11 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog


Hey guys, Ash here. Before we get started with this article on adopting shelter dogs, AKA rescue dogs, I just want to say that I am an advocate for adopting dogs, period. There are many safe and responsible ways to get a dog, and that includes going through a reputable breeder. There is a big difference between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill, and it’s up to you as the potential owner to do your research. But anyone who knows my story knows that Janice and Leroy came from a breeder, so I didn’t want you to think that I was writing this article as a hypocrite. Just practice responsible pet ownership!

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Rescue shelters are supposed to be safe havens for homeless domesticated animals that are looking for a new owner. Maybe they were picked up as a stray and have never lived with a person, or maybe their owner couldn’t take care of them anymore. For some shelter dogs, being bounced from home to home has become routine. These dogs often have behavioral issues due to inconsistent training and anxiety. That makes it hard for them to find forever homes, but the truth is that in many cases, they just need a bit of patience to be the best dog you’ve ever had. So here are 11 reasons to consider adopting a shelter dog as your next pet.

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1. You’ll know that your shelter dog is healthy

When you adopt from a breeder, or buy from a pet store, you often don’t have any assurances that the dog is healthy. You might be able to get vet records, but this is not the norm, and you have no way of knowing if the puppy will develop health problems in the future. Registered shelters are required to have all dogs checked out by a vet, and any medical conditions are taken care of. You’ll be told in advance about any long-term medical care this dog will need, any short term issues will have been checked out, and in most cases, shelter dogs are spayed and neutered as well.

2. You’ll be helping more than just your new pet

No matter what state, county, or town you may be in, there is a universal truth that all shelters share: they are strapped for resources and space.  But the population of dogs in need of temporary shelter doesn’t ever decline. By getting one pet out of a shelter, you not only make room for another, but you also help ease the strain on the resources. The fee you pay to adopt the pet also helps keep the shelter afloat, which means more food and care for the animals currently in the shelter.

3. You can find an adult pet, which may be a better fit for your family or lifestyle

When shopping at a pet store or from a breeder, you’re looking at puppies 99% of the time. But not everyone has the ability to train a puppy, or a puppy may not fit with your family. If you need a calm, affectionate companion for a child, for example, you’re probably better off choosing an adult dog right from the start. Another issue with adopting a puppy is that it’s hard to know what kind of temperament a dog will have just judging by their puppy personality. When looking at adult dogs, you can easily tell if a dog has the kind of personality you prefer. Shelters give you the opportunity to find a dog whose age and personality go better with your lifestyle.

4. You’ll save money

Generally, adopting from a shelter will be a lot more affordable than adopting from a breeder or a pet store. The big reason for this is that vet care, such as any shots the dog needed, neutering or spaying that was performed, and so on, will be bundled into the adoption cost – which means you get these vet services at the shelter’s reduced rate, rather than having to pay a vet full price yourself. Shelters do their best to keep adoption prices low in order to encourage adoptions, whereas breeders and pet stores are businesses that need to turn profits.

5. If you don’t know what you want, shelters give you more options.

Really the only reason to go to a breeder is if you have a specific breed that you really want to adopt. If you just know that you want a dog for your family or yourself, but aren’t sure what else you may be interested in, a shelter is the best place to go. You’ll be able to compare a variety of canine personalities, and find a dog that really connects with you, rather than just getting a dog by default because it’s what the breeder has. And while there are many great reasons to adopt a mutt, you can also find pure bred dogs in shelters all the time.

6. You help put an end to cruelty in breeding practices

Dog breeding is an industry that is rife with a lot of issues. While there are certainly people out there doing it right and taking care of their animals, there are just as many people who are treating dogs very badly in order to pump out as many puppies as possible. But the thing is that these operations work on supply and demand just like any other market. The less demand there is for designer dogs, the fewer dogs will be forced to participate in harmful breeding programs. So by adopting a shelter dog rather than searching for a breeder, you help reduce that demand.

7. Shelter dogs are typically well socialized.

If you have other pets and want to add a new dog to the mix, a shelter dog is a great idea. These dogs are used to being around other animals that are outside their breed, and often outside their species. Shelters don’t have ways to separate dogs of different breeds, and many must keep dogs and cats in nearby spaces or even the same space, separated only by being on separate walls. This means that shelter dogs are used to being around other animals, and can adjust better to being in a new pack.

