How do I prepare to adopt a dog?

So, I’ve finally done it. I’ve realized that my dog cravings are utterly irresistable, that my life and lifestyle can finally accommodate it, that I must have a dog in my life. I must, and I will.

It will be around April or shortly thereafter. The husband and I will go to the Humane Society (or other similar institution) and be adopted by a delightful fur-face.

I am nervous. I have never had a dog of my own before, although I had 2 growing up. I hope I’ll be able to be a good dog person and that my new dog will be happy in my home.

But I have so many questions and still a few concerns.

The main concern is my husband. He has come round to the idea by realizing that this is not a passing fancy and that if I don’t get a dog, I will be very unhappy. He has never lived with dogs and thinks it’s weird for people to have them, but he has expressed willingness to support me and put up with it. He understands that it will need three walks a day and, although my schedule permits this, he will occasionally be expected to take it out. He is a total slob so he won’t mind that his stuff gets messed up. He knows it may be noisy and slobbery and underfoot. I am confident that he will be a good dog person too.

However, I’m nervous about passing the interview. What if the Humane Society thinks he’s too grumpy and dog-naive to adopt? How can I best prepare him? (And I don’t mean, how can we scam our way through the interview, but how can he be the kind of owner that the HS is looking for - given that he’s uncomfortable around strange dogs, and not particularly thrilled about adopting one, although he is perfectly willing to?)

How can we choose a dog at the HS without being allowed to TOUCH them?

What else do we need to do / know? I’m going to read up on dog owning and dog training, any good book recommendations? What do I need to do in advance?

How can I get accessories (a crate, collar, etc) before I know what kind of dog I’m getting?

On a different note: since pit bulls were banned in Ontario (shame!) there has been a huge influx of pit bulls and pit bull mixes to the Humane Society. I don’t think I’m up for adopting a pit bull, but what about mixes? Are they likely to be vulnerable to the same sorts of problems as pit bulls?

What else should I know about adopting a dog from the Humane Society?

Are you sure you can’t touch them? The humane society around here lets you take up to three dogs into a room to play, once you’ve been approved.

Get recommendations for a good vet/trainer. Get gates for areas that your dog won’t be allowed in, and consider getting child locks for cabinets if necessary. Right now the books I have are Mother knows Best, and The Dog Listener, and a breed specific book. They’re all good, and have some different approaches to the same problems. You could read up on different approaches now online(some people like to use treats, some prefer praise only for training etc.). For example, I’ve heard good things about clicker training and am looking into it right now.

Do you know what size dog you want? Nylon collars are adjustable, so you could probably get one of those. You can always get other things now like a leash, nail clippers, stain remover, brush etc. and take a trip to the pet store after you get the dog. Have a back up plan just in case your dog isn’t used to a crate.

Good luck!

I’m sure you can touch the dogs once you get approved. At our local shelter the approval was a call to the vet and a call to the landlord. Obviously, YMMV.

Just remember: You’ll do fine. You’ll make lots of mistakes, and still have a wonderful pup. Don’t worry.

Well, being a former trainer, I can give you some hints what to do. First decide what you want. You don’t need to be absolutely sure of breed etc, but have an idea of size, temperament, activity level, coat type, etc. You’ll find it much easier to say no, or not feel guilted into getting you might be unhappy with, if you have a focus.

You need to be realistic about how much time you have available for the dog, and decide if you want an older dog which is house trained (my recommendation for people who haven’t had dogs before) or a pup, which will take a lot of time to train. If you have a small house or apartment, you may consider a smaller breed, where if you have a large yard, or are a runner, or very active, you could go for something bigger.

If you tell us what your ideals are, we can probably point you in the right direction.

As for your husband, why don’t you consider the local animal shelter, or private adoption? From my (limited) experience with people at the Humane Society, you may not qualify for a dog. I know two people who I tried to help get dogs through them, and they wouldn’t adopt to either because they hadn’t owned dogs, and thus did not have vet references.

