A large percentage of the population now believes that one of the most ethical ways to find a dog that is right for your family is to adopt from a shelter. Sometimes a shelter doesn’t have the right fit, but many times you can find your diamond in the “ruff” if you are patient! Here is what you should know before adopting a shelter dog.

Source

It is always good to ask about where the dog came from. You can gather a lot of information from the background that the shelter may have, so don’t be afraid to ask. For example: if the dog was picked up as a stray it may not be house-trained, but it may be great with other animals. Its previous owner may have passed away, so it may be house-trained and blend into a new home quickly. If it was transferred from a state with a low live-release rate, such as Texas, make sure it hasn’t shown any symptoms of disease. 

Research the shelter, humane society, or rescue you are visiting. Do they do their due diligence when it comes to dog behavior? Where you get your dog matters, so make sure it comes from a safe, reliable past. If the puppy was born at the shelter, then you may not have to worry as much about their past!

Dog behind a gate and cats on the other side meeting each other in adoption room.

Demographics

You can usually find out the demographics of the dogs online at Petfinder.com or the website of the shelter. Go into the adoption process with a plan. Do you want a 3-year-old dog who is friendly with children? Do you want an older, small-breed dog that doesn’t mind being a couch potato? Share your thoughts with the staff and they should be able to point you in the right direction. 

There are purebred dogs at shelters, but more common are mixed breeds, which may benefit their health. Try not to judge a dog by its breed before you meet it and hear about its behavior results. With a little love and training, any shelter dog can adjust very well to a household that is the right fit. 

Medical History

Another thing you should know before adopting a shelter dog is their medical history. One of the most important things to consider is a dog’s medical history. With the added stress of a shelter environment, dogs are more susceptible to illness if they are not cared for. Make sure the dog has been dewormed, vaccinated, altered (spayed or neutered), and given preventatives. Look over any treatments provided in the shelter as well. Kennel cough or the occasional diarrhea is okay, but you should be cautious about anything more than that. 

The shelter staff are often paid below what they deserve, and running a nonprofit that cares for hundreds of animals is difficult to say the least. Symptoms get overlooked and diseases can go untreated. Keep in mind what you are comfortable with treating when you adopt the dog. Are you willing to keep up their flea/tick & heartworm preventative? 

Dog behind gate waiting to be adopted with sad eyes.

Time

You will need to take some time off work or plan to get your shelter dog during the weekend. Bonding with them during the first week is necessary, especially if they were a stray or surrendered by their previous owner. Remember to be patient and introduce them to other animals and people slowly. It can take six months for a shelter dog to fully adapt. Waiting until the timing is right for your family will be a huge benefit for the shelter dog. Training them how to take a bath or use a dog door and adjust to your routine will also require a lot of time to train them gradually, because you do not want to overwhelm them early on. 

Costs

A shelter is normally much cheaper than a breeder, which can leave you with extra funds to spend at the vet or pet store. Because you won’t need to spend the money on a spay or neuter surgery, getting a dog from a shelter can save you money upfront. There will always be monthly costs like food, preventatives, and toys/bones involved in pet ownership. 

If you feel like your family is ready, make an appointment to meet dogs that fit your requirements. It may not be love at first sight and that is okay. It can take a couple of months to find the perfect dog for you, but don’t give up. Someone’s disaster mutt may be your fairytale fur baby! 

What else should you know when adopting a shelter dog? Share with us in the comments.

You can also share your rescue story with us and read about others on our blog.

Dog in dog crate waiting to go home after being adopted.
Author

Caitlin is originally from Vermont and has been working with animals since she can remember. She studied Behavioral Neuroscience and is now Mastering in Animal Shelter Management in Colorado. Her hobbies include horseback riding, fostering animals, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. She has volunteered at five different animal shelters and worked in three different vet hospitals. Her passions include animal health, behavior, and enrichment. Caitlin also spends time taking high-quality photos of shelter animals to help them get adopted faster.

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