For those of you in the market for a new dog, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for your new buddy. (Since I volunteer at Arizona Animal Welfare League, there is some AAWL specific information in this write up.)

Any pet you adopt is making a lifetime commitment to that pet. You are signing up to care for that pet, take it’s needs into consideration, and do the best you can for that pet for the rest of it’s life. This is something that should not be taken lightly. As someone who volunteers at an animal shelter, I know pets understand they’ve been left behind, given up, and feel the pain of that rejection. Make sure you are ready to take on another living being before adopting a pet. (If you adopt from Arizona Animal Welfare League, they will take the dog or cat back from you at any time for any reason. Once the pet has come through AAWL’s doors, that pet has a lifetime commitment from AAWL. Please don’t take the dog or cat somewhere else to surrender it if you adopted him/her from AAWL. Please take him/her back to them AAWL Thank you.)

1. Do not let the look of a dog turn you off from the attitude of the dog. I see more people walk away from a perfect fit just because the dog doesn’t fit the picture one person in the family has in their head. The dog needs to fit the needs of the family, including all of the other pets and kids, not the aesthetic of one person. Conversely, don’t fall for the look of the dog and insist on adopting a dog that is too much for you and your family to handle, just because it’s cute or pretty.

2. You need to have the time and space for a new dog. Dogs are not like cats, you can’t leave them alone at home over the weekend with a big bowl of food and water, and a litter box. Dogs need exercise, play time, training, and positive affection/attention from their human(s). If you leave for more than a few hours and can’t take your dog with you, they will need to go to a reputable boarding facility, or a pet sitter will need to come to your home.

3. You’ll need to decide if you want a couch potato dog, a walking buddy, a weekend hiking buddy, or a daily long distance running dog. This is very important for the health and well being of both you and your dog.

4. If you live in an apartment or rental house, first see if dogs are allowed, and if there’s a pet deposit and monthly fee, so you can budget appropriately. Also check with your lease or rental manager to see if there are any dog breed and/or size restrictions for your rental.
-If you move, make sure you check with your new rental to see if dogs are allowed there. If they are not, don’t rent a place where you can’t take your dog with you.

5. If you have a roommate, check with your roommate to see if s/he’s okay with having a dog, since s/he’ll be helping you tend to said dog when you’re out of the house (potty breaks, snuggle time, feeding, etc.). If/when you have all those ducks in a row, see if s/he wants to join you to pick out a dog. You both have to be comfortable in the same space with the dog, and the dog has to be comfortable with both of you.

6. You need to budget for a new dog (adoption fee, initial vet visit, dog food, leash, collar, food and water dishes, crate, dog beds, toys, treats, deposit and monthly pet rent for those who rent, etc).
-AAWL’s adoption fees run from $75 up to $475 depending on the dog/puppy, their age, and how long they’ve been at the shelter. The AAWL adoption fee includes the pet being spayed/neutered, micro-chipped, and their vaccinations per their age (puppies and kittens sometimes need a booster from your vet after they’ve been adopted). Vaccinations for dogs at AAWL include Rabies, Distemper/Parvo, and Bordatella (which is for kennel cough). (Note: These adoption fees don’t actually cover the cost of the spay/neuter, microchip, vaccinations, and/or other medical treatments as needed at AAWL. Most of the costs are covered by direct donations.)
-You will need to leave with the dog on a leash and collar, by law. A leash and collar combo at Bebe’s Boutique at the main AAWL shelter will cost you $18, which is less than at a pet store, tags are $5-$10 depending on the style.

7. Other things you should mention to the adoption counselor assisting you:
-If you have a lot of people over to your home often
-If your friends and family bring kids over
-If you’re planning on taking your dog everywhere
-If you’re a first time dog owner
-If you’ve had small, medium, or large dogs in the past
-If you’ve never had a puppy before (as in 8 weeks to 1 year old dog)
-If you can’t take on a dog with medical issues
-If you can’t handle a dog that has jumped the fence
This helps immensely in finding a dog that you will be happy with for the rest of its life.

8. When you take your new dog home, take it immediately where you want it to go potty (the backyard or the puppy park area of the apartment complex). Let the dog have some time in the space to smell everything and possibly go potty. Once the dog goes potty, give them lots of praise and lots of affection. When you’re done, you can take them inside the house. When I get a new dog, it doesn’t matter the age, I like to take them outside every 2 hours for a potty break. It gives them the opportunity to easily learn that’s where they need to go potty, and is a lot less stressful than cleaning up the house. You can always keep the leash on the dog until they are comfortable with the routine of going back into the house after a potty break.

9. Remember, you new dog doesn’t know where it lives yet. Some will figure it out in a couple of days, others may take a few months. At first don’t leave the dog unattended in the yard (for at least 2 weeks). This is for their safety. (I still go outside with my dogs and check that the gate is closed, every time.) There have been dogs adopted that have been taken home and jumped the fence out of panic, or have dashed through an open door, fairly quickly after being adopted. Most of them are recovered with no harm done, but some receive major injuries while out, some do not recover from their injuries or are never found again. (Honestly, all of us at the shelter struggle with hearing this the most.)

10. Every city in the metro-Phoenix-area has leash laws. Keep your dog on it’s leash at all times. This is for the dogs safety. Daily walks on leash will help your dog(s) know his/her neighborhood and how to get back home if they do get out for any reason (thunder storm, fireworks, someone leaving the gate unlatched, etc.) This doesn’t guarantee they’ll find their way back on their own, but it can help.

11. If you want a specific breed of dog, Google that breed and the word “rescue” or “adopt”. This will take you to breed specific rescue web sites. Sometimes shelters get in pure breed dogs, but it’s hit and miss. If you feel you need a pure breed dog, please remember to #AdoptDontShop

12. If you adopt a pet from another shelter, please make sure that pet is spayed or neutered.
-Having your pet altered (spayed or neutered) cuts down on the pet over-population that all of America is struggling with. The good news is that euthanasia rates at high-kill shelters are down in the past decade, but there are still hundreds of thousands of pets that are euthanized for lack of shelter space every year. Getting your pet spayed/neutered is important!
– A pet adopted, is a life saved. Period. If you don’t adopt from AAWL, I’m not going to be mad at you. That just means you found your pet somewhere else. It gives that shelter room to intake another pet and possibly save another life.

I hope this information was helpful.