As for doggie “stuff” you can get all of that after you find your dog. Many private adopters will give you their dog’s stuff when they give it to you. For private adoptions you can try petfinder’s classifieds or . I’m torn about these services, but both the people I’ve discussed earlier, and my mother, none of whom could get there dogs from the Humane Society or Rescues, used Petfinder and were happy. Please don’t buy a dog from a breeder, and make sure that whomever you do get your dog from will take it back unconditionally if you can’t (or won’t) keep it. Not that I think you’ll take it back, but I think it says something about both the person and the dog, if you can return it.

Once you get your dog, the first thing you need to do is take it to obedience classes. This is great for both you and your dog. It’s a good place to bond, and to get a better grasp on the dog’s temperament.

You’ll be happiest if you don’t rush it. Remember, you’ll have this dog for the next 10-20 years, so you want to get the right one. Keep your husband involved so he feels like its his dog too. But mostly, keep us informed. There are many dog people on this board, including quite a few professional trainers.

Thanks for the tips, everyone!

Type of dog: We live in an apartment (but across the street from a dog park) so I am thinking medium-sized. I do not want a puppy because I just don’t have the time or emotional energy, a grown-up will be just fine. I expect the people at the shelter to be helpful in this regard, matching our lifestyle to the pooches they have there.

The dog can go anywhere in the apartment that he wants, except the bedroom (because there’s barely enough room for our bed). What other sort of dog-proofing measures should we think about?

How can you get vet references if you’ve never owned a dog yourself? Doesn’t that discourage people from adopting from the HS? Would they prefer I get one from a puppy mill because they won’t let me adopt one? Sheesh. I can get references from lifetime contributers to (and volunteers for) the HS, and from CKC-licensed breeders, would that suffice? Can I use the vet of my parents’ dog who died a few years ago (and with whom I lived for his first ten years, although not his last six)?

I had always considered the HS to be "my local shelter; " the only shelter I know of that is more local is one from petfinder that said a home visit is part of the adoption process, so their standards may be even more stringent! This really brings out my insecurities. I guess that’s a good thing all told, but it sure doesn’t feel good right about now.

Good point about the landlord. I should call her.

Thanks for the tips about touching them. I saw on the website that you could’t for health and safety reasons, but I don’t know how the process works. I think it’s odd that they ask you to pick before they approve you, I know it’s so that they can evaluate whether the one you picked is suitable, but aren’t they supposed to help you pick a suitable one in the first place?

FilmGeek, I am worried. If the Humane Society turns us down, I will be heartbroken.

For books, I like “The Other End of the Leash”. But, really, I like all dog books.

I think that if you haven’t had a dog in a long time, and your husband has never had a dog, a pitt or pitt mix is a bad idea. There are a lot of good dogs out there, but these are strong dogs with bad reputations, and there’s no guarentee you’ll know the history of a dog you adopt.

I’m sorry to freak you out. I didn’t intend to, but I didn’t notice you were in Canada. I’m not sure how it works in Canada, but in the US generally the “local shelter” is the shelter run by the government, instead of a non-profit like the Humane Society. So my local shelter is the City Of Plano Animal Shelter, and it is a kill shelter. Humane Society chapters in the U.S. vary widely depending on the area, because each is run through a separate individual. My mom’s HS wouldn’t approve her because she was “too old” and the others because of no vet references. I’m sure your old vet would give you a reference. Try this site as it’s kind of a Canadian version of Petfinder.

I don’t pet proof anything. It’s best to keep garbage and shoes out of bounds until you have a general idea of if he’s going to be a chewer or not, but that’s about it for me.

Mr. Neville was totally cat-inexperienced before we got our kitties, and I had grown up with a cat but not had one on my own. We were still approved to adopt by a private shelter near us that is famous locally for being very selective of people who get its pets.

If you have a written lease with a clause or addendum saying you can own pets, you should bring a copy of it with you to the Humane Society. The shelter where we adopted our cats required that from all renters.

Make sure any household chemicals are in a closet or cabinet that the dog can’t open. Dogs and cats are better at opening cabinets than you think they are. I recommend a latch on the cabinet, or a closet with a door. Our kitchen garbage is in a can with a lid (it was before we got the cats, too, but that’s a good idea for pet-proofing). You may need lidded trash cans for your bathrooms as well. We have to keep the toilet lids down to keep the kitties from jumping into or drinking out of the toilet. This is especially important if you use one of those time-release toilet cleaners that you put in the toilet tank, like 2000 Flushes.

