Choosing a dog is a decision that should be made with care and deliberation. A dog is not a toy or a clothing accessory; it’s a living creature. The decision to adopt a dog should be treated with the same careful attention that you would use if you were deciding where to live, to have children, or whether or not to get married. Too often, a dog is adopted because it is “cute” or “fashionable,” rather than based on the merits of its behavior and energy levels. In these situations, the dog may be returned to the rescue shelter, kennel, or pet store, and each return is a black mark on that dog’s record. It suggests that the dog is un-adoptable, and the more often a dog is returned, the more likely it is to eventually be euthanized.
When selecting a dog, it is vitally important to take into account how that dog’s energy will harmonize with your own. The most important step is to take some time for self-reflection and to identify what your own energy levels are. Do you wake up early every morning, pound a power bar and a health shake, and go for a run in the mountains? Or do you take life at a more leisurely pace? When energy levels conflict, resulting frustrations on the part of both human and dog can create tensions and issues with dramatic repercussions, so take into account how your energy will affect your decision.
Once you’ve identified your own energy levels, begin your research on dogs and their energy levels. Remember, a dog’s breed doesn’t necessarily dictate its personality, but some breeds are known for having a certain energy or disposition. Once you’ve done your breed research, you can begin your search for a dog with a few ideas in mind. It never hurts to be prepared.
If you decide to begin looking at shelters and rescues, keep in mind that a dog in a cage at a shelter will be difficult to appraise in terms of its level of energy. Dogs in cages for any significant length of time can be frustrated and edgy. It may help to have a professional or someone with some expertise assist you in gauging your potential dog’s energy levels.
The walk is an excellent litmus test for a new dog. Find out from the shelter if you can “test drive” the dog that you’re interested in. Take him out for a spin around the block and see how the two of you get along. Not only will you get an early idea of how you work together in a pack-oriented activity, but you’ll get a better understanding of his underlying temperament once you’ve drained away the frustration and pent-up energy he has from being in his cage.
Most importantly, do your best to leave your emotions at the door. You will have plenty of time to bond with your dog once you’ve brought him home and incorporated him into your family. For his sake and yours, try not to let the environment of the shelter and the weight of the decision influence you. Adoption centers can be heart-breaking places if your thoughts are focused on the fate of every single dog present. It’s crucial for you to choose the right dog, and not just one that you feel sorry for. Feeling pity for a homeless dog won’t benefit him or you in the long run.
Keep an open mind, do your research, and have patience! In the end, you’ll both be better off for it.
The First Day Home
To keep your new best friend from getting diarrhea from a change in diet, give boiled potatoes with the new food. Works great. Rice also works but is more fattening.
Keep your new dog on a leash. Show him where his water and food dish are kept. Show him where he is to sleep. When he is indoors be sure and keep him confined with you, taking him outdoors at frequent intervals to relieve himself. Take him to the same spot each time and praise him heartily when he goes. Until he learns this new routine he will have to be watched closely. If there is an accident in the house please do not assume he is not housebroken. He must get accustomed to his new home and his new routines. However, loudly say "NO!" and take him outside immediately. You must catch the dog in the act if the correction is to be effective. NEVER hit your dog if an accident occurs. Praise, not punishment, is the key to a well behaved pet.
Period of Adjustment
The first couple of weeks you and your pet are "getting to know one another". He doesn't know why he has come to your home nor what is expected of him. Please be patient with him and anticipate problems before they occur. Don't leave tempting shoes, clothing, or children's toys within reach of your dog. If he is left out in your backyard while you work, please understand the first few days will be rough on him. Try to leave the home with as little fanfare as possible. Tearful goodbyes do nothing but add to your dog's anxiety.
Things to Watch For
When he's first settling in, your dog may experience shyness, anxiety, restlessness, excitement, crying or barking. He may exhibit excessive water drinking, frequent urination, or diarrhea. His appetite may not be good. If any of these symptoms last more than a few days, call your veterinarian.
Your new dog must learn a whole set of new rules. Be patient and be consistent. If you want him off the furniture, don't allow him to sit on the couch "sometimes". Don't allow him to do something one time and forbid it another.
Most cities' Parks and Recreation Departments offer dog obedience training. A six to eight week class taking one hour of your time one day a week, and a training lesson with your dog 1/2 hour a day, will teach your dog the simple obedience commands so necessary in having a well-behaved pet. Just as we must teach our children manners, we must also teach our pet.
A New Member of Your Family
Within a week or two, your dog will have settled into his new home and his new routine. Some will take a little longer. Very few are unable to adjust at all. In most cases the dog will be a well-adjusted member of the family within a month. And well worth it, it will be. In fact, you will probably have trouble remembering when he wasn't one of you.