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10 Tips for Adopting a Dog: The First Steps in Being a Pack Leader

The minute I saw him, I knew that he was just the puppy I had been looking for and that my sister had been praying I would find so that I would get off of Petfinder.comfortheloveofgawd.  

I was reminded of my search when my sister told me that her roommate has developed a new addiction to Petfinder.com in his quest to find the perfect rescue dog.  Then, that same week, La Jolla Mom wrote a great post on “10 Tips For Rescuing a Dog.”  Her family just rescued the cutest lookin’ pup they found through Petfinder.com.  Okay, maybe I’m biased because their new pack member could be Patch’s mirror image; however, if you are looking to adopt, I highly suggest reading her post.

Warning:  Petfinder.com is highly addictive.  If you click on that link, you will lose more time than you ever thought possible with Pinterest.  Just to give you a measure.  So don’t look now or you’ll never read the following post and it’s full of very useful information – promise!

While reading La Jolla Mom’s post, I was reminded of all the things I wish I had known when I brought Patch home.  I am going to be a new mom come January 2012 and am pretty darn clueless; however, I did learn a lesson or two that first year with Patch.  So, the following is a list of 10 Tips for Pet Adoption that I think everyone should at least think about when adopting a wonder pup! 

10 Tips for Pet Adoption

Get a Landlord Approved Dog

This is for the renter:  Be sure to check the “high risk” breeds for apartment complexes.  No, the list isn’t fair, but you are at the mercy of landlords when it comes to getting a pet.  Even if this landlord says yes, you don’t want trouble if and when you go searching for a new place.  Also, once you move out, make sure to get a letter of recommendation from your landlord about what a well-behaved and wonderful dog X is, as well as what a responsible tenant you are.  It will be priceless when sealing the deal on a new place.

Size Does Matter

I wasn’t sure how large Patch would get since I adopted him at 3 months.  His mom was a Hound and German Short-Haired Pointer mix and his dad was a Golden Lab.  At six months, he seemed to plateu around 40 lbs.

“I kind of thought he’d be bigger,” I complained to my sister.  ”I wanted a big dog to run around with.”

He must have put on 25 pounds in what seemed like 2 weeks.

I love having a big dog!  That being said, trying to find a rental with a 65lb dog was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  Landlords are reluctant to give big dogs a chance and a lot of apartment complexes restrict the size of acceptable canines.  Luckily, the first thing Patch did when he met our current landlord was go lie down at his feet.  Yeah, we knew we were in!

Save Up

There are going to be unforeseen costs that first year – trust me!  Each sample of puppy poop you take to the vet to get checked for worms, bacteria, etc. is going to run you at least $20 and it adds up fast!  Add in the expense for vaccinations, heart worm and flea medication, regular checkups, and the unforeseen puppy emergency, and you are looking at several hundred dollars.  Even after the pet insurance kicked in, I paid no less than $500 in vet bills that first year.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance was useful, but only that first year.  However, I realized that if I put aside the same amount I was paying to VIP Pet Insurance each month, I ended up spending less overall on vet bills.  That being said, I alway suggest asking your vet about which policy he or she recommends.  They will give you an honest assessment.  For your research pleasure, here is a link to Pet Insurance Reviews.

Get Your Dog Neutered or Spayed

I don’t mean to get all Ed McMahon on ya’ll, but neutering or spaying your rescue dog is one of the most important things you can do.  In fact, most rescues require this as part of your adoption contract and some even offer to cover the cost if you go through their partnering veterinarian.  If  you are lucky, they have already taken care of this procedure for you so you don’t have to deal with a “cone-head.”  Should you be on your own, shop around for a deal.  I was appalled that getting Patch neutered was going to cost over $500 at our vet in Orange County.  So, I drove him up to Bakersfield for a weekend visit with my parents and had the procedure done for less than half that.  It was a reputable veterinarian, so I still can’t figure out why it was to gosh darn expensive in the OC – a gold-plated IV?

