Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Pre-Purchase and Pre-Adoption Pet Counseling

Pet Column for the week of November 23, 2009

Related information:

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashley Mitek
Information Specialist

Source - Kelly Morgan, DVM
After staring at two-month-old Labrador puppies at the shelter, the innocent look in their eyes is sometimes too hard to resist. But adopting or purchasing a dog on impulse usually does not end well.

Adding a new dog to your life is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience. It's hard to know what to expect. Dr. Kelly Morgan is a veterinarian at the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, a program of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana. She is also pursuing board certification with the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

She says, "with pre-adoption counseling, we try to help new pet owners have realistic expectations." The thought is if owners can be prepared ahead of time about the needs of their pet, they will be more likely to keep the pet the entirety of its life and have a strong human-animal bond.

While the breed of dog may play a role in what animal is selected, pre-purchase counseling is much more than a discussion on what breed is best for your family. Consultations cover many topics that potential pet owners may forget about. Some of the issues discussed with a veterinarian during a pre-adoption counseling session at the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine are:

  • How much exercise will my dog need?
  • How often will my pet need to be groomed?
  • Will my pet need to be housebroken?
  • Is my pet good with children, or other pets?
  • Will my dog need obedience training?
  • Are there any underlying medical conditions that will require treatment?

It is important that owners consider the demands of having a puppy or younger pet around the house versus those of an older dog. "Usually by four years of age dogs have their personality established. If they are friendly with kids or other animals at this age, they are likely to remain that way throughout their life," explains Dr. Morgan. Animals of this age would also be a good choice for a busy family that may not be able to devote a lot of time to house training and obedience training.

Although certain breeds may be known for certain personalities, "dogs can vary widely even despite breed," notes Dr. Morgan. Pets are individuals just like humans, so it is important to pay attention to the behavior of a dog you are interested in.

Shelter staff are a great resource when it comes to assessing a particular animal's disposition. Even if a dog comes in with no history, the people that are around the animal are usually pretty good at giving an accurate depiction of that animal's personality.

The reason Dr. Morgan stresses the importance of pre-adoption counseling and getting to know what type of personality a dog has before taking it home is because the number one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters is behavior.

Each year millions of dogs enter shelters because their owners may have not been realistic about their canine companion's needs. A pre-purchase consultation with a veterinarian can help ensure that whether you adopt a Burmese mountain dog or a bichon frise, you'll be off to a good start.

For more information contact your local veterinarian. You can schedule a pre-purchase counseling session at the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine by calling 312-226-2588.