How to Adopt a Dog

By  Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP

A young mother once asked me what kind of dog to buy for her young son. My glib answer was “a stuffed one! Now if you want a dog we can have a conversation.” The decision to adopt or purchase a dog is best done with some forethought. Dogs need training, exercise grooming and veterinary care. Dogs also come in a wide range of sizes, breeds and temperament. Do you have the time and desire to accommodate a dog? Can you have a dog in your home? Many apartments, Co-ops and condominiums have “no dog” rules. Do you or your family members have allergies that need to be considered? Curly coated dogs like Poodles, Bichon’s, Poodle mixes and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers are held to be hypoallergenic. These breeds do shed less, but the claim that they are truly hypoallergenic is debatable. Dog ownership also has financial implications. There will be a series of puppy visits to the veterinarian, vaccinations, parasite preventatives, spaying/neutering. Pet health insurance to cover the unexpected illnesses is highly recommended.

Next, do you have a particular breed in mind? If you do, then be sure to consider the size, temperament and activity of your choice and balance that against your schedule, the ages of your children and the size of your home. Also consider how much dog experience you have. Maltese, Shi Zu’s, Miniature Poodles, Cockapoos and Retriever/Poodle mixes (e.g., Labradoodles, Golden Doodles) are examples of dogs that generally have easy dispositions and reasonable needs for exercise. Rottweilers and Border Collies, by comparison, are wonderful dogs best owned by people with prior dog experience who know the breeds. Training puppies requires a significant time commitment. Be sure that your lifestyle can accommodate that. There is not definitive number of weeks to train a dog.

The source of your new dog is the next consideration. Purebred dogs are best purchased from a breeder — ideally one you can drive to and visit. Good breeders typically focus on one or at least a very limited number of breeds and have a small number of litters in a year. If you go and visit you should be happy to be there. The premises should be clean and orderly. Choose the puppy that chooses you. Avoid the puppy that doesn’t want your attention and also the one that is bouncing off the walls. Rescues and shelters can be great sources of dogs who need a home.

I am always grateful for the opportunity to counsel people before they acquire their new dog. The goal is to try and match the people with a dog that will become a successful adoption. Keep in mind that when people decide to become parents they don’t just wake up the next morning and suddenly have a baby. There is a process and it takes some time. Avoid making an impulsive decision. This dog will be part of your family for many years. Take your time and include your veterinarian in the process.

Reprinted in New City Neighbor magazine, October 2018