UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

What to expect when you’re adopting . . . a dog


It’s 5 a.m. and the third time that a whine has abruptly cut through the stillness of the night. It’s fine — lay still — maybe the culprit won’t notice anyone is awake. No such luck. A little tongue is now licking inside of an ear. The darkness is nearly all-encompassing. The only lamp within reach is of no use — the cord has been chewed.  Panic sets into the room as the whining intensifies. A dim light seeps through the far window and illuminates a path to the door. A mad dash ends in vain. It’s too late — a trickle of warm liquid leaks down onto an otherwise clean carpet.

A picture of Artemis enjoying the window she made taken by the Signal reporter Sarah King
A picture of Artemis enjoying the window she made taken by the Signal reporter Sarah King

Puppy season is nigh. In theory, waking up to find a cute little bundle of furry goodness sitting under the Christmas tree is a dream come true; it may also be the start of the worst three to twelve months of one’s life. When considering adopting, buying or gifting an animal, it is important to keep in mind some common myths for adopting.

Myth one: Puppies have less baggage than an adult dog.

A common mistake people make when adopting a puppy over an adult dog is thinking that they are clean slates, and their personalities can be molded to what their new owner wants it to be. Remember that the puppy is figuring out its new home too.

My dog Artemis started her life named Buttercup (#511D). At only three weeks old, she was one of eight puppies found in a park along with their mother.

Artemis stayed at the shelter until she was around nine weeks old and ready to be adopted. She was the last of her siblings to find a home.

Thus, Artemis went home to her new family with numerous existing personality “quirks” including: an irrational fear of grass, an odd preference for chewing on her new mother’s (somehow never her father’s) things, a hatred for cats, extreme separation anxiety and the tendency to poop directly to the left of the potty pad.

Solution: One shouldn’t adopt if he or she is not prepared to commit. Be patient and eventually most of the unwanted behaviors will be replaced with better ones.

Myth two: Mutts have fewer health issues than pure-bred dogs.

Any dog can have health issues at any time. An older dog could inexplicably develop food allergies while a younger dog could develop any number of chronic illnesses regardless of breed. Some breeders may claim that they have “bred disease out,” but that is simply impossible.

At six months old, Artemis began urinating excessively and having accidents in odd places. An expensive visit to the vet revealed that she had a urinary tract infection. She was also discovered to be prone to urinary crystals that lead to kidney stones. She has to be on expensive prescription dog food for the rest of her life.

Solution: Regardless of the type of dog, medical bills should always be factored in to the cost of adopting a dog.

Myth three: Kennel training is easy.

People who believe that kennel training cuts out most of the problems of having an unsupervised puppy are sorely deluded. What if the neighbors don’t want to listen to it bark or cry? What if work doesn’t appreciate sleep-deprived employees?

Noise is more of a concern in an apartment than in a house. When kennel training in an apartment, it is important to keep in mind that most complexes do not like noisy pets. If enough neighbors complain, they may threaten to evict.

Luckily, Artemis’s neighbors were fine with her screaming whenever she was left alone for more than a couple seconds – Artemis even deemed closing the shower curtain to be abandonment.

Remember that puppies need to relieve themselves about every 5 hours — sometimes more often. An animal that doesn’t relieve itself when it needs to is more susceptible to UTIs.

Solution: To minimize separation anxiety, one may want to utilize calming tools — sprays or jackets. As a general rule, try not to let the puppy stay in the kennel for more than three to four hours at a time. For particularly rowdy dogs or busy schedules, doggy daycare centers or dog-walkers should be utilized. They are excellent for socialization and exercise when the owner has a long day of work or school.

Myth four: If it doesn’t work out, I can always give the puppy back.

This belief is unfair to all parties involved. The older the animal, the harder it is to adopt. A six-month-old puppy is less desirable than a two-month-old puppy. Dogs are only small for a short period of time.

Do research before adopting. In many cases, the shelter will know some of the animal’s personality and be able to tell the prospective owner a little about them. However, sometimes shelters have to guess on the breed and expected size of the puppy.

Artemis was said to be hypo-allergenic and should never shed. It only took the ride home from the shelter to notice that, no, she shed a lot. However, she did turn out to be the exact size they estimated — 25 lbs.

Solution: Consider carefully before adopting. Pets are a life-long commitment. If one absolutely must return a dog, return it to the shelter it came from because they already know the animal. Do not attempt to rehome it. Look into fostering an animal first to see if it will be a good fit before finalizing the adoption.

Fact: Puppies are kind of the worst.

Raising a puppy can be something out of a horror movie at times. However, if one goes into the adoption fully prepared — prepared to spend money on unexpected events and willing to say goodbye to some beloved flip-flops and other things one forgot to pick up off the floor before taking a shower — it can be a rewarding experience.