By Janet McAfee

Regular readers of this column know that a continuing theme is encouraging people to adopt a shelter dog or cat. Many columns feature some of these amazing animals and how they transformed the lives of their adopters for the better. I work with Loving All Animals’ rescue dog adoption program, Mobile Mutts, and have worked with some people who never owned a dog before. Most of those first time adopters adapt easily to the joyful routine of pet ownership. However, we worked with one woman in her 60’s who never owned an animal before, and after a brief time called to return the pooch when she acquired a new boyfriend who wanted to travel. Luckily, her dog was re-homed within a few days.

Getting a dog is a responsibility and a long time commitment, and getting one that matches your lifestyle and living situation is crucial to ensure success. If you are a retired senior living in a small apartment, a border collie puppy may not be the best choice. If you are a jogger seeking an exercise companion, a Pug who can’t tolerate exertion in the heat would not be a good match. Here are some other things to consider before bringing that cute pooch home.

1. Do you have the time to train a new dog? Even if a dog has some prior training, you will need to teach him the rules of your home, including what furniture he is allowed to sit on. The basics include potty training, coming when you call him and safe interaction with your other pets as well as visiting children. If you can afford it, a private dog trainer can work wonders. Group classes at a reasonable cost are available at your local Petsmart and Petco stores.


2. Is everyone in your home on board? We frequently get calls from folks seeking a dog who have never checked with their spouse or partner. This includes roommates and any other adults living in the house. Discuss ahead of time who will provide care for the animal. Consider how receptive your other pets will be to a newcomer. Get advice online or consult your vet about how to introduce the new dog to his canine siblings.

3. Can you financially care for a dog? Everyone is aware of the cost of pet food and supplies. Veterinary care can be a major and unexpected expense. Consider whether you can provide both routine and emergency vet care. If you plan to travel, factor in the cost of boarding or pet sitters.

4. Can you commit to having the dog for a decade or longer? Adopting a canine is a long term commitment, especially if you adopt a young animal in good health. Large breed dogs can live up to 14 years, and some of the smaller breeds have been known to live as long as 17 or 18 years. If you are in your 80’s, think twice about that cute puppy that looks so adorable, and take a second look at some of those fabulous senior dogs who have a harder time getting a home. You can’t necessarily count on your adult children to take in your pets if you become unable to care for them. Shelter employees report that a large number of animals enter our public shelters when their owners pass away or enter assisted living centers. Folks of all ages need a plan for your animals should you become unable to care for them.

5. What type or breed of dog best suits your lifestyle? Talk to some experts, including dog trainers and shelter employees. Most large breed dogs do best when they have a yard for exercise. Smaller breeds are better suited to apartments and condos. When you visit a shelter or rescue, they provide a private visiting area when you can interact with prospective animals. Conduct some online research. Keep an open mind, as not all breeds of dogs match their attributed behaviors. I worked with one woman who insisted on getting a female pure-breed-looking rescue Boston Terrier….today she is the happy owner of a male tiny Chihuahua.

6. Are dogs allowed where you live? Check with your landlord first! They may require a pet deposit. Some apartment buildings and home owner associations have restrictions on the size of dogs allowed, usually measured by weight.

7. Are you knowledgeable on care and safety? Becoming educated on proper nutrition and health care is an important part of pet ownership. Remove potential hazards from your home. Get recommendations for a good veterinarian. Find out where your local emergency vet is located. The only 24-hour vet in the Coachella Valley is VCA in Indio, located at 46920 Jefferson, and they can be contacted at (760) 342-4711.

Most folks report their lives are enriched and more joyful after they adopt a dog. Our wonderful canine companions keep us happy and healthy. Careful planning helps to ensure that perfect match!