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Want To Adopt A Dog? First Ask Yourself: Can You Still Commit Post-Pandemic?


Animal shelters around the country say that they're seeing more interest than usual during the pandemic. Are you perhaps thinking of adopting a dog? Or B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music? NPR's Samantha Balaban worked with our Life Kit podcast to assemble advice on where to start and how to prepare.

JILLIAN MOLINA: If possible, I'd love to just see your yard to make sure it's, like, dog proof.

SAMATHA BALABAN, BYLINE: That's Jillian Molina - a volunteer adoption counselor for city dogs in Washington, D.C. - touring the home of a couple looking to adopt a dog virtually. They point her toward the yard. She asks about where the dog will sleep, where the crate will go.

MOLINA: Just give me, like, a tour of, like, where a dog would stay during the day, what your plan is while you guys are working. And whenever we go back to work, what do you plan to do with the dog?

BALABAN: Even though she's not physically making house calls anymore, Molina is no less busy. But is this a good time to adopt a dog?

KAYLA FRATT: The biggest thing that I would really urge people is do not adopt because of the pandemic.

BALABAN: Kayla Fratt is a certified dog behavior consultant and the owner of Journey Dog Training.

FRATT: If you were already thinking of adopting sometime soon and you're now thinking now is a good time, I think that's just fine.

BALABAN: She says there are some upsides to adopting right now. You'll be at home more, which is really good for bonding. Your new dog will probably get more walks. And you'll have more time to work on training.

FRATT: There are also downsides, though. If you get in over your head with training, it's going to be a lot harder to get help. If you're adopting a fearful dog or a puppy, socialization is going to be harder because socialization and social distancing are definitely at odds.

BALABAN: Plus, you'll need to get supplies and take your dog to the vet. And then, Fratt says, keep in mind life after the coronavirus.

FRATT: I would hate to see people adopting dogs with energy needs that they can't meet post-pandemic right now. And then on the flip side, if you're normally someone who does a lot of dog sports or is otherwise really, really active with your dog and are not capable of doing that right now, I would hate to have someone end up adopting a dog that is too low energy for them in the long run because it's just a good fit for right now.

BALABAN: To help your dog transition to post-pandemic life, Fratt says stick to a schedule. Try to have meals and walks at the same time every day. And if you're normally out of the house for 40 hours a week...

FRATT: You don't have to leave your dog in a crate in another room for eight hours a day, but do try to give your dog some alone time every day in a confinement area away from you, similar to what you would have when you're away.

BALABAN: Also, think about your budget. During the Great Recession, pet surrenders went up because people could no longer afford to take care of them. You should expect to spend at least $100 a month on your dog.

FRATT: But that doesn't include things like dog walking or doggy day care. So if those are things that you think you might want or need, you could easily be looking at $500 a month for your dog.

BALABAN: Jillian Molina, the adoption counselor, says one of the biggest things she's looking for on her virtual home tours is the kind of long-term planning Fratt suggests.

MOLINA: So you might say something like, I'm working from home right now. I don't need a dog walker. But when I go back to work, I intend to send my dog to day care or get a local dog walker to come visit when I'm at work if I can't do it myself. Things like that are important in terms of knowing somebody is thinking long term.

BALABAN: She says her biggest piece of advice is to fill out a detailed application and then...

MOLINA: Be patient. I promise everybody is screening every single application.

BALABAN: Molina says because so many people are trying to adopt right now, dogs that may have been overlooked before are finally getting their day.

MOLINA: Harder-to-adopt dogs, dogs with kind of more behavior issues than, like, your average dog, dogs with separation anxiety who are typically harder to adopt out. I've seen more applications come in with people who are, like I can work through this. I can train. I have the time to devote to helping a dog adjust to that - to, like, living in a home but also, like, having a person leave.

BALABAN: And Molina says that, at least, has been a really nice thing to see. Samantha Balaban, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT STEVENS SONG, "WAS DOG A DOUGHNUT?" Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Samantha Balaban
Samantha Balaban is a producer at Weekend Edition.