The dog in your daydreams obeys your thoughts, stays perfectly groomed, never makes a mess, never gets old, and takes themselves out to potty. If you don’t realize that such a perfect dog can be only a figment of your imagination, Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital is about to burst your bubble. However, we would like to be your fairytale mirror on the wall, and let you know that dreams do come true. The trick is, you need to know what you are looking for, and to be realistic. Let’s go on your adoption journey. 

Stop 1: Pet adoption facility matching

A plethora of pet adoption agencies exist, but you must choose with care. Animal welfare organizations work to reveal overpopulation and inhumane practices, such as inadequate medical care and unhygienic housing, that play a role in suspicious pet stores and puppy mills. However, some trusted pet stores now partner with shelters and rescues to provide adoption services. 

  • Credibility — Your pet adoption source must be credible, safe, and reliable. The organization should provide a detailed pet health history that covers important information including genetic testing, vaccinations, parasite prevention and treatment, and breeding details. Plenty of quality breed-specific rescue organizations, as well as shelter resources (i.e., ASPCA or Rescue Me), can be found online.  PetFinder and Adopt A Pet are also considered reliable online resources. 
  • Communication — Once you have chosen your adoption source, talk with as many staffers and team members as you can, to learn as much as possible about a prospective pet’s past, their current care and engagement level, and the training or medical care they may need. Watch how team members and caregivers interact with their pets up for adoption, to gauge their compassion as opposed to their impatience with the pets. If you are considering a puppy, check out all litter members. Also, look at more than one dog at an adoption facility, to consider a variety of physical and personality characteristics.

Do not assume that pets wind up in shelters only because they have medical and behavioral issues. Pets end up in shelters for many reasons, such as being lost, or family financial problems or relocation.   

Stop 2: Pet personality matching

Do you want a small, quiet dog who mostly wants to sit on your lap, or an energetic, athletic dog who will go hiking and climbing with you?

  • Behavior  Temperament is “king of the hill” when you are determining compatibility with a new pet. Before you check out pets at your chosen facility, learn basic cat nonverbals and dog nonverbals. For example, be aware that a dog who lunges, cowers, or growls at onlookers may be aggressive by nature, or may be acting that way because of medication or pain following their recent spay or neuter, so you will need to question the staff, and perhaps return a few days later. Dogs whose ears are back and relaxed, wagging their tail broad and low, and who come forward to greet you, are likely friendly, and would make good pets. 

Bend in the road: Pet appearance

Cute dog, so-ugly-they-are-cute dog, fierce-looking dog for protection? Looks are not everything.

  • Appearance — Do not judge a book by its cover. Older pets often know basic obedience, are potty trained, and are not problem pets. If you have a specific breed in mind, remember that while breeds do share genetic predispositions, dogs still maintain their own personalities. A pet’s size does not necessarily translate to their personality (i.e., small dogs are not always shy, and large dogs are not always aggressive). Gender, size, and appearance should play a role in your choice of dog, but compatibility of personalities and lifestyles are more important.

Last stop (and think): Pet commitment matching

You have so much to consider, and you must take your time at this stop. Consider environmental factors, such as working long hours or frequent travel, which mean your dog will be home alonea lot. Other pets and human family members will be affected by a new pet. If you have children, you must also consider allergy possibilities.  

  • Expectations — A new dog will require a lot of your time,  such as daily care (i.e. food, water, medication, and potty breaks), boarding (planned or unplanned), exercise, training, grooming, and socialization, and most of all, love and attention. A cat or dog breed selector tool that filters through traits like typical sociability, energy levels, relationship patterns, and health issues may assist you in determining breeds that are compatible with your lifestyle and expectations.  Do you expect your dog to be affectionate, independent, intelligent, sporty, protective? This Pet Selection Counseling Questionnaire can provide insight into what sort of pet may best match your lifestyle.

Another curve? Pets are expensive

A new pet always requires a budget adjustment. You must financially account for a pet beyond the adoption fee. Use this interactive calculator for estimating expenses for cats and for dogs. Also, consider how you will accommodate unexpected emergency expenses, such as a car accident, and costs that occur at different stages of your pet’s life, such as osteoarthritis treatment as a senior.

You’ve come to the end of the road. If you stopped when you should, and rounded the curves, go for that dog you’ve been dreaming about. If you have a few last questions, give our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team a call and ask for our 360° Care Representative.

When you have adopted your special pet,  bring them to our hospital, first for a Fear Free happy visit, so that we can begin building their trust—with the help of some treats and play—and then for their first wellness visit, to ensure they are on the road to good health and happiness.