What To Consider Before Adopting A Dog From A Shelter – 10 Tips

Bringing a new dog into your home can be stressful, exhilarating, and one of the most rewarding experiences. If your decision to adopt a dog from a shelter has you wondering what to expect, then please read on, because you’ve come to the right place.


#1 – What are the differences between shelters?

There are many different kinds of shelters, and they each have their own pros and cons. There are 3 main types of shelters:

  • Breed-specific shelters
  • General Animal Shelters
  • County or City owned Shelters

Breed-specific shelters tend (but not always) to have more expertise in the dogs they adopt out, and often times these fur-babies are rescues from puppy mills.  The benefit of a breed-specific shelter is that if you already know you want a specific breed, you can find them here. Additionally, they have a longer wait time before they have to euthanize their rescues.

General Animal Shelters, like the ASPCA, include all breeds of dogs and other pets, these places tend to know a little more about their pets because when they are surrendered the previous owners fill out a history form.

County or City owned shelters have a very short time for their pets to be adopted before they have to euthanize because of overcrowding.

If your heart sings for a dog, and you are wanting to do a good deed, then perhaps a county or city owned shelter is the best place to go.


#2 – Where can I find a shelter to adopt a dog?

The ASPCA has a national database of animal shelters.  Additionally, a popular place to go is Petfinder. If you are looking for a more specific shelter, perhaps a breed-specific shelter a quick google search will help. You can also find County or City owned shelters the same way.


#3 – Why choose a shelter dog over a breeder?

The goal of this article is not to knock breeders.

There are, however, irresponsible breeders out there that will risk the life of the female dogs just to make a little more money. Also, puppy mills are a very real thing, and often times these pups are in serious danger of genetic defects and more.

If your heart is set on a specific breed of dog, perhaps consider a breed-specific shelter instead of a breeder. There are so many wonderful companions available that have been rescued from desperate situations that need loving homes.


#4 – What kind of dog should I adopt?

If you don’t lean a certain way, or gravitate towards a specific breed, then the best recommendation is to do your research. As you browse shelter websites, look up characteristics of breeds of dogs that you find interesting or want to know more about.

This way you make sure you are adopting a dog that isn’t going to clobber your kids or eat your pet birds as a snack.  (True story – Huskies love birds.)

There are many available resources online that can help you choose a dog that suits your personality and lifestyle. Additionally shelter staff may be able to help you choose a dog that matches traits that you are looking for, so don’t hesitate to stop by of give them a call.


#5 – Should I expect my adopted dog to have special needs?

According to the ASPCA most often when a dog is surrendered for adoption, the previous owner fills out forms that give the staff detailed information about the pet.  This includes history, medical needs, behavior, and temperament.

Also, the staff keeps a close eye on their animals and adds anything to this that may be pertinent.

Most dogs often find themselves homeless not because they have issues, but because the owner moves to a smaller place, or discovers that they have an allergy, or several other reasons.

There are plenty of dogs ready to be adopted that have no issues at all. If there are issues, you’ll know about them in advance.


#6 – Should I worry about behavioral problems?

Going back to #5, that history form helps shelter staff know about any behavioral problems, and when you consider adopting that dog, they don’t shy away from telling you everything you need to know. They do this because they want you to keep the dog, and not have surprises when you get home.

Shelters also go out of their way to take note and include any behaviors that their previous owners didn’t know about or didn’t share.  Shelters also perform behavior assessments, just to triple check.

For example, if a dog doesn’t get along with cats, and the previous owner didn’t know that the shelter will know this before you adopt.


#7 – What should I have before I adopt?

There are some things you can do to prepare for bringing home an adopted dog, such as having a collar, leash, treats, and a food and water bowl.

Shelters often have basic needs available for sale as well, such as collars and leashes, so if you choose to wait until after you’ve picked out your new fur-baby to buy things, that’s okay too.

Some dogs may need special food, so if you load up on one kind, then find out you need another… well.


#8 – What if I have other pets?

As previously mentioned, your shelter should know if your adopted dog has any issues with other dogs or cats before you adopt.  Also, many shelters offer “meeting places” where you can introduce your two pets on neutral ground. Often times if dogs don’t get along, it is a territorial thing, so taking that out of the mix helps.

According to the Tates Creek Animal Hospital you should make introductions slowly. They suggest sequestering the new pet in an area that other pets cannot access for a few days and slowly allow new pets to have more and more space, with more and more time around new friends.


#9 – What is pet-proofing?

Dogs are naturally curious, and love to chew on things.  Make sure that harmful items for dogs are kept out of reach.  This includes foods that can be harmful or toxic.  There is a list of items that can be found on the ASPCA website.


#10 – What can I expect after I bring an adopted dog home?

After you finally bring your new adopted dog home, remember that the first few months will be about establishing a relationship.  Take things slow and establish a routine.  Avoid stressful experiences… don’t have a house party. Let your new dog adjust and find a new normal. This can take several months.

After this adjustment period, when the newly adopted dog has learned to trust you, then you can start introducing them to dog-parks and other activities, as long as you are introducing one new activity to your routine at a time.