Questions to consider before getting a dog

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting A Dog

Adopt at a Shelter or Buy from a Breeder?

Get a Puppy or Adult Dog?

Some Advantages of Adopting an Older Dog

Preparations for Bringing Your New Dog Home


Am I ready and willing to commit the next 10 to 15 years of my life feeding, grooming, training, providing medical care and paying attention to a dog?
Does everyone in my household feel the same way?

Am I financially prepared to handle all of the costs involved with maintaining the health of a dog and its' lifestyle?
These costs may include any or all of the following: adoption fee, pet deposit, food, feeding utensils, grooming, obedience training, toys, a bed, veterinary examination, additional vaccinations, testing for diseases such as canine heartworm disease, heartworm preventative medication, and diagnosis and treatment of any other existing medical conditions. These costs may be as much as $200 to $400 or more within the first week after adoption.

Are there any lifestyle altering events in my foreseeable future that might affect my ability to care for a dog?
A marriage, a divorce, a new baby, a move, caring for an elderly family member, job uncertainty, etc. Have I thought about what might happen to the dog should something unexpected happen in my life?

Is a dog really the best choice for me?
Do I often feel stressed out? Am I prepared to patiently deal with the damage to my property that a puppy/dog might cause, including digging in the yard, destroying hoses, furniture, etc.? Do I have the time to work with a dog firmly and compassionately until it understands "the rules of the house?"

Am I physically able to care for a dog?
This includes feeding, watering, grooming, cleaning up after him and the ability/means to transport him to a veterinarian when he requires medical care.

Is my residence equipped to accommodate a dog?
Have I gotten permission from my landlord to have a dog if I rent? Do I have a fenced yard? If not, is there a park area nearby in which I can walk my dog so that it can relieve itself? Is there adequate shelter for my dog in the yard when he will be left outside?

Will my dog be left home alone for extended periods of time daily?
Are there arrangements I can make to allow the dog to be let out for some exercise, given food and water, any necessary medication, etc. while I am away? Am I prepared to deal with some of the behavioral issues that might arise due to his being left alone for extended periods of time? These might include chewing up valuables, relieving himself indoors, incessant barking causing the neighbors to become angry or even calling animal control, etc.

Am I willing to spay or neuter my dog?

Will I be traveling frequently?
Have I considered what I will do with the dog while I am away? Will he go with me? Will I hire a pet sitter? Will he stay with friends? At a boarding kennel? Do I have any idea how much this will cost?

Do I REALLY want a dog after considering all these responsibilities?!
If the answer is "yes," then congratulations! Now, go have fun finding the right dog for you!


It depends on what kind of dog you are looking for. There are many places that sell dogs, but keep in mind that your local animal shelter has many great animals to choose from as well. And, you'd be saving a life in the process. If you're wanting a pure breed, you might be interested to know that an estimated 35% of all dogs in animal shelters nationwide are purebreds!  If you do want a pure breed dog, be sure to check for any breed rescues in your area.

Local Animal Shelters

Many people avoid animal shelters because they have the misconception that all the dogs are rejects, having ended up in the shelter because of behavioral problems. Consequently, they feel they would not make good pets. On the contrary, the vast majority of the animals in local shelters are unwanted litters turned in by people who failed to have their own dog sterilized. If a puppy is what you're looking for, look at your local shelter!

Here are some other reasons that dogs end up in shelters:

People turn in strays that they've found (this could be a very well-behaved pet that has simply gotten lost)

People must give up their pet because they are moving

The owner has died and there is no place for the animal to go (this happens more than you think)

The owner is no longer able to care for the animal because of financial/medical/family problems, etc. In cases such as these, the dog is often very well-behaved and desperate to bond with a new owner because of the emotional upheaval it has experienced at being separated from its previous owner.

Pet Stores

Puppies who come from pet shops may have many problems - breeders who supply stores are often indiscriminate, resulting in more frequent genetic abnormalities than properly bred dogs. Other problems arise while the pups are in the store...the stressful, noisy environment which occurs in most pet stores can be harmful, causing dogs to become skittish. This, coupled with a lack of gentle, regular human contact can be damaging, especially since most puppies are in stores during the "fear period" of life - a stage of critical development which occurs during the age of eight to fourteen weeks. Although it may be convenient to be able to buy pet supplies at the same time, there is no truly legitimate reason to buy from a pet store.


Breeders are people that make it a hobby to raise puppies. Smaller kennels may have only one mother dog and her puppies, with a father from another kennel. Large facilities may have several mother and father dogs used for breeding, along with many puppies. No matter how large the breeder, you will need to make sure that it is a responsible and reputable one.

A good breeder will produce a good dog. How do you tell which one is the most responsible? After you have decided on a breed, visit a local dog show and speak with breeders. Contact a veterinarian and ask for references. Inquire as to whether any of the vet's clients own dogs of the breed you are looking for, which breeder they came from, and if they are happy with their pet. Buy a magazine such as Dog Fancy, and look for ads which seem reputable and are posted by breeders in your area.

