CHOOSING YOUR PET
Choose a Pal for Life
Every rescue dog can provide you with endless love and companionship, and every dog deserves a lifelong, loving home. But some dogs are better for you and your lifestyle than others. That’s why you should take the time to make a thoughtful choice. After all, you’re choosing your new best friend, who’ll be with you up to 10, 15, or even more years.
Adopting a Dog
You need a dog that fits your lifestyle and living arrangements. If you live in a small, third-floor apartment, for instance, adopting a large, active Labrador mix might not be the best choice. Conversely, if you have a family of four and are looking for a companion to match your active lifestyle, such a dog might be perfect.
Dogs fall into one of two categories: purebreds or mixed breeds – otherwise called mutts or “Panamanian” dogs. The only difference between the two is that with purebreds, their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, and generally conform to a specific “breed standard.” This means that if you adopt a purebred puppy, you have a good idea of how big he’ll get and what general physical and behavioral characteristics he’ll have. Not many pure breeds cross our path at SALDEA, but it’s not unheard of.
Mutt mixes offer several other advantages. When you adopt a mix, you benefit from the combined traits of two or more breeds. The result is a dog that’s less likely to be impacted by genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs. When you adopt a mix, you adopt a totally unique companion. Most of the dogs adopted by SALDEA fall into this category.
- What age do you want? You may want a puppy as your new companion. However, young dogs usually require much more training and supervision than mature dogs. If you lack the time or patience to housetrain a pup or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice.
- How shy or assertive is the dog? Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a more quiet or reserved dog might be easier to live with and care for. A dominant or “alpha” dog may need additional training to fit into the social hierarchy in your household.
- How is the dog with children? Learning about a dog’s past may be difficult, as often we do not know the background, but we can tell you the circumstances in which we found the dog. In general, an active dog who likes to be play and is not sensitive to handling or noise will probably do well in a house full of kids.
- How is the dog around cats? A few dogs have a strong prey drive and can never safely live with cats. Others accept cats readily.
Dogs have different energy levels, which depend on various factors. Not only the breed and age come to mind, but also the character of the dog herself. You should choose a dog with an activity level compatible with your lifestyle. If you are very active and plan to take your dog with you to town, to the beach, on hikes or on early morning runs, an older dog with a hip problem wouldn’t be the best choice. Likewise, if you have a hip problem, or enjoy short walks and quiet time at home, an older or more sedate dog would probably be best for you.
If you plan to leave the dog alone for longer periods of time, his activity level may also play a role in how likely he is to develop bad habits or anxiety. A dog with a high energy level that goes for a run in the morning with you, is then left alone for several hours, and is exercised mentally and physically upon your return, will likely be more relaxed. Consider how much time you have to give the dog. Active dogs need more time, exercise, and engagement.
Animal shelters and rescue groups across the world have an overflow of healthy senior pets waiting for a forever home. They are often passed over because they are not “young” enough. Although shaping the life of a youngster sounds appealing, giving a second chance to an older companion can be equally rewarding. They like to share quiet moments, are in most cases trained, and do not chew or scratch everything in sight. Older pets have many gifts to offer adopters – not the least of which is love.
Once you know what type of traits you would like your dog to have and we have found a possible match, visit the dog with her foster family. Don’t rush! Take time to ask questions about the dog’s behavior, its medical history etc. Take the dog for a walk with the foster family and come back on a later day to walk the dog again, perhaps on your own. A slow transition can work very well for a successful adoption.
If you have another dog, it is best to let the two pets meet on neutral grounds. Choose a secure area where the dogs usually do not go on walks or to play and not within the territory of either. Supervised off-leash play is best to observe their behavior. Let all family members meet and interact with the dog.
When you take your new friend home, we strongly recommend walking her in a large perimeter around your house for the first couple of days, going by different routes, and especially through places which the dog can easily remember. This will help the dog to learn the surroundings of her house, and should she ever be startled by something and run away, increase the chances of finding her. From the moment you get the dog, we also recommend you put a collar and a tag on her with your contact information.
