Are you thinking that it’s time to get a pet? Are you asking yourself, “Am I ready?” Adopting a dog is a big commitment and there are some questions you should be able to answer before making the leap.
This article is intended to help you gauge your readiness for a pet, how your life might change, ownership responsibilities, and how to choose the right dog for you and your lifestyle.
So, let’s get started!
Are You Ready for a Pet?
Bringing a pet into a home requires thoughtful consideration, as it will change the dynamic of your household, as well as your everyday life.
We aren’t trying to scare you, but it’s important to understand the long-term commitment. Your commitment depends on age of the dog when you adopt, but we’re talking a decade or more in most cases. (The average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years.) This makes it worth a thorough investigation, so you don’t regret your decision.
Deciding Between a Cat and a Dog
Dogs and cats are very different in their needs, space demands, and time commitments. Your choices also vary widely, as there are about 40 breeds of cats, while you have over 200 choices of dog breeds. That doesn’t even factor in the mixed breed cats or mutts!
By nature, cats require less hands-on time. Their needs are typically a bit less than that of a dog. Both have to be fed and watered, both need love and play time. But cats do well by themselves indoors with a litter box, bed, and a few toys while you’re gone or unavailable. Dogs need to be walked, usually require more play time, plus they have the need to go outside to do their business. Cats can live in small spaces, like studio apartments, while dogs typically need more space to roam free.
While there are pet owners that have both dogs and cats, most pet owners have an overall preference toward one or the other. It really depends on what you’ve grown up with or if you’ve had negative experiences. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably have an inkling of your preference.
Things to Consider Before Adopting a Dog
No matter the size, dogs need some companionship, food, and regular exercise. Look at your work routine and make sure it allows you to give an appropriate amount of time to your dog. If you work long hours, work long weekends, or take a lot of business trips, these could be red flags – especially if you live alone.
Examining your daily routine, habits, and outside activities is the next step. Will you have time to care for a dog? Are you always at the gym when you’re not working? Do you like frequent long-term vacations or are you gone each weekend skiing, fishing, or cycling? Are you willing to give up any of your regular habits or activities to accommodate a dog?
If you’re single or live alone, this doesn’t really pertain to you, but if you have a roommate, significant other, spouse, and/or children, you will need to factor in their likes/dislikes/wants. Are they willing to share in the care of a dog? Do they mind sharing their space? Is the dog you want compatible with an infant or small child, if you have one? Are your children able to learn how to properly interact with a dog?
Is your living space dog-friendly? Is it large enough to accommodate a dog and have a yard or nearby park for play? If you live in an apartment, does your lease allow dogs? If a condo or townhouse, do the CC&Rs prohibit any type of pets?
If you have any sort of allergy to dogs, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons. You can keep over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestant sprays on hand for use when needed, get regular allergy shots to desensitize you, or get a dog breed that that is less likely to provoke an allergic reaction. Unlike with cats, there are no truly allergy-free canine breeds, but there are some that may be options. These include poodle, Afghan, Bichon Frise, Portuguese water dog, and certain terriers. (Check the American Kennel Club for a full list.)
Dos and Don’ts of Owning a Dog
Microchip: While there’s no law in Fresno requiring microchips, they are wise investments. They significantly increase the likelihood of reunion, should your pet stray from home. We offer microchipping year round at very affordable prices. Our standard price is $25, except for Wednesday’s when the price is dropped to $15. This includes our Super Low-Cost Vaccination clinics, held on every first and third Wednesday of the month!
Vaccinations: Vaccinations can help your dog lead a long and happy life. Make sure that you keep your canine up to date with all recommended shots, including Parvovirus, DHPP, Rabies, Distemper, and other serious illnesses. Puppies will need numerous vaccinations between the ages of 5 and 20 weeks, while adult dogs will need annual boosters. (Psst! We have a Super Low-Cost Vaccination clinic on the first and third Wednesday every month, so click here for more information about the services we offer!)
Veterinary Care: Like us, dogs need regular veterinary care. Puppies require multiple visits during their first year, primarily for vaccinations. Adult dogs between the age of 1 and 10 should have annual visits to the vet. Senior dogs may need bi-annual visits to identify problems associated with aging. Additionally, if you notice any unusual symptoms in your dog (lethargy, vomiting, excessive panting, etc.), make an immediate appointment with your veterinarian.
