Adopting a Dog: Did I Make a Mistake?

Written on July 20, 2018 by Staff Veterinarian

IMG_0497So, you are about to adopt a puppy or adult dog and give them a forever home. This decision to adopt will reward you in so many ways, but at times, may have you looking back and asking, “why did I do this again?”.

Maybe you are new to pet ownership. You sat down on a bench at your local park or went for a weekend hike when you stumbled upon beautiful, well-behaved pups alongside their humans oozing a visible bond and adoration between the two. You think, “I want that”. And rightfully so!

There is nothing quite like the bond you build with a pet. It truly fulfills your life and gives you an added family member you never knew you needed. However, the bond you build is just that, built from nothing. That picture-perfect dog and human duo you saw hiking probably had many months, if not years, of training and frustrating moments. Just know that this is completely normal! It is that hard work and training that creates the foundation of your happily ever after.

Is now the right time?

No one knows your lifestyle better than you. This is the time to look at your day to day schedule and determine if you have the time.IMG_0493

Do you have a yard?

Or the ability to go for walks daily? Every dog will have a different requirement for exercise, but all will need something. What can you provide?

What breed is right for you?

Although many rescue pups are mixes, their breeds can sometimes give us information on what kind of energy they will have and what type of lifestyle they need.

Do you have the savings?

We don’t like to think about worst case scenarios, but if there was an emergency with your new dog, could you manage the emergency veterinary bill? Have you done research on Pet Health Insurance. The small monthly payment for pet insurance is worth every penny when it gives you peace of mind and takes the financial stress away from the entire experience of adopting.

After you think everything through and decide that now is a perfect time, you can check your local shelters and rescues until you find your future best friend. Now the adventure begins.

It is going to be hardIMG_0499

There may be a short period of pure bliss when you bring you pup home for the first time. They are sure to be tired from such an exciting day. It is in the first week, especially with a young dog, that you may first ask that question, “did I make a mistake?”.

No dog comes fully trained to your lifestyle. Even senior dogs need some adjusting and training to get them to where you need them to be. That perfect dog you saw hiking might have started their new home with a bang: breaking into the trash, or chewing your favorite shirt to pieces.

Just know that you are not alone. Every dog owner has gone through this phase, and sometimes, this phase can last longer or shorter than others. Adopting a puppy is not too unlike having a toddler running around. You must always have an eye on them and ‘quiet’ is the most terrifying noise.

In some rare cases the dog you adopted may not be the right fit. More and more we have out of state rescues or fosters rehoming dogs in state. Although this can work wonderfully in many instances, sometimes you find the description or attributes of a dog may not be what they seem. In these situations, it is best to be honest and open with your rescue to make sure the dog gets what is best for them. Meeting a dog in person before deciding to adopt may be a good option for first time dog owners, or if you have a full household to begin with: cats, other dogs, kids.

Training ClassesIMG_0165

All rescues, veterinarians, and breeders will recommend some type of training class for your new dog. Besides the obvious obedience skills they can learn there, they will obtain much needed socialization with other dogs and humans.

There are many levels of training classes and facilities to choose from. Talk to your family veterinarian about the best options for your dog.

It’s only been a month?

It may start to feel like you are getting gray hairs and it has been an eternity since making the major life decision to adopt. There is no straight answer or mathematical formula to tell you when it will get easier, or when your dog will be trotting beside you keeping you in their sights, ready to obey every single word you utter. For me, it was two years.

The Reward

IMG_0498Luka came to me at 4 months old from a rescue. He did actually tear apart my favorite shirt, shred a photograph print I had developed, and chewed through my MacBook power cord. We attended two obedience classes and I chose to crate train him for his safety. That in itself was extremely hard in the beginning as he cried for a solid 20 minutes after I left. I would sit on the steps outside listening to him, heartbroken, but knowing this was the safest way for me to leave him. Then all the sudden, it got better.

Several months in he seemed to not mind his crate, and sauntered in there on his own. At two years of age I decided I could trust him and gave him free range of the bedroom while I went to work (making sure everything was cleaned up and no cords were in his reach of course).

IMG_0505Today Luka is 8 years old and we share a bond stronger than I ever thought possible with a pet. I can feel when he is anxious or upset and he can do the same for me. He has free range of my home and knows our schedule better than I do. I am happy to say that WE are that duo hiking in the woods and kayaking down a river, making it look easy, but I promise you, it was not always so- and still has it’s moments. It will be hard and at times you will think this lifestyle change was a mistake or you can’t do it. Reach out to your veterinarian when you are feeling overwhelmed. They are there to care for you and your pet in any circumstance and they may have the piece of advice you need. Besides the constant training, your dog just needs you. Give them the time and attention and let them adjust to your life as you are adjusting to them.

Giving your time and home to a pet is, in my opinion, one of the best things we can do in our lifetime. The hard work and effort does not go unrewarded. Good luck and enjoy.




Lauren and Luka. Luka, a German Wire-haired Pointer mix, was adopted from Dixie Pet Underground Rescue in 2010.





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