Recently a good friend of mine wanted to pull the plug and adopt a dog for the family. The twin boys have been asking for a dog as long as I could remember and Dad, my friend, was pretty enamored with the idea too! Since he’s a writer, he tends to research everything so I was thrilled when they came to me to ask the best way to match up a dog to his family.
As an adoption counselor for Mostly Mutts Pet Adoption and Rescue in Kennesaw GA, I see a lot of families fall in love with a dog that just doesn’t suit their family based on how the dog looks or acts at an adoption event. I gave Joel some questions to think about before he went to Mostly Mutts to look at available dogs.
- Puppy or Adult?
- A puppy is a mixed bag. It is a lot of work and not always for the new dog owner but a family that has done a lot of research on bringing up a new dog and has the time and energy to devote to bringing up a new canine citizen of the world could have an awesome experience raising a puppy.
- An adult dog may already be house trained, may already be obedience trained and may already have moved out of his destructive phase!
- Adopt or Shop?
- Your local shelter will have a plethora of choices. My rescue pulls animals from local, county-run, kill shelters. We have a huge number of foster families as well as space at the shelter for the dogs but when you have a dog that has been fostered, we can provide more detailed information on what training needs, health needs, or husbandry needs the dog has.
- If you are adamant about a specific breed, find a good breeder. Visit the AKC site for that specific breed and find a breeder recognized by them. Or, if you really would like to rescue, contact a breed-specific rescue organization. There are lots of circumstances surrounding why a dog is homeless and they don’t mean the dog is broken!
- What is the energy level of your family? To answer this question, think about your calendar and there is a Saturday that is totally open — no commitments, no plans, no family visiting. What do you and your family do with a whole day?
- Movie Day!!!! Rent a bunch of movies, make popcorn, and marathon the media.
- Waterfall Hike — find the nearest hiking trail that has a waterfall and get the family ready for an outing.
- Everyone on their own – you are in your reading nook catching up on that novel, the kids are playing in the back yard, and your spouse is gardening.
- What is the activity level of your family?
- Kids are involved in every activity under the sun
- One or more adults work long hours
- Never home
- Good mix of family time at home and activities out
- What size dog can you see in your home?
- Extra large like a Great Dane
- Large like a German Shepherd Dog
- Medium like a Beagle or hound dog
- small like a Chihuahua or aYorkie
- What degree of grooming?
- Weekly Baths, brushing every day
- Bath, what bath?
- Monthly visit to the groomer to keep that puppy cut fresh
- What activities do you plan to do with your new dog?
- Daily walks around the neighborhood — I need an exercise buddy!
- Take him everywhere with us, ball park, vacations, etc.
- Snuggling on the couch
- I’ve got a map of all the great hiking areas in the state I want to go to with him
Knowing the answers of these questions before you even start the physical search for your dog can help you narrow down your choices.
This is a very tough question because I’m personally involved in rescue but my love of dogs and the individual breeds makes me also a prime candidate for a pure bred. The truth is I have both. My two pure breeds (a lab and a vizsla) are rescues of a sort as the families that owned them couldn’t deal with or handle them. So Lesson One is that there are sometimes pure breed dogs available at your rescue. At Mostly Mutts, we’ve had Shelties, Boxers, Pomeranians, Great Danes, English Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Miniature Pinschers and the list goes on.
But most of those dogs were not puppies so what do you do when you want to get your pure breed puppy? Lesson Two is that if you want a pure breed, do your homework and find a reputable breeder. So today, I’d like to talk about what to look for in a reputable breeder. In my profession, I see a lot of puppies that are in homes because someone walked by a pet store window and knowing nothing about the breed but spying this little package of puppy goodness, they had to have it. Getting a puppy is not an impulse buy! Here are the Kritter Keeper’s rules for getting the right puppy for your family.
- Research the breeds and what the right fit is for you and your lifestyle. If you like to lie on the couch all day then you should not an Australian Shepherd as Aussies like to work all day running around and herding everything! Maybe look at one of the less active companion breeds like a Chihuahua or Brussels Griffon. If you are looking for a larger dog, believe it or not Greyhounds are big couch potatoes or something giant like a Great Dane or Mastiff.
- Research the breeder. I would prefer to work with a breeder that is acknowledged by the AKC and fits their standards. There is a laundry list of things I want from the breeder.
- Certificate of Health — I want to know that some of the genetic things that a breed is prone to are not in the genes of her line. For instance, hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd or blindness in a Dalmation. To know what health risks a breed is known for see #1 on this list.
- Home visit with at least Mom if not Mom and Dad on site. I want to make sure I am not supporting puppy mills so I’m going to want to see what environment my puppy is growing up in and I want to check the temperament of Mom and Dad. I want to see the puppies before I choose and how they interact with the rest of the litter and the parents. I also want to make sure that the breeder is providing an interactive experience for the puppies to help them with their cognitive functions.
