Adopting a Dog

By Greg Hollen

Adopting a dog can be an enjoyable, heartfelt experience. Knowing you are helping a dog find a home is a satisfying feeling. Some caution must be taken though to make sure you adopt the right dog for you. Consider your lifestyle and how active you are to help select the right energy level. Are you a person that likes to go for walks a lot or would rather sit on the couch? There are energy levels for both kinds of people. In the best interest of you and the dog, you must sometimes turn off the emotion so you can make a proper choice in selecting a dog for you. Ask the shelter workers what they know of the dog and if they know about any health problems. There are over 7,000 dogs in shelters in Indiana so somewhere there is one that is right for you.

You must also consider the grooming requirements for the dog you are looking for. If you are not one to brush a dog then don’t get a long haired one. The cost of adopting a dog doesn’t stop at the adoption fee either. Consider grooming fees, veterinarian costs and feeding. There are also supplies to have from food to proper toys to housing. Professional trainers in your area can help you make a good selection and will be there so you can start training immediately

The number one reason dogs end up in shelters is for behavior problems, so be prepared to have some issues with manners in the beginning. One of my personal dogs, Buster, is from a shelter and training would have made the difference in having a home instead of ending up in a shelter.

You have found the dog for you at the local shelter and now what? Before bringing home your new member of the family, take stock in what you have ready for him. Make a checklist of all the things you need to have on hand for the homecoming. A crate, leash and collar, proper grooming supplies, a quality dog food, bowls and bedding are a short list of things to have. Before bringing your new dog into your home, take him for a vigorous walk to wear off any excess energy. Also, you need to enter BEFORE the new dog to establish who is leader immediately. Contact local trainers or ask at the animal shelter for recommendations so you can start working with your dog as soon as possible.

Upon entering your home, keep him on leash since he does not know your house rules yet. With the leash he is incapable of too much mischief since he has to remain in close proximity to you. This will also cut down on the chance of potty accidents also. If you cannot supervise your newly adopted dog, please use his crate to contain him. A properly introduced crate will become his safe haven and his den for the rest of his life. Feeding time should also be done in a calm and methodical manner with an established routine. Sitting and waiting for her food dish is a great way to teach your dog some patience. It also helps to reinforce the obedience and the need to hold their place until released. There are many tools and tips to be used for introducing your newly adopted dog to your home. A professional trainer can help you with the process.

Now that you have arrived home with your newly acquired family member and have all the supplies and equipment you need, it is time to start teaching. The first thing that needs to be address is feeling sorry for the dog. No matter what background the dog comes from, as long as they are healthy, they can be rehabilitated into good members of the family. Dogs live in the moment if we let them and will move on from traumatic experiences. Put in place, from the start, your house rules, an exercise program and some solid obedience training. House rules can consist of: being quiet in the house, using polite greetings, and respect for other family members. There can be other rules. They all need to be discussed by the family to make sure everyone is in agreement. If one person doesn’t enforce the rules, that will make it more difficult for the dog to adapt to their new home.

Our own dog, Buster, was crated for his entire life and had to be taught social graces, obedience, and proper behavior. He had to also be socialized and occasionally still has moments that his old ways want to creep out. They are handled much easier now due to consistent handling and application of the rules.

Dogs that have been heavily traumatized can and will take longer to change their way of thinking. Good obedience training helps since that gives the dog something else to do besides worry about who is walking past or what dog is near them. It does take time and there is no magic wand to wave but with perseverance and patience, every dog can be a great dog. Don’t forget to use exercise to calm your dog down. If a dog is tired, they are much less likely to be bothered by issues. A tired dog makes for a good dog and a very happy owner. So apply your rules, keep them simple and concrete, exercise your dog, and give them a job. Professional trainers can help with problems and you can locate a trainer near you at www.IndianaWorkingDogs.com. Great dogs are available for adoption and they need structure to their lives. Affection will not solve problems without applying house rules, and exercise first. Enjoy your new friend and all he has to offer..

This is Buster. Buster was adopted by Greg and Vicki Hollen from the Lawrence Animal Shelter.