The dog days of summer seem to be a popular time to adopt inquisitive canines. My sidekick, Poncho, and I believe this trend is ideal — more people around in the summer, more time to spend with the new dog. However, being a certified professional dog trainer and mother to a rescue pup, it’s important that potential adopters take time to educate themselves about being a dog parent.

To help get you started, Poncho and I have developed the following pre-pet checklist for you and your family to read through, answer and discuss. Consider this your first step in finding your perfect BFF — that’s “best fur friend.”

Holiday alert for our paw-triotic friends: In honor of Independence Day, we want to remind all pet parents to help keep Fido safe during the holiday festivities! For tips on how you can make the Fourth of July enjoyable for everyone, click here to check out this previous Inquisitive Canine installment.

Before You Adopt: Your Pre-Pooch Checklist

» You’re in full agreement on the type of dog you want to adopt.

“Type” should include breed, mixed or not; gender; age; size; temperament and specific behavior traits; coat length; grooming needs; exercise requirements; and caretaking needs (puppy vs. adult dog). Are you still in agreement after reading all that? Great! If not, continue to discuss until everyone can agree what would be ideal.

» You’ve got good reasons for adopting.

Adopting purely for companionship, and to enhance your life and that of the dog’s, is the best possible reason, as opposed to underlying motivations such as guilt or pressure from others wanting a dog. Sometimes people get a dog for a child, or in hopes of resolving problems in their relationship or problems with other household animals. If you’re looking to adopt as a solution for a dog at home suffering from isolation distress, you could find yourself with double the problems.

» Your new dog will indeed fit into your lifestyle.

From the day you bring your new dog home, you’re forming a relationship — a friendship for life. We recommend you approach this friendship as you would a human one. Which type of activities do you plan to do together? Will your dog spend a large part of the day with you, or home alone? If you’re the athletic type looking for a training partner, then a younger, more active dog would be a reasonable choice. If you’re a couch potato, then a less energetic, easygoing, possibly older dog might be the best mutt match for you.

» You can afford to keep this dog throughout his/her lifetime, even during unexpected times.

Expenses begin once you adopt your new dog. These can vary from “free” to thousands of dollars. Once you’re a dog parent, costs such as food, routine medical care and licensing will need to be multiplied over his or her entire lifespan — 10 to 15 years on average. This doesn’t include the basics, such as a collar, leash, toys, treats, blanket, crate and/or bed and dog training services. And it certainly doesn’t include that extra trip to the vet you weren’t planning on.

» You live in a place where you’re allowed to have a dog, including the breed you’ve chosen.

Even if you own your home, some municipalities have specific dog-breed laws. Double check with city or town officials, or the animal regulation department, or with your homeowners association. If you rent, check with your landlord or refer to your lease for pet policies.

» This is the ideal time to bring a dog into your lives.

It’s a lot easier for everyone if your life situation is pretty much status quo, and there are no foreseeable life-changing events that would alter the home environment for your new pup. Situations such as moving, getting married, getting divorced, having children, undergoing surgery or medical treatment, taking a long vacation or starting a new job can add stress, taking time away from caring for your inquisitive canine. Consider waiting until you can devote yourself both physically and mentally.

» You know where you’re getting your new dog from, and you’ve made arrangements with those in charge.

There are many choices where you can adopt dogs nowadays. Local shelters, breed-specific rescues, local breeders, out-of-state breeders or even breeders across the country — not to mention friends, neighbors or strays. No matter where you choose to find your furry friend, please take the time to educate yourself about the facility, the breeder (if applicable) and, of course, the dog. Ask questions regarding adoption policies, what’s expected of you and what your options are if something happens in which you can no longer care for your pet.

» You’ve created an action plan for daily canine care.

Feeding, training, walking, exercise, grooming, and scheduling and traveling to medical appointments are all part of regular pet maintenance. How will you divvy up the responsibilities? Are you on your own, or do you have help? Have others made promises to be involved? Writing out a schedule so everyone knows what their jobs are can help keep things organized, and keep your dog safe and happy.

» You’ve got resources available to your new dog.

Veterinarians, groomers, dog trainers, dog parks, pet supply stores, dog walkers and pet sitters are often needed. Aside from a veterinarian, the other services can easily be handled by you, family members or friends. Online resources, including such things as online dog training, can be done on your own time, so it’s convenient for all involved. Both your needs and the needs of your dog will help dictate which services you’ll need most.

» You’ve made arrangements with friends/family to take care of your dog in case you need help.

Winning a trip to another country where you’re not able to take your dog doesn’t happen too often, but it can. Illness, having to relocate or a family emergency are other situations that can occur unexpectedly. Taking the time to create a back-up plan for when you need someone else to care for your dog will put your mind at ease should something arise.

Paws and Reflect

Bringing a new pooch into your life is beyond exciting, in so many ways. By running through this checklist, you’ll ensure that everyone — including your new best friend — will be starting out on the right paw!

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.