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Adopt a Dog from a Shelter or Pet Rescue

Updated on January 31, 2008

The dog "pound", humane society, and animal rescue groups are great places to adopt a new furry friend to join your family. So many homeless and abandoned pets are in need of a loving home, and have lots of love to share in return!

Myths About Shelter Dogs

"There must be something wrong with a dog that's in a shelter". This is a common myth, and an unfair one. While it's true that some dogs in shelters have physical or behavioral issues, so too do dogs that have homes. The reality is that many dogs that end up in shelters are there through no fault of their own.

Dogs are surrendered to animal shelters for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • Someone in the family says they've developed allergies.
  • The family is moving to no-pet housing.
  • Conflicts between pets living in the home.
  • Too many pets in the home.
  • Divorce or separation (and no one is willing to take custody of the dog).
  • Death or illness in the family.
  • Financial difficulties or a change in financial situation makes the family unable to properly care for the pet.
  • Pet has a health issue that the family is either unable or unwilling to deal with.

Yes - there are dogs that will need extra time and effort to make them into good family pets. Some have endured neglect or abuse with their previous families; others may be strays who have never been inside a home before; some dogs could have developed bad habits due to the stress of being at the shelter; and some may simply have physical or behavioral issues that need to be dealt with.

However, there are also many dogs that are already housebroken, trained, and well-adjusted.

Shelters and rescue groups typically screen dogs before putting them up for adoption. The dogs you see available for adoption are likely there because the organization feels they will make a good pet for the right home.

Matching a Dog to Your Lifestyle

It's hard to resist the sight of a dog pleading with you to bring them home. However, finding a dog to match your lifestyle will help ensure it's the right match - one that will last a lifetime.

All dogs require both a time commitment and a financial commitment. Do not adopt a dog because it's cute, or you feel sorry for it. The shelter should be able to help you choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. For example, how much time do you have to spend with your new dog? Housetrained, adult dogs are far less work than a tiny untrained puppy that's still in its chewing phase.

How much regular exercise can you offer a dog? If you're the active type that loves to hike or run, dogs mixed with active breeds such as Border Collies or Jack Russell Terriers could be a good fit for you. If you prefer to take things easy for the most part, look for less active breeds. Remember, the size of a dog doesn't automatically determine how much exercise it will need. There are many small breeds that need a lot of exercise, and many larger breeds that don't need as much.

Another thing to consider is your knowledge of the breed. While there are often purebred dogs at shelters and rescues, you will probably find that most of the dogs are usually mixed breeds. Being familiar with breed traits - or discussing them with a knowledgeable counseller at the shelter - can help you find the right furry friend for your family. There are some breeds of dogs that are best off with breed-knowledgable owners.

Finances are another thing to consider. On a basic level, big dogs eat more and thus cost more. Older dogs may have additional health issues and thus higher vet bills, although this isn't always true -- and younger dogs can have health issues too.

Getting a pet isn't something that should be done on impulse, but after careful consideration for the well-being of both the pet and the family that it will be joining. On that same note, pets shouldn't ever be given as gifts - if you want to give a pet as a gift, give a gift certificate instead... and let the family choose their own pet!

Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog

  • You give a loving animal a permanent home.
  • You could give an abandoned pet, or a pet who came from difficult circumstances, a second chance at a happy life.
  • You don't contribute to the pet overpopulation problem!

Consider adult dogs or even senior dogs when you're searching for your new family member. Many are already trained and ready to blend into your family with just a little effort!

Thanks for considering a shelter dog!


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      Irene Wilson 5 years ago

      People are often put off because they are not sure quite what they are going to get in a dog from a rescue centre. Eight months ago we went to a local animal sanctuary after reading that 13 dogs had been saved from death row in Ireland. We adopted a Jack Russell cross Beagle and I have to say he is the best dog I have ever had. He came to us lacking in confidence and scared of every man that approached him. Eight months on and he really is Top Dog. He just wanted to be loved. I must say he has really landed on his feet and so have we! There is a great sense of achievement and it is extremely rewarding to watch him grow in confidence and to trust humans again.

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      Portable shelter 6 years ago

      Hi. Thanks for sharing this great article. Our neighbors adopted a pet from a shelter some time ago. This dog is wonderful and extremely portable with our children. It is great that you advocate consumers getting pets from a shelter to save them.

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      Robbie henderson 6 years ago

      Hello my name is Robbie I have 2 boarder collies meg is black and White and taz is red and White I got them of private sellers u got meg from a farm outside Perth Inverness shire and she was treated very badly after her experience of been on the farm it's made very timid and shy she would not eat go for walks or do anything she would just lie in a conner shivering and whining and in the end we decided to buy another dog taz has done the world of good for meg now she goes. Out for walks just like every other normal dog should do on very happy with the progress that she has made she has got a happy life ahead of her !!

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      Julie A. Johnson 9 years ago

      We adopted a beagle from a shelter (she was a bit older, 3-5 years) and she has become the baby of the house (We have another older dog, too). I'm glad you encourage people to adopt from shelters!

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      4Paws 9 years ago from Minneapolis

      Thanks for helping to raise awareness about shelter dogs. Good info about how to adopt one, and great resource links! I'm a foster mom for a local dog rescue organization. I've heard so many "reasons" for giving up a dog -- the best one is "she didn't match the carpet."