Preparing Your Family For A New Dog

Those of us who love canines discover the prospect of bringing house a brand new canine member of the family intoxicating and exhilarating. Well-planned prematurely or not, the adoption of a brand new canine possible triggers a rush of oxytocin unparalleled by all however a couple of different high-end life experiences. 

That mentioned, whereas some spur-of-the-moment adoptions can and do flip into profitable relationships, when attainable, we extremely advocate that your subsequent canine adoption be effectively thought out prematurely, and you choose your new canine rigorously, to maximise the probability that it is possible for you to to supply a lifelong loving house for the lucky canine who joins your loved ones.


The technique of adopting a canine may be daunting. We encourage you to do some pre-planning earlier than you begin on the lookout for the most recent member of your loved ones, to extend the possibilities that one can find a really perfect lifetime companion. 

If you’re single and dwelling alone, you’re free to contemplate solely your personal wants and needs; the method turns into significantly extra advanced if in case you have household or housemates. In both case, earlier than you start your search in earnest, it behooves you to consider your stipulations and preferences, together with:

• Family/roommate buy-in. Is everybody within the family on board with getting a canine (or one other canine)? If not, work via all of the reservations earlier than you proceed any additional. It doesn’t profit the canine to deliver her into a house the place there might be simmering resentment or outright battle over her presence.

• Breed and supply. Do you have already got your thoughts set on a particular breed or breed-type? If so, does everybody within the household or family really feel snug along with your selection? Have you researched the breed completely so that you perceive its conduct propensities and customary medical points? 

If you’re on the lookout for a specific breed or kind, you may think about adopting from a breed rescue group, getting pre-approved and placing your self on a ready checklist at your native shelters, or buying from a good breeder. Private-party adoptions are additionally an affordable possibility – a pal or co-worker who must rehome a canine companion, and even, rigorously, a non-public adoption from a categorised advert, or Craigslist. No pet-store puppies, ever, please. (For extra about the place to search for your subsequent canine, see “Adopt or Shop,” WDJ August 2020.) 

• Size. If you don’t have already got a breed in thoughts, does measurement matter? If so, what measurement canine are you contemplating – toy, small, medium, giant, or large? 

Be conscious that toy and large breeds are at higher danger for important medical issues. In normal, the large breeds are inclined to have quick life spans whereas the smaller breeds are inclined to stay longer. A current evaluation of veterinary data revealed that canines beneath 20 kilos had a median lifespan of 11 years, with some smaller canines dwelling so long as 14 years or extra, whereas these over 90 kilos sometimes lived for a median of solely eight years. Small canines could also be a higher tripping danger – however they’re extra moveable! – whereas giant and large breeds could also be extra more likely to knock you over (or your senior grandparent).

• Age. Puppies are undeniably cute. On the plus facet, beginning with a child canine means you possibly can have an enormous affect on her growth and know that her world has been force-free from very early on. Still, that’s not a assure that she’s going to turn into the right canine, particularly if she wasn’t effectively socialized earlier than you adopted her. (Despite what you might have heard, an eight-week-old pet is just not a “blank slate.”) And they’re plenty of work. 

As we lately contemplated the adoption of a 3-month-old Australian Cattle Dog-mix, my husband and I noticed that we don’t wish to undertake a pet. They are plenty of work! 

In distinction, grownup canines usually tend to be a “what you see is what you get” proposition – though they’ll ship behavioral surprises too, as they alter to their new life with you. They are previous the “needle-sharp puppy teeth” stage, thus much less more likely to shred your flesh (and your possessions) with pet mouthing. And whereas some adults nonetheless might get pleasure from chewing, there’s probability they are going to be much less harmful (barring anxiety-related behaviors) and usually tend to already be house-trained (or simply house-trained). 

On the opposite hand, it’s additionally attainable that they might come to you with some already-well-established conduct challenges…

• Coat. Are you pondering quick or lengthy coat? Does it matter to you? It issues quite a bit to some individuals. 

First, think about grooming. Is somebody going to be fortunately chargeable for brushing that lengthy Afghan Hound, Collie, or Pomeranian fur regularly – not less than as soon as every week, and perhaps extra? Will you fortunately bear the price of routine journeys to the groomer for that Poodle or Doodle clip? Will your Roomba deal with the carpet of lengthy white Great Pyrenees fur that covers your rug? 

You’re not off the hook with short-coated canines both – these prickly Labrador Retriever hairs are nice at infiltrating the material of your furnishings (or enterprise swimsuit) and could be a bear to get out! Of course, there’s at all times the Mexican hairless canine… the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced “show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee”).

When contemplating an adoption prospect, these of us older adopters could be sensible to contemplate our personal well being, energy and power stage, along with the canine’s. The incontrovertible fact that we’ve owned huge canines our whole lives is, sadly, not a assure that we will nonetheless safely deal with one for the following 10 or so years.

