Considering adopting a puppy? The kids are nagging you for a puppy and promising to take care of it?
The Pesach vacation is at its peak and many parents are struggling with the question of how to keep the kids occupied. Add to that the fact that many children persistently plead with their parents to get them a dog, promising to take care of it themselves. Now you will understand why the percentage of dog adoptions, particularly small puppies, shoots up dramatically during this season. However, this issue also has another side to it: often, after a few weeks, the children’s enthusiasm wears off, the burden of caring for the dog falls on the parents and the dog is given to others or transferred to a pound.
How do you go about adopting a dog? What influence does a pet have on children? And what is important to take into consideration in order for the adoption to succeed? Read all about these questions, and more, in the following article.
There is no doubt that it is hard to remain unmoved by a puppy. Those captivating eyes, soft fur, their boundless curiosity as they set off on their voyage of discovery of the world around them – all of these cause a great many people to decide to adopt a puppy without considering the whole picture and without taking into account the consequences of taking that furry, adorable creature into their home.
“It’s not easy to raise a puppy”, anyone who has had the experience will hasten to enlighten you. Apart from the limitless sweetness and the vision of the puppy growing and taking shape in front of your eyes, there are also needs that one must see to in the house, frequent walks that need to be taken, and potential damage to furniture and other household items. Often, as the initial enthusiasm with the puppy wears off, the expectations and dreams meet up with reality and the adoption comes to a sorrowful and bitterly disappointing end, both for the puppy and its owner.
For this reason there is a sort of vicious circle, within which there is a constant high demand for puppies, but at the same time desertion that takes place usually a few weeks or months after the adoption. In evidence: 65% of the dogs given to the Society in 2010 were puppies of less than one year of age, more than half of them even less than three months old.
“In the Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals in Israel, there are many dogs”, says Na’ama Rolnik, an adoption counselor and animal trainer in the Society. “Some of them were born to un-spayed bitches in their homes, whose owners didn’t take responsibility to find homes for them, and some were adopted from various places and given to us when their owners couldn’t handle the burden of rearing them.
In the best instances the puppies are brought directly to us, but there are a great number of puppies, as well as adult dogs, who are just thrown out on the street and abandoned. If they are lucky, someone finds them and brings them in to us. Finding a carton box filled with very young puppies is a matter of course, and it breaks ones heart to see them starting off their lives in a cell in the dog pound instead of in a warm and loving home.”
Children and Dogs
Rearing dogs has many advantages and research has shown pet owners to be healthier and more relaxed people who enjoy a longer life span. For many children the family pet is their best friend; a companion who gives never-ending love and helps the child to develop responsibility, self-confidence, empathy to others less fortunate than themselves and the ability to give and receive emotionally. It is therefore obvious why dogs are used as therapeutic aids in therapy through animals.
The correct way to turn an animal into a loving household pet is to treat it like another member of the family who is dependent upon the other family members for its existence and happiness. It is not sufficient to bring it home “for the kids” and it is important that everyone realizes that it is not a question of a temporary arrangement.
Experts recommend including a new pet in the family when the child is at least six years old, but the timing depends on the maturity level of the child, and that, you, as parents, can gauge better than anyone else. A primary condition of a child’s readiness is his ability to display self control and to respond to the word “No”. If you are hesitatant, arrange to let the children spend time with animals in friends’ homes and observe their behavior.
“Many families with small children opt to adopt puppies, thinking that they are easier to rear and more suitable for children”, adds Rolnick. “This is not necessarily true – puppies are more fragile, demand more attention and care while tending to scratch and bite in play. Often the correct choice is a mature dog, who is calm, patient and used to having children around”.
Self Image and Emotional Development
“Rearing animals and fostering links with them can constitute added value to a child’s development and may even contribute considerably to promoting a child’s positive self image and emotional development”, according to Yael Leviel, a clinical social worker, therapist of animal assisted therapy, and guidance counselor for parents. “The child learns to develop empathy and better understanding towards the ‘other’, and experiencing the warmth of the animal’s loving response can help the child to feel more positively towards itself and to feel worthy of love, a thing that is so difficult to develop in our children in our competitive world that offers only meager success and reinforcement.
“Another contribution is in the field of social skills. A child who takes care of animals can more successfully handle frustration and will have a richer set of problem solving strategies. The parents’ role is to serve as a support system, to act as middle-men, to break-down the responsibilities of caring for the pet into sub-units that are clear and defined, to be partners and also to help the child understand and regulate emotional reactions arising in various situations.
