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How to Adopt a Rescue Dog

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A step-by-step guide to adopting a rescue dog.
Terrier mix rescue dog sitting on a welcome mat.

If you're considering adopting a dog, there's almost certainly a perfect match ready and waiting in one of the many animal rescues or shelters in your area. Millions of animals end up in shelters each year, and adopting from a rescue shelter is one of the best ways to find a new pet.

Shelters and rescues are skilled at finding the right dog for you, and they take wonderful care of the animals they are trying to rehome. They check each animal's health, administer necessary vaccinations and perform tests on their temperament to help increase the chance of finding the right new owner for each dog.

Here's what you can expect when you decide to adopt a rescue dog.

Where Can I Adopt a Rescue Dog?

You can find rescue organizations or shelters by conducting an online search, or try searching a dedicated pet-rehoming search engine like Whichever you choose, it's important to go to a trusted and certified organization.

Most rescue groups and shelters have websites where you can view the dogs they have before going to meet them. These websites typically allow you to you enter your criteria (size, age, breed, child-friendliness, etc.) to scan through potential matches. You may find dogs online that you fall in love with instantly, but it takes an in-person meeting to make sure you and the dog are a great match.

The Dog Adoption Process

A rescue group or shelter's first priority is to match you and your family with the right pet. Once you've found your new best friend, you'll likely need to go through a few steps before you can bring your new dog home. Shelters and animal rescues want to be sure the dog is going home with a safe, caring owner who will be able to look after the dog for the rest of their life.

Meet the Rescue's or Shelter's Requirements

Different organizations will have different standards and requirements, but you should expect to have to register and fill out an application form providing proof of address.

After this, the rescue may conduct a home visit to assess how suitable you and your home are for the dog. Depending on the dog you're considering adopting, you may be required to have a fenced-in yard, one-floor access to the entire house or secure, screened-in windows.

Finalize the Adoption

If you and your potential pet are deemed a good match, you'll be able to move forward with the adoption process. You may need to pay an adoption fee to cover the costs of care, medical support, spaying or neutering, insurance and microchipping. Once you've paid the fee, you'll be able to take your new pet home.

Make sure to ask the staff about the dog's history, if known, and any personality traits or quirks the staff may have noticed so you're prepared to care for your new pet when you bring them home.

Seek Support If Needed

You and your new dog may experience settling-in issues, and some rescues provide post-adoption support. Expect some tricky moments: accidents on the floor, chewing or scratching on furniture or other minor behavioral issues. After all, you're introducing a new personality to the household, and like any relationship, adjustment can take time, especially if your dog previously had a hard life. For tips and advice, check out our first-time dog owner guide .

It should take about a month for your dog to calm down and settle into their new home. In the meantime, offer positive training and encouragement to help build your new dog's confidence. Before you know it, you and your new best friend will be settled into your routine and making memories together for a lifetime.


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