Finding The Right Rescue Dog

© Dana Cubbage Photography 2013

Photo by Dana Cubbage Photography | www.danacubbagephotography.com

When considering where to get a new dog to add to your family, you should certainly consider adopting a dog from a shelter.

Dogs end up in shelters for a variety of reasons. People who do not spay/neuter their pets may have unwanted litters, sometimes a dog’s owner becomes too sick to care for their animals, and far too often people are not willing to take the time to train and care for their dogs.

Their loss is your gain. Shelters and rescue groups are full of gorgeous, sweet, and well-mannered dogs – the stigma that all shelter dogs have behavioral problems is simply untrue.

If you are considering giving a home to one of these unwanted and abandoned dogs, consult the shelter staff or rescue group volunteers so they can guide you to a dog that will be the best fit for your family.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 5 million dogs are euthanized in American shelters every year. You can help save one of these innocent lives by adopting a shelter dog.


Top 3 Dog Adoption Myths Debunked:

Myth #1: You don’t know what you are getting with a shelter or rescue dog.
The reality is that you will know even less about a puppy from an irresponsible breeder or pet store. A responsible breeder will show you pups with their mothers, but even then there is no guarantee that the puppy you are getting will have the same temperament as its parents. A lot of dogs in most private rescue groups live in foster homes, so you will have a better idea of the dog’s temperament before adoption.

Myth #2: I want a purebred dog, so I have to go to a breeder.
You would be surprised how many beautiful purebred dogs end up in shelters and rescue groups. Check your area for a breed-specific rescue—you may find a group that specializes in rescuing the breed you are looking for.

Myth #3: Dogs in shelters are given up because there is something wrong with them.
According to Petfinder, the main reasons people give up a pet include:

  • People are moving to housing that will not allow pets (7%)
  • Owners having personal problems (4%)
  • Too many or no room for littermates (7%)
  • Person can no longer afford the pet (5%)
  • Owner no longer has time for the pet (4%)

Finding the Right Rescue Dog
If you have made the wonderful decision to adopt a shelter or rescue dog, be sure you know what to look for before you head to your local shelter.

  • Do your research on breed characteristics
  • Learn how to choose the right breed/mix. For example, do not choose a border collie mix if you are looking for a couch potato or a greyhound mix if you have cats.
  • Choose a dog that comes to the front of the kennel and is excited to see you.
  • Look for soft body language; avoid a dog that is very still and alert
  • If you choose a dog that you like, make sure you interact with it outside the shelter environment, preferably in an outdoor, fenced-in area.
  • If applicable, make sure you bring your children and dogs to meet the dog you are considering before you adopt. Surprises are never a good idea for anyone when a new dog is involved.


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  • Katherine Sage

    I think it's a mistake to dismiss a dog because it didn't meet you " excitedly", is "still and alert". That's passing over countless dogs who are simply scared. Two of my recent foster dogs from high kill shelters certainly did not exhibit any kind of joy while there, but when given time to decompress, positively shined. Perhaps a brief explanation of this behavior would enable the adopter to make a more informed decision.

  • Excellent point Katherine. My rescue-girl was the only one in the shelter that was being calm and 'reserved' when I did a walk-through. As it happened, I was looking for a dog that I could use as a 'role model' for my client-dogs, so I needed a dog that other dogs could relax around. I chose my dog based on the qualities she showed me that day at the shelter, and she has been an absolute treasure - both as a companion dog and as a training-partner. Even the most over-stimulated and reactive of my client-dogs are able to calm and relax in her presence.

  • emmalee72

    I'm with you on that. One of our shelter dogs, Elga, is a sweet little lab mix but she takes a while to get to know people. She's now been in longer than every other female of her age - and only because she doesn't approach people. She is an absolute sweetie. This advice is solid apart from that. My own rescue Malinois was there for 14 months because he nipped people who tried to pet him through the bars. He's never nipped me yet in 8 months of adoption. It takes 8 weeks for the cortisol levels to drop following a stressful experience for dogs, and a refuge is often little but that. That's 8 weeks until you see 'normal' behaviours and personality when cortisol levels return to normal.

  • Lauren

    I'm looking for a Maltese ...

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