6 Tips When Choosing A Shelter or Rescue Pet


Your family is ready to add a new, loving member. You’re getting a dog and it’s going to be a ‘pound puppy’ – a shelter pet or rescue pet. Good for you! So you visit the local shelters and rescues and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with choices.

How do you go about choosing the perfect new family member when there are so many pleading eyes and dogs in need of a loving home? Here are six tips that can help narrow down your choices when choosing a pet from a shelter or rescue.

Do your homework before you go

Knowing something about the temperaments and other characteristics of different breeds can give you a better idea of what you’re looking for in a dog. It might even send you looking for your new pet at a breed-specific rescue. For instance, working dogs are often protective, the sledding breeds love to run (and need lots of exercise!), and tiny breeds are often not the best choice for small children.

Labradors and Labrador mixes are known for their loyalty; golden retriever mixes are renowned for being excellent with children. Boxers are the happy-go-lucky clowns of the dog world and English bulldogs are seriously laid back. Knowing these kinds of characteristics can help you choose a dog your family can live with for a lifetime.

Don’t choose based on looks!

The cutest or prettiest dog in the shelter might also be the worst choice for your family. That beautiful and flashy white border collie mix with the adorable heart-shaped black patch over one eye? She probably has lots of energy and needs a job or she’ll invent her own. Unless your family is active and willing to do a lot of training with her, it’s best to move on.

Dog adoption is a shelter animal with bright brown eyes and big adorable floppy ears hoping to be adopted by someone

Look for the quiet but attentive dog 

This dog isn’t cowering in the corner of his kennel, but neither is he bouncing off the door and howling for attention. He’s the kind of dog that often makes a perfect family pet. Unfortunately, his quiet nature means he’s often overlooked amidst all the excitement of the shelter. Give him a second look and a chance. We’re guessing you won’t be disappointed!

Take her for a walk

Many of these dogs didn’t receive the proper training to make them good family pets. In fact, it’s that lack of training that all too often results in them being at the shelter in the first place! However, if she doesn’t pull too hard, and looks at you when you try to attract her attention, there’s a good chance she’s trainable. All she needs is a person who loves her enough to teach her some manners.

Puppies aren’t always the best choice

Young puppies are so adorable and almost irresistible. However, they aren’t always the best choice. If you have a baby in diapers or you’re potty-training a toddler, do you really want to add house training a puppy to your already busy day?

A puppy that’s teething probably isn’t a good choice around small children, anyway. He could mistake an arm for a chew bone or decide to teeth on the toys they tend to leave within his reach. Either one can have disastrous consequences!

Instead, choose an older puppy or young adult dog. This dog is still young enough to adapt easily to your household, but old enough to (hopefully) not present some of the same challenges as a younger pup.

Consider adopting a ‘not as adoptable’ dog 

These are the dogs that tend to languish in shelters: seniors or those with special needs or medical issues. This is such a prevailing problem that Petfinder has even designated the third week in September as ‘Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week’! According to the shelters and rescue groups they surveyed, these pets “wait for a home nearly four times longer than the average adoptable pet does … sometimes more than two years!”

an old senior golden retriever sitting in the grass on a hot summer day in a park or backyard toned with a retro vintage filter instagram app or action effect

The Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley did his part in coming to the rescue of one of these ‘less adoptable’ pets. He walked out of the BARCS Animal Shelter in Baltimore with a six year-old rescue he named Lola.

Adopting a senior dog has many advantages: they are generally house trained, they know basic commands, they require less exercise and less attention, and they are content just to be with you! The downside to consider is that a senior could eventually require more medical treatment sooner than a younger dog, but most shelters will not place a dog up for adoption if they are aware of any serious medical issues.

So why not consider one of these ‘not as adoptable’ dogs for your family? You’re already doing a wonderful thing by adopting your new family member from a shelter or rescue. Adopting one that’s been there a long time, or is likely to be, is just an additional dose of wonderful!

No matter which pet you choose, with a little patience and a lot of love, you will have a loyal friend and companion just right for you!




  1. Judy boris October 16, 2016
  2. S. Welsh October 17, 2016
  3. Teri October 22, 2016
  4. Brenda November 2, 2016
    • Tina December 29, 2016
  5. Brenda November 2, 2016
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  7. Marianne December 10, 2016
    • Karen Lehman December 13, 2016

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