Adopting a Dog – What You Need to Know

Dog waiting to be adopted
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Whether you are young, middle aged or retired, adopting a dog is an exciting prospect. Your new furry friend essentially will become a member of the family and a loyal companion who can’t wait to greet you when you walk through the door. However, the sad truth is that many dogs are abandoned because their owners are simply unaware of the amount of time and care needed for their long-term health and happiness.

Before adopting a dog, you need to evaluate whether you can commit to giving the care and attention that your dog will need for its lifetime. If you have never owned a dog before, it can be difficult to know what is expected of you as an owner. In this guide, we have put together useful information for what you need to know when adopting a dog.

1. Ask questions

The more you know about your dog’s past, the better you can be prepared to care for it. Before bringing your new friend home, ask your shelter about whether your dog has any medical issues, how long it has been in the shelter and what they know about your dog’s history. How they have been caring for your pooch is also important (feeding and walking specifically) and whether your dog gets along with other dogs.

2. Define who does what

Dogs need to be fed, walked, bathed, brushed and loved. It is important to define who in your household will be responsible for what duties when it comes to your new family member. Assigning different duties is a good way to teach your children responsibility and structure. Rules must be in place in advance for walking and feeding and consistency is the key.

3. Get ready

When bringing a dog into your home, you need to make sure that their surroundings are safe with minimal hazards. Dogs love to explore their environment, so it would be advised to create a dedicated ‘dog zone’ where they are free to play and sleep. If there are any areas in the home that are off-limits to your pooch, it would be wise to install baby gates as a precaution. Some of the most important aspects to take into consideration include:

  • Keeping electrical wires out of reach
  • Removing any cleaners or chemicals that may be stored within reach (inside and outside)
  • Storing away shoes, socks, and other chewable items
  • Picking up any small items that may be tempting to eat
  • Keep a lid on trash cans to prevent curious puppies from foraging for leftovers

4. Go shopping

Collars, leashes, bedding, food and water bowls, dog shampoo, treats, food, brushes, nail clippers, cleaners for accidents and of course, toys to play with are some of the basic items you will need for an adopted dog. You may want to go shopping with your new friend and let them pick out toys they lilke as well.

5. Find a good veterinarian

You might not be thinking of your dog getting ill as soon as you choose to adopt, but dependent on the age of your pooch, they may need to have essential injections for common illnesses. It is an excellent idea to take your adopted dog to the veterinarian to establish a baseline record for it and check for any health related issues.

 Any dog owner needs to choose a vet that they have full trust in when it comes to diagnosing conditions; therefore, it would be wise to see how the vet interacts with your pooch and if they can answer your queries confidently. Your vet should be able to provide information on the widespread illnesses your dog is at risk of and the appropriate vaccinations that should be administered.

If your shelter has not already microchipped your dog, you should consider getting your dog a microchip. Either way, be sure and register your pet with the chip manufacturer and add your contact details. If they get lost, stolen or run away, the first thing that animal control officers will do is to scan for a microchip and contact you through the chip database. A microchip will also prove ownership and can’t get removed or lost like an ID tag can.

6. Introductions

Take time for introductions. Your dog will need to process everyone in your home and decide where they fit in. Take time for as many strokes and hugs as your dog will allow, and don’t be upset if they don’t warm up immediately. Some relationships must be nurtured, and this takes time. Generally, a dog will bond to a trusted person first, then extend relationships with others when they feel comfortable.

Dog shaking hands
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7. Get to know eachother

Dogs learn a lot from experiences they have had and, in the case of an adopted dog, not all past experiences are happy. It is crucial that your family (or you) build up a cache of new and happy experiences from the very beginning. This is best done around your home so your dog will learn to bond with its new environment.

8. Stick around and set the rules

After bringing your adopted dog home, you will need to keep a close eye on your pup. Your home is a new place and they have no idea what the rules are. Be patient, firm and loving when teaching them what they can and cannot do. Reward them with treats when they display good behavior and be mild but consistent with discipline in the beginning. 

