Los Angeles has far too many people surrendering dogs at our city shelters. The easiest way to prevent this is to make sure that you pick the right dog for you and your life from the beginning. Actor, Writer, LA CITY Animal Shelter Volunteer Tom Kiesche explains what you need to consider when looking for a new family member. See Tom work his magic with shelter dogs on Instagram at @tomkiesche.
Before you continue reading anything more, I would encourage you to flip that question. Figure out how to choose a dog that YOU and YOUR HOUSEHOLD are right for.
Once you consider that for a few minutes, after you’ve attempted to see the world through your future animal’s eyes… now ask yourself a few questions. Take your time considering each question and your answers. Once you have a list of honest answers, you will instinctively know more about what dog you are right for, and you can take your answers to a rescue or a volunteer at a shelter, and they can better match you up with a lifetime loved one.
Owning a pet is not a quick decision, Instagram-selfie, selfish thing… it’s an honest, loving, lifetime commitment, selfless thing… as you are choosing to dedicate your life to their health and happiness.
What’s your motivation?
Why is it that you want a dog? What are all your very specific answers to that seemingly very easy question? Protection? Exercise? Companion? Hiking buddy? Pictures? Meet people? You're lonely? Companion for another animal?
Do you already have preferences in regards to the kind of dog you want?
With regard to your future best friend… what are your preferred ideas of energy/exercise/breeds/type/size/weight? And why?
What specifics do you already know you want to avoid, energy/exercise/breeds/type/size/weight? And why?
What’s the preferred age of your new dog? Why? Are you aware of the drawbacks and strengths of each different age? Puppies get bigger. Sometimes much bigger. Puppies may chew everything. Everything. Puppies require a ton of training.
Are you willing to take a special needs or animal with a medical issue? Minor? Major? Are you willing to take a blind, deaf, or very old dog?
Do you prefer a high or low maintenance companion?
How much physical exercise or play are you willing to do daily/weekly with your new pet? Some breeds require massive amounts of exercise, work, and stimulation. Be realistic or you will pay a price. A frustrated dog will take their frustration out in many ways, none of them you will enjoy. Also, if you’re a tiny person, and you get a huge dog, you might end up on your face with chipped teeth, and your dog might end up in the middle of traffic. Be realistic about what size animal you can manage and exercise, not only this year but ten years from now.
Are the dog’s handlers willing to learn some training? Are you willing to pay for training? To go to group training? Watch online videos? Read books? Is everyone willing to be on the same page with setting up the dog’s structure and rules?
Are you willing to crate train? Volunteers and staff at most shelters I know recommend crate training for all adopted and fostered dogs. It gives them a safe space of their own.
What are your home and lifestyle like?
Do you currently have, or might you have in the future any landlord or community restrictions? Are you planning to relocate any time soon? Do you know where?
What type of home do you have? How big is your yard? How tall is your fence? Are your windows screened? Is the fence secure? Are there stairs that would be hard for a small or senior? Are there elevators or shared hallways? A Belgian Malinois can climb fences and trees. A Husky just wants to run and will spend its time trying to figure out how to go far over there.
Who are the residents of the home? Ages? Is everyone in the home 100% on the same page? Is everyone willing to do research BEFORE adopting/fostering a particular breed? Do you have any family members or roommates that have fears or concerns? What are they? Is there anyone in the house that might not support your new dog’s much-needed structure?
Are there other animals in the household? In the yard? In the neighborhood? Dogs? Cats? Squirrels? Sheep? Goats? Ducks…. Coyotes? Sizes? How do you plan to keep them all safe? If there’s an accident, what will the plan be?
Will there be interactions with your new dog at work? Will the dog go places that other animals will visit? Are there other animals that will visit you? Do you plan to sit in cafes with your new pet?
Do you work from home or do you know how long your new pet will be left unattended each day? What’s the daily life for the animal typically going to be?
What’s your commitment level?
How many years will you commit to a new pet? Pets are a lifetime commitment. If you’re only willing to commit to two years, consider fostering, or a very old animal.
Are you willing to cover potential care and future medical costs and do scheduled vet checks? Can you afford dog food and potentially have pet insurance?
Are you willing to go at the animal’s individual pace, to see your home, your behavior, and other things from their point of view?
How are you planning to protect your animal from escaping, running away, or interacting with other animals in a non-supervised manner?
Are you willing to do all animal and human introductions slowly, on leashes, taking as long as it takes to take all the excitement out of it? Are you willing to follow a routine, by going slow and making things boring?
Are you familiar with the term decompression, and understand how important that is for adopted animals? Animals need time to adjust and trust, are you willing to have patience for your new friend? Have you heard of the 3 by 3 by 3 rule? Three days to decompress and figure things out. Three weeks to start to settle in and understand all the newness around them. Three months to finally feel safe and at home.
Are you completely ready to dedicate time and energy to giving your new friend structure and loving guidance as they learn a completely new routine, in a completely new place, with completely new creatures around them?