Five tips for choosing a dog at an adoption drive (by our seasoned fosterer, Charissa)
A dog is man’s best friend. However, if you do not get one that matches your lifestyle and leadership, you might find your best friend being your enemy. Having fostered dogs and having helped potential adopters find man’s best friend, here are five tips that I’ve consistently given to people while speaking to them at adoption drives.
1. Know your lifestyle
Are you an active person or sedentary person? Be honest. It’s okay to admit that you’re a couch potato. If you’re not already jogging, cycling or leading an active lifestyle currently, don’t think that it’ll change because your dog is going to motivate you. I often meet potential adopters who say they want a dog so that they can start jogging. That’s a lifestyle that you might pick up for a week or two. But you’ll find it hard to up keep it past a month. Dogs are either very active, active, medium active, low energy and very lazy. Find a dog that will match your lifestyle because that will determine how much exercise they will need.
When I was choosing my own dog, Lady-Mae was 3.5-months-old then, she was considered a medium active dog. I chose that because I was working long hours and didn’t have time to exercise a lot. But I still wanted a dog that was relatively active so that we can go on romps together. Today, Lady-Mae is coming 5 years old and she’s considered a couch potato. And, she still enjoys her romps.
2. Know how much exercise a dog needs
Every dog needs 2 forms of exercise, physical and mental. Physical refers to taking them out for a walk. A walk does not mean the dog gets to smell what it wants. A focused walk means the dog walks next to you and gets pit stops, determined by you, along the way to sniff around. Mental exercise means training your dog or any activity that requires your dog to use its thinking capabilities.
If you have a garden, it does not exempt you from taking your dog out for a walk. Your garden is part of your home, to the dog, it’s her den. By not taking it out, it just means your dog has a larger prison.
Very active – minimum 30mins walk 4-5 times a day excluding training sessions
Active – minimum 30mins walk 3-4 times a day excluding training sessions
Medium Active – minimum 30mins walk 2 times a day excluding training sessions
Low Energy – 20mins walk 2 times a day excluding training sessions
Couch Potatoe – 15mins walk 1-2 times a day excluding training sessions
3. Know your style of leadership
If you’re a generally soft hearted person and am able to feel what others feel easily, find a dog that is compliant in nature. If you’re a firm person you are able to manage dogs from a wider variety. Knowing yourself is the key to a successful adoption. It’ll also make your journey of getting to know your best friend a more enjoyable one. There’s no one style of leadership better than the other.
As someone who coaches people in growing their leadership, I often hear from my clients they want something that they don’t have. Don’t envy others, instead, use your unique style of leadership. When you do that, your dog will begin to comply with you. Dogs connect with us in a very instinctive way. They do know when we’re faking it. They need us to be the real deal.
4. Know your limitations
In the course of my time as a fosterer, I have come across families who had to return a dog because they took on too much. Getting a dog requires us to give ourselves physically (exercise), psychologically (lead), emotionally (teach). Be honest about how much time, money, psychological and emotional space that you’re ready to give of yourself. For example, if you have 3 young kids at home, don’t choose a dog that is very active because that means you’ll be parenting 4 crazy bouncing kids 24/7. Except that the supposedly fourth “kid” is unable to understand or speak English, which means you need two times more effort in teaching it.
When I was choosing Lady-Mae, one of my limitations was time. I was working very long hours then and I knew I didn’t have much time to train her. So I chose a more compliant dog so that it was easier for me.
5. Know what is expected as a dog owner
(A) Speak to various experienced dog owners – Too many people these days adopt a dog before doing their homework. They tend to put the cart before the horse. Do your homework . It’s very tempting to want to bring home the first puppy that greets you. Before you do that, reach out to animal welfare organizations. Ask them if you can speak to experienced dog owners and I’m sure they will refer you to them. Don’t just speak to one person. Speak to a few dog owners. Dog owners are very passionate and generous people. They will heartily share with you because none of them want another fellow dog owner to make their mistakes.
(B) Visit a few adoption drives – Whether you’re single, a couple or you have a family, visit 3-4 adoption drives and see the various dogs before actively looking for your best friend. I usually recommend my friends to take 2-3 months looking for their dog. This gives potential adopters time to process through what they want from their dog.