Get Pack Leader Training

Be aware that your dog may come with issues, but they have short memories.  This is especially true of older dogs that may have been abused :(  But don’t let that deter you from bringing him or her home!  Instead, think about bringing in a certified trainer so that you learn how to not perpetuate their behavior.  Most of the time, these trainers are there to teach us how to be good pack leaders for our dogs!  Training is essential for all of us, no matter how perfect your pup is from the get-go!

Purchase a Proper Walking Collar

When Patch was a puppy, I bought him a choke chain per the recommendation of his puppy boot camp instructor.  I was taking him on our morning walk, being sure to be firm and yank that chain to keep him in-line.  All of a sudden a big van pulled up next to me and this guy rolled down his window.

“You know, my dad has been training dogs for over 25 years and that there is the worst collar you could get.  You’re gonna really damage his larynx.  With a dog that size, you should get him a pinch-and-pull collar.  It will just pinch his neck fat a bit and train him to respond without injuring him.”

After the image of me being kidnapped and hauled away right then and there vanished, I gave what he said some thought.  Then I went and tested out the pinch-and-pull collar.  It was just what we needed.  We don’t use it with every walk; but, I still like it and Patch pretty much jumps his head through it when he sees it because he knows that he’s about to go on a walk!  Harnesses and gentle leader collars can be the perfect walking tool as well.  Ask your vet what’s best :)

Get a Real Leash

You know those leashes that let dogs run up ahead of you?

I’d burn every last one if I didn’t think all that melting plastic would cause a hole in the ozone layer.  They are bad.  Dogs don’t need “freedom” on their walks, they need to be calm and relaxed by your side.  I fully admit to not being the best dog walker 100% of the time, but if my friend’s two-year-old can do it…


Notice how he keeps Patch at his side and how the leash is a bit slack.  Ceasar Millan would be proud!

Make a Walk Part of Your Daily Routine

Dogs need to walk with the pack.  Period.  Dog parks and beaches are great places for dogs to socialize with other canines.  Still, it’s important that they bond with their people pack.  The best way to do this is to walk or run your dog every day.  It calms their minds and is a million times better than all the cuddles and treats in the world.

It’s Okay to Share Your Bed

I used to judge those people who admitted to letting their dogs sleep in their bed.  I mean, really, do you know where your dog has been?  GROSS!  And then I became one of those people.

Ah, the hypocrisy!  

After Patch outgrew his crate, he transitioned to my bed.  I tried everything to get him off, but he wouldn’t even sleep in his dog bed if I put it on top of my bed.  Finally, I just caved.  He was back in his bed when Seth and I got married, but all it took was Seth letting Patch sleep on the bed one night when I was gone and it was all over.  As soon as Seth gets into bed, Patch jumps up and settles himself right in the middle of us.  Like THE MIDDLE.  Except he faces towards our feet, so we sleep next to Patch butt all night.  Awesome.  I was telling this to another friend with a lab and her response was, “If he faces out, that’s normal pack behavior.  In fact, the trainer we brought in told us as much.”  The good news – we are, apparently, normal!  The bad news – I just excused sleeping next to dog butt every night of my life.

This is not to say that you should invite your dog up on your bed.  To each their own.  Adding in a 65 lb. dog is the fastest way to make a king-sized bed feel small.  It’s really just to validate my lack of boundaries with my dog.  Hey, we can’t all be Ceasar Millan!

So what are your “Ceasar Millan” tips for someone adopting a dog?  

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October 5, 2011

La Jolla Mom - OMG your dog does look like my dog! What breed(s) is he? They have the same nose. And, we were advised to put sunscreen on it. Which I thought was a bit nuts until my friend told me her boxer got melanoma on his nose.

Ours pulled on his leash so we got him an easy walk leash where it attaches to a clip on his chest. Problem instantaneously solved.

Enjoy Patch!
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October 5, 2011

Aimee - I know, right? He’s half lab, quarter GSP, quarter hound. Yes, put sunscreen on his face, ear, and nose. He’ll probably hate the smell and try to lick it, but will discover that’s a bad idea. It has to taste gross! Patch kept on getting sunburned until I wised up.

I haven’t ever seen an easy walk leash, but just looked it up. Looks a bit more comfy than a harness :)

Congrats on the new dog!

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