• Dog-keeping particulars. Which members of the family might be chargeable for which dog-related chores: feeding, clean-up, walks, grooming, journeys to the vet, coaching? Where will the canine sleep? Is she allowed on the furnishings? Who might be your vet, groomer, pet sitter, canine walker? There is an countless array of trivialities that comes with sharing your life with a canine; the extra of the main points you’re employed out prematurely, the higher!


Okay: You’ve given all the earlier stipulations and preferences some consideration. You’ve learn the “Adopt or Shop” article within the August subject of WDJ, so you realize the place you will search for your subsequent canine. It’s time to go meet some prospects! 

When my husband and I each labored at animal shelters, choosing our subsequent canine was straightforward. We by no means really got down to search for one; as a substitute, whereas we met dozens of canines each week, in the end a canine would enter the shelter that one or the opposite of us would have a near-instant connection to. Our “love at first sight” moments would then be enhanced by the chance to get to know the canine higher over the following few days as he went via the consumption course of. 

Since leaving shelter work, we’ve discovered simply how difficult it may be for most individuals to seek out the right canine! You go to the shelter or rescue meet-and-greet location, you see a canine that appeals to you, spend a couple of minutes with him, and the following factor you realize you’re filling out adoption papers. You wouldn’t get married that manner! 

Today, it’s frequent for individuals to obtain little or no details about the canine they undertake. When we labored in shelters, we’d get intensive data from homeowners who had been surrendering their canines. We usually had much less details about stray canines that our officers picked up, however not less than we carried out conduct assessments (flawed as they might be) and stored notes on the canine’s conduct throughout her stick with us. Anything we discovered concerning the canines was handed on to the adopter.

In distinction, right now it looks like few organizations have a lot details about their canines apart from “she came from a shelter in North Carolina.” They generally don’t even appear to know if the canine was owned or stray! When it’s time to undertake, you might have to rely solely by yourself observations and instincts concerning the canines you meet – and buying from a breeder may be equally fraught with challenges. 

Here are some options that can assist you achieve your adoption quest:

* Get assist. If your adoption group doesn’t present expert adoption counseling and also you aren’t assured in your personal skills to make a good selection, think about taking a dog-savvy pal with you, and even paying a certified force-free skilled that can assist you along with your search. The similar holds true if you’re buying from a breeder. Take somebody with you, until you’re 100% assured that the breeder is moral, educated, and well-qualified to you assist you choose your pup.

* Insist on assembly the canine in particular person. I’m an expert canine coach/conduct advisor and I wouldn’t even think about adopting a canine sight unseen. I don’t care what data or assurances the group has given you, or what number of movies of the canine you’ve got watched – you don’t know who the canine is till you meet him. 

I’m appalled by the prevalence of web adoptions taking place lately with no precise assembly between canine and human till after the paperwork is signed and sealed and the canine is delivered midway throughout the nation. While it’s pretty frequent observe for breeders to ship puppies throughout the nation (or throughout oceans!) to consumers, sight unseen, I wouldn’t do it, regardless of how nice the breeder’s fame.

* Know what you’re on the lookout for (as described above) – and in addition know which qualities may be negotiable. Perhaps you’re on the lookout for a feminine Border Collie and also you go to the shelter and probably the most good male Australian Shepherd is there within the kennel, begging you to undertake him. Close sufficient? Maybe so! 

It doesn’t essentially even must be that shut. A husband/spouse couple, shoppers of mine, had been lately trying to undertake a small canine. They went to the shelter to satisfy a 20-pound terrier-mix that they had seen on the web site, however once they received there the canine was already adopted. They got here house with a purebred Akita who is among the nicest canines I’ve met in a very long time. They are fairly thrilled with their new member of the family.

Too scared to method you? Do not undertake until you need a “project” canine who might by no means get snug with people.

* Resist the pity celebration pup. It’s straightforward to really feel sorry for the poor, scared canine huddled within the again nook of her kennel run. But it’s best to know that for those who undertake this canine there’s an excellent probability you’re looking at a big behavior-modification undertaking; it’s attainable that this canine may have fear-behavior challenges for the remainder of her life. Note: I’m a canine conduct skilled and I might not undertake such a canine! 

Truth be advised, most individuals need a behaviorally wholesome canine they’ll take with them to the seaside, to the workplace, to their baby’s soccer sport, on hikes, to household reunions, to canine coaching lessons – and shy, frightened canines might by no means be capable of do these issues. Adopt provided that you benefit from the problem of a conduct modification undertaking and perceive the attainable long-term ramifications of adopting a fearful canine. 

