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Tips For Adopting A Shelter Dog

Tips For Adopting A Shelter Dog

Adopting a dog will be one of the most exciting and emotional things a family can go through. Choosing the right fit for your family can be difficult, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Today we are going to help you through that process with some tips for adopting a shelter dog. We will walk you through choosing a shelter, choosing a dog, and bringing your dog home. Knowledge of all of these will help you with a smooth transition. 

Choosing A Shelter

Choosing the right shelter is just as important as choosing the right dog. We would hope that all shelters have the same goal in mind of giving each dog a forever home. But that is sadly not true. Some shelters work more like a dog pound and want the animals all gone. Others don’t have the funding for staff or resources to give you the best match for your family. Here are a few things to look for. 


Most people first start with checking out a shelter website. We wouldn’t focus too much on the design but smaller details. Look at the staff bio and see what each person is all about. Look around to see what the shelter’s mission statement is. If all of these line up with your views, you can start looking at the dogs. 

Each dog should have their own pictures, preferably several. And with the images, there should be a description. But you should pay close attention to these descriptions. If every dog is described in the same way, the staff does not know their animals. Each dog should have an individual story that captures what type of dog they are in a few words. Words like great, amazing, loving, don’t tell the reader anything. 

Return Policies

A fantastic shelter also will have a return policy. Shelters understand that just because the match looks good on paper, that’s not always the case. The shelter will take back the dog in cases where the match wasn’t right and give you another dog or money back. 

What To Look For When Adopting A Dog

Now that you know what to look for in a shelter, you can choose a dog. Choosing a dog can be complicated. Sometimes it is love at first sight. But other times, it may seem like a struggle to choose. But with these tips for adopting a shelter dog, it can be a little more effortless. First, you will want to ask a few questions. Then when you interact with the dog, there are things to look for. 

Questions To Ask:

Ask About Temperament Testing

Ask the shelter if they do temperament testing on their dogs, and how they determine a pass. If you find a dog you are interested in, ask how that dog did on the temperament test. Were there any issues? For instance, some shelters will pass a dog that is food aggressive, and some won’t. Knowing this information, if you have kids, can be valuable in your decision. 

Ask Why The Dog Is There

The shelter should give you full disclosure about why the dog is there. If a dog is there because of problematic behaviors, you would need to know to accommodate it. Some dogs get surrendered because of deaths, relocations, or financial troubles. But if a dog destroys things because of separation anxiety or jumps fences, you should know. 

Ask About Medical Issues

If a dog has ongoing medical issues, you will want to know these before adoption. Medical conditions could be a financial burden for some, and that’s ok. It might also be helpful to know of any medical history that could be an issue later in life. Things like surgeries or serious illnesses could affect your dogs for years. 

Look For Nervousness

When you visit the dog, look for signs that the dog is nervous. Dogs will lick their lips, tuck their tails, and look around nervously. While some dogs might need a little time to warm up, it can also be a sign that the dog isn’t comfortable. Usually, a staff member will clue you in on any abuse or triggers with a dog. Dogs with these types of issues aren’t a good fit for everyone, and that’s ok. It’s best not to force these matches as they could prevent the dog from finding a better match. 

Look For Interaction

The dog you are looking at should show some interest in you. They might be excited and jump up to see you. Their bodies should appear relaxed and care-free. If a dog doesn’t show any interest in you, don’t take personally. Some dogs have a preference for what they like in humans as we do in dogs. 

Jumping And Barking

If a dog is jumping and barking, we wouldn’t worry about it too much. This behavior is commonly a sign of excitement, and you might consider training in the future to control this. But if the dog is jumping and lunging aggressively, they are not a good match for you. 

Consider Their Personality 

Does the dog’s personality seem like it would mesh well with your home? If your family is very active, will the dog appreciate your activities? Does the dog seem more like a cuddlier? These are all great things to ask yourself and even the staff before adopting a shelter dog. Having a perfect personality match will help home life transitions. 

How Much Attention Does The Dog Need?

The best adopting a rescue dog advice is to consider the time you have. Some shelter dogs need a lot of attention at first through supervision and training. Others will have anxieties that prevent them from being home alone. Any dog that you adopt will need a lot of attention at first. But over time, they get used to the schedules and feel more comfortable. 

Other Pets

If you have other pets, you might want to ask if they have been around pets of the same species, especially when it comes to having other dogs in the home. One of the main reasons that dogs get returned to the shelter is because they don’t get along with other pets. In some cases, the shelter will allow you to have a meet and greet with the other pets. A meet and greet can let you see how the dogs will react on neutral grounds and set them up for a better home life. 

Meet The Family

And our last tip for adopting a shelter dog is to have the whole family meet them. If you make the decision alone, there could be an issue. If your new dog doesn’t like all family members, it will make home life uncomfortable. Likewise, your family should have a connection with the new pet. When the link isn’t felt all around, it can make for an awkward living arrangement.

Bringing Home A Rescue Dog Advice

Now that you have chosen your rescue dog, you might wonder how to make them feel comfortable. After all, a new home is a scary thing for dogs, no matter how long they were at the shelter. So here are a few tips to get off on the right foot. 

Setting Up

Before you bring your new dog home, set up their new home. This means puppy-proofing, setting up a new bed, and getting all the necessities. You don’t want to adopt a dog and immediately take them to the pet store. Unnecessary trips could stress your dog out more, and you don’t know how they will react on the car ride. 


Sometimes the adoption process can take a while. If you suspect a delay, ask the staff if you can bring in a towel or blanket with your scent on it. Giving the dog a little piece from their new home will familiarize them with your family. Scent familiarity calms dogs down and will make a new home more comfortable. 

Outside First

When bringing home an adopted dog, introduce them to the outside first. Let them sniff around the yard or wherever you plan on taking them to go potty. Your dog might already be potty trained, but this method will show them where to go. If you have other dogs, introducing them outside on neutral territory can help relieve tensions and possessive behaviors. 


If your new rescue dog doesn’t mind the crate, you should start crate training immediately. Until your new dog is used to your schedules and their new home, crating will prevent any destruction. Once you feel they can be trusted, you can start allowing them free-roam of small areas of the house. 

Calming Sprays

One of our best tips for adopting a shelter dog is to have a calming spray ready. Your new dog will likely feel anxious in their new surroundings. Using calming sprays will relax your dog and release the tensions of new home life. Calming sprays used in a crate will also help when settling a rescue dog at night. 

Take Time Off

When adopting a rescue dog, the first seven days can be a whirlwind. Your dog might start scared and timid. Your job is to make them feel loved and safe in this new lifestyle. After a few weeks, your dog will start feeling more outgoing and exploring more. But it will be a few months until your dog is completely comfortable and apart of your family. You will want to take a few days off work to check for a seamless transition from these phases of a rescue dog. 

Most Importantly, Have Fun. 

Bringing home, a new rescue dog is an exciting time. You will be expanding your family and bringing in love and joy. And all these tips for adopting a shelter dog will only help make the process a little easier. 

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Doodle Board!

tips on adopting a shelter dog

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