At this point you can call some of the breeders you have chosen, and ask if you can arrange to visit the premises. Inquire about puppy availability and price, but don't use that as the sole reason for choosing a pet from that breeder.

Are the breeders happy to let you see the pups, or do they seem reluctant to show you their animals? Take a good look at the facilities where the litter was raised. Note cleanliness and the health and temperament of other dogs in the kennel. Is the breeder proud to show off his or her dogs?

Ask questions about the health care of the animals. Have puppies been given vaccinations? What have they been weaned on? Ask to meet the mother, and if possible, the father of the puppies. (If there are no litters available, look at dogs who are regularly used for breeding). Observe the parent's temperament, health, and appearance. Have the parents been tested against genetic defects common to the breed? Make sure that there is a guarantee to assure that puppies are free from these defects. In the event that a puppy does have hereditary abnormality, is there a return policy? Will registration papers be provided? Also ask about non-breeding contracts, spay/neuter programs, etc.

When choosing a puppy from a breeder, you may be given a choice between a "pet quality" or "show quality" puppy. Pet quality dogs are more popular with first time owners, used as average pets for non-breeding, family purposes. Such dogs physically do not conform to set breed standards and aren't regularly used for breeding purposes. However, their personality is just as dependable as that of a show quality puppy and would most likely work wonderfully in a family situation. "Show quality" dogs require a larger commitment of care including competition in dog shows and breeding. They fit with the standard of their breed, and usually are taken to dog shows and bred to pass on their traits. Never choose a show dog just because you want the prestige of owning a "Best in Show" purebred or for the experience of having a litter of puppies. The huge and time consuming effort entailed in owning a show dog can be a thankless task. Remember as well, that personality is not necessarily affected by conformation to breed standards.

Speak with the breeder and ask them as many questions as you can. The best breeders should be asking you questions too, because they will only want the best homes for their puppies. If the kennel owners only seems interested in selling you a dog, consider another breeder.


Picking the Right Puppy

When you look at a litter of puppies, it might seem that all the little guys are basically the same. However, that may not necessarily be true. Dogs are pack animals, and from a young age they assert who is literally "top dog." Consider the fact that each puppy will have a different level of dominance and a distinct personality. While adopting an adult dog will provide you with a good estimate of disposition, a developing pup will not have a definite personality. That will be secured when the dog becomes fully mature by the age of two years.

Ideally, puppies should be adopted between the age of eight to fourteen weeks. During this stage, puppies undergo a rapid period of mental development. At this point they learn about their surroundings and figure out who is to be trusted and who is to be feared. It is fine to adopt an older dog, but very young puppies (under six weeks) are not a good idea.

Take a good look at the litter you are considering. Sometimes litters are small or most of the individuals have already found homes, making the process of adoption easier. It may be tempting to go for the most outgoing individual, the one who jumps up and greets you before all the others. But, avoid this impulse. The most ambitious puppy is usually also the most dominant and prone to aggression. Such dogs are prone to developing behavior problems and are best suited for very experienced owners.

Ideally, you should get a chance to view each puppy separately. Without the chance to view each pup as an individual, it will be difficult to get an idea of the puppy's personality. There are a number of very helpful books available which contain tests to assess temperament. Because every owner's needs for a dog are different, you will want to match the dog to the potential master. Ask the breeder for help in selection. Good breeders will feel happy or even insistent on choosing. Choosing the right puppy is an important step towards happy dog ownership. Remember never to make a hasty or impulsive decision!

Choosing an Adult Dog

Puppies may be cute, but adult dogs are easier to care for and in many cases more suitable for the first time owner. People often don't want an adult dog because "they might have already learned bad habits" or "we want to raise the dog our way." But does this really warrant going to the breeder when there are so many homeless older dogs that desperately need to be adopted? Most adult dogs have not acquired more serious bad habits than if you raised a puppy according to "your way." One nice thing about adult dogs is that they have predictable and distinct personalities, unlike puppies that are still developing and may not turn out the way you expected. Pups will soon grow up to be adults in any case.

If looking for an adult dog, inquire about the dog's previous situation. Although it is often difficult to trace a shelter dog's history, ask the shelter manager what is known about the dog: why it came to the shelter in the first place and how it has behaved since being there. This is important. Some animals that have been relinquished to the shelter were abused and neglected and are therefore prone to fear biting. Owners that give up these animals may not always be truthful about the situation from which the animal is coming. Animal shelters do their best to screen the animals that they deem adoptable and will not adopt out any animal that has shown aggression.