* Consider foster-to-adopt. More shelters and rescue teams now provide this as an possibility, each to provide you an opportunity to judge the canine in a house setting and to unlock shelter and foster house house for incoming canines. Fostering can provide you and the canine the chance to see if it’s a good match – and means that you can really feel much less responsible about returning the canine if it doesn’t work out. You hadn’t made a full dedication, and also you are actually capable of present the adoption company with data that may assist them make a greater match with one other adopter.

* Conduct your personal conduct evaluation. It doesn’t must be as intensive as those that some organizations make the most of, however there are some staple items you are able to do to see how the canine responds and make adoption selections accordingly.


Studies in recent times have discovered shelter assessments to be unreliable and non-predictive; behaviors seen in assessments are sometimes not seen within the adoptive house after the canine leaves the shelter, and behaviors not seen within the evaluation might seem after the canine is in a house. Even so, it helps to stroll via a structured evaluation, if solely to increase the period of time you spend with the canine earlier than making a dedication.

I’m not suggesting you do an intensive evaluation protocol, simply attempt a couple of fairly non-aversive issues to see how the canine responds. If you’re headed out to evaluate a possible new member of the family, take this checklist with you and circle the suitable letters for the behaviors you see. Having a rubric like this can assist information you to a good move.

Before you begin, ask if the shelter or rescue group is snug with you performing an evaluation, and share with them the protocol you plan to make use of.

1. Watch the canine. Before really interacting with the canine, observe her from a distance. Is she:

[A] Comfortable and relaxed in her kennel or different housing? (This could be best.) 
[B] Pacing, burdened, and barking?
[C] Charging at canines and people who cross? 
[D] Huddled within the again?

Note that B, C, and D are crimson flags; nonetheless, some canines who’re burdened or fearful within the kennel are fairly regular when in a much less intimidating setting, so this doesn’t must be an entire rule-out. 

It’s great once you discover a canine who walks tremendous properly on a leash. Not strolling on a leash is just not essentially a deal-breaker, nonetheless.

2. Walking on leash. Out of the kennel and on leash, does she:

 [A] Walk fortunately along with her handler? (This is good.) 

[B] Pull exhausting on the leash and/or sniff? (This is your fundamental coaching undertaking.) 
[C] Flail wildly or placed on the brakes and refuse to maneuver? (This represents a extra important coaching and/or conduct problem.)

3. Take her off leash. In a safely enclosed space, take away her leash. Does she:

[A] Happily greet and keep considerably close to people? (This is good affiliative conduct.)
[B] Cling desperately to people? (This may be worry or separation-related conduct.)
[C] Confidently discover the room with occasional check-ins with the people? (This is sweet, considerably unbiased conduct.) 
[D] Confidently discover the room and ignore people? (This may point out a really unbiased canine, which may be difficult.) 
[E] Go wild and loopy, racing across the room continuous with glee? (High-energy canines could be a problem.)
[F] Pace backwards and forwards, maybe whining, by no means calming or settling down? (A burdened, anxious canine could be a important conduct problem – or may settle as soon as out of the shelter setting.)
[G] Cautiously discover the room? (She might lack confidence and want some conduct modification.) 
[H] Hide in a nook and refuse to maneuver? (This is a really fearful canine who will want intensive conduct modification.)

This affectionate canine loves being dealt with and touched throughout, however her contact is unfastened and relaxed. An anxious, insecure canine could be extra clingy and tense.

4. How is she with dealing with? With the leash again on, do some normal dealing with: Pet her throughout, contact her paws, look in her ears, take a look at her enamel. (Stop at any time if she seems uncomfortable or proof against a level that’s unsafe.) Does she: 

[A] Enjoy your contact, heat and wiggling and asking for extra? (Best.)
[B] Tolerate your contact however probably not get pleasure from it or invite extra interplay? (This is suitable for those who aren’t on the lookout for a touchy-feely snuggle-dog.)
[C] Move away from you? (If she’s clearly not snug with dealing with, she could also be a behavior-modification undertaking.)
[D] Freeze, provide you with a tough stare, growl, and/or snap? (These point out important conduct points; don’t undertake until you’re a conduct skilled or very expert and skilled canine proprietor on the lookout for a undertaking.)

5. Check for any coaching. Ask the canine to take a seat, lie down, and shake – three behaviors that homeowners are probably to have taught her. Then see if you may get her to do something by luring with treats that you simply introduced with you. Does she:

[A] Appear to have have already got some coaching? (This is finest.)
[B] Easily carry out new behaviors that you simply attempt to get her to do with a deal with? (This can also be nice.)
[C] Show curiosity within the deal with however doesn’t perceive what you are attempting to get her to do? (This is suitable; she may want extra time and persistence to assist her perceive.)
[D] Show little interest in the deal with? (She could also be too burdened to be thinking about meals – however her lack of curiosity in meals might current a extra important coaching problem.)

