Dog tips: What do I need before adopting a dog?

Things to know before adopting a shelter dog

Adopting a shelter dog is a wonderful gesture, that tells the world so much about who you are. People who love animals are already special, but those who are ready to take on the responsibility of a shelter pet are downright amazing. So, we thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

And we encourage the world to follow your example, to adopt shelter dogs, puppies, senior dogs, cats, to give them the much-deserved love and attention. But before you put on your boots, grab your umbrella or just your stunning personality and rush to the rescue, there are a few things we would like to share with you. It might sound as if we are actually discouraging people from adopting shelter dogs, but this is in no way our intention.

What we are trying to do here is inform people. Because it doesn’t really do anyone any good if you adopt and quickly change your mind afterwards or decide that your expectations were completely different. What we see in movies about a man, a dog, and the wonderful life waiting for them may just be very different from what actually awaits you.

So, know your facts from the very beginning and then decide to adopt! This way, you will be on the peak of mountain happiness together with your furry friend.

Shelter dogs could be scared or poorly socialized dogs.

We don’t exactly realize just what a powerful effect living in a shelter can have upon an animal. Can you imagine having your life changed? Discovering that everything you knew yesterday is no longer valid today? You no longer have a place you can call home and your entire family has abandoned you on the street or in a cold, metal cage.

So, yes, even though animals that are found and brought to the shelter are among the lucky ones, they can be seriously traumatized by these events. Now, the bigger issue here is animal cruelty.

Hopefully, in time, through education and the justice system, animal cruelty will be diminished. Meanwhile, however, we are left with seriously injured animals, both physically and mentally.

When adopting a shelter animal, you need to assume that the worst has happened to it: abandoned from an early age with its siblings on the street with or without a mummy, having chased random strangers on the sidewalk for food or attention and being told off for it (hence their shyness) or simply being a stray for all of its life.

Some were found injured or in other dreadful conditions, we could not tell how some dogs got in some very delicate and serious situations. So you must take into account that you could come home with a shy, frightened animal, that may require work and time to act normal, to feel safe (some are, despite their trauma, sociable and energetic).

Some may never succeed. Some might have issues socializing with other dogs their entire lives. The past might have left some pretty deep marks on these animals, but love, patience and time heal them. There may be scars, though.

Shelter animals usually come with a past that can be healed. Be patient and offer love and you will be greatly rewarded.

Getting used to the life outside the shelter can be tough.

Imagine that shelter animals live in a small cage, alone, looking through the metal bars and waiting for someone to notice them. The shelter staff usually has a lot to deal with and making time to play with the animals there can be pretty difficult. Volunteers is a word we do not hear or thing about too often because we never get to see them. So, shelter animals may not be used to loud noises, strangers, other pets or children.

When adopting a shelter animal, you need to consider this fact and once again, be PATIENT.  Just know that your shelter dogs might react to certain aspects of your reality, aspects which are normal to you.

Life outside the shelter is desirable for animals, but it can be tough. Love and patience can change that.

Shelter animals may not be potty trained or leash friendly

Unfortunately, this is a problem for many adopters. We tend to imagine that dogs instinctively learn to walk on a leash or do their business outside. It is like they outgrow these issues. In reality, they don’t. We just see people walking their dogs on a leash calmly, dogs that are potty trained, because their owners dedicated time to discipline them. Shelter dog may not have had that person willing to discipline them and to clean after them. So, it has nothing to do with age, really. It’s an education issue.

Of course, you can teach them. Of course, you can discipline them and sometimes, the entire potty training is faster on adult dogs than on puppies. So, it’s not the end of the world. It is, however, a challenge.

Shelter dogs may not be leash friendly and potty trained, but they are up for the training.

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A few solutions

Open the doors of your home for a home check

You might think that it is a bit intrusive for the shelter staff to ask you to say yes to a home check and you might even think to call the entire thing off. Even though it may seem it’s a bit too much, a home check is actually a blessing in disguise. Opening the doors to your home will allow the shelter staff to see if your home is prepared for the dog you want to adopt. Depending on the  size, temperament, breed, their needs might be different.

By having your home checked, you will most likely avoid the dreadful telephone in which you are returning the dog because it has destroyed your home. Even so, no one can guarantee, despite a home check, that such cases will be totally avoided.

It is important to adopt the right dog for your home and the shelter staff can counsel you in this regard. Don’t worry, there are plenty of lives waiting to be saved and they are all just as valuable.

Ask for the proper assistance in all situations

Shelter animals may be traumatized, scared and not exactly friendly to other pets or children. Some might get rid of this issue in time, but others may not. When deciding to adopt, take the time to discuss all the issues you could think of with the staff of the rescue organization.

Explain any fear you might have, tell them about your pets or kids, if you have any, tell them your schedule, tell them everything and anything (regarding pets of course). They know their animals best, because they have rescued them, cared for them and noticed their behavior. They will know to guide you and help you choose the right dog for you.

Assistance can be granted from the vet, especially in certain situations, more specifically when adopting a dog with problems. A vet will tell beforehand what the requirements are and help you get ready for the arrival of your friend.

Seek proper assistance before adopting a shelter animal. Collect information and make the right decision.

Give yourself time, as well as your new best friend

We tend to quickly judge the success of the adoption, which in reality is a huge mistake. For us, things should be pretty simple. A dog is welcomed in a new family and its life is going to be better. So, it needs to be happy. If the dog is still scared, maybe a bit aggressive and stays in a corner somewhere after a whole week, then indeed you can start to wonder and ask the association what you can do. Most of the rescue centers’ experts say that a traumatized dog can take six up to eight weeks to settle in.

What we fail to see here though is that dogs, just like people or any other species for that matter need time to adjust. Your dog has just traveled a long way in a cage, alongside other 10-20 scared animals, without having a clue of where it is heading. Then, out of nowhere some random people come and take him. Not exactly a 5-star treatment that would leave you completely relaxed, right?

Give your dog time to adjust to his new life and only after can you start judging the success of the adoption.


This is in no way a lecture against adoption. The facts you see written here come to encourage you to make informed decisions when adopting a pet. For a shelter animal, the disappointment of being brought back to the cold metal cage from which it came is greater than what we could imagine and it is our duty as animal lovers to avoid it if we can.

Treat animals with the same respect and consideration as you would a human being.

Help them settle into their new life.

Be patient, affectionate and kind. Time and love can heal all wounds.

Reach out to the shelter staff when encountering problems.

Be sure you want to adopt.

You have it in you to change a life and save another. Each adopted pet gives a new animal the chance to be rescued.

Woof, Woof, People!

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