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Why Do You Want A Dog?

So you’re thinking about adopting a dog. Fantastic! Adopting a homeless dog may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. However, whether this is your first dog or your tenth, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider before you even make your first trip to the shelter or adoption event to find your new best friend. Our shelters and local rescue groups are sadly overrun with dogs who have repeatedly been adopted and returned because they “weren’t the right dog for the household,” and each time a dog is bounced into a new home or environment, it affects his or her psyche. Our hope is to help these dogs avoid as much emotional trauma as possible. Many of these dogs have been through enough already!

First and foremost, are you able to answer the following question?

“Why do I want a dog?”

In 2011, 39% of US households owned at least one dog. Everyone has different reasons for getting a dog. Knowing the answer to this question will help you locate the right dog for you and your family, and could prevent a lot of heartache down the line. For some, there are extremely practical reasons: for guidance or therapy, security, or even search and rescue work. Perhaps you live on a farm and need a dog to herd your sheep or cattle. Most of us urban and suburban dwellers are simply looking for some form of companionship - maybe an exercise buddy, or, on the other end of the spectrum, someone who will sit on the couch and watch TV with you. Or, you might be considering a dog as a companion to your first dog.

I asked a few friends why they decided to bring a dog into their lives, and here are some of the responses:

“I have a dog because I love animals and going for long walks."

“When my husband occasionally has to leave for work before dawn, it makes me feel safer to have dogs for protection - in addition to the unconditional love they give!”

“I wanted both an incentive and a partner to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. And wanted to feel safe when I lived alone. And I wanted someone to make a Facebook fan page about.”

“...after a lifetime of wanting a dog, I finally adopted Pete, my very first, after moving to Los Angeles. We had only 6 wonderful years together, but now I have Max to keep me company. Dogs really live in the moment, and mine have helped me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.”

Personally, I adopted my first dog because I had always lived with dogs while growing up. I can only remember one month when my family was without a dog and it was the most miserable time in our home - too quiet and empty. Additionally, and though I didn’t realize it until much later in life, my four years in college (without a dog) were four of the most difficult years in my life - emotionally, anyway. I was depressed and antisocial. I had no confidence in myself and battled eating disorders the whole way. As soon as I adopted my dog, life started to get better. My reason for adopting a dog was simply that I didn’t know how to live without a dog.

Whatever your reason, be sure you aren’t expecting your dog to replace human companionship. That is an expectation your new pup won’t be able to live up to, and it will cause a lot of stress for both of you. Also beware if you find that your answer is “to replace my last dog.” Remember that each dog is an individual. Get to the root of why you really want a dog - as well as why you wanted your last dog, too, and begin your search there.

Homework: Go out and ask your friends and family members why they decided to get a dog. Ask specific questions: Why did they choose the breed or breed mix they chose? Is there anything they would do differently? 

Devoted Volunteer
General Manager & Owner of Fetch Pet Care, Hollywood Hills