This is slightly incorrect. “Humane Society” is a generic term, like “restaurant” or “homeless shelter”: it’s not a trademarked term. There is the Humane Society of the United States, and individual organizations can get memberships in it, but these membership confer no authority, certification of humaneness, or anything else. (I work for a humane society and am pretty familiar with naming conventions after some weirdness in our community several years ago).

The local shelter is often contracted to a local humane organization to run, but not always. Our local shelter has such a contract. Again, each humane society has its own rules and regulations. Some of them are extremely strict about adoptions; others are very lenient. HSUS has suggested best practices, but nobody is required by HSUS to follow them. (Theoretically it’s possible that a state could write a law requiring folks to follow these, but I’ve never heard of that happening).

For advice on adopting, Check out the Denver Dumb Friends League, the folks with the best website for such questions. Specifically read their articles on Selecting the right pet and Is this the best time to adopt a pet?

If you’re worried that something you say might disqualify you, why not call the humane society in advance? Say, “Hey, folks! We were thinking about adopting a dog to give to our genius eight-year-old so he could perform genetic experiments on it. Is this acceptable?” When they say “no,” you know what not to say during your interview.* They’re likely to look for:

  • A willingness to train the dog;
  • A willingness to be patient with housetraining mistakes;
  • A willingness to give the dog regular vet care;
  • A willingness to make the dog a primarily indoor-dog;
  • An unwillingness ever to use physical punishment on the dog.

If the dog isn’t already spayed or neutered, make it clear to them that you’re going to do this: there’s a very good chance that the people you’re talking to have had to kill puppies because there aren’t enough homes for them, and folks that have to perform euthanasia become fanatics about spaying and neutering. Respect that.

I hope this helps!

  • Disclaimer. Don’t lie to them: just don’t give the dog to young Frankenstein there.

Also, reaches into Canada; I just pulled up a list of dogs in Toronto. There’s a lot.


Out of random coincidence, I just got an e-mail from a friend of a friend who is down working with the strays in New Orleans. I shot one off to her to see if any needed homes, and she says they’ve sent 130 up to Southern Ontario so far and more are on the way. Wow, I would love to share my home with a Katrina refugee. (As we were probably the only Katrina refugees in Canada - our bedroom ceiling fell in when the tail end of the storm swept through, and we spent the week in a hotel - I feel it’s the least we can do!) Maybe that will work out.

I’m calling all my possible references now, and looking for a vet in the neighbourhood. I think this neighbourhood is Dog Central (as it’s right beside a massive park) so there should be a few good ones.

I confess I have no idea how the shelter system works in Canada. I know the HS is kind of tough here too: my folks were turned down because they expected the dog to sleep in the basement (and they ended up getting one from what was likely a puppy mill, although the dog was a dream, and only slept in the basement for a month or two), and a friend was turned down for a cat because she lived too close to a major intersection (even though it was to be an indoor cat). So I’m nervous. But excited.

:smiley: You and everyone else (assuming we’re talking about nonhuman refugees). I’d be a little surprised if all those Katrina refugees didn’t get adopted in their first week away from the Gulf; in fact, I’ve heard that there was a major problem in some areas with rescuers wanting to take animals away before the owners got a chance to come look for them. It was a crazy scene down there on the animal front, too.

It’d be pretty cool to get a dog that was a refugee from Katrina. If you’re looking to extend extra help, though, consider adopting an older dog: at least here in the South, it’s older dogs that have the most trouble finding a home.

If you’re set on a puppy, of course, that’s totally cool; but there are good reasons to adopt an older animal.


Also, make sure they know that you don’t think pets are expendable. They may ask if you would ever move into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, or something like that. I actually think Mr. Neville and I got the Neville kitties because, in the section where we were asked to list our previous pets, I listed my goldfish that I had in college, and said that I had given them away to a friend because there was no way to get them from Maryland to California alive. They probably figured that if I don’t think fish are expendable, I wouldn’t think cats were either. Make sure they know that you understand that adopting a dog can be up to a 20-year commitment.


