Last month I made the happy announcement that we’re adopting another dog. We made the decision to start actively looking for a dog in March, so our search to find the dog that we think is right for our family lasted about 3 months.
While there is no secret formula to follow that guarantees that you’ll adopt the perfect dog, I do think that, once you decide you’re ready to adopt, you can take some steps to ensure that you’ll find the right dog for you and/or your family. You’ll also make sure you’re family is the right fit for the dog.
Here are some tips to help you do it based on how we decided to adopt Haley, a gorgeous 3-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever that we’re getting from the Freedom Tails program at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center in Aberdeen, WA in a couple of weeks.
The waiting is the hardest part
This may sound simple but once you know you’re going to adopt a dog and you start looking at pictures on websites it’s extremely easy to find a dog you want to adopt RIGHT NOW. But right now may not be the best time to bring a new dog into your home.
When our chocolate lab Dylan died last October, we knew that we would eventually get another dog, but we also knew that we needed time to grieve and get past some health issues, so we decided to wait until March to start our search.
Of course, once we made the decision to adopt I immediately began perusing dog adoption sites and constantly showing pictures of dogs I wanted to my wife, who fortunately and patiently reminded me (several times) that we had to stick to our plan and wait until March.
Set your parameters
Come up with a list of non-negotiable parameters for your search. This is the most important part of the process as it can save you a lot of time and heartache. The last thing you want to do is return a dog you adopted because it’s a bad fit for your home. You also don’t want to put a dog in an environment that isn’t right for it.
Parameters act as a road map that keeps you going in the right direction and eventually leads you to your destination – adopting a dog that is the best fit for you and/or family.
Here’s how we used parameters to narrow down our search for a dog to adopt:
Parameter #1 – Our dog had to be able to climb 100+ stairs a day. Our house has 45 steps leading up to the front door and no back alley access. We also have 2 flights of stairs for 3 floors in our house, so we obviously had to have a dog that could negotiate all those stairs.
Parameter #2 – Our dog had to be cat friendly. We have 2 old cats so whatever dog we adopted had to be good around cats.
Parameter #3 – Our dog had to be female, submissive, and ok with other dogs. We have a 9-year-old male herding dog mix named Miguel that likes to run the house and doesn’t appreciate other dogs challenging his authority, especially males. Regardless of how well we liked a dog, it had to get Miguel’s seal of approval before we committed to adopting it.
Parameter #4: We and our bossy dog had to meet any dog we wanted to adopt. See Parameter #3.
Parameter #5: We wanted a Labrador Retriever or Lab Mix. In general, Labs are good natured, go-along-to-get-along types that would fit well in our animal family, plus we feel in love with the breed after having Dylan.
Parameter #6: We wanted an adult dog, not a puppy. We simply didn’t want to spend the time and energy necessary to raise a puppy, plus Miguel isn’t wild about puppies.
Parameter #7: We wanted a medium-to-low energy dog. We walk our dogs about 90 minutes a day. Because we live near downtown Seattle and don’t have a large yard, we don’t have a big open space where our dogs can roam, so other than weekend outings, our dogs don’t get much more exercise than their walks. A high energy dog that needs lots of stimulation wouldn’t be happy at our house.
Putting some thought into making your parameters for the type of dog you want will focus your search and eliminate distractions that could prevent you from finding the ideal dog to adopt.
Stick to your decision
I can attest to the fact that when you start your search for a dog to adopt you’ll see lots of dogs with a cute face or a sad story can easily distract you from the parameters you set for your search.
When I started looking for dogs to adopt, I immediately picked the worst possible candidate: a blind, 11-year-old male Chocolate Lab with weak back legs. Can you imagine trying to get that dog to go up and down stairs multiple times a day?
Of course I tried to rationalize adopting this dog: He’ll figure out the stairs. We’ll do water therapy to strengthen his back legs. Miguel won’t mind having an older male dog in the house.
Fortunately my wife helped me come to my senses and realize that adopting an old, blind dog wouldn’t be the right decision for us or the dog.
I finally came to my senses I refocused my search for dogs that met our criteria. Between Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, and rescue groups, we found plenty of Labrador Retrievers, and since we had a list of parameters to follow, our road map eventually led to Haley.
Initially, our main concern was that the Freedom Tails program didn’t know if Haley was good with cats or not, but the people that ran the program were more than happy to test her to see if she was cat friendly – and she passed with flying colors.
Our contact at Freedom Tails said that when Haley met the cat, it batted her in the face a couple of times. Haley’s response? She turned around and sat with her back to the cat.
Good girl, Haley!
We still needed meet Haley ourselves and introduce her to Miguel. I’ll write about our trips to Aberdeen to see her in my next post about our adoption journey.
And yes, I meant to write “trips.” We drove to Aberdeen to see Haley more than once.