- Understand the genetic lines of the dog — maybe the breeder has more of a show dog line versus a pet dog line. If you aren’t going to show then perhaps you would be better suited to a pet dog line.
Whether you get your new puppy from a rescue or from a reputable breeder, enjoy all the puppy kisses!
The gang’s all here!
Science offers us a lot of information on understanding the inner workings of your pets minds. They are food motivated or they are toy motivated. Modern cognitive psychology tells us that our companion pets don’t do anything just because. As a pet parent I have anecdotal evidence that says sometimes that is bullwhackey. Maybe there is some deep scientific reason my pack gathers around me and comforts me and takes care of me when I’m down but my evidence is that they have a deep unconditional love for me and know their job is to love and protect me.
Last night when I got home from a very stressful day — many petsitting/dogwalking jobs while trying to simultaneous juggle my full time IT Consultant job. Yesterday my car became my home office. Thank goodness it was a lovely day out as I sat on front porches watching the dogs play and talking on conference calls or had my headset on as I hiked with one of my wards or sat in the parking lot of shopping center to do my emails and work on my deliverables in between visits. And then I got the call.
I’m currently working on a project that was supposed to be long-term, at least another couple of years to deploy in the US and with my husband freshly laid off from a failing start up company, this gig was perfect because I made enough money to sustain the family without Andy working so he could find the perfect job. Plus the work was flexible enough that I could start Kritter Keepers and work my appointments in between meetings. I have my own Mi-Fi so I literally can work out of my car — as long as I have access to the internet and telephone, I am golden. And for those “All Day Deluxe” gigs I have, I get to spend time with the companion animals while still doing my job. There have been many a conference call with a kitty purring away on my lap or a heavy-headed pup resting on my thigh while I conducted business.
The call yesterday gave me two weeks but as a consultant/contractor. The bottom line is after October 31 I don’t have a full-time, well-paying job to support the family. And my girls sensed immediately my depression when I came home yesterday afternoon. Now, they are always excited when I get home because I am the center of their universe. “The Daddy” as we refer to Andy is nice to have around and if “The Mommy” isn’t around then he will feed them and they always like that! But The Mommy is the whole in their doggie doughnuts. I rock their world and they rock mine! If they had apposable thumbs they would bring me chicken soup when i am sick but instead they rally the troops.
Last night was no different. Each dog wanted to comfort me — sometimes all together and sometimes one-at-a-time. But they were all gentle and loving and knew something was wrong. The don’t force me to “talk about it” (boy do I hate talking about it!) and they don’t ask me for answers to questions I have no idea about. They just let me go through my process of reconciling with the bad news or illness or whatever is going on in life.
The pictures I’ve included are not the most flattering of me but they are the reality of the bad times I was going through. And for their support of me during the bad, I pledge to support them during their bad. I pledge to hold them as they cross over Rainbow Bridge. I pledge to comfort them and make them feel better when they are sick and hurt. I pledge to always keep them as a part of my family.
My girls are not my surrogate children but they are my companions, my loves, my family.
Please ignore the bulbous pink butt but I have 102 degree temperature but they just wanted to help me feel better
Kibbles in the lap of his new dad
This weekend my beloved Kibbles got adopted by a wonderful man and his girlfriend. He called her his partner…they are of the age where boyfriend and girlfriend seem a little ridiculous. He’s retired but very active. He’s planning on taking Kibbles on many adventures and making him into a boat dog. We’ve already heard from them as to how much they are in love with Kibbles.
I’m sad to have to give up my co-pilot. Kibbles went with me on a lot of my client visits. We had him for about two months and helped him learn to let go a lot of the adolescent bad behavior. He is so quick to learn and I hope his new family continues to work on his training. I think he could easily be a therapy dog. He has never met a dog or human that he hasn’t loved. We were also working on agility and he is a natural…although the jumps throw him a bit. He doesn’t realize that he can jump!
He does however realize that he can chew and new dad Donny bought Kibbie a nice Antler for when they get home to the new house. Kibbie, however, could not wait that long so he took it out of the bag, laid down in the store and chomped on it while Dad made his new tag.
Everyday I would ask Andy if we could keep Kibbles and everyday he would give me a pained look and roll his eyes. I had a connection with Kibbs for sure that I haven’t had with my other fosters and that was clouding my emotions and causing me to lose a little focus on why I am fostering.
With Kibbles safely and happily adopted into a new family I can offer a foster spot to another pup and save another life. I’ve had a few people ask me how I can give them away once they’ve been integrated into my family. I won’t lie, some are tougher then others to let go but I’ve got to keep my eye on the prize — saving more adoptable dogs!
October is Adopt-A-Dog Month. If you are thinking about bringing a furry friend into your family, please consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue. Only around 30% of companion pets are adopted — that leaves a lot of lives in shelters, rescues and foster homes like mine. We can only save so many.