Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting a First Dog - Part I

Can you believe that a year ago, we had zero dogs? Two Pitties in the City wrote a great post earlier this week about how to integrate a 2nd dog into your household. Though adding Mushroom has been quite an experience, I think that getting Badger (our first dog as adults) was more of a life-changer. Here is a list of things we did and things I wish we did:

DO - Make sure you are allowed to have a dog. If you rent, read your contract or ask your landlord. Many apartments have size and/or breed restrictions. We've even heard of a landlord requiring a DNA test for a dog to determine its breed(s). If you own your home, you should still check to make sure there are no breed restrictions in your town.

Wonder what a DNA test would reveal with this one...

DO - Adopt! If you adopt a dog from a kill shelter, you are directly saving that dog's life. If you adopt from a rescue or no-kill shelter, you are opening up a spot for another dog. Conversely, buying a puppy from a pet store causes puppy mills to profit, and they will remain in operation as long as it is profitable. Buying from backyard breeders disincentivizes spaying and neutering pets, which in turn increases the shelter population. If I could pick out one point from this list as being the most important, I would pick this one.

DO - Keep an open mind. I was set on adopting a Border Collie or Border Collie mix because my family's dog was a Border Collie. Mushroom is basically the opposite of a Border Collie - short fur, stocky build, not too bright - and we love her anyway. Also, with mutts, it's often hard to identify what breeds are in their genes, let alone any breed-specific traits.

Mushroom thinks all commands mean "down"

DO - Adopt an older dog instead of a puppy. This one ties in to the above point. If you're really set on a puppy, I can't change your mind. But puppies require a lot more time than adult dogs. We got Badger as a puppy, and he could only hold it for a couple of hours at a time. Llamaentity works as a homemaker, so we were able to accomodate this schedule, but it would be difficult for people who work full-time outside the home. See also: teething, energy levels, socialization

Puppy Badger: good at being cute, bad at just about everything else

DO - Meet your dog before deciding to adopt. If there is a foster-to-adopt option, use it! We adopted Badger from a rescue in Tennessee that ships dogs up to the Northeast. Although Badger turned out to be a wonderful puppy that grew into a wonderful dog, not everyone is so lucky. Our friends adopted a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix sight-unseen, and he turned out to have fear-aggression issues that they weren't told about.

I have a few more items on the list, but I'm going to split them into a separate post to keep this one a manageable length. Hopefully I'll get around to Part II tomorrow!


  1. It seems like #1 is the one preventing most people from keeping their dogs. It's crazy how many people never realized that they weren't allowed to have dogs in their place. I was also wondering...isn't their more of a negative stereotype of pitbull-type dogs where you live?

    1. I'm not sure since I don't have anywhere else to compare it to. All of the major cities in Massachusetts have BSL (Boston, Lowell, Worcester), and some of the smaller towns do as well. However, most people that I've talked to agree that pitbull-type dogs are unfairly stereotyped.