Spay/Neuter: Spaying or neutering your dog can increase their lifespan, decrease serious health issues, make them more manageable, and reduces the incidence of canine overpopulation and homelessness. We cannot stress the importance enough! All dogs adopted at the CCSPCA are spayed or neutered. There is an overpopulation of dogs in Fresno, as evidenced by the number that are surrendered or found and brought to us daily. We encourage you to have your dog spayed or neutered to help the cause of overpopulation and eliminate the need for euthanasia.
Hygiene: Nobody likes a stinky dog! How much bathing your dogs needs depends on the length of their coat and how much dirt/mud they get into. Because bathing can be drying and irritating to a dog’s skin, it is recommended that they be bathed every 1-3 months. Nails should be trimmed at least every 4 weeks, while teeth should be cleaned on a daily basis. (Periodontal disease is the #1 disease among dogs.)
Respect Your Surroundings: This entails being a good neighbor by keeping your dog contained in your own yard and ensuring that the noise level is acceptable. You should also obey all leash laws and pick up after your animal when out and about.
Choosing the Right Dog
Adult Dog vs. Puppy
There’s no denying puppies are adorable! Their cuteness factor can allow you to forgive a multitude of sins, such as peeing on the carpet, shredding your slippers, and nipping at you with their sharp little teeth. But know that you will also have a lot of work ahead of you. They require extensive training, which demands diligence, patience, and consistence from you!
Adult dogs may exhibit bad habits from previous ownership and lack of socialization. This can include aggression, biting, barking, or even cowering at the prospect of a leash. Sometimes they will require a bit of potty training as well. But, just like a puppy, these issues can be resolved with training.
Mixed Breed vs. Purebred
This choice is a little more involved, particularly with the knowledge that there are over 200 recognized purebred dog varieties available in the United States and a wealth of mixed breed dogs waiting to be adopted from shelters and rescue organizations.
If cost is a factor, then adopting a mixed breed dog from a shelter is the least expensive option. With the CCSPCA, not only will a small fee get you a new pet, but you’ll be ahead of the game with the following included services:
- Spay or neuter
- Bordetella vaccination
- Rabies vaccination (or a voucher if under 4 months of age)
- One routine deworming
- Microchip (free registration with email address)
- One complimentary application of a flea/tick control
- A complimentary exam at one of our participating veterinary clinics
Note: You may be able to find what you believe to be a purebred dog at your local shelter, however the fact usually cannot be confirmed and there will be no AKC papers identifying the dog as purebred.
Purebred dogs from reputable kennels can be costly, although there are some rescue organizations dedicated to specific breeds that make dogs available for adoption. The cost would be similar to that of a shelter adoption.
Why You Should Adopt
We all know there are different ways to get a pet dog, including friends and family, through a breeder, pet store, or a shelter/rescue organization. We, of course, encourage adoption from our shelter. Here are a few reasons why:
- Adopted mixed-breed dogs tend to be healthier and live longer than many purebreds, due to what is known as “hybrid vigor.” And puppy mills (as well as the pet stores they sell to) breed their dogs so often that their health and the health of the puppies is often questionable.
- Best of all, you’re saving a life. While we do our very best to have a no-kill policy, the fact is that we have a finite amount of space and resources, so by adopting a dog you are rescuing it from possible euthanasia.
To adopt a dog from our shelter, visit us at our adoption center (103 S. Hughes Ave., Fresno), 7 days a week from 10 PM to 5 PM (6 PM on Wednesdays) or find an off-site location!
In addition to the items we include in all dog adoptions (listed above) we also offer additional pre-adoption services for an additional charge:
- Additional DAPP vaccination (when applicable)
- Heartworm testing
- Capstar (kills fleas within 60 minutes so you don’t take them home)
- Dental care (when applicable)
- Grooming our Grooming Salon
- Additional applications of a flea/tick control
- Additional dose of a broad spectrum dewormer
- Additional doses of heartworm preventative (available only if a heartworm test is purchased at the time of adoption)
Learn more about adopting a pet with our free downloadable guide here.
Good luck with your search for the paw-fect forever BFF!