Personality is an important factor to consider when choosing a dog. Does he seem shy or friendly? Submissive or dominant? When pets are staying in a shelter, it seems that their true disposition comes out. Amidst all the barking and excitement of the shelter, you may find one special dog who seems friendly and well-mannered. He will need to be good with kids, neither aggressive nor cowardly, but calm, and meet any other expectations you and your family have. Note how the dog reacts to noise and the stress of being looked at by a stranger (but do not act noisy or mean just to see).

Don't forget the issue of the dog's health. Has the canine in question had any illnesses? Are there any chronic diseases that may need lifetime care? Ask about any previous injuries or illnesses that the dog may have had. Exactly how old is the dog? While strays may be of undetermined age, you may be able to get a general idea by looking at the dog. White hairs around the face and slowness of movement are two common signs that the dog is getting older.


Reprinted by permission from the Labrador Retriever Shelter, Inc. The original article may be found at

In a Word--Housebroken.
With most family members gone during the work week for 8 hours or more, housetraining a puppy and its small bladder can take a while. Puppies need a consistent schedule with frequent opportunities to eliminate where you want them to. They can't wait for the boss to finish his meeting or the kids to come home from after-school activities. An older dog can "hold it" much more reliably for longer time periods, and usually the shelter has him housebroken before he is adopted.

Intact Underwear.
With a chewy puppy, you can count on at least 10 mismatched pairs of socks and a variety of unmentionables rendered to the "rag bag" before he cuts every tooth. Also, you can expect holes in your carpet (along with urine stains), pages missing from books, stuffing exposed from couches, and at least one dead remote control. No matter how well you watch them, it will happen--this is a puppy's job! An older dog can usually have the run of the house without destroying it.

A Good Night's Sleep.
Forget the alarm clocks and hot water bottles, a puppy can be very demanding at 2am and 4am and 6am. He misses his littermates, and that stuffed animal will not make a puppy pile with him. If you have children, you've been there and done that. How about a little peace and quiet? How about an older shelter dog?

Finish the Newspaper.
With a puppy running amok in your house, do you think you will be able to relax when you get home from work? Do you think your kids will really feed him, clean up the messes, take him for a walk in the pouring rain every hour to get him housetrained? With an adult dog, it will only be the kids running amok, because your dog will be sitting calmly next to you, while your workday stress flows away and your blood pressure lowers as you pet him.

What You See Is What You Get.
How big will that puppy be? What kind of temperament will he have? Will he be easily trained? Will his personality be what you were hoping for? How active will he be? When adopting an older dog from a shelter, all of those questions are easily answered. You can pick large or small, active or couch potato, goofy or brilliant, sweet or sassy. The shelter and its foster homes can guide you to pick the right match.

Unscarred Children (and Adults).
When the puppy isn't teething on your possessions, he will be teething on your children and you. Parents are sometimes too emotional to see the difference between a healthy playful puppy nip and a bite that indicates a hostile intent, but a growing puppy is going to put everything from food to clothes to hands in their mouths, and as they get older and bigger it definitely hurts (and will get worse, if they aren't being corrected properly.)

Matchmaker Make Me a Match.
Puppy love is often no more than an attachment to a look or a color. It is not much of a basis on which to make a decision that will hopefully last 15+ years. While that puppy may have been the cutest of the litter; he may grow up to be superactive (when what you wanted was a couch buddy); she may be a couch princess (when what you wanted was a tireless hiking companion); he may want to spend every waking moment in the water (while you're a landlubber); or she may want to be an only child (while you are intending to have kids or more animals). Pet mis-matches are one of the top reasons animal shelters get animals surrendered.

Instant Companion.
With an older dog, you automatically have a buddy that can go everywhere and do everything with you NOW. There's no waiting for a puppy to grow up (and then hope he will like to do what you enjoy). You will have been able to select the most compatible dog: one that travels well; one that loves to play with your friends' dogs; one with excellent house manners that you can take to your parents' new home with the new carpet and the new couch. You can come home after a long day's work and spend your time on a relaxing walk, ride or swim with your new best friend (rather than cleaning up after a small puppy.)

Dogs who have been uprooted from their happy homes or have not had the best start in life are more likely to bond very completely and deeply with their new people. Those who have lost their families through death, divorce or lifestyle change go through a terrible mourning process. But, once attached to a new loving family, they seem to want to please as much as possible to make sure they are never homeless again. Those dogs that are just learning about the good life and good people seem to bond even deeper. They know what life on the streets, life on the end of a chain, or worse, is all about, and they revel and blossom in a nurturing, loving environment. Most shelters make exceptionally affectionate and attentive pets and extremely loyal companions.

Unfortunately, many folks think dogs that end up in shelters are all genetically and behaviorally inferior. But, it is not uncommon for shelters to get pure-breeds that have either outlived their usefulness or their novelty with impulsive owners who considered their dog a possession rather than a friend or member of the family, or simply did not really consider the time, effort and expense needed to be a dog owner. Not all breeders will accept "returns", so choices for giving up dogs can be limited to animal welfare organizations, such as shelters, or the owners trying to place their own dogs.

