Watch one episode of The Dog Whisperer and you’ll be hooked on how the charismatic Cesar Milan solves doggy problems in a flash.

Even though he won’t be appearing at the Free Pet Shop organised by National Geographic Channel (which broadcasts the show), we’re pretty sure Cesar would approve of this large-scale effort to re-home abandoned dogs.

Over the weekend of February 18 & 19, four dog rescue shelters — Noah’s Ark, Animal Lovers League, Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Gentle Paws — will bring together more than 80 of the dogs which have been in their care.

Adopting, instead of buying, means you’re bettering the lives of two dogs — the one you’re bringing home and the new-found stray or abandoned dog which gets to take its place at the shelter. And at least you know your money isn’t going to a puppy mill which breeds dogs in appalling conditions.

Before you head down to the event though, make sure you’ve considered these factors. Adopting a dog, after all, is like introducing a new member into your family. Abandoning it after realising you don’t have the finances to keep it healthy or because you’ve simply “changed your mind” just isn’t acceptable.Adopt A Dog

  • Commitment: Adopting a dog isn’t like buying a new dress or car. It’s a commitment which should last more than ten years. Ask yourself if you are willing to spend the next decade of your life caring for this furry friend. 
  •  Your family: Likewise, will the people you’re living with welcome a dog in their lives? If they are, they should have a say in the dog adoption process and get the chance to interact with the dog you’d like to adopt.
    • Your living space: The Housing Development Board only allows certain breeds of dogs if you’re living in one of its apartments. Go to http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10326p.nsf/w/PetBreedsAllowed?OpenDocument to see the list of approved breeds. Also, make sure your living arrangements provide enough room for setting up a comfortable dedicated space for your new pet.
    •  Finances: Adoption fees will most likely be charged. For example, ASD’s adoption package start from $200. More importantly, you have to take into account the expenses required for yearly veterinarian visits, toys, food, grooming and any health issues which might crop up.
      • The dog’s health: The rescue agencies would have had the dog checked by a vet during their stay at the shelters. They will advise you on any existing health conditions for which you will have to be responsible for.
        • Time: Fans of The Dog Whisperer will know Cesar Milan recommends bringing your dogs out for walks daily, sometimes more than once depending on your dog’s energy levels. Dogs are also social creatures and will need human interaction. Leaving them alone and caged up all day for prolonged periods is detrimental to their well-being.
        • Age: Who can resist a cute puppy? They might come without pre-taught habits, but do know they need to be house-trained, are usually bouncing with energy and have a penchant to chew things. You can’t predict how big the puppy will grow eventually, either. Older dogs, if they came from a good home, tend to be house-trained and calmer.
        • Breed: Do some research on the different breeds of dog. The breed will give you a general idea of its temperament, health risks, life expectancy and more.
          • Personality and energy level: Every dog will be different, even within the same breed. If possible, try bringing the dog on a short walk so you can get to know it better and vice versa. Be honest with your own energy level — if you’re not big on exercise, don’t get a high-energy dog which requires lots of it or it’ll frustrate both parties.

          These are just general guidelines, though. To ensure you’re making the right decision, consult with the experienced volunteers from the various rescue shelters who will be present at the event and know the dogs best.

          Keep in mind you might not be able to bring a dog home on the day itself. The rescue shelters will want to get to know you better through their own screening processes — they do want to see the dogs go to good homes, after all. Gentle Paws, for instance, sets up trial home stays before it confirms an adoption.

          And if you’re not suited for dog ownership but love them any way, why not ask about volunteering or donating to the cause?

          The National Geographic Channel Free Pet Shop will take place on Feb 18 & 19 at Dalbergia Green, East Coast Park from 12 to 6pm. For more, log on to www.facebook.com/natgeofreepetshop. The Dog Whisperer airs on Starhub Cable Channel 411 every Wednesday, at 10pm.

          Vanessa is a freelance writer and can be found at thesewingwriter.tumblr.com.