Don’t plan an extended vacation, going back to work, or any type of excessive stimulation right away. This can add to the confusion that an adopted dog already feels when they come to a new home. Keeping activity low-keyed will help your pet relaxed and allow them to learn more about their new environment.

9. Commit to a high-quality diet

The number of different types of dog food on the market can be quite overwhelming as a newbie dog owner, and you may not know which one to choose for your pooch. There is a vast array of sizes, flavors, and textures that are suitable for various dog types, so if in any doubt, it would be advised to do some research on which type of food your breed should be eating or ask your vet for recommendations.

As an absolute minimum, the food should list real meat in list of ingredients, not meat-flavored or grain, as this indicates that the food contains protein which is essential for dogs. A poor diet can lead to a whole host of health issues, including sickness and diarrhea. Unless you are ready to dedicate your trips to the grocer and time spent in the kitchen fixing home cooked meals for your pet, you should aim to limit human food from their diet, as this can cause an imbalance in nutrients and vitamins which keeps your dog in good health.

Ask your veterinarian how much you should be feeding your dog. It is much easier to keep your dog trip and fit than dealing with health issues related to an overweight dog.

10. Keep them clean and tidy

While grooming may be considered a novelty for your pooch, it is, in fact, an essential aspect of maintaining your dog’s health and wellbeing. During the summer months, in particular, fleas and ticks can be an issue, as well as perspiration which can cause skin irritation and further scratching. Professional grooming can be a huge monthly expense; however, there are DIY dog wash options in which you can bathe your dog yourself. Before bathing, ensure that all knots and matting are cut and brushed out.

Not only will your dog feel better, it is a perfect time to bond with eachother.

11. Consider insuring your pet

You cannot predict when your dog may become ill or injured, so it would be highly advised to take out pet insurance as a form of financial protection if the worst-case scenario were to occur. Vets’ bills can be extremely steep, but a monthly premium policy should help cover costs up to a specific limit. Always ensure you research the very best premiums available in accordance with your budget to see what coverage they will provide.

Exercise your adopted dog
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12. Get lots of exercise

Some dogs need more exercise than others; however, all dogs should be getting some form of exercise every day. A small dog may be suited to playing fetch or short walks, while a large dog such as a Rottweiler or Golden Retriever may need a minimum 30-minute walk per day. Plenty of exercise burns off exercise energy as well as keeps their muscles and joints supple. The amount of exercise each dog needs may help you decide which type of dog would be best suited to your lifestyle.

13. Make lots of friends

Socializing your dog is a major factor in helping them become more well-balanced and well-behaved as they grow older. From as young as weeks old, your adopted dog should be exposed to a range of sights, smells, sounds, and as many different people as possible to refrain from building up fears later in life. If you have rescued your dog, try not to overwhelm them with too much too soon, as this can have the opposite effect and lead them to develop irrational fears. Nervous dogs need a gradual introduction to new experiences, which should help them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings. Acknowledge good behavior, so they become accustomed to being rewarded if a certain action is repeated.

14. Treat your dog with respect

It can be frustrating when your dog isn’t obeying your commands, but you should never use physical force to encourage them to perform. For example, in the early puppy stages, it’s extremely normal for them to urinate around the house and chew on objects as they haven’t been taught otherwise. Likewise, adult dogs may misbehave as a result of human action; therefore, you should always acknowledge how your own behavior may have led to bad behavior.

Giving a shelter dog a new home is certainly a worthwhile and gratifying experience. That said, it is not always easy. An adopted dog cannot tell you about its past, so you need to understand if it takes time to adjust to its new life. If you’re considering adopting a dog in the near future, we hope this guide has provided some useful care basics about what you need to know when adopting a dog.

Maggie Hammond is a proud mama to two little people and has one too many furry friends. Passionate about alternative medicine, education, the great outdoors and animal welfare.


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