The start of October marks a special time of year for dog lovers. This month, groups across the country are encouraging Americans to turn their houses into homes by adopting a rescue dog for October’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, sponsored by the ASPCA.
“People sometimes don’t go to animal shelters to adopt a dog because they have a lot of misinformation about these animals,” says pet expert Diane Pomerance, Ph.D., author of seven books about pets, including “Our Rescue Dog Family Album.” “They think, ‘I don’t want to inherit someone else’s problem,’ or they simply think all the dogs there are abused or hard to train, or that they won’t be able to find the breed that they want.”
These notions couldn’t be further from the truth, says Pomerance, who has owned some 40 shelter dogs throughout her life. “In fact, up to nearly 60 percent of dogs in shelters are not strays, but pets whose families had to give them up because of a loss of income or a change in location. These are faithful, loving dogs who just need a home and some love.”
The key is to know how to choose the right pet for you and your family, Pomerance says.
She suggests considering the following criteria:
- Breed: Check online to learn about different dog breeds, their temperament, health and physical characteristics. Find out all you can about the specific animal from shelter workers and volunteers.
- Lifestyle: Think about your lifestyle and personality in terms of the kind of dog that would be more compatible with your home and your living situation. (Answer a few questions about yourself, and our Dog Breed Selector will show possible matches!)
- Activity level: Assess the activity level and exercise requirements of the dog you are considering. Are you able to walk your dog several times a day and play with him?
- Age: Figure out what age of pet is best suited to you and your family. Which is more compatible with your age and lifestyle? Do you want an active puppy who needs attention and training, a middle-aged dog with established behaviors, or an older, less active dog?
- Time: Do you have enough time for a quality relationship with a dog? Like children, they require attention, companionship, patience and interaction. They also require socialization and obedience training.
- Budget: Research the costs of not only adopting a pet (adoption fee), but veterinary care, including spay-neuter surgery, vaccinations, potential injuries or illness, regular checkups, toys, accessories, etc. Factor in costs of food, pet sitters or boarding while you’re away.
- Space: Do you have sufficient room for a dog to move, eat and sleep comfortably? Further, are you legally allowed to have a dog on the premises/in your community? If you rent, make sure your landlord allows you to have a pet.
“Adopting a shelter dog is a lifetime choice, as these pets will likely spend the rest of their lives with you, and it is not something that should be taken lightly,” Pomerance says. “That being said, it is a positive choice, and one that will bring joy and love into your home and provide your family a loyal, caring companion.”