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Guide for Adopting a Shelter Dog

Adopting a new dog into your home can be a truly exciting time, as you welcome a new addition to your family. However, this new chapter in your life may require a lot more time and preparation than you may expect. This guide will outline some factors to consider before adopting a dog.  

Things to consider before adopting

There are many factors to consider before making the big decision to welcome the right rescue dog into your home. Although every situation is different, here are some useful tips to consider before adopting.

Firstly, the dog that you choose should match your own lifestyle. If you are a more active and adventurous person, getting a more energetic dog could be a possible fit for you. If you are older or prefer more low energy activities, getting a senior dog or a more laid-back dog is probably best. Ensuring that the rescue dog has the same or lower energy levels as you will reduce the chance of behavioural problems that may arise due to boredom from lack of exercise.

Another thing to consider is how the dog will affect your current environment. If you have pets at home already, how will they react to the addition of your new dog? It is important to first consider the needs of your own pets, as a new addition will likely be stressful to them. Consider their personality and age as well. Too much stress can even cause health problems for your current and future pets. If you have pets at home, it is recommended that you allow them to meet the rescue dog before adopting. This will help you get a sense of whether or not they will be compatible to live together in your home.

Likewise, it is also important to consider if the rescue dog has any triggers of their own. Shelters usually perform temperament testing on each dog before allowing them to be adopted. If they are reactive with dogs, cats or children, you should consider how that will affect your current living situation.

Adopting a dog can be difficult as it requires a lot of dedication and patience. Dogs are a big responsibility, so take time before adopting.  Spend as much time with them to build a relationship before making the big decision.  


All dogs from shelters come from different backgrounds and may differ in obedience training. Keep in mind that unlike a new puppy, rescue dogs may have habits and behaviours that they may have learned from before. It will require time and patience to train them to develop new and appropriate habits.

When training a new rescue dog, it is important to set boundaries and rules from day one. Consistency is key when it comes to proper training. If you are lenient with enforcing certain behaviours such as sleeping on the couch, it will be much harder to establish later on. Positive reinforcement should also be practiced while training. Rewarding your pet with treats and praise when good behaviour is shown will be helpful in your training process.

Border Terrier sitting and giving paw to pet owner for a treat

How to feed a shelter dog

Every dog will have different dietary requirements based on factors such as age, energy level and weight. It is always important to consult a veterinarian or animal scientist for advice on what and how to feed your new rescue dog. These are some helpful tips for feeding that you may apply to feeding your new shelter dog.

Many times, dogs in shelters are observed to be either overweight or underweight. It is important to be proactive and get the rescue dog back to an ideal body weight to prevent any future health problems. In the case of overweight dogs, it is important to keep track of how much the dog is eating and not to overfeed them, especially with treats. Exercise is an important factor to help overweight dogs, but it should be gradual and limited based on what the dog is able to do. In the case of underweight dogs, feeding small frequent meals instead of large meals can be helpful to safely encourage weight gain.

Preparation before adoption

Before bringing home a dog that you believe is right for you, you will need to prepare your home and gather necessary supplies.

Preparing your home is essential for a rescue dog to successfully adjust to their new home. Whether it is a puppy or an older dog, take time to dog-proof your home. Remove any hazardous or valuable items that the dog can get to and chew. Providing enrichment in the form of toys and bones are good ways to steer your dog away from chewing away at your house. To ensure your rescue dog is comfortable in your home, set up their bed or crate in a quieter corner of your home. They will learn to recognize their new “room” and be able to go there as a safe place if they are ever feeling stressed.

Labrador Retriever relaxing belly up in crate

Some supplies you should gather before bringing your dog home include collars, leashes, appropriate food, toys and a bed. It is also important to look for a veterinary clinic near you that you trust and are interested in. Get to know them through their websites and social media, and even read reviews to make sure it is the right clinic for you and your new dog.

Shelters to adopt

If you’re interested in adopting a dog, some places you can consider are your local animal shelters or even online websites such as Petfinder. The shelter will guide you through the process of adoption and will help ensure that the dog is a right fit for you.

Although adopting a dog can be a tough process, providing your rescue dog with a new life will be worthwhile!

New pet parent adopting black Pitbull from shelter
New pet parent adopting black Pitbull from shelter

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February 20, 2024
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