Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adopting the Best Dog for Your Family by Laura Whitehead, DVM

 One of the happiest memories a family can have is picking out their new canine companion at the shelter. As a Veterinarian, I see people with new adopted dogs every day. Here are some tips I’ve found to help you make the right decision:

1) Puppy or adult?

Puppies are wonderful. They can grow with you and your family and be lifelong companions. Puppies can also be a big unknown, though. Just like people, 
dogs have many different personalities, and that sleepy, calm puppy that seems perfect may just turn into a wild thing that is difficult to train. Puppies are great for families with children, and those who are flexible. If you don’t think you can handle a dog that turns out to be extremely active and needs hours of exercise each day, or develops behavior problems that need training and potentially expensive behavior therapy, perhaps adopting an adult with a known personality is the right choice.

2) Breed?

Most people don’t go to the shelter looking for a specific breed. It is helpful to be familiar with the common breeds to get an idea of what to expect from their behavior. Some breeds, such as working dogs (herders, hunters, etc), need lots of exercise or they may develop behavior problems. These dogs do well in homes with lots of space outside to run, and tend to not do well in small apartments. Some dogs are naturally very vocal. You may fall in love with an adorable beagle, not knowing that they howl instead of bark, and like to talk a lot. This adoption might have a poor outcome if you live in an apartment with neighbors who will complain about excessive noise. If you are unsure about a particular breed, do your homework first. You can always bring a breed handbook with you for quick reference.

3) Don't let size fool you.

Smaller dogs and toy breeds can make great companions for indoor households and for people who cannot manage an active outdoor dog due to age or health problems. Sometimes small dogs have big personalities, however. "Terriers" are cute and compact, but they aren’t called terriers for nothing. They are extremely intelligent and can have big personalities, sometimes becoming aggressively dominant if they aren’t trained properly. They still need ample exercise and mental stimulation or they can become destructive. Once again, do your homework.

4) Think about the other 4-legged members of your family.

If you have other pets at home, consider how they will adapt to the new family member. A cat who has been around a calm, older dog all their lives may not adapt well to a new, energetic puppy. This can quickly lead to behavior problems from the cat, upsetting what was a happy household. If you have another dog at home, it is helpful to introduce him or her to the new prospective family member on neutral ground to see how they will interact.

5) Training and behavior.


Behavior problems are the number 1 reason that dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters. This is why it is so important to consider all of the above information before adopting a new pet. Once you have your new companion, it doesn’t stop there. Socialization and training are very important for puppies to try and stop behavior problems before the start. If you adopt an adult, you may see some problems that can be addressed with proper training. Most of these dogs weren’t given the chance to correct their behavior problems at their previous homes, or they simply weren’t in the proper environment for their personalities. Be patient, and consult with your Veterinarian or behavior therapist about proper training.

I wish you and your new companion a lifetime of wonderful memories!

Submitted by Laura Whitehead, DVM – Laura has a thriving veterinary practice and also loves to sew, which gives her a chance to combine her great love of animals with her creative aspirations, coming up with some really lovely designs for people who love animals like she does. You can find her creations in her ArtFire studio, Paws_and_Claws_Designs.

Also, Laura is one of many Crafting for Animals Guild members participating in a special coupon promotion week to help raise funds for the guild’s spotlight shelter during National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog month. Please click here for more info and to get your coupon code or click on the box below.


Scotti Cohn said...

Extremely important advice! Thanks for posting this, Laura!

El at Tantalizing Stitches said...

Wonderful post and very informative.

The volunteers at the shelter are also usually very knowledgable so let them know what you can and can't handle and what you are looking for and they can really help you out.

Kanweienea Kreations said...

Great post. Sharing on Twitter :)

Debra at Sleepy Cat Designs said...

Very good advice! Adopting a dog (or any pet) is a lifelong commitment and should be thought through carefully from as many aspects as possible. Thanks for the tips and reminders, doc!

OBXPuparazzi said...

Love the photo of the puppy with the toilet paper! One of my dogs also likes to shred unattended rolls of paper. I have another whose special talent is basket UNweaving, LOL!

Creative Critters said...

This is an excellent article! You have to know what kind of pet will fit into your household in order to ensure everyone will be happy and well adjusted. I know several people who have the wrong breed of dog for their lifestyle, and those dogs end up suffering because of it. Don't pick a breed just because it's popular- find one that fits with your lifestyle and family (pets included). Choosing a new pet isn't something to be done on a whim- it's a lifelong commitment to that animal.

JLynnPro said...

Great post, Laura! (I also did not know you were a vet. Go you!)

These are all really important questions, too. As much as my BF and I would like to have a dog or two, we know that now is not the right time. We know what breed(s) we are interested in, and none of them would be suited to our current home. Our cats also have not been exposed to dogs, so we will have to wait a bit longer.