There are so many good things about owning a dog: companionship, protection and unconditional love. Dogs are also good for our health, with research indicating that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. But, owning a dog is also a tremendous responsibility.
If you’re considering sharing your life with a dog, it’s important that you stop and think before you leap into this commitment. A dog should never be an impulse buy, even though it’s hard to resist those soft brown eyes and wet nose, you are adding a living being to your family, a family member that relies on you for their every need. The average lifespan for an American dog is 12-14 years, and you will need to meet your dog’s every physical, mental and emotional need for his entire life.
Before adoption, consider what you can comfortably offer a dog that joins your life. Spend some time to figure out what kind of lifestyle commitments you can make. This will help you decide whether a dog is right for you at this time of your life, and will help you make better decisions on what type of dogs make sense for your family.
Finally think about whether you want a rescue dog. Taking a dog from an animal shelter saves a life. Adopting a dog that is a little older and trained will be easier to transition to your home than a new puppy. But, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of.
First, adopted dogs can come with behavioral problems. A good shelter/rescue will do their best to identify dogs with problems, but sometimes they will only be apparent when you bring the dog home. For example, a somewhat common problem among abused dogs is a fear of men. Working with your dog to overcome these problems is rewarding, but very challenging.
Second, some dogs will have physical problems. Again the shelter/rescue will identify most problems, but often they will be latent and you will only discover them when you take the dog home or even several years later when the condition becomes visible.
Finally, expect the unexpected. A purebred puppy from a reputable breeder will show variation but will tend to have a body and temperament that are true to type. Shelter dogs have a lot more variation. I have observed that shelter puppies like nothing more than to mock the predictions of both owners and veterinarians. That little puppy that everyone thought was going to be 30 pounds will be 50 pounds. Even grown dogs will surprise you, acting in a very different way once they get settled in at home than they did in the shelter. That shy little lab mix can come out of her shell and become a fiercely protective dog once she establishes her own territory.
So take some time before you make the decision to adopt. Think it through whether a dog fits with your situation. If you have room in your life for a dog, do consider adopting a dog from your local shelter/rescue. You’ll have a loyal companion for life, and you will feel good, knowing you may have saved his life.