Do We Scare Off Dog Adopters By Talking About Responsibility?

Senior Couple with Dog

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

I write a lot about dogs–almost every day of my life, in fact. It’s my career. However, writing about dogs means more than earning a paycheck to me. There are infinite ways to make money, but this is the path I’ve chosen because I love dogs. At the core of what I do is the desire to help dogs and the people who care for them. If you’re reading this, chances are good that you want to do the same.

One of the ways I try to help is by doing research and educating dog lovers about how to be better pet parents, which you probably do, too. Having a dog is a big responsibility, and if someone is going to take on the challenge of being responsible for a dog’s life, they should do their homework and make sure they’re ready. That said, if a person who was thinking about adopting a dog were to read everything I’ve ever written and prepare to follow every one of the thousands of pieces of advice that I’ve given, they’d probably think that training, feeding, protecting, caring for, and owning a dog is a next-to-impossible task. Maybe you’ve felt the same way I do after seeing how many dog advice articles you’ve posted on your Facebook wall or accidentally found yourself lecturing someone about the responsibilities of dog ownership–again. And maybe, like me, you’ve wondered if your efforts are actually deterring people from adopting dogs.

So what are we to do? Do we stop educating and just talk about the joys of dog ownership without mentioning the hard work it takes? After all, we weren’t all experts when we decided to adopt, but we learned as we went and did our best. On the other hand, there are some people who should not own dogs because they have no idea what it takes, and some poor pups might suffer for that. Shouldn’t we make them think twice with a tall glass of hard truth? These are important questions to ask ourselves when we educate potential adopters about responsibility. We have to pay attention to our approach without getting too caught up in overloading people with information. Here are a few ways we can educate and prepare potential dog adopters without scaring them away from dog ownership entirely.

Educating About Responsibility

Women with dog using cell phone on exercise mat

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Our lives are better when we have dogs, and hopefully dogs’ lives are better when they have us. Our goal should be to spread that joy to other humans and dogs, and part of that is ensuring that dogs go to homes that are ready to handle their needs appropriately. That’s where educating potential adopters comes in. We want those who are thinking about dogs to understand what they are getting into, but also understand that, if they put in the effort, they can handle the responsibility, save a dog’s life, and be rewarded with unconditional love and affection.

That last part is one we must not forget. Every time we educate someone about the potential hardships of owning a dog, we also need to explain the rewards. Yes, walking a dog every day can be exhausting, but it’s an opportunity for us to get exercise, go outside in the fresh air more often, and meet new people that we would never see if we stayed at home. Sure, keeping up with canine nutrition is a never-ending job, but it will help our dogs live longer so they can provide us with even more years of love. Of course, making sure that we aren’t away from home for too long without hiring a pet sitter can be a burden on our social lives, but maybe we should rethink staying out so late all the time for our own health, too. As dog lovers, nearly every change we’ve had to make in our lives for the sake of our pups has come with benefits. So when we educate about responsibility, let’s not forget all the things we’ve gained from being more responsible, and let’s not hide those things from potential dog adopters.

The “You Can Do It” Approach

Mother and daughter sitting in a sofa

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

When we hear that someone is considering adopting a dog, we should be their biggest cheerleaders. We know that having a dog is costly in terms of finances, time commitments, and the sacrifices we have to make in our lives to keep our dogs happy. It’s easy to get caught up in describing these costs, almost as if we’re conducting an interrogation to make sure that adopters are prepared. We must help people understand what they are getting into because we all know that too many dogs end up being returned to the shelter when people find out they can’t handle the responsibility or, worse, dogs end up on sites like Craigslist where they can be taken by horrible people who haven’t gone through any background checks or screening. We don’t want that to happen.

That said, we also need to, as a community of dog lovers, let adopters know that they can handle the responsibility of dog ownership and provide resources for them to do so. We don’t want to give the impression that it’s easy to care for a dog, but we also need to be helpful. If someone is worried about the financial burden of owning a dog, we need to provide them with information. Let them know where they can find low-cost clinics, provide them with doggy life hacks and training tips, and teach them how they can make inexpensive, healthy dog food. If they are worried about all the things that could go wrong, like wild animal attacks, behavioral issues, or dognappers among other things, we need to show them that even though these things are concerning, we can take steps to reduce these problems, and eventually we take those steps so frequently that they become second nature. We do them without even thinking.

Remember the issues you’ve faced as a dog owner in the past. You’ve handled them. You probably weren’t an expert. In some cases, you faced something completely unexpected. You did the best you could with the resources available, and you learned, and you’re still here with dogs in your life. Let others know they can do the same.

Save Dogs And Prepare Pet Parents

gay couple looking at digital tablet in garden.

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Here’s a tip I’ve received as a writer that also applies to many other fields and careers, as well as several aspects of life in general: have an audience in mind. That means think about who you’re talking to. We need to apply this to saving dogs and getting pet parents ready to adopt. It will help us make sure that we are sharing targeted messages, rather than overwhelming people with information. Consider who you’re trying to educate. How can you best approach them? Where do they live? What are there concerns, and how can you address them? For example, if you know someone who wants a dog, but they’re concerned about their physical ability to handle the responsibility, give them recommendations for trusted dog walkers. Suggest they get a breed with low exercise needs. Maybe they’d be interested in a senior dog with a lower energy level. Talk about local dog parks where their pup would be able to burn off energy with friends.

The same goes for posting adoptable dogs on social media. Who is your audience? If most of your friends live in apartments, maybe consider posting shelter dogs that are smaller and have fewer exercise requirements. If they live near water, maybe breeds that love to swim would be most appropriate. If most of your friends are physically active, consider posting dogs that have high energy levels. Always have a specific person or group of people in mind when you want to help save dogs and prepare potential adopters for the responsibility of ownership.

A Message For Those Worried About Adopting A Dog

Female volunteers petting a dog in animal shelter

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

If you are one of those people who would like a dog, but you are worried about the responsibility, there are some things I’d like you to know. First, you are not alone. There are dog lovers in your community and online who can help you when you need it. Do your research, but don’t feel like you have to be prepared for every single thing that can possibly go wrong. No one can do that. Everyone you know that owns a dog is just doing their best.

You may feel pressured to be the best dog parent ever. I can assure you with complete certainty that you won’t be. But you will be someone who improves and learns all the time, and your dog will make you want to strive to do better. Yes, you need to know the basics for bringing a new dog into your life, but do you need to know the best life hacks for dogs using pool noodles to be a good pet parent? Probably not. That information is out there when you want it, but your pup will be fine without you knowing.

The responsibilities that come with owning a dog are great, but so are the rewards. A life of companionship and love is worth the sacrifices you’ll make. You can handle this. Other people have raised happy dogs with less preparation than you. Make an effort to be ready, but don’t be discouraged if you feel overwhelmed.

Ultimately, only you can determine if you’re ready to handle owning a dog, and it might take some serious life evaluating to find that out. However, I’d encourage you to go to the shelter and interact with the dogs there. Try fostering, if you can. Dogs are as individual as people, and there’s bound to be one at a shelter near you that fits perfectly into your life. There’s no harm in dipping your toes in the water first.

When you’re ready, a dog-loving community will be there to help if you need it, and a dog will be eternally grateful that you decided to save a life.

How do you educate potential dog owners without scaring them off? What are some of the responsibilities that worried you before you adopted? Let us know in the comments below!

Around The Web