Choosing a shelter dog over a purchased pup will not solve the pet overpopulation problem (only responsible pet owners and breeders can do that), but it does give many of them a chance they otherwise would not have. But, beyond doing a "good deed", adopting a shelter dog can be the best decision and addition to the family you ever made.


Being prepared for the new arrival is an essential step towards having a happy and healthy companion. Once you know where and when you will be getting your dog, organize the final details to welcome in the new addition. Make sure you have read up on dog care and know what you'll need to do once Fido arrives at his new home. Do you have any other pets? You need to make sure that they get will along with the new addition, and have up to date vaccinations.


It is very important that you have the necessary supplies to care for a dog, including:

A plastic kennel crate large enough to fit the dog at his adult size

Soft, clean, washable bedding

A dog safe ball or other toy

A training collar which will fit the dog at his current size

A flat buckle collar which will fit the dog at this current size

A nylon leash

A brush suitable for the dog's hair type

Ceramic or stainless steel feeding bowls

Dog food


When your dog first comes home, he will be a little scared in his new situation. There are new people to get used to, a strange house and new smells. Therefore, it is important to make this time as smooth as possible. Dogs who have been well-socialized will adapt quickly, but it will still take a few days to adjust. As tempting as it may be, don't invite friends over to meet the new pet at first. Although puppies need lots of socialization, give him plenty of space for the first few hours.

When your dog first comes into the house, give him lots of love but don't crowd around...too much attention might intimidate him. Allow him to explore his surroundings. For the time being, don't get angry or try to discipline your dog, even if he steals food or messes on the carpet. As Fido gradually learns the rules of the house, he will find his niche in your family. Until your dog is adapted to his situation, housebroken and obedience trained, someone should try to be with him at all times. If all family members must be out, do your best to have someone bring him along. For puppies, these "field trips" can serve as an excellent means of socialization.


For your new dog, the first night at home can be hard. Before your pet goes to sleep, let him relieve himself, supervised and on a leash. Place the dog's crate in your bedroom or that of a family member and keep the kennel door closed. It is important that your dog sleeps with his owners, as this will help him to become part of the family and feel secure. Puppies may benefit from a clock with a second hand placed in the kennel, and a lukewarm hot water bottle. These items will simulate the company of littermates. Hopefully, your dog's first night at home will be comfortable, quiet and restful.


If you have any other pets, you will have to take a few extra precautions:

Make sure that all your pets have up-to-date vaccinations.

If other dogs will be living with your latest addition, it is best to introduce them on neutral ground - a place where none of the dogs claim territory. Let them become acquainted before they have to share house and home.

When introducing a dog to a house with cats or small animals, a puppy will adjust much more easily...older dogs who aren't used to other animals may like to chase or bark at these creatures, which they perceive as prey. Of course, adult dogs who have grown up with cats or small animals will also do well.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with more than one is pet is to give all animals equal attention. Too often, the excitment of a new puppy is so great that other pets are feel left out. Pets can feel jealous just like people, so give all your animals daily TLC.


It is important to bring your new dog for a first vet checkup, even if he seems perfectly healthy. If you have not already chosen a family veterinarian, now is the time to find one. Look for a vet who is reputable and close by. Your veterinarian will check for any health problems and in most cases give your pet a vaccination.


Have you decided on a name for your dog yet? The first thing a puppy should learn is his name, and owners should start calling him by it as soon as possible and as much as possible.

Many trainers believe that dogs respond best to names with two syllables and an ending sound of "ah" or "O", such "Sarah" or "Fido. Make sure that all family members agree on the name, and that it doesn't sound similar to that of someone else who in the household...if your name is Tasha and your dog's name is Kasha, it will be confusing for both of you!

Use your puppy's name as often as possible. Before he eats, say "Fido, dinner." At night, say "Fido, bedtime." And when it's time for a walk say "Fido, walk." Before long, Fido will know his name and respond when it is used.

Your dog may also learn the names of family members. Once you have lived with Fido for a while, you will be able to say, "go find so and so," and Fido will go to the person you specified. Continue to use Fido's name throughout his life. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to change the name of an adult dog, even if you don't like it!


Training should begin soon after your new dog comes home. Even if you are adopting an adult who has already learned obedience, your pet will need to learn the rules of the house. For the first few days avoid giving any heavy discipline if Fido misbehaves. Stronger training will come once your dog learns his place in the family "pack."

It is essential for puppies to be housetrained and to learn the routine and rules of the house. Have your puppy follow you as much as possible. Once vaccinated and able to walk on a leash, take your puppy out on daily walks to busy areas where he can obtain socialization and a chance to make friends. Socialization is a very important part aspect of dog care.

Considering a Dog?