6. Is she playful? Try providing the canine a wide range of toys you’ve got introduced with you – a ball, a stuffed squeaky toy, a tug, a food-dispensing toy. Start with light play; you possibly can intimidate some canines for those who play with them an excessive amount of or too exhausting. Does she:

[A] Play with you fortunately and appropriately? (This is finest.)
[B] Play with you fortunately however will get too aroused and a bit mouthy? (This is suitable, however she’s going to want administration and coaching.)
[C] Love to play with the toys however will get a bit (or quite a bit) tense once you attempt to take the toy? (This signifies a bent to protect her “stuff,” higher often known as resource-guarding; she’s going to want administration and coaching to enhance this conduct.)
[D] Declines to play in any respect? Avoids you or appears to be like at you such as you’ve misplaced your thoughts? (This is okay for those who don’t thoughts a canine who doesn’t play, otherwise you wish to attempt to train her to play; see “Let the Games Begin,” November 2014.)

A canine who favors consideration from and interplay with a toddler over an grownup is a perfect prospect for a household with youngsters.

7. Kid issues. If you’ve got kids you should have your potential canine meet them earlier than finalizing the adoption. Some canines who’re completely great with all the above merely can’t stay with kids. For a canine to stay safely with kids she ought to adore them, not simply tolerate them. When the canine sees your baby or kids, does she:

[A] Appear completely satisfied to method and work together appropriately, as if she had been saying, “Yay! Kids!”? (This is finest.)
[B] Appear completely satisfied to method and work together, however is a bit too excited? (She will want administration and coaching.)
[C] Appear to disregard or tolerate the presence of the kid or kids? (If you’ve got youngsters, this isn’t acceptable; don’t undertake this canine.)
[D] Is she cautious, fearful, reactive or aggressive? (Do. Not. Adopt!) 

8. Do you’ve got different canines? Ideally, you should have introduced alongside your own home canine(s) to allow them to be launched in a impartial setting. If not, if at this level you’re nonetheless very within the canine, ask to have the canine placed on maintain so you possibly can go house to get your own home canine(s) for an introduction. Introduce them rigorously, after all, and once more, have a certified canine coaching skilled or dog-savvy pal current to assist. 

When the canines see one another from throughout the room or yard, do they:

[A] Both seem fairly calm and completely satisfied to method and meet one another? (This is finest.)
[B] One seems extra assertive, the opposite extra appeasing? (This can also be nice, so long as the extra assertive canine doesn’t come on too sturdy.)
[C] Both seem completely satisfied to method however are very excited? (This is suitable, although you have to to handle their conduct with one another.)
[D] Dogs ignore/keep away from one another? (This is just not a good selection; avoidance typically turns into a big conduct problem.)
[E] Either or each canines present indicators of stress: stiff physique language, exhausting stares, growling, reactivity? (This is just not a good selection.)

9. Do you’ve got different animals in your loved ones? If you’ve got different small or giant companion animals (cats, pigs, birds, horses, and many others.), ask if the canine has any historical past round these, and if there are any obtainable on the premises the place you’re assembly the canine. With the canine on leash at a distance, observe her conduct. Does she:

[A] Watch calmly from a distance? (This is finest.)
[B] Watch with completely satisfied pleasure from a distance? (This is okay, although she’s going to want administration and coaching.)
[C] Become extremely aroused and /or reactive, barking and lunging? (With wonderful administration and modification, this may be acceptable if in case you have giant animals – however it’s not acceptable if in case you have small animals.)
[D] Go into predator/stalking mode, or crouch, with a tough stare? (With wonderful administration and modification, this may be acceptable if in case you have giant animals – however it’s not acceptable if in case you have small animals.)


It’s been eight years since my husband and I’ve been intently affiliated with a shelter. Two years in the past, in the identical yr, we misplaced our final two shelter adoptees to previous age and most cancers. 

Our present canines are not shelter alumni; we had been unable to seek out the canines we wished via any of our native shelters or rescue teams. After prolonged searches we adopted one from a rescue group in New York (we stay in Maryland) and the opposite was privately adopted; he was being rehomed via Craigslist. Now we will higher empathize with the struggles of canine lovers to seek out good candidates for their very own households. 

Even so, shortage isn’t motive to be lower than scrupulous in your assessments. Remember, you’re making a dedication of hundreds of {dollars} for meals and veterinary care, and numerous hours of time spent along with your canine over not less than the following decade or extra. Take your time! Good luck along with your search. 

Author Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT‑KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She lives in Fairplay, Maryland, web site of her Peaceable Paws coaching heart. See web page 24 for details about her books and programs.

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