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Three Things to Consider Before Adopting a Dog

There’s nothing quite like a dog’s excited greeting every time you come home. Even if your human housemates are upset with you, your canine friend will be waiting with a tail wag and a big slobbery smooch. However, before you go out and pick a pooch, you should be ready for all the responsibilities you’ll be taking on. There’s more to caring for your pet than just making sure they have food.

Consider Your Lifestyle and Living Situation

How much free time do you have every day? Dogs thrive on your attention, so figure out how much you can commit every day. You’ll have to let your dog out every morning, afternoon and evening. A dog might be able to “hold it in” while you’re at work if you let him out immediately before and after. However, if you’re a nine-to-fiver, you would do well to hire a dog-walker or find a neighbor you can trust to let your dog out while you’re away.

Additionally, depending on the breed, you should walk your dog at least once a day. If you’re only home for a few hours every day, you might want to consider a pet that requires less maintenance, like a cat or fish. Alternatively, if you love dogs but don’t have the time to care for one on a full-time basis, you could put in some hours volunteering at the local animal shelter.

Does your home have a fenced-in yard? Do you have a yard at all, or do you live in a closet-sized apartment? The bigger your dog, the more space it will need. Without adequate space and exercise, your new pet could end up chewing up and pulling apart your clothes, furniture, rug — you name it. Not out of anger or malice to be sure, but just as an outlet for his excess energy.

Finding a Good Fit

Different breeds cater to different lifestyles. The care required for each comes with its own costs: hiring a dog-walker and paying for regular grooming are common examples. If you have children or plan on having them, make sure you pick a breed that will play nice. There’s a multitude of online resources to help you pick the right one — just search for “dog breed guide.” Make sure you don’t nix mixed-breed dogs or mutts. While the cross might rule out entering dog competitions or shows, mutts are reputedly less prone to genetic diseases than their purebred counterparts.

If spending time with your pet is an issue, consider an older dog instead of a puppy. Puppies need training and stay very playful until they’re about five years old. A five-year-old dog is no slouch, but she might be less likely to shred your belongings with her excess energy. More than likely, an older dog will also already be housebroken.

Consider Adoption

You may want to avoid your local pet store. No matter how reputable they claim to be, chances are that they source their puppies from puppy mills, which can be unethical operations that have little concern for the health of their animals. Find a responsible breeder or adopt instead.

Your local animal shelters probably have a number of dogs of various ages, temperaments and breeds. Since they’ve spent plenty of time getting to know each of the dogs, the staff can help match you with one whose personality clicks with yours.

If you must have a certain hard-to-find breed, spend some time researching to find a trustworthy breeder. Beware: puppy mills that make sales online often use legitimate-looking websites to mask awful conditions. Check with well-established associations to find listings of breeders. Schedule a visit and use a “responsible breeder checklist” (found easily online) to determine if your purchase will be supporting an ethical operation. Another option is to look into breed-specific rescue groups. Some of these groups organize events where you can meet your new best friend and adopt on the spot.

Remember, a dog isn’t just a possession; he or she is a family member. You could be spending 10–20 years of your life with this canine companion, so make sure you do your due diligence and choose wisely.