“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” While this aphorism may seem a bit over the top, for the dogs that end up being returned to the shelter, it’s more akin to truism. Many of the dogs currently residing in shelters are there from pure misfortune. But I’m willing to wager that just as many are there because the person who adopted them had plans for the dog that did not work out- and the reason many of those plans did not work out is that the person’s expectations were not in touch with reality.
The first step in getting a dog is deciding if we are truly ready for a dog in our life. But more than that, it’s deciding what type of dog best fits into your current lifestyle, NOT the one you plan to have once you get a dog. Many of us have made resolutions to get in shape and gone out and spent money on a treadmill, exercise bike, or similar piece of equipment only to have that piece of equipment end up as an expensive coat rack. Many dogs end up in shelters or relegated to back yards with no contact simply because we thought we could change our lives to meet their demands, but fell short in the attempt. So before you decide what type of dog to get, or even if you have room in your life for a dog, be brutally honest with yourself in answering these questions.
- Am I really willing to be responsible for a dog? This means that if other people in the household break their promises about caring for the dog, you’re willing to take responsibility; you’re willing to feed, walk, train, play with, clean up after, financially support, and undertake all other aspects of caring for a dog.
- What kind of dog is right for my current lifestyle? By that I mean the lifestyle that you’ve had for the past year or so, NOT what you would like your lifestyle to be. If you work 10 hours a day and are a couch potato when at home, it’s unreasonable to get a high energy dog and hope that you will be able to change your lifestyle to match the dog.
- What kind of dog is right for my personality? Dogs are as individual as we are and sometimes different personalities just don’t mix. If you are a rabid football fan prone to screaming and shouting at the TV when your team isn’t doing well, a shy dog who doesn’t like loud voices might not be the dog for you.
- What kind of sacrifices am I willing to make for the dog? Are you willing to pick your shoes up off the floor until you’ve taught them what things are appropriate to chew on? Are you willing to put up with occasional accidents in the house while house training the dog? Are you willing to take time away from the football game or reality show to train your dog? Are you willing to do a little reading to educate yourself about your dog’s behavior and training?
If you answer these questions honestly, you will know whether you’re ready for a dog in your life. On Wednesday we will take the next step in the process and explore the types of dogs that will fit into our current lifestyle and how to start the search for the best fit.
Step Two: Find a Trainer
Step Three: Shelter Shock