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Selecting the Right Rescue Dog from a Shelter

 by jaime on 22 May 2014 |
2 Comment(s)

Each year far too many dogs and cats find their way into shelters and rescue organizations. The numbers, according to the Humane Society of the United States are staggering to read through. An estimated 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter one of the 3,500 shelters located throughout the country each year. Only 3 to 4 million of those animals are adopted back out in a given year, while roughly 2.7 million perfectly healthy dogs and cats are euthanized each year.


For families looking to add another member to the household, rescuing a dog from a local shelter is a great way to give a worthy animal a second shot at a good life in a stable home. However, not every dog is going to be a perfect fit for every household. Selecting a dog from a shelter requires a little bit of work before simply picking the cutest face out of the pack. Before bringing home a new forever-friend, consider the following steps.

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Research first

The vast majority of shelters and kennels across the country have active websites that allow users to peruse the current residents of the shelter without having to come in. Websites like Petfinder.com offer a great one-stop shop for those considering adopting a dog. This allows prospective families to identify what types of breeds and mixes are in local shelters.


From here it is a good idea to investigate the attitude, temperament, and characteristics of any particular breed before actually falling in love with a cute face at the shelter. After researching the breeds, it's time to do a little investigating elsewhere.

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Investigate shelters

Every shelter is going to describe its residents and services in the same way. Prospective families will see the terms "sweet," "friendly," "loving," and "devoted" to describe the animals in the shelter, the employees working there, and the conditions of the shelter itself. Before taking their word for it, it is a good idea to investigate the shelter housing the dogs at the moment.


Not all shelters live up to the image portrayed online, and sometimes the circumstances at the shelter will negatively impact the dog during its stay. A good shelter will have a clearly defined return policy, conduct temperament testing on adoptable dogs, and allow families to come visit with pets before making the decision to bring one home.

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Spend time with the dog

Assuming a reputable shelter has been located and prospective dogs identified, it is time to interact with the dog before bringing them home and welcoming them into the family. Upon entering the kennel, it is a good idea to pass through the group of dogs without paying much attention to any one particular dog.


After making mental notes about the dogs that stood out on the first pass, walk through again and start to interact with each dog that stood out during the first pass. Once a sociable dog has been identified that catches the eye, ask to take them to an inside/outside play area and see how they interact with everyone in the family that has come along on the visit.


When interacting with the dog for the first time, look for the following characteristics:

·         Warm and accepting of contact

·         Seeks out more contact

·         No aggression on walks

·         No frustration or aggression over toys, treats, or food

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As noble as it is to adopt a dog, there is a process that should be followed to protect both the family involved and the individual dog. For the individual or family adopting the dog, welcoming the wrong dog into the home can result in damage and harm. For the dog, being welcomed and then dismissed back to a shelter can induce anxiety and stress. The right dog isn't always the cutest dog, but rather is the one that best suits the environment it is destined to live in.

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Cheryl Sperring - Comment
Cheryl Sperring26 May 2014Reply
Excellent article. Very good advice. I adopted a friend for my original dog and the shelter was great. We basically went through the procedure you've described and got a really great pet.
Petbucket Admin - Comment
Petbucket Admin27 May 2014Reply
Thanks Cheryl, that's great to hear you're enjoying our advice and articles. It's also great to know that you've had such a positive experience from adopting :)

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Sigal Raz
Sigal Raz
Israel, Kerem Maharal
22 Jun 2018
very good
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