Anyone thinking of getting a pet should give serious consideration to adopting one. By doing so, you don't just save one life - you save the animal, you free up a cage at the animal shelter for another unfortunate animal and you help decrease the demand driving the pet-shop trade. A great win-win scenario for owners and animals. I have adopted well over 30 animals in my life. They have included cats, dogs, birds, fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas and even a turtle. Most of them lived to a ripe old age and gave me untold amounts of love. When I look back at the pets I adopted and think of why they were abandoned in the first place, the reasons are usually sadly avoidable. Many of the problems are actually induced by the owners because of their ignorance of correct husbandry techniques and a misunderstanding of pet psychology, not to mention an underestimation of the amount of time and resources needed to care for a pet correctly. A good example of this is one of my old Pomeranians, KK, a name coined by his previous owner. I have had KK for more than 10 years and he turns 18 this year. At the time I adopted him I had just arrived in Hong Kong and really missed my menagerie in Melbourne. The lack of life and noise in my new home was really getting to me and I wanted an animal companion. I was working at an animal shelter as a veterinarian, so I kept both eyes open for a dog to adopt. One day I saw KK in a cage. He really typifies most people's idea of an irritatingly yappy toy dog. I can imagine that, to some, KK would be the most annoying dog imaginable. But he was just what my lonely self needed at the time. I considered the challenge and resources needed to raise KK - and took him home. When owners bring their new dog in for their first check-up and tell me how sweet it is, I casually warn them that the real personality will emerge in the coming weeks to months, so enjoy it while you can. This was the case with KK. I quickly discovered why he was abandoned. He had many destructive behaviours. He would bark incessantly. He was very timid and if you made a sudden noise or movement, he would urinate on the spot. When you went to pat him, he would urinate and shy away because he was scared your friendly palm would be used in an unfriendly manner. He also marked his territory everywhere by urination. It seemed as if he had an infinite supply of urine. When family or friends came to visit and picked him up, he would invariably urinate on their clothes. From his behaviour it was easy to deduce KK had had a hard life that finally led to his abandonment. It was clear KK was abused, probably constantly punished for improper urination. Even in a new calm and friendly environment, his fear of being hit would emerge and cause him to wet himself. It is amazing how often this scenario plays out. I am going to tell you how to avoid these problems. I will tackle the first problem on the list today - incessant barking. This has many causes, but I find the owner is usually the main culprit. Some owners lavish constant attention on their dogs and this leads the dog to develop a dependency on the owner, which leads to separation anxiety. When the owner leaves home, that dependency results in barking. It is important to socialise puppies at an early age. Taking the dog for a walk every day helps immensely in avoiding dependency. Many owners unintentionally reinforce their dog's barking behaviour. When most people return home after a day at school or work, they are happy to see their dog, and the dog is happy to see the owner. It is natural for the dog to bark in excitement, and instinctive for the owner to greet and pat the animal at this moment - but this reinforces the barking behaviour. I ignore my dogs when I walk into the house. Once they have settled down quietly I greet them. Nowadays, when I am sitting at home and someone knocks on the door or makes a racket outside, my dogs, instead of barking, sit there eerily quietly in front of the door. This is a good way to train a quiet dog, not a good way to train a guard dog. Some owners yell at their dogs when they bark. This serves only to make things worse. Remember, your dog doesn't know what you are saying. As far as he is concerned, your noises are just another version of barking. So in this scenario, the dog thinks it's OK to continue barking - because its owner is barking, too. I usually ignore my dog when he is barking for no good reason. So before investing in a dog, I suggest you learn about training it properly - because many elements of training are not intuitive - and you will end up with a much happier relationship with your pet and neighbours.