Thinking About Adopting A Dog? Read This

Photographed by Molly Cranna.
It's not exactly a secret that a puppy (or even a grown-up dog) is a ton of work. It's also not a secret that a dog is also drooling, tail-wagging, furry bundle of unconditional love. And the best way to ensure that you and your furry friend are BFFs from day one is to do some pre-adoption prep.

So before you head off to the shelter, it's time to have a serious discussion with the people you live with, a serious look at your bank account...and maybe a PetSmart pit stop.

But you don't need to have everything ready. Choosing a vet, for example, can wait until your new pet heads home, advises Joseph Teixeira, senior manager of client relations and communication at the ASPCA Adoption Center. "If you’re a first-time dog owner, you may not know what you are looking for in a vet," Teixeira says. "Some shelters may be able to recommend veterinarians in the area that they work with or ones that offer special first-time discounts to recently adopted pets." Another thing that can wait for a few days? Your new pal's name. (Who knew?)

Here, the other things you should know, do, and think about before getting a dog.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Do this ASAP, even before you officially adopt, since it may be a heavier lift than you anticipated. Not only does it mean moving Grandma Tilly's antique crystal bowl off the low-slung coffee table, it also means sitting down and going through a few house rules with whomever you live with. Will any rooms be off-limits to the pet? What's the sleeping situation if the puppy insists on cuddling under the covers?

"It is a great idea to have everyone in the family (including any resident pets) on board with rules and what to expect prior to having a pet come home," Teixeira says. "There are a lot of different philosophies to pet ownership, so you want to make sure that everyone in the house is on the same page."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
A few meet and greets at the shelter can be helpful in determining what breeds and sizes may be a match before you bring home a pet. Teixeira suggests meeting with dogs before deciding to take one home.

"Just like with people, dogs are individuals and have different personalities," Teixeira says. "It's also very important to self-assess your home and lifestyle. If you are someone who is active and looking for a running partner, a high-energy dog might work best for you."

Jessica Vaccaro, adoption manager at Animal Care Centers of NYC, also cautions against making the assumption that small dogs are best for small apartments and larger dogs are most comfortable in big houses with backyards. It's great for your dog to have enough space, but energy level and personality vary a lot by breed, so size isn't the only thing to consider.

"For example, you have some very large dogs, like Rottweilers or Great Danes, who are on the lower energy side," Vaccaro says. "And then on the flip side, you have a dog like a Jack Russell, that's a very small breed, but who is essentially a giant Pogo stick."

Vaccaro recommends potential adopters tell the shelter about their habits, so they can find a dog that matches their lifestyle.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Yes, puppies are adorable and Instagram-worthy. But much like newborn babies, they make messes everywhere, cry all night, and require some serious 24/7 TLC. An older dog still needs plenty of love, but he may be already house-trained, making those first few weeks less tumultuous. The ASPCA notes that if you have small children at home, a puppy might not be the best dog for your family.

Vaccaro also notes that puppies require a lot more attention than older dogs — so if you work long hours, caring for a puppy may not be the best fit. She also explains that while older dogs may require medical attention, depending on any preexisting conditions they have before you bring them home, a puppy might still need vaccines that will cost money, too.

A dog's age can go hand in hand with its personality — just like with breeds, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to finding your new pet. Ask the shelter about any potential dogs' personalities, as well as what to expect based on their age. You might just find an older dog you absolutely love, even if he's not what you originally set out to adopt.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Sounds like NBD, but having the right accessories can set you up for a smooth life together.

When I asked around the office about what dog owners wish they knew before getting their pets, beauty features director Megan McIntyre warned against extendable leashes, saying they "don't teach your dog how to walk properly on a [regular] leash."

Dana Ebbecke, animal behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, echoed a similar sentiment. "Flexi-leashes are best left for hiking trails, where the dogs can go further," Ebbecke says. "They give the dog more room to roam, but don't provide a lot of control."

Instead, Ebbecke recommends using a four- to six-foot leash for any dog breed — Teixeira also notes that shelters will usually give you a collar and leash for your dog. You can also ask at the shelter or adoption center what other accessories they recommend for your new friend.

And it's okay if you don't have an ID tag for your dog just yet. Teixeira says that "sometimes, it takes some time for adopters to figure out a new pet's name, so in the meantime you can get a tag with just your phone number if you don't have one picked out already."
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Some people say getting a dog at an animal shelter is a bargain — but it's essential to look beyond the adoption fee and think total cost of care. Most shelters will spay or neuter and microchip your pets before you bring them home, but there are still plenty of expenses down the road.

Food, veterinarian bills, grooming, obedience classes, heartworm prevention treatments, and vaccinations all add up, not to mention having to budget for a dog walker or pet sitter on days when you're on vacation. PetFinder has a cost chart — not surprisingly, the expense of having a dog can reach well into the five figures over the course of its lifetime.

Plus, think you'll be able to resist the adorable doggie sweaters and chew toys? Think again. "No matter how many your pup has already, you will buy toys. All of the toys," McIntyre says. After all, what's wrong with spoiling your pup?
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Pups have personal taste preferences, too — and if you haven't recently been down the pet-food aisle, you may be surprised by how many options there are, ranging from generic kibble to gluten-free (seriously!) gourmet fare. For starters, ask the shelter what foods they recommend. The ASPCA experts note that a dog food's price doesn't necessarily correlate with quality, and most dogs don't need, say, grain-free or raw diets.

Cathy Ratto, P&G account director at Refinery29, says she wishes she knew more about her dog's diet before getting him.

"My dog's farts are silent, but deadly, and while we have tried removing corn from his diet, it doesn't seem to work," she says. "I've learned to deal and by tons of scented candles and sprays for the apartment."

Shelters should let you know of any allergies or food sensitivities your dog may have, but it doesn't hurt to ask questions before buying food and treats for your pup. And make sure to do some research on what not to feed your dog, too. You probably know table food isn't ideal, but some foods, like chocolate and grapes, are especially dangerous and should never be given, even as a rare treat.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Chore-chart time! If there are multiple people in your household, you'll want to decide who's going to feed and walk the dog beforehand. If you're away during the day for work, you may also want to look into local dog-walking services or ask the shelter your pet is from if they have any recommendations.

And if you're planning to send your dog to a "day care" center, Ratto advises you do your research on the facility. She says her dog got sick at day care twice, which cost hundreds of dollars in bills.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Before you adopt your pet, have a conversation with the shelter employees about best grooming practices, including the best doggy shampoos to use and a how-to nail-clipping tutorial, since it can be tricky and painful for pups if not done right.

A healthy, happy dog is a well-groomed dog, so it's imperative everyone in your house is up to the challenge and is ready to keep a schedule to keep Fido looking picture-perfect.

And before you bring your pup to the groomer's for the first time, make sure his medical records are in order — Vaccaro notes that the groomer may want to see your dog's vaccination history.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
A number of Refinery29 staffers shared similar sentiments about not knowing just how much they'd come to love and cherish their dogs until after they brought them home.

"I wish I knew how much I would honestly love him and actually need him to be around me," Ashley Arter, ad operations junior producer, says of her dog. "I wish I knew how much I would plan my life around him and how much I would actually enjoy doing so."

Similarly, Jeremy Jankowski, Refinery29's lifestyle executive group director, says he didn't know how much his dog would change his life. He says his dog can "make life more complete, get me through hard times — listen to me ramble on about life, day in and day out." Awwwww.
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