Adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue can be truly rewarding. Too many dogs are in shelters, and high numbers of euthanization in cities all over lead to many people choosing to adopt rather than buy their next pet. Rescuing dogs is great for many people, but it’s important to be fully informed about what you can expect when doing so. When you’re prepared for the unexpected and know what you’re getting into, the potential for stress is much lower.
Rescuing a Dog Means Getting The Dog’s History, Too
When you get a puppy, you’re starting fresh with a new dog. While many shelters do adopt out puppies, the vast majority of shelter dogs are full-grown. Adopting an adult dog means you’re going to have to adapt to whatever the dog’s established demeanor is and work with it. For instance, if the dog was abused as a puppy, it may be afraid of or aggressive toward humans. You’ll need to commit to training a dog from a shelter and giving it a lot of attention. Be a leader for the dog, and give it a new home where they can learn to trust again. Likewise, if you adopt a senior dog who was given up by a deceased owner or someone who could no longer afford to take care of their pet, you may be dealing with a dog who has abandonment issues or separation anxiety. No matter what the issues, rescuing a dog means you have to be up for the challenge of getting a dog that some may consider to be less-than-ideal.
Just Because It’s a Rescue, Doesn’t Mean It’s Free
Rescues and shelters need money to keep doing the work they do—the cheapest option for getting rid of homeless animals is, sadly, euthanizing them. To keep them alive and get them adopted into homes, rescue groups need space to shelter them, food to feed them, toys to entertain them, workers or volunteers to care for them, veterinary care—basically everything you’ll need when you adopt a dog, but multiplied for dozens of homeless hounds. So don’t be surprised when the cost to adopt or rescue a dog isn’t just a few dollars—most adoptions fall somewhere between $50 and $400, depending on where you live, how old the dog is (some charge more for puppies as they are in higher demand), etc. If you’re looking at a specific-breed rescue, the price will likely be on the higher end.
You’ll Need to Prove Your Living Situation
Thankfully, most shelters have fairly rigid adoption guidelines. This is to prevent impulsive adopters from bringing home the first cooing beagle or pit mix they find, only to return the pooch when it pees on their carpet the first time or their landlord finds out they got a dog in a no-pets building. Shelters and rescues will typically require you to provide proof of the pet-friendly status in your building if you rent, and if you own, they’ll want to know that everyone in your family gets along with the dog. If you have kids, they don’t want to risk you adopting a dog that your toddler is terrified of. Generally, these guidelines are not in place to prevent you from finding a furry friend. Rather, they’re there to prevent that dog from being bounced around from shelter to house to shelter again. The purpose of shelters and rescues is finding a “forever home” for each animal, and ensuring the adoptive family is a good fit is key.
Their Behavior May Be Inconsistent
Playing with the dog at the shelter might make you think that he’s the one for you. As hard as it might be, try to remind yourself that there may be the potential for the dog to act differently when you bring it home. For instance, maybe it’s tired or a little under the weather when you meet it at the shelter, and acts very calm and collected, only to turn into a rambunctious little devil once it’s in your home. On the flip side, it might be stressed out and reactive in the shelter or when you first bring it home, but may mellow out over the first few weeks or months you have the dog. Keep in mind that when you rescue a dog, again, you’re adopting all of its qualities, not just the nice, fun ones.
The Dog’s Health Status Might Be Unclear/Unresolved
In that same vein, it’s important to get detailed health information about the dog before you bring it home, as well as advice about what to do or who to bring the dog to in the event that a sickness develops shortly after bringing the pet home. For instance, kennel cough is a common ailment among shelter dogs, and should be attended to. You should also be prepared to plan for any unexpected health issues that the shelter may not know about—arthritis, allergies, hip problems, etc.
Adopting a dog is a great experience for most people who do it—the key is being prepared and knowing what to expect. Did you adopt your dog? Let us know about what you think people should know about adopting pets!