Adopting from a Shelter or Rescue Organization

by P.Mitchell

There are thousands of dogs waiting to be adopted in animal shelters across the country. They come in all shapes and sizes, purebred and mixed-breed, young puppies and senior dogs, high-energy and laid back pooches. They all have one thing in common: they want and desperately need a second chance, a new and loving family to take them in and give them a place they can truly call "home".

Why are there so many sheltered dogs? There are many, many reasons why dogs end up in shelters. Sometimes people buy a puppy without thinking it through. The puppy suddenly and unexpectedly grows into a large dog and simply is too big to handle. Sometimes people's circumstances change, they need to move to an apartment where pets are not welcome, could be a divorce situation where neither parent feels they can take the dog, a pet owner can fall ill and finds himself or herself unable to properly care for the dog. Sometimes the reason for the dog in the shelter is far more inhumane, where a dog has been abused or abandoned. The stories are endless and they are all very real.

Another reason there are so many dogs in shelters is that many people who are looking for the perfect family pet don't consider a shelter or rescue organization as a place to find one. Unfortunately, many people believe that by adopting a rescue animal, they are going to end up with a dog with too many problems.

Well, like choosing a breeder if you're looking for a purebred puppy, choosing a shelter also requires some research. Remember that the goal behind all shelters and rescue organizations is to find a loving home where the dog will remain for the rest of his or her life. The people who volunteer and/or work at shelters all care very much about the dogs that are up for adoption. They want to make sure that the dog does not end up back at the shelter in six months and they will screen any potential dog rescuer.

You need to do your homework as well. Here are some guidelines and questions that you should follow before you choose the dog.

First of all, be sure that the dog has had a thorough medical examination by a veterinarian since he/she was brought to the shelter and that he/she has been screened for various behavioral traits. In most cases, the shelter or rescue organization will have spayed/neuteured the dog and if not, will provide a partial refund of the adoption fee to cover the costs whereby it is your responsibility to take the dog to your veterinarian.

What is the dog's history? Was the dog found as a stray, turned in by his/her owner, a rescue or abused? If the dog was a rescue or abused, you need to learn the details to determine whether you are prepared to handle any problems that may come up. While most dogs will be able to re-adjust to a new home without any major problems, for some it will take time and they may be overly shy or submissive; others may be aggressive or dominant. It is very important to know the circumstances of why the dog ended up at the shelter. If the dog was a stray, it is almost impossible to know the history of the dog; however, you should be able to learn a little bit about him or her by the personality displayed at the shelter. The volunteers or employees of the shelter will also be able to fill you in on his or her behavior traits while at the shelter.

Choose the dog that's right for you. Whether you go for a purebred dog from a reputable breeder or you opt for adopting from a shelter, you need to do your own evaluation on what the right type of dog is for you. A high-energy dog may not be best suited for a senior citizen, likewise, a very quiet older dog may not be the best choice in a home with young children. The employees and volunteers at the shelter will help you decide on the best match, but ultimately, you should be the one who knows the type of dog that is best for you. You can learn more about specific dog breeds under the Breed Listings Section of this website.

Do consider an adult or older dog. Puppies are adorable and cuddly and easy to love. But you'll need to go through the terrible puppy chewing stages, the housebreaking, the constant training — it's alot of work. In the end of course, you'll have a wonderful mature friend by your side. However, adopting an adult dog from a shelter means he or she has already gone through puppyhood, his or her temperament has already been established, and it's easier to spot an easy-going, well socialized adult dog than a puppy who still needs all the training. In the end, if you opt for an adult or older dog, you will still have a wonderful, mature and loving friend by your side.

How is the dog with kids and other animals? Most shelters do behavioral testing of their adoptable dogs to determine if they are suited in a household with kids or other pets. If you do have kids or other pets, make sure to tell the shelter staff that you want a dog that is good with children and other pets.

In the end, whether you choose a puppy, an adult, or a senior dog, from a shelter or rescue organization, the bottom line is: This dog will become a member of your family. He or she will always be there for you with unconditional love. He or she will enter your home and become a part of it. Make that a lifetime commitment! Be sure about your decision because that dog deserves a loving and permanent home. He or she deserves a second chance.