If you have made the very commendable decision to buy or adopt an unwanted dog or puppy from a rehoming shelter rather than buying from a breeder, this is a very responsible decision but not one that is to be undertaken lightly. Dogs within rehoming shelters end up there for all sorts of reasons, from irresponsible previous owners, behavioural issues, or simply a responsible owner’s inability to care for their dog any longer.
Taking on a dog from a rehoming shelter can be a very rewarding procedure, but there are also various pitfalls that it is important to avoid, in order to ensure that you end up with the right dog or puppy for you, and do not find yourself faced with problems that you were not prepared for.
Read on to learn more about choosing and assessing the right dog for you when picking from a rehoming shelter.
First of all, you might want to view dogs in a variety of different shelters, and finding a shelter that you are happy with and feel confident adopting from is as important as your choice of the dog itself. Pick a shelter where the staff are cooperative, knowledgeable and interested in both their dogs and their prospective owners, and one where you feel supported by the staff and that the staff know the dogs they care for very well. Lots of pet rescue centres advertise their dogs for adoption in our adoption section on Pets4Homes.
Before any shelter will let you adopt a dog, they will want to check you out to make sure that you are a responsible owner and that they feel confident allowing you to take a dog home with you. This always involves an interview and general interaction with you, observing you around dogs, and will involve questions about your family, other pets, living situation and work life. Many shelters will arrange a home visit to ensure that they are happy with your accommodation, so if possible, get all of this out of the way before you go looking for a potential dog, to ensure that if you find one that you would like to adopt, the shelter will allow it.
Now it is time to go around and meet some of the dogs! While this is exciting and full of promise, it can also be emotionally draining, as every single dog you will see deserves a good home, and it can be hard to know that you will be leaving all of them or all but one of them behind.
Don’t make a snap decision; view lots of dogs, visit more than once, and don’t judge a dog on one short meeting. Don’t automatically discount dogs that appear to be shy or scared; their personalities might be very different when they get to know you, or are outside of the shelter environment.
When you have an idea of a dog or potentially more than one dog that you would like to consider, it is time to pick the brains of the staff! Find out the age, health and general wellness of the dog, how long they have been in the shelter, why they are there, and what their behaviour and temperament are like. It can also be worth finding out if they have been adopted and returned, and why this might have happened.
Find out also what types of experiences the staff have had the chance to expose the dog to, and how the dog reacted to them; for instance, if they seem happy with children, other dogs, other pets, etc.
Consider the type or breed of dog that you are looking at, and however much you like it, ensure that it would be a good fit for your lifestyle. If you live in a small apartment and want a quiet, sedentary dog, a lively and outgoing Husky or Border Collie would not be a good choice. Also, make sure that you can afford to care in the long term for any dog that you are considering, and that they are within the age range that suits you.
If you have children, other dogs or other pets, find out what the dog in question is like with them, and also check if the dog has any unusual care or dietary requirements, and how well they are trained and used to living within a home.
Take the opportunity to spend more time with the dog you are considering before you make your choice. Take them walking, play with them, interact with them in various different environments, and find out of the shelter would allow you to take the dog home with you for a few hours with no commitment to see how you get on.
Try to verify any claims that the shelter staff have made regarding the temperament of the dog or their feelings about various situations, see how well trained they are, and expose them to various stimulus to see their reactions, and ensure that you are confident that you can deal with them if you adopt the dog.
When you feel that you have found your perfect dog and are ready to go forwards with the adoption, your last step should be to find out what support the shelter is able to offer you after you take the dog home. Are they willing to support and advise you even after the dog is yours, and are they willing to offer a trial period or take the dog back within a reasonable amount of time if something goes badly wrong?
Generally, rehoming shelters will offer plenty of after-adoption support, and may wish to visit you at home after the dog has had the chance to settle in, so check all of this out first, and ensure that you are happy and confident with their arrangements.