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Posted by Steven Scott on October 10, 2014
October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Whether you want an exercise buddy, a best friend for your child, a partner in agility competitions, a
constant companion for an aging parent or simply a fuzzy face to greet you after a hard day at work, an adopted dog can be all of these — and more. Adopt‐A‐Dog Month is the perfect time for people to adopt a shelter dog and experience the joy of finding their own canine partner.
Although, it is called “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month”, that doesn’t mean go out and adopt a dog so you can “save its life” unless you are truly ready and prepared to adopt a dog for the rest of its life.
Adopting a dog is not something that anyone should take lightly. You become literally responsible for the entire well-being of that dog. There is a great deal of responsibility involved over many years. The qualities and personality you want in a dog are more important than size and appearance. For example, an older shepherd mix might do better than an energetic terrier in an apartment. Very often the pet that has the characteristics you’re looking for will come in an unexpected package.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU
If you live in a 10’ X 10’ apartment in New York City, adopting a Great Dane, although possible would probably not be the best idea. Don’t get me wrong, just because Great Dane’s and other breeds are very large, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t live quite comfortably in a small residence, even one without a yard. You need to know that you will have to take the dog out for walks, exercise and for the dog to relieve itself no matter what the size. Keep in mind a very energetic dog will require more exercise than a laid back one.
You also need to consider age. Do you want to start with a puppy, or do you want to adopt an older dog? There are different requirements in both cases. Many people only want a puppy, because they are cute and cuddly. Well, all puppies grow into adult dogs and this happens pretty fast. Your cute little 8-week old pu
ppy will quadruple or more in size in only a few months. Depending on the breed you choose, of course will determine the final size.
You need to decide if you want to go through all of the p
otty training that is involved and the chewing that is very common with puppies (not that adult dogs can’t have these issues as well), but if the dog has been previously owned by a responsible owner (which you can never guarantee), you probably won’t know this until you bring your new dog home.
Because many dogs in shelters are mixed breed dogs, you might not know exactly what
breed the dog is most like. Sometimes the shelter can help you
determine the most likely possibilities, but many time
s, they are a product of many generations of cross-breeding. This doesn’t make the dog bad in any way, but it can make it more difficult for you to decide on what food to buy and if it might be prone to any specific diseases whereas in buying a purebred dog, you can easily find out what the common diseases and problems will be that are specific to that particular breed.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL YOU BE SPENDING WITH YOUR DOG?
Other considerations are how much time will you be at home? Will the dog be left alone during the day because you work? Will you crate you dog during this time and if so, you will need to have purchased an appropriate sized crate for the dog you are getting and if you are getting a puppy, you need to plan on buying a number of crates because the dog will outgrow the original crate and the next and probably by the time the dog is grown, you will have gone through 4 sizes of crates.
Crates are not cheap, although there are places you can get perfectly good used crates for a fraction of what they cost new. Sometimes even the shelter sells crates that are donated to them and for a small donation, you can get a crate through them. Craigslist is another good place to look for good used crates.
You will need toys for your new dog. Toys serve a number of purposes. They can help with chewing, a puppy’s teething, and boredom to name a few. Toys are often designed to teach dogs. There are puzzle toys where they can figure out how to get treats out of the toy that you place in it. There are toys that contain no stuffing and some that have removable/replaceable squeakers. Toys are also something that can be quite expensive, especially if you have a dog that just loves to tear a toy apart to see what is inside. A good source to get toys for your dog is the Goodwill or Salvation Army or 2 nd hand store and garage sales. You can even use children’s toys for you dogs. If you choose to
get used toys, be sure to wash them thoroughly to be sure there are no communicable diseases they might carry.
One thing to be keenly aware of is that children’s toys usually have eyes and sometimes noses that are fastened by a one way type fastening clip on the inside and for a child they are much safer than the toys that were around when I was a child and before. I have gotten many children’s toys for use with my dogs. I just take the time, before I ever give them to my dogs, to remove anything that could be a choking hazard, like eyes or any internal noise maker, etc. I personally don’t like squeakers, so I remove them as well, because I know, those squeakers are the first thing the dog is going to try to get out of the toy. By removing it in advance and with a clean cut, it is simple to sew it back up, wash it and then give it to the dogs to play with.
You also need to make sure that you are able to provide any necessary veterinary care that might be necessary during the course of the dog’s life. Your dog will need annual veterinary checkups and vaccinations. Internal and external parasite control is another ongoing expense. There are many products on the market that handle one or several of these issues. Some require a prescription and other’s do not. You need to be aware of what diseases are common in your area and in areas that you will be taking the dog to. This will not only determine what types of parasite controls you need, but will also determine what vaccines to get as in some areas certain diseases are
prevalent and others aren't. You don’t want to over-vaccinate your dog. You also don’t want to under vaccinate you dog either. Y ou protect them from those things.need to deal with actual issues that your dog will encounter and take the necessary precautions to
If you adopt a “special needs” dog that have medical conditions that require long term care and special management you need to consider the veterinary costs and if this is the type of dog that is right for you. If you are willing to go the extra mile “Special needs” dogs can make wonderful pets.
There are organization whose primary focus is preventing animal cruelty, public education and general animal protection. One of those organizations is The Humane Society of the United States . They started in 1954 and have been an advocate for animal welfare and provide public education and hands-on programs. Both they and their affiliates rescue tens of thousands of animals annually. They are not only active in the United States, but around the world.
There is also The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) . They were
the first humane society in North America and were founded in 1866. They promote humane practices for all animals and have a strong presence advocating against animal cruelty in New York and are nationally recognized as a leader in anti-cruelty across the country.
There are many places you can adopt from. There are city and county run shelters, organizations like local Humane Societies and SPCAs as well as private, non-profit animal shelters that help to rehome animals that have been abandoned or have been surrendered to them for many different reasons.
An Adopted Dog can bring a lot of joy and love into your life.
Steven Scott is an independent writer who regulary contributes to Vests For Service Dogs
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