puppy OR DOGGIE?

01 December 2020 Written by  110 Magazine
Published in December 2020 Articles

Important Things to Consider When Adopting a Four-Legged Friend

Puppies, with their floppy ears and adoring eyes, can melt your heart. But if you plan on gifting one to a family member, it is very important that you do so in a responsible way. Dr. Howard Schutzman, owner and veterinarian at Antioch Veterinary Hospital, gives readers his expert advice on the proper way to give someone a pet. 

“The truth is one-third of all gifted pets end up in a shelter, which accounts for the largest group of pets in animal shelters,” Dr. Schutzman said. “The general rule is never to give a person a dog unless you live within their household and plan to help with caretaking duties; however, if parents are willing and ready for a new family pet, a child can benefit tremendously from the empathy and responsibility it teaches them.” 

He explains that pets are lifetime commitments and, while puppies are cute, they grow out of that phase. New owners need to be prepared and set up caretaking duties before the enthusiasm wanes. 

START WITH A COMMITMENT 

Adding a pet to the family needs to begin with a decision from parents. “It’s okay to surprise kids, as long as the parents understand the adults are making the commitment,” Dr. Schutzman said. “If possible, bring the kids along to select the pet. Everyone will be more invested if they pick it out as a family. It will give them more ownership. There is a lot of psychology in that. If you pay for something, you are more likely to keep and care for it.” 

When going to select the pet, sit down and let the puppies come up to you and see how they interact. Are they fearful or aggressive? Do they have the type of demeanor that would fit within your family’s lifestyle? “If you’re not sure, go home and think about it. Don’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision that you may regret. This is a living being, and you want to be responsible,” Dr. Schutzman said.

Dr. Schutzman also encourages future dog owners to be realistic. Setting the right expectations is the most important thing about adopting a new pet. Make sure to discuss the decision with your partner and any adults who live in the house where the new dog will reside. You don’t want resentment later. 

CHOOSE THE RIGHT BREED 

Thinking through all the components of caring for a pet is vital. Ask yourself these questions before adopting a dog: 

Why do you want a dog? Companionship, breeding, camping/hunting/recreation, or guarding/protection are all common reasons for getting a dog. Each purpose lends itself to a different breed. 

How active are you? Consider your physical ability compared to a dog’s needs. Larger breeds require daily walking and activity, and owners must be able to provide that exercise. Different dogs have varied activity levels. Make sure that you and your family have the energy needed to provide the right care on a daily basis. If a dog is hyper, he may love and desire the interaction of a young child who can play with him. 

“They may not show their personality right away, so it is important to let them open up and feel comfortable.”

How many hours are you home each day? Dogs are living beings that require care and attention. If you will not be home during the day or you travel frequently, you need to think through your plan. Do you want to crate the pet? Do you plan to keep him/her outside or are you willing to investigate boarding options? If you choose a highly relationship-oriented dog, an absent owner would likely not be a good fit. 

Where do you live? It seems obvious, but many people don’t consider their space when adopting a dog. If you have an apartment or smaller condo without a back yard, you’ll need to take that into account when selecting the size and breed of the dog. Additionally, dogs have different barking patterns. If you live close to neighbors, you’ll need to think about noise level. 

Do you have other pets? What is the age and physical condition of other pets in the home? Are they used to sharing their space with additional dogs? 

Does anyone in your home have allergies? If you need a hypoallergenic dog that does not shed, there are lots of options. Studies show that having a dog in the home can build immunity and protect children from developing allergies and asthma.

Is pet ownership in the budget? Taking care of a dog is a commitment. You’ll need to be able to provide necessary care like vaccinations, regular health and dental exams, grooming, etc. It’s an ongoing expense that future owners need to analyze. 

What age of pet is best? With adult dogs, you have a much better idea of what you are getting. There are pros and cons to both. 

When deciding what breed or type of dog, it’s also important to consider lineage. There are different thoughts on mixed breed dogs versus purebred; however, “AKC Certified does not mean superior in any way,” Dr. Schutzman said. “In fact, all breeds have health risks, and a genetically narrow gene pool in purebred dogs is more inclined to lead to health problems. For example, heart disease is common in King Charles Cavaliers, and certain types of cancers can affect Boxers more frequently.” Dr. Schutzman added that you don’t want to get a dog from a genetic family member (mother/son, sister/brother), and you’ll want to consider their outbreeding program. A breeder should be able to provide the health history three generations back. “You should always ask to see the parents of a dog to make sure you know what you’re getting,” he added. 

If you purchase a dog from a pet store, ask where they got the puppies. If they came from a puppy mill, they could have health and behavior issues. 

Rescue dogs can make great pets as well. They may not show their personality right away, so it is important to let them open up and feel comfortable. Depending on what kind of situation they came from, they may have different needs. 

“Only 23 percent of dogs that are adopted in the United States come from shelters, but 99 percent of shelter animals are healthy and would make fantastic pets. The average age of shelter dogs is under 18 months,” Dr. Schutzman said. “Reports show that 6.5 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. I always encourage someone to rescue a dog whenever possible.” 

For more on selecting the right breed, Dr. Schutzman encourages you to find an online tool like the Animal Planet’s breed selector at animalplanet.com/breed-selector/dog-breeds.html. 

NEXT STEPS 

You’ve got the puppy, the dog bed, a few toys and food…now what? Dr. Schutzman explains there are a few important next steps that you need to take. 

The first step is taking the dog to a vet to get a checkup, including any needed vaccines and microchipping. With a microchip, cats are 20 times more likely and dogs are 2.5 times more likely to be returned to their owners. If your pet gets lost somehow and ends up in a shelter, a microchip is great assurance that they will be found and returned home. 

Many breeders often give you 48 hours to have dogs checked before agreeing to the purchase. Vets will look for cleft palates, hernias, heart murmurs, or congenital defects. The exams are typically longer, giving time to evaluate behavior and help a dog feel comfortable. You should discuss the following: vaccination, worming, spay/neutering, diet (raw, grain-free, etc.), and general care, such as addressing concerns, misconceptions, and questions. 

Additionally, Dr. Schutzman suggests discussing pet insurance options through providers like ASPCA, Trupanion, or Figo. “Pet insurance is a very valuable resource that you need to consider,” he said. “Veterinarians can do so many things to treat pet conditions now. Medical technology is there, from MRIs, CAT scans, and diagnostics to hip replacements. Medicine is expensive though, and costs can get high quickly. Insurance is fantastic for peace of mind.” 

Antioch Veterinary Hospital has two locations: 5151 Deer Valley Road and 1432 W. 10th Street in Antioch. It is a full-service clinic offering the latest in medical technology and diagnostics. Dr. Schutzman and his staff are committed to compassionate care, even being certified as Fear-Free. They are passionate about animals and understand that a new pet is a member of the family. For more information, visit antiochvet.com or call/text 925-757-2800. 

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