8. You are supporting charity when you adopt from a non-profit shelter

Many shelters are non-profit organizations that function as a vital community charity. Not only do these locations offer care and shelter to homeless animals, but they also keep the community safer. Dogs that are desperate for food and shelter can become a danger; by offering these dogs what they need until someone can adopt them, these shelters help protect people as well. And by adopting a dog through their service, your money goes towards that service. Plus, you can also write the adoption fee off as a donation to charity!

9. You’ll get lifelong access to knowledge, advice, and assistance from the shelter

Shelter employees and volunteers are very knowledgeable when it comes to caring for dogs, seeking veterinary help, training, socializing, and other concerns. When you adopt from a shelter, your relationship with them does not have to end. Their goal is to keep dogs out of the shelter, so they are typically more than happy to help you if you have questions. They can also help you find resources like professional trainers or groomers in your area.

10. Many shelter animals are already trained

A large part of the shelter crowd are dogs who have been with families in the past. For most adult shelter dogs, this means they are already housebroken, and probably know basic commands like sit, stay, and lay down. Even if they haven’t been with families, they can also pick these things up in the shelter, because the employees there work with the dogs while they are staying there. This means less time you’ll spend training, and more time you’ll spend having fun with your new family member.

11. You might save a life

This final reason for adopting a shelter dog may sound like a line from a Sarah McLaughlin commercial, but that doesn’t make it any less true or important. The truth is that shelters sometimes are forced to make the decision to put animals down. If they didn’t, all the animals in the shelter would starve. It’s a horrible system but a necessary one. But by adopting a dog, you help make the resources go farther, which means fewer dogs must be put down.

What to Expect When Adopting a Shelter Dog

If these 11 reasons have convinced you to give a shelter dog a try, there’s a few things you should know about the adoption process.

First, when you enter a shelter, try to remember that the animals are stressed. They know they aren’t in a “real” home, and they aren’t really given a chance to settle in. They are constantly introduced to new people, their food is likely changed on the fly as the shelter gets donations, and they may be sharing crowded quarters at times. All of this means that a dog can’t put on his best face when you meet. Try to look beyond the immediate behavior and look for permanent traits, like a calm demeanor when in the yard with other dogs, or a friendly wag of the tail when interacting with shelter employees.

Taking a shelter dog home can be an exercise in patience. It helps if you give the dog a space they can immediately claim as their own safe space. Even just a dog bed in a corner where they can retreat is a good way to make your new pet feel welcomed. And don’t forget to bring a collar and a leash when you go to collect your dog. A slip leash is a good idea if you don’t know the dog’s collar size yet. Having at least a simple slip leash handy can help you keep your dog safe and follow all dog related laws while you get your new friend home.

Many trainers recommend not heading straight home, but allowing your dog to take a walk around the neighborhood first. This allows them to get out some of their anxious energy before being introduced to a whole new environment. Keep your dog on the leash when you enter the house, and show them where they will sleep and eat.

If you do have children or other pets, you’ll need to be calm and collected as you introduce everyone. Be sure that no one crowds the new dog, letting him approach the current family members rather than the other way around. Don’t let anyone, whether it’s kids or well meaning dog grandparents, swarm the dog for kisses and snuggles right away. Finally, when you yourself pet your dog, start by petting the body rather than the head. Not all dogs like having their head pet, or may associate this with previous abuse; you need to learn your dog’s preferences before you startle them.

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The Final Word

Rescuing shelter dogs all boils down to compassion for animals that just need a second chance at being a part of a loving family. Almost everyone I’ve known who has adopted a shelter dog has said that their rescue was the best dog they ever had. These dogs are often so eager to express their gratitude that they become the most loyal companion you’ll ever have. Have a lot of patience with your new rescue dog and take the time to get to know them before you decide they aren’t a good fit. The bottom line for rescuing shelter dogs is that when you give an animal time and love, you’ll get the same in return, often many times over. And whether you choose a breeder, a pet store, or a rescue, that is all that matters at the end of the day.