Maybe your children’s constant begging has finally worn you down. Or maybe you had one growing up and have been wanting to have your own. Or maybe you already have one, and are looking for another one. Whatever the reason, getting a family dog is an exciting occasion.
It can also be a little overwhelming! In honor of National Dog Day, we asked David Lytle of the Oregon Humane Society for tips on how to pick out the perfect dog for your family.
- Educate the child before adopting the pet. Some children, especially small children and those unfamiliar with pets, should be taught ahead of time that the dog is not a toy, but a living breathing creature who you need to respect. Basic rules like don’t pull on the tail, don’t chase it, don’t pull on its ears – should be instilled before the dog is even chosen.
- Figure out who will be responsible for caring for the dog. Figure out who will be responsible for various tasks—like cleaning up, taking the dog for walks, brushing, bathing and feeding—ahead of time and stick to it. Consider making a to-do list of who will do what and when, or even tie it into a chore chart or allowance if your family does these. Remember that children may want to adopt and promise endless involvement and then lose interest, or go off to college. Decide whether you would be comfortable with picking up the slack if this happens.
- Try fostering a dog. If you’re on the fence about whether your family has the capacity to adopt a dog, you can always try fostering a dog first. The time commitment is limited, and if you fall in love you can generally adopt the dog.
At the adoption site:
- Bring the whole family. Adopting a pet is a family decision. Everyone who will be interacting with the dog should be there – including any dogs you already own. A dog may have a great connection with one family member, but be terrified of small children or grown men. You can’t know until you meet the dog.
- Be prepared to go off script. In theory, some breeds of dogs can be better with families—but often it just comes down to the individual dog. Of course it doesn’t hurt to research ahead of time, but “be prepared to throw it all away!” said David. “The magic is going to happen when you come in and meet the pets.”
- Be aware of safety around the dog. Use your parental judgment in deciding when to leave your child alone with the dog. At the beginning, parents should supervise all interactions with the animal and the child to ensure safety and that the child is behaving appropriately with the dog: for instance, pet by coming in underneath the chin, not above; don’t try to play with the dog while he’s eating; if the dog is sleeping, let her sleep.
- Develop a bond. Give your child lots of opportunities to connect with the dog. Let her feed the dog, give it treats, or put the leash on the dog and take it for a walk. Your child can also help train the dog with basic commands. (The Oregon Humane Society offers training classes.)
For more tips on how to bring a new dog into your home, check out this booklet here. Do you have another to add? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks to the Oregon Humane Society for its help with these tips. OHS is the largest humane society in the Northwest and adopts more animals from its Portland facility than any other single-facility shelter on the West Coast. It puts no time limits on how long animals remain at the shelter. It is also a great place to find a pet (totally biased, but I love my OHS kitties!).