After you bring your dog home, you may have questions or run into some challenges. SALDEA is there for you, any time, to respond to your questions and to offer advice. Behavioral work and training can be arranged if a phone call is insufficient to resolve your issue. Remember that moving into your home is a huge transition for your dog. Your dog may be overwhelmed, nervous, and insecure in the beginning. He may not understand your household rules. He may not know how he fits into the household’s social structure. He may not know how to adapt his needs to your schedule. Be patient, gentle but firm, and consistent with the dog, and help him settle into his new lifestyle. Like any sentient being, your new dog needs time to learn about his new surroundings and overcome initial anxiety about his change in circumstances. This is especially true for former street dogs or abused dogs. Patience and praise are key.
Spend time with the dog and help him to bond with you. Make sure he knows he has his very own bed, food bowl, and a few toys. The owner should always be the one to feed the dog, as feeding time is an important part of bonding. Once the dog trusts you and knows he belongs with you, things will get easier.
Adopting a Cat
Cats make wonderful pets. They tend to be less demanding, and can easily adjust to a variety of lifestyles and living spaces. Every cat is a true individual, so it’s important to choose a feline friend who’s right for you. A cat’s personality, age, and appearance, as well as the kinds of pets you already have at home, are all factors you should keep in mind when making your selection.
You will notice that some cats meow for special attention, while others lie back and gaze at you with some apprehension. You need to decide which cat might be best for you and your lifestyle. Visit the cat with the foster parent a few times to get a feel for her personality. Does the cat like to be held, or sit by you? Does she get along with other cats and dogs? Is she an active and energetic or mellow and relaxed? Is she shy, sociable, or independent?
Kittens are curious, playful, and full of energy, while adult cats are more relaxed and less mischievous. Kittens need more time to train and feed. Cats are only kittens for a few months, so the age of the cat you adopt really depends on the level of maturity you’re looking for. Young children usually don’t have the maturity to handle kittens responsibly. A cat who is at least four months old is the best choice for homes with kids under six years old.
Cats can have long, fluffy coats or short, dense fur. The choice between the two is primarily a matter of what you feel you can manage. Short haired cats are the most common variety. Keep in mind that some long haired cats, like Persians, require frequent grooming to be mat-free.
We occasionally foster FIV-positive cats. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about FIV, or “feline AIDS.” An FIV-positive cat is not on death’s door. He can live a healthy life for many years, if he is kept indoors and given veterinary care for any secondary infections that it may develop in his later years. FIV cannot be transmitted to humans or other species of animals. It is not transmitted from one cat to another through shared litter boxes, food bowls, cats grooming one another, or in utero. FIV can only be transmitted to other cats through deep bite wounds. Research shows it is safe to bring an FIV-positive cat into a home with FIV-negative cats IF the cats are not aggressive. If you are concerned that the cats might fight, it is better to choose another cat.
If you already own a cat or dog, you may wonder how easy it is to add a cat to the family. The good news is that cats can get along with other cats and—despite the stereotype—most dogs can peacefully coexist with cats. The bad news is that introducing a new cat to a home with other pets will require some patience on your part.
When introducing a new cat into the home, plan on a period of adjustment for all involved. You can do this by isolating your new feline in a room of his own for a while—something that’s a good idea for any new cat. After several days, supervise interactions between the animals for periods of increasing length. Most cats soon learn to accept each other, and some may become the best of friends. Some dogs simply won’t tolerate the presence of a cat, but by carefully introducing them, most problems can be successfully managed. If you are uncertain whether your dog is trustworthy with the new cat, please call us for advice.
After You Adopt a Pet
Regardless of the pet you choose, you’ll want to be a responsible owner from the beginning. Priority #1 is to keep your cat indoors and prevent your dog from running loose! If you don’t let your cat outside, she’ll never miss it. Dogs MUST be in a fully fenced yard or on a leash at all times. If you restrain your pet, it will have a much better chance of enjoying a long and healthy life with you and your family. Since all SALDEA animals are spayed or neutered you don’t have to worry about adding to the pet overpopulation problem.
Adopt a Pet for Life!
Remember that you’re making a commitment to love and care for your new pet for her entire lifetime—which could mean 10, 15, even 20 years. As a member of your family, your pet deserves to stay with you if you move or relocate to another country. Animals are not disposable, and there are no excuses. So choose your new best friend carefully, be a responsible pet guardian, and commit to the relationship. It will be one of the best decisions you ever made.