Adding a new member to your family is a big decision. You should be asking yourself, your spouse, or any other family members involved in the decision about expectations, and making sure those expectations line up with the reality of a new pet! The biggest mistake you can make in getting a new pet, is jumping into it without being prepared.
Making the mistake of running out and grabbing a free dog from the walmart parking lot, or a puppy your friend is rehoming, etc. without being prepared can have a negative impact on not just your family, but the animal and those who will have to deal with the aftermath (usually a rescue or local shelter). This is one of the biggest issues we encounter in rescue and it can be extremely frustrating from our point of view.
By prepared, I do not mean having a bag of puppy food, a bed and some toys. I mean, really stopping to consider what you are in for. The best thing to start thinking about is, is a puppy or an adult going to be best for your family?
Most people think that they want a puppy, until they have one. Then, after they’ve already brought the puppy home, they realize it is more than they can handle. While puppies are absolutely adorable, they require a lot more than an adult dog. Some pros and cons to consider with puppies; They are teething and will absolutely chew on things, they will need to be house trained, they will need plenty of patience through the training phases, they will most likely cry for the first week or so while they adjust to being separated from mom and siblings, and they are more susceptible to diseases like parvovirus and will require more caution due to that fact. With an adult dog (especially one from a rescue where they have thoroughly evaluated and vetted the animal) you can know up front what kind of dog you are getting. There is a good probability that if you get an adult dog from a rescue, he or she is already potty trained, or at the very least has been started on training. In my personal opinion, they are also usually easier to work with on basic commands than a puppy. By adulthood their personalities are already developed and you can understand their body language, likes and dislikes, quicker than with a puppy, which makes it easier to know what kind of home is best for them. Adults are also usually over their chewing phase and have learned more social boundaries by this point.
Next thing to consider is, do you want to adopt, buy or find a free pet?
Lets start with why free pets are not a great idea. First off, if you can only get a pet if it’s free, you should wait. A free pet is NOT actually free. You are most likely getting an animal that has no known history, or is from an accidental,unwanted, litter. Both of these options are setting you up for failure. A free animal is still going to need vaccines (Rabies is legally required in the State of Texas, and Distemper/ Parvo are two very common and usually fatal viruses that your animal deserves to be protected from) they will still need to be dewormed (Hookworms, Roundworms, and Whipworms can all cause major issues if not treated). They SHOULD be spayed/ neutered and microchipped as well. All of this adds up quickly. If you decide to buy a pet from a breeder, make sure you do two things! 1.) Research thoroughly the breed that you are interested in. Many people see a fluffy Husky or German Shepherd puppy and think they want that, but in reality, both are extremely high energy and powerful breeds that without proper and consistent training can be destructive and hard to deal with, Thousands a year are surrendered to shelters in adulthood for those reasons. And 2.) Research the breeder you are going to buy from, thoroughly! Make sure you can see both of the parents, and the environment they came from. Make sure they have been seen by a vet before purchase. A good breeder has the best interest of the animal at heart and will have done prenatal vetting, and only breed a female once a year. The breeding pairs will also be properly genetically matched to eliminate potential inbreeding. Without doing the right research, you risk the chance of getting an animal with severe genetic medical issues. I cannot tell you how many inbred or poorly bred animals I have met during my time working with animals, that were costing their owners thousands of dollars a year in medical bills. Adopting is, in my opinion, the best option. There are hundreds of breed specific rescues in the United States, for those wanting a specific breed. Labrador Retrievers, Chihuahuas and Pitbull Terriers are the most common breeds of dogs to find in shelters! Mixed breeds are just as amazing. A good rescue has taken the time to thoroughly evaluate each animal and knows their personality well enough to properly match them with the right family. The cost of adoption can be anywhere from $50-$400 in Texas, but most of the time the vetting is already completed (each rescue/shelter has different protocols). There is usually some form of training that has already been established, and depending on the rescue/shelter protocol, you have a chance of getting an animal who has been in foster care. Foster care helps the animals to adjust to a home environment prior to adoption, so that’s less work for the adoptive family!
The last few things to consider would be what is the best match for your family? Do you want a high energy dog? Do you need a dog with no prey drive due to livestock or smaller animals in the home? Is a small or large dog best for your family? How much time can you give to training and exercising your new pet (if you don’t have extra time for training and exercising, large, working breed, dogs are not for you!)
Just keep realistic expectations! Dogs are going to jump, poop, bark, chew things from time to time, dig, slobber, etc. If you aren’t ok with those things, then it is not time to add a new pet to your home.
And PLEASE remember, that your decision to bring an animal into your home is a LIFE LONG decision. If you are not properly prepared, surrendering, giving away, or dumping your animal is irresponsible and can have a detrimental affect on that animals future. So please take the time to consider the pro’s and con’s before adding a new member.