Things to Keep in Mind When You Want to Get a Dog

MSPCA/Angell Director of Behavior Terri Bright, Ph.D., BCBA-D, spoke to Wagline and answered some questions that people should think about before adopting a dog.

What should potential adopters look at when they meet a dog they are considering adopting?
Adopters should consider their own lifestyle and activity levels and match that with the dog they are looking at. Someone who works 60 hours a week should not get a puppy, for example, nor should someone who wants a dog to run with them get a dog who would rather sleep in the sun all day. Grooming and health needs are also a consideration and the adopter should plan to budget for training, as well.

What do you do to evaluate dogs that come into the MSPCA?
We evaluate the dogs constantly as they are being fed and walked and as they interact with staff and volunteers. We evaluate them formally before they are put on the adoption floor to make sure they are comfortable with being handled and do not have any concerning behaviors that would affect their successful adoption.

How should a new dog be introduced to pets that are already in a home?
Other dogs should be introduced prior to the adoption to make sure they are a good match. With other animals, the dog should be on leash and introduced gradually with constant control of distances at which both animals are comfortable, and lots of treat for all the animals.

Should people start training new dogs as soon as possible or get to know them first?
They should start immediately! It helps the dog adjust if they know what to expect from their new owner. If they find out right away that they will get a treat when they sit quietly, that behavior will increase!

What is the behavior that most people complain about?
Barking dogs are tough for people. Changes in environments and schedules can cause dogs to exhibit anxious behaviors that cause them to be noisy. When neighbors and landlords complain, it puts the dog in an unwanted spotlight. The problems can be overcome, but often, the owner has waited until it is a big problem, which takes more time and resources to change.

What is the most important thing potential adopters should consider?
They really need to look at where they will be and what they will be doing during the dog's lifetime. People tend to look at the short term, and fail to consider things like:

-parents who want to get a dog for their children may still have the dog when the children have gone, and the care of the dog will fall on them from day one. Do the parents want a dog? If the answer is no, the children can't get a dog.

- are the adopters in their 20's or 30's? They should consider that their lifestyle will change in the next ten years; they will move 3-4 times, and may get married and have a family. Is this the right dog for those eventualities?