There's no question that a dog can make a wonderful addition to the family. But not every dog is right for every family, and finding a good fit requires a hard look at your lifestyle, your needs, and your capacity to care for an animal in the home.
Animal expert Dr. Pia Salk suggests asking yourself these questions before beginning your dog search:
Who's Getting the Dog, and Why?
It's one thing if you're getting a dog to be a playmate for your child. It's quite another if you're getting a dog as a couple to prepare for the responsibility of parenthood.
What Is the Dog Getting?
It may seem like a strange question, but it's an appropriate way to think about adoption. Consider whether the dog is getting someone who works long hours, someone who will leave for college in two years, a young child, or an elderly couple.
Can We Provide for the Dog Over the Course of Its Life?
This is critical, because it forces you to look beyond the present and plan how to manage proper nutrition, medical care, and consistent exercise over the long term.
Do We Foresee Major Life Changes?
Think about any plan that would change the course of your life, such as a move, baby, extensive travel, or even divorce. Considering these "what if's" will help you decide whether now is the right time for an animal companion.
What Kind of Dog Is Right for Us?
Depending on your lifestyle, you may want a little lapdog that requires less intense exercise -- or a bigger dog that will swim and hike with you. If you want a puppy, be prepared to train your pooch and perhaps for a few things to be peed on or chewed up, as that is natural puppy behavior. If that's not something you want, look for a dog that's already been trained -- shelters are full of dogs who are already socialized and house trained.
You've answered these questions -- now what? Dr. Salk recommends visiting adoptapet.com, where you can search for adoptable pets in your area. Comprehensive information on each dog -- such as size, age, breed, and temperament -- can help you find the right dog for your family.
Also, be sure to check out other adoption tips from Martha and Dr. Salk, including great apartment dogs, breed mixes that are good with children, and hypoallergenic breeds.