How to Adopt an Adult Dog

When you adopt an adult dog, you could be saving its life. Most families are drawn to the adorable puppies at a shelter or dog adoption center, and in some cases a puppy is the best choice. But puppies are seldom in danger of being euthanized to control shelter crowding. Adult dogs are in danger, and many older dogs can be perfect companions. Chances are good that you won't have to deal with housebreaking, chewing or destructive puppy behavior, but there are some considerations when you're thinking of bringing an adult dog home.

Is the Dog a Good Fit?
When you adopt a dog, the first thing you should consider is your household composition. A single adult, or even married couples without children, would make a good match for a calm adult dog. A house that has young children will usually need a more active dog that can play and endure some wrestling. In this case, a puppy is usually a good choice because the puppy will grow up with the children.

Next, you should think about your overall activity level. Every dog needs some daily exercise, even adult dogs. Some adult dogs need more activity than others. For example, terriers or rottweilers are very active dogs that need time to run every day. If you adopt an adult dog that is active, make sure that your activity level is a good match to the dog's needs.

The size of your house is also an important consideration. When you are looking at an adult dog, you can see how large the dog is, and usually that is the size it will stay. If you live in an apartment, a large or extra-large dog breed is not the best option. Mastiffs and German shepherds, for example, need a lot of room to romp that cannot be found in an apartment.

The most important thing when choosing an adult dog is to feel a connection. Puppies will bond with their owners; adult dogs may not, particularly if they've been mistreated and there's something about you that reminds them of a past owner.

Spend some time with the dog before you adopt it. Most shelters have both indoor and outdoor areas for this purpose. Pet it, play with it and pay attention to how it reacts to you and how you feel around the dog. If there is any doubt in your mind that you and the dog will become the best of friends, you should continue your search.

Digging into a Dog's History
Once you find a dog that you like, but before you sign on the dotted line for adoption, you need to find out some background information. Why is the dog up for adoption? There can be any number of reasons. It could be a stray or a dog rescued from an abusive situation. The previous owners may have moved or found themselves unable to give the dog proper care.

This is when you need to take a serious gut check. If the dog is a stray, it may have some feral characteristics. If the dog was in an abusive home, it may suffer from behavioral problems or act viciously toward certain people or in certain situations. These dogs may be a poor fit for families with small children, but not always. Some neglected dogs thrive when they're given the attention that they crave. Have every member of the household meet and spend time with the dog. If the dog acts defensive around anyone in the home, you'll need to find another dog.

Keep in mind that dogs have emotions and the transition from one home to another can be stressful. Even a dog that was well-loved may take some time to adjust to a new family.

You also need to find out about any medical problems that could affect future veterinary costs or training needs. You should also find out the specific food the dog has been eating. Even if you plan to feed the dog a different food, you'll first need to wean it off the current food to ensure that the dog does not get an upset stomach.

After the Adoption
In most cases, you will need to take the dog to a veterinarian for a checkup once you leave the shelter. Some shelters will provide you with a coupon for a free or discounted veterinary visit.

Make sure that you have appropriate toys. Adult dogs may need something to chew on. Dogs usually chew when they are nervous, and moving in with a new family is a situation that will make most dogs very nervous.

Once you have the dog at home, training should begin immediately. It may be tempting to let bad habits slide for the first few days while you get to know the dog and it gets familiar with you and your home. This is a very bad idea. Dogs, like children, need consistency and leadership. You need to establish limits. If the dog is not going to be allowed on the furniture, do not sit on the furniture with the dog on your lap. This sends a confusing message to the dog.

You may want to consider taking the dog to an obedience class. If you do, make sure that you are an active participant in the class so that the dog learns to listen to you.

Set up a schedule for the dog. This includes predictable times for walking so it can use the bathroom. When you are doing this, keep in mind that for the first two or three weeks, you may need to make the trip outside every couple of hours and then slowly lengthen the time between walks. A dog's bladder and bowels are affected by major changes, such as moving to a new home.

Let the dog meet other people and dogs in your neighborhood. Take it to the local pet store or dog park. Make sure that you keep it on a leash. In most areas this is the law. In some cases, you can let the dog off of the leash in certain places. Before you do this, make sure that the dog will obey you even when it is distracted by other things.

Lastly, give the dog all the love it needs, and you will have a loyal companion for life.

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