Or you might be able to get a puppy that’s just a few weeks or months out of the cute-little-fuzzball stage, but is still harder to adopt because it’s not a cute little fuzzball. Our Katya was just a little too old and big for most people looking for kittens to look twice at her. Too bad for them- they missed out on one of the two sweetest, purriest kitties in the world :smiley:

Heavens no. No puppy. I know my limits.

The problem is with my husband, who has come round to the idea of a dog, but when asked what type, he prefers ones like labrador puppies, or beagles, which are certainly cute, but he doesn’t understand how high-maintenance they are! Nope, I have spent too much time with too many puppies to think that I can look after one myself in an apartment in the city. No chance. A nice chilled-out grown-up will do just fine.


My friend who volunteered at the HS once interviewed someone who wanted a cat. Because he was producing a play that called for a cat. She asked what would happen to the cat once the play’s run finished. He said “Well, it’s a cat. I’ll let it go.”

He didn’t get the cat.

People like that make me sick.

Oh yeah, and I work in emergency management and have been continually inspired by the way the EM community has learned the pet lesson from Katrina. It was a big deal, partly because they hadn’t expected people to be so reluctant to evacuate without their pets. (D’uh!) Now pet-friendly transport and shelter accommodation is being built into many emergency plans. Too bad they had to learn the lesson the hard way, but it certainly seems to have been learned. Even the pandemic influenza plans I’ve seen address pets and pet care.

A word on pitbulls and similar “bad rep” breeds - here in the US, some homeowners’ insurance companies will not write a policy for certain breeds and therefore it can be challenging to find places to rent, should you ever move. I’ve had Rottweilers for 20 years and used to rent…only about 2% of all rental properties were available.
I fostered dogs for an agency - we required a permission letter from the landperson before considering anyone renting. Without that, we would not accept an application. Also (depending on the type of dog) a fenced yard was important.
Have you thought of a retired racing Greyhound?
They are often known as 60mph couch potatoes and can make really good city dogs! Plus, you can buy it cute little winter outfits. :slight_smile: They are very sweet and mellow dogs.
If you count on the dog park, make sure you let the adopting agency know. NOt every dog is a suitable candidate for dog parks…you’ll want a well socialised dog if you expect it to romp with a bunch of strange dogs. And, many hunting or herding type dogs (labs, Goldens, collies etc) will likely require lots of exercise or they will make you nuts. :eek:
Ditto on the obedience classes - for manners, bonding and fun. Dogs of any age can benefit, they’re not just for puppies.
Books - any of the “Dummies” series. Also Jean Donaldson’s “Culture Clash.” This is one of my favourite dog books.
If you’re cruising the dog book section in your bookstore, check Pat Miller’s Positive Perspectives book. One of my dogs and I are pictured in there, demonstrating “leave it.”

I have indeed, they are gorgeous. I was quite smitten for a few weeks. I’m still not convinced I won’t do it. I think it would do well in my apartment, there’s a fenced-in schoolyard across the street (as well as lots of available parks for walking on or off leash, per your next point). I looked into it before: although there’s no dog racing in Canada, they bring greys up here for adoption. There are a couple near Toronto.

I have ruled out dogs needing jobs, like beagles and labs and so forth. I know my limits. (Greyhounds are retired, so they don’t count.)

Of course, if I go to a shelter I will take what I get, and it will likely be a mix breed of some sort.

ahem…like any “what kind of dog do i get?” post, i nominate the beagle. cute as all hell, and warm in bed, too. i know you’re starting off with your “no dog in bedroom” policy, but you’ll change with the beagle.

also, training a beagle isn’t…um…VERY easy…instead, they train you. you’ll find yourself beagle-whipped in no time and loving every second of it.

i’ve got two of them at home…nordberg and quincy.

They are lovely, it’s true.

Don’t they bark like crazy? I live in an apartment and don’t want to drive my neighbours nuts, also I can’t let it out in the yard to run around (although I can let it on the deck, where it can drive all the passers-by nuts.)

If it can see anything outside, it’ll do the same thing. Do you have bay windows?