When you welcome a new dog (or any animal) to your family, it should be for the rest of their life. You should be willing to commit to taking care of their social, emotional, exercise, medical and stimulation needs. A dog should never be taken on without a lot of thought as to whether you are able and willing to provide for all of their needs for the rest of their lives. Too many people view them as disposable; that is why rescues and pounds are full to bursting, and why so many dogs are killed every year. It is vital that you are completely committed to the dog for the rest of their lives, and will treat them as you would any member of your family; for keeps. Anyone working in rescue will tell you that they hear every excuse under the sun as to why people are no longer committed to their dog family member. If you have doubts, it is better not to adopt then to adopt and then uproot them again.
It is very important to make sure that you choose a dog whose needs will fit in with what you are able and willing to commit to. For example, if someone who is largely house-bound and cannot walk far takes on a high-energy dog such as a young spaniel, or if someone who is out all day takes on a border collie, it is likely to result in frustration and problems for both the dog and you. Be honest with yourself about what you are able to offer and choose a dog whose needs you will be able to fulfil. A simple search online about the breed you are considering, or asking advice from a good rescue, will help you to decide to which dog and which traits you and your lifestyle is best suited.
Rescue dogs are not “broken” but sometimes they have had very troubling lives and this can take its toll. They may have bad memories to cope with, and they may have been neglected or abused. This does not mean that they are beyond help, nor does it mean they are “problem” dogs; in fact, with love, kindness and understanding you will almost always find the opposite to be true. Once they know they are safe and loved, they blossom into trusting, loving and loyal members of your family.
Many people choose to buy a puppy from a breeder because they feel that the dog is less likely to have “issues”. This is absolutely not the case; issues can arise in any dog, and are almost always the result of human errors, not dog errors. Any dog can develop behavioural issues if they are not given adequate love, respect, understanding, stimulation, compassion and boundaries. It is a great shame that people choose to buy rather than rescue, as not only does a dog bought mean a dog in rescue is not given that chance, but by assuming that a puppy will not have any “issues” and that it is not hard work to help a puppy turn into a well-rounded dog is likely to lead to disappointment, frustration and, often, dogs being relinquished and ending up in rescue.
It is important to go to a responsible rescue when you are thinking about adding a new dog to your family. Good rescues will fully assess dogs in their care, home-check, neuter, vaccinate, chip, offer rescue back up for life (they will take the dog back if necessary), be open and honest about the dogs and any issues they may need help with, do follow up checks, and charge an adoption fee.
If you have very young children, it is often better to wait until they are bit older before adding any dog to your family (including those bought from breeders as puppies). That is not to say that a baby cannot grow up with an existing dog family member – they often have wonderful friendships – but adding a new dog to your family when you have very young children requires dedication, patience and understanding. If you have other companion animals, a good rescue will have fully assessed them and will know which dog would be the right fit for your family.
With careful consideration, you will find the right dog to join your family and give you and the dog the best possible chance of a very happy friendship and a lifetime of love, loyalty and laughter that only dogs can bring to your life.