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German Shepard puppy in pound waiting to be rescued

5 steps to rescuing a dog

When it comes to rescuing a dog, people are often unsure of where to begin. It can be a time-consuming process, and sometimes applications fall through, but ultimately, it is very rewarding—for the dogs and their human counterparts. Between going to local shelters and looking at many needy pup profiles online, there are many choices. You need to decide what is right for you, your family and your living situation. 

Here are some things that may help you with the process:

Do your homework. It’s easy to sit down at your computer and find a cute dog you want to take home. However, a picture and small description are never enough. Make sure to ask the staff and shelter volunteers lots of questions. For example, how did she get to the shelter? Does she have any known health problems? Knowledge is power. The more you know about the dog, the better you can decide whether it’s the right rescue dog for your home.

Keep an open mind. While you may have practical considerations—maybe your apartment building doesn’t allow dogs over a certain size—be as flexible as possible. You may go in looking for a puppy that is female and fluffy but walk out with a 30-pound male beagle mix because he stole your heart.

Have everyone in the family meet the potential pet. Once you have found a dog that you think is suitable for your family, make sure everyone who lives in the house comes together to visit. It’s very important to see how your new dog will interact with the whole family. For dog-to-dog meetings, someone at the animal shelter should help you with the introductions. You want the process to be as peaceful as possible.

Be patient. Once you adopt a dog it may take a while for the dog to fully settle into your house. It’s estimated that a dog doesn’t settle into a home for about three months. Don’t just open the door and expect perfection. Your new dog just needs to be shown what to do, so call a local dog trainer and have fun with training!

Finally, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes pet adoptions don’t work out. Dogs can show some behaviors in the house that they didn’t show in the shelter, and it's okay if that changes things for you. If that’s something that worries you, consider joining a foster program first. It’s an easy way to test the waters with a new pet, plus you’ll help save a few lives in the process!


Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA, is the founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent recruitment and services organization dedicated to the pet industry.

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