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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have never been a dog owner . Looking to be one. What is the single most challenging thing about getting a new pup. From what I hear almost all new dog owners have had to throw AND REPLACE rugs BY THE TIME THE PUPPY WAS HOUSE TRAINED .Thanks

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Honestly house training gave me 0 issues. Not one accident.

I would say probably general obedience training...teaching an excitable curious puppy the laws of the land.

43 Posts
OMG, so long, hope it helps

My opinion only, which may not be worth much :)

The most challenging part of adopting a dog, particularly as a first time owner, comes before you ever bring the dog home. The fact is that a first time owner really doesn't have any tools to evaluate a dog who may have been living in a kennel or in a home completely different from yours. Its unlikely you'll be familiar with the exercise needs of different breeds or the demands of raising a puppy.

So these would be my rules to live by. I have adopted three dogs from rescue situations over the past thirteen years and when I followed the rules the adoptions were much more successful than when I didn't.

Basically there are two different situations from which you can adopt a dog, either a public "shelter/pound" or a private "rescue." Of course you can also adopt a dog from a friend or relative and this might be a very successful "blind date." But my experience is with organizations that are open to the public.

If you adopt from a municipal shelter the dog will have almost certainly been kenneled or caged and her temperament when you meet her might not be anything like what it will be after you've had her home a while. So it is very important that the shelter does temperament testing themselves. The ASPCA has developed a protocol you can google that a lot of public shelters follow. In New York City Animal Control now categorizes dogs as beginners, experienced, and a third category whose name I can't remember because it is applied to dogs with serious behavioral problems and I myself wouldn't adopt a dog in that category.

Anyway the shelter wouldn't adopt a dog in the third category to a first time owner and that's a good thing. In NYC "beginner" dogs are basically your "G rated for all ages" pets. They show no signs of food or toy possessiveness, are friendly with people and most other dogs, and can live with older, more responsible children. They may or may not be good with cats. Obviously if you are a first time owner the dog is going to be the only dog for the foreseeable future so you don't have to worry about them getting along with an "incumbent."

Dogs in the "experienced" category have a few issues that are not serious enough to keep them from being adopted but are probably not suitable for someone completely new to dogs. They may guard food or toys, they may be fearful and nip or bark at strangers or other dogs, they may play too roughly with children or be afraid of children. They may have been strays who are very sweet but have never lived in a home and so will take longer to house train.

The bottom line is that, especially when adopting from a public shelter, look for one that does temperament testing and *follow their recommendations*. By all means take your children to meet the candidates but *do not* be swayed by the dog your kids fall in love with if the shelter doesn't recommend them. You may wish to go yourself the first time and narrow your choices down before you take your children. This is a good idea anyway. It will help keep you from making an impulsive decision because you "feel sorry" for the dog or you want the same breed you had as a child. The breed and even the size or age of the dog are much less important than trusting the counselors at the shelter.

All this said, this would be my ideal situation, which I pretty much was able to follow with my most recent shelter adoption three months ago:

1) Look for a "beginner" dog or whatever the shelter calls the "easiest" pets.

2) An owner surrender can be good or bad. It's possible the old excuse of "allergies" or "we don't have time for her" is the truth and the dog is basically great. This is pretty much the case with Emma. Everything the shelter was told in their interview with her owner and all their notes from temperament testing have turned out to be accurate and she's been great, much better than the dog I took against the advice of the counselor who was "sharp/shy" his entire life with us.

3) There's no reason not to adopt a stray (my previous dog was found as a stray) but of course the shelter will know *much* less about them as to their age or background. Unlike a dog who has been living in a home it will be even more difficult to compare her temperament in a shelter to the way she will be when she's with you. Basic obedience training and house training may be even more important with a dog who was stray than one who was surrendered. But of course you never know: she might have been the most cared for dog in the world (probably not or she'd have been microchipped) and just got away by accident and was on the street no time at all or she might be a great dog that had lived on the street for months.

4) Unless you are really ready to devote a lot of time and often frustrated energy to a young puppy consider an older dog. A dog over six months who has lived in a home will probably be house trained and have some basic obedience training. If a mixed breed you'll have a better idea of their size as adults. But remember even if the previous owner says the dog "never has accidents in the house," dogs don't generalize and once you get him home you will basically have to house train again. Of course an older dog can hold it longer so you may only have to walk her five times a day at the beginning instead of every other hour :)

5) Dogs between six months and a year or so are "teenagers." Like all adolescents they will usually exhibit some slightly over the top behavior they will most likely grow out of. They can be less compliant that a three month old puppy and require patience in a different way. If you want to know what a dog is going to be like for most of their life with you a dog over 18 months is a more predictable bet.

Now you can also adopt a dog from a private rescue. These are usually dogs that for one reason or another weren't adopted or claimed when they were in the local shelter that puts dogs down when they become over crowded. So the rescue "saves" them. Rescues often will not take hard cases and they certainly won't offer them to first time owners. You are somewhat less likely to get a owner surrender from a private rescue because their priority is saving dogs from euthanasia.

But the advantage of a private rescue is they often (usually?) place dogs in foster homes where you can visit them and see for yourself how they relate to people, children and other pets. Although these dogs may not be technically temperament tested, they are "road tested" so that's good. They are much more likely to be reliably house trained and even crate trained, which is also a good thing. They probably know how to walk on a leash and the foster parent will know a lot about what food to feed them and any health issues they might have.

All good things. The disadvantages for some people of a private rescue are:

1) The adoption fee might be considerably more than the public shelters, but it will usually fairly reflect the health care and maintenance the dog has received while a foster.

2) The process will be *much* more personal. Many rescues will want to do a home check and a reference check. One asked me how I could afford a dog if I was retired. Rescuers can be, to put it mildly, quirky if dedicated people so they may rub you the wrong way.

3) Because their priority is saving dogs you will probably find fewer puppies and young dogs in rescue because those dogs are usually the first to be adopted from private shelters. On the other hand they often have fabulous middle aged and senior dogs who have had loving homes all their lives and were given up only because the owner could no longer care for them due to health, finances, housing, etc. These dogs can sometimes adapt to living in your home overnight. They might be the "easiest" dogs of all for a first time owner.

So to sum up, trust whomever your adopting from to steer you to the right dog, don't let your heart rule your head, consider an older dog and be patient while you and the dog get to know each other. One well respected dog trainer talks about the "3" rule: it takes a dog three days after they come home to make the transition to their new living environment. They will likely present somewhat differently than the way they were when you met them.

After three weeks, when they are feeling safe and secure their "true" personality may come out. A dog that never barked might start letting you know loudly whenever someone comes to your door. A dog that never put anything in her mouth might destroy your remote control. A dog that seemed disinterested or shy around other dogs might start pulling at the leash to meet them or barking at them. At this time, it's important you let your new dog know that you disapprove of certain behaviors by substituting behaviors you do approve of. This is a good time to start more formal obedience training.

By three months, you should have pretty much the dog you can expect to have for the foreseeable future. His less desirable behaviors should be coming more under control and his wonderful unique personality should be blooming.

Congratulations and thank you for rescuing a dog!
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