Adopting a rescue dog is exciting, and bringing a new dog home can be a wonderful thing, but there’s a lot to consider before you adopt. First, you can read our article with 5 Tips on Adopting A New Dog on what to consider before you head to the shelter. Then, it also helps to have an idea of what rescue or adoption organization to work with. There are a few important things to know when adopting a rescue dog, and we’re here to help.
First, read up on the organizations you are considering adopting through. Check out their reviews online, talk to other past adoptees if you can, and speak with them about their policies. What do they do if the dog turns out to not be a good fit in your home? Do they test their dogs with other dogs, cats, other animals, and / or even children? What is their evaluation process like? This can help in making the critical decision of what organization to work with. Some local shelters are very limited by budget and run almost entirely on volunteers so it may not be their fault if they don’t have as robust of an evaluation process. But that also means whatever dog you adopt may be more of an unknown than if you go through a larger rescue organization or group that has a detailed intake and evaluation process they go through before putting a dog up for adoption.
Both scenarios have their pros and cons. Local shelters and small organizations are often less expensive to adopt from, but they also may have spent less time evaluating the dog before they let it go to a new home. If you already have other animals at home, or small children, this may be an issue. In that case, seeking out a more formal organization with stricter evaluation processes may be a benefit – even if it means paying more in an adoption fee.
Next, always ask about observed behaviors and any aggression or bite history to multiple people within the rescue. Sometimes one person may have had no issues with the dog, while the other may have seen the dog snarl or become intimidated when someone enters the kennel. Asking multiple people about their interactions with the dog can help paint a better picture of what they may be like when you get home. And also remember that a shelter is a stressful situation for most dogs so how they behave there vs. how they are at home can be very very different.
Additionally, it is important to ask about a return policy. While no one ever wants to take a dog home with intentions of bringing it back, should the dog not work out knowing that you can return it if needed is important. What if the dog just doesn’t fit in at home, or showed no signs of aggression at the shelter but at home becomes fixated with your cat, or is untrustworthy around children? Some behaviors can be trained, though others may be too risky to attempt and in those cases, it is better for all involved to return the dog before anyone gets injured.
Also ask about dog trainers in the area. Does the shelter or rescue group work with a trainer or recommend someone locally? A good start with any new dog is to spend a little time with a certified dog trainer so that you can get off on the right foot. It can help both you and your new dog (and your family!) become familiar with the right way to communicate with each other. Even if you’ve previously owned a dog, every animal is different, and a few sessions with a quality trainer can make for an even smoother transition from shelter pet to family friend.