“Parents intending to bring a puppy home should coordinate expectations according to the child’s age level and the development stage he has reached. This will reduce disappointment on all sides, and prevent the child and all the family feeling a sense of failure, and perhaps in the long run, an unsuccessful adoption. Five to six year old children, for example, are still at the development stage as regards concepts such as responsibility, understanding of results and consequences of actions. Therefore, one should not expect a child to take on full responsibility for caring for the pet. A child can be expected to carry out defined, daily tasks such as feeding and giving water or brushing the dog. In addition it is recommended that parents divide up the tasks associated with caring for the puppy amongst all members of the family, including themselves. This will prevent over-loading the child, and the care of the dog will become a family matter that brings everyone together rather than a source of dissension or a heavy burden”.
Where to Adopt?
Since the meaning of adoption is the addition of a new friend to the household, it is preferable if all members of the family share every stage in the process. Encouraging children to collect information about dogs and to learn about their different needs is highly recommended. This gives them a sense of responsibility, partnership and dedication to the issue. Dogs for adoption can be found on internet listings, among friends who have bitches who are about to have a litter of puppies and, of course, at the various organizations. We recommend going through the process in an organized, experienced place that is under veterinarian supervision.
In the Society one can choose a puppy from a wide range of dogs, and should a problem arise, one has recourse to a reliable organization. Don’t be tempted to buy from people selling puppies on the street. Such people have turned their dogs’ wombs into a commercial enterprise, and the puppies that they are offering have usually been separated from their mothers at too early a stage. Without a check-up from a veterinarian and being very young puppies who are susceptible to illnesses typical to puppies, you are likely to get an unhealthy puppy that will lead to serious distress at home.
It is important to understand that adopting an animal is not a caprice or hobby that one can easily drop when one is fed up with it. This is not a case of a toy whose throwing away has only minor consequences, but a living creature that is dependent upon us and is affected by every change and transition in its life. In addition, these dogs have already experienced abandonment once and in order to prevent another one, the Society does all in its power to match the dog to its prospective adoptive home.
The Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals in Israel, has tens of years experience in handing over dogs for adoption, and as a result of the large amount of knowledge accumulated over the years, an orderly process of responsible adoption has been constructed – adoption that starts with a conscious decision and not just momentary enthusiasm or as a means to satisfy the desires of a child, a serious commitment by adoptive persons, informed about animals, who genuinely intend to raise and care for the animal for the rest of its life.
The process includes completing a form, meeting with an adoption counselor (whose aim is to match the animal by taking into consideration the desires of the adopting person, his home and his way of life), a veterinarian check-up, giving of immunization, insertion of an electronic identity chip and a sterilization or castration procedure. The Society’s doctors even offer training and tips for taking care of dogs.
The meeting with the adoption counselor includes an explanation of how the adopter’s life is going to change upon adding a dog to his house and what the specific needs of the dog are. Amongst other things, points for consideration are raised, including the less attractive aspects of raising a puppy ; for example, taking him out several times a day for a walk, the dirt and the possibility of damage that may be caused, the expense of dog food and veterinary treatments and the investment of time necessary for all of the above. It is important to remember that the dog will live by your side for many years to come, during which time the children will grow up and be inducted to the army or will leave the house. He won’t remain young forever and adopting him for a limited period of time and then deserting him will damage him badly.
As mentioned, a puppy requires some adaptation time, during which he is house-trained and taught not to destroy things with his chewing and games, all of which means a great investment of time, patience and attention. If you are not able to provide all of this, don’t be tempted to adopt a puppy, even if he is adorable and the children really want one. It is possible that an older dog will suit you better, being house-trained and used to living in a family home. He will be grateful for the new home you have given him.
Educating and training the puppy
Dogs, especially puppies, need company of their own kind. In this socialization process they teach each other boundaries, play and enjoy themselves together. With regard to a young puppy it is important to take into consideration that education during his development stage is essential and without guidance, unwanted behavior patterns are likely to set in. Many owners don’t invest in training, and when they give up and decide to give the puppy away, it is even more difficult to train him.
In order to train a puppy, one can use manuals, internet guides, or get help from professional trainers. The objective of training is to improve communications between man and dog and thus prevent the dogs from damaging themselves, the environment and others. Including the children in training the puppy will contribute to their sense of responsibility and maturity and to the success of the process.
Remember that the dog and also the family are undergoing a period of adaptation, but patience pays off and in the end you will gain a new friend who will bestow unconstrained joy, love, friendship and loyalty on the whole family.
If you decide that you are ready to adopt a puppy, we warmly recommend that you read the special guide book about adopting dogs, that includes much information about choosing the most suitable dog, preparation of the house, the day of adoption and bringing the dog home, how to act during the first days, raising the dog alongside children, the dog’s health, the laws relating to rearing him, many tips about training and a special chapter dedicated to puppies. In our adoption section you can view photos as well as getting information on the various dogs available for adoption who are waiting in the Society for a warm home.