Basics of Dog Adoption 101

August 01, 2011

By Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.

Basics of Dog Adoption 101

According to the ASPCA, around 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the United States,  about  60 percent of the dogs and 70 percent of the cats that end up in shelters. Often these were animals who were part of a family, and because of some kind of change in circumstances, such as moving or financial troubles, they were turned over to a shelter.

Many of these animals would have loved to start a new life in another home. Few of them get that chance.

Adopting an animal saves a life.

But there are some challenges involved in adoption.  In my consulting practice I have often seen the kind of difficulties that can arise. Someone falls in love with an adorable dog in a shelter, and brings her home to live a happy life. For a while, things are great. The dog is very respectful, meek, and polite. This period lasts anywhere from a few days to a month or two.

Gradually the dog gains more confidence, and that is when potential problems can surface. Perhaps the dog is somewhat aggressive, guarding her food dish, or maybe pees and poops on the carpet, or maybe tugs hard on the leash while walking. Sometimes, problems arise that were the cause of the dog being put into the shelter in the first place. This is the time that people can start questioning whether they made the right decision to adopt a dog.  This is often the time that people seek advice from dog behavior professionals.

The best time to get advice about adoption, however, is before a dog is adopted. There are a lot of issues that have to be considered, such as dogproofing a house, getting the right food, finding a good vet, figuring out how to introduce the new dog to the resident animals and people, deciding whether to buy a crate for the dog, and planning a routine for the new animal to follow.  Without prior planning, chaos can ensue.

Now there is an excellent source of advice on adopting a dog, both for the planning stages and for the potential problems that can arise.

A new book by Drs. Patricia McConnell and Karen London addresses the entire adoption process. The book is called Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming An Adopted Dog Into Your Home,  published by McConnell Publishing Limited, and available for $ 9.95 at Dr. McConnell’s website:  In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Dr. Karen London, a coauthor of the book and a cowriter of this blog, provided me with a free copy for review. I should also say that if I did not like the book, I would have thanked Karen politely and simply would not have written a review.

The book reads very well and very quickly. It has 95 pages, so the amount of reading material is not overwhelming. But the contents go through all of the steps of adoption, from the planning stages, to the stages of building a relationship with your new dog, to a consideration of the possible behavioral problems that might arise.  It is a very enjoyable read,  and  the information is invaluable to anyone who is thinking about adopting a dog. In the future, when I am asked about dog adoptions by my clients, I am certainly going to recommend that they buy this book first.  For people who want to distribute this book more widely, there are quantity discounts offered on Dr. McConnell’s website.

And in the meanwhile, let’s not forget about the 70 percent of cats who are euthanized each year. Cats need good homes too.


Republished/reprinted with express permission by Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D. 08.01.11








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