's fantastic! But maybe reconsider acquiring an extremely active working breed as motivation for that goal. With some training, physical conditioning, and your vet's approval, most breeds with moderate energy levels can keep up with your plans.
2. Adopting a puppy vs. an adult dog
There are unique pros and cons to every different age of dog, and there is also a lot of room for nuance with individual personalities. Let's look at some of the broad strokes differences between adopting a puppy or an adult dog.
Puppies are undoubtedly little serotonin boosters. They're adorable, inquisitive, and it can be so exciting to watch them grow. While no puppy is a blank slate in terms of behavior, there is typically a little more leeway to socialize and expose your new puppy to your world. At the same time, puppies are so much work. Between potty training, independence training, socialization, basic manners, chewing, play biting, and other expected baby animal shenanigans, raising a puppy can be a full time job. Puppy teeth are sharp and relentless, and the totally normal teething phase can be especially difficult for young children or seniors. If you bring a puppy into the family, get ready for 2-3 years of puppyhood and adolescence before they settle into social maturity.
Adopting an older dog means skipping ahead in a lot of ways. Your new dog will likely be past the puppy mouthing and house soiling phase, and there isn't as pressing a need for socialization as you have with a young impressionable puppy. An adult dog may also come with an unknown history and various behavioral quirks (no dog is ever going to be "perfect"!) It's completely normal for a newly adopted rescue dog to need some time to adjust to their new life with you.
3. Current household residents
Consider all of the social dynamics already present in the home. Are all of the humans on board and excited to assist with Operation New Dog? A new dog of any age is going to mean extra time and energy spent. Having the support and help of the whole family is important for the most seamless integration possible.
If you have other pets in the home, are they likely to get along well with a new animal? A resident senior dog may not appreciate having a rambunctious young puppy in the space, and the family cats might find the addition of a large dog stressful. Animal behavior is always a study of one, and it's important to consider the specific ages, temperaments, and preferences of any pets already in the home.
4. Time and financial investment
Whether you're bringing home a puppy or a mature dog, expect to spend some extra time at home with them for the first few weeks (at least) while they get to know their new home. Having a new dog means more hours spent on exercise, enrichment, and training for your newest addition. If you work or plan to be away from the house for long periods of time, it's a good idea to get a plan together for potty breaks and walks with a family member, friend, or professional dog walker. Every new pet is going to come with new expenses. Food, supplies, vet visits, pet sitting and dog training can add up to anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. There are of course plenty of cost-effective resources and solutions available, but it's a prudent idea to make sure you can meet all of your new pup's needs.
There are so many ways to be an amazing dog parent. As long as you take the time to find the right fit for your home and do your research before responsibly adopting or shopping, adding a dog to the family is one of the most rewarding experiences.