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Tips for Successfully Adopting a Dog

Tips for Successfully Adopting a Dog

Getting a dog is an enormous commitment.  Many people purchase puppies and then they realize that they need to be potty trained, they can be destructive, and they need to be walked several times a day.  Puppies can be horrible holiday gifts for new dog owners because many people are unaware of the responsibility and work they require.  Many puppies go off to the pound because the puppy had an accident and the owners had no time to take the dog out and to provide the attention puppies need.

How I have acquired my own dogs:

I have always adopted my dogs through  The picture above is my dog Lester who passed away.  I adopted him via Petfinder.  All my little ones have been gems.

I prefer to adopt dogs who are older than two years of age because at least I could see if there are any visible physical defects.

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 Puppies are not well-developed so it is difficult for me to see any gross abnormalities.  I have always met and interacted with the dogs for at least 15 minutes.  Under the circumstances of being in an adoption situation, a dog could be more nervous than he would be once established in a forever home.  Getting a clear read could be difficult, but sometimes you can get a bit of a gist of how you might get along with a dog by spending a little time with him.  

Dogs are frequently surrendered for shocking reasons.  People think that dogs who are up for adoption are headaches that other people wanted to get rid of.  That couldn’t be further than the truth.

Petfinder is a fabulous hub in which adoption agencies from across the country post dogs who are available for adoption.  They have a search tool to make your searches relevant to your preferences.

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My suggestions before you acquire a dog:

-When I first meet a dog I kneel down or squat, hold out my hand (with my palm up), call the dog using a gentle, kind voice to invite the dog to interact with me.

-How does the dog respond to me (i.e., fearful, aggressive, playful, affectionate…)?

-I observe the dog’s energy level.  This is tricky because under the circumstances the dog might (understandably) be hyper or excited).  

-Does everybody’s energy work well together?  Does everybody get along?  I would see how the dog interacts with any family members including other pets, significant others…) and to see how those people and pets respond to the dog.  Of course you should always ask the people who are in the adoption organization before you do this.  The dog can become overwhelmed if he is bombarded with so much stimuli.  Just as important as observing the adoptive dog’s reaction, it is just as critical to observe the behavior of those significant others and pets when they meet the dog.  

-Is your child fearful of does the child not know how to be gentle with the dog?  

-Is the dog fearful of anybody?

-Is the dog comfortable with being handled appropriately (as opposed to pulling at the tail which is not appropriate)?  Does he react with fear or anger?  

-Does the dog’s energy level match yours?  Is the dog too high energy?  Person who is very inactive or not available still needs to assure that (especially) a high energy can get enough exercise.  A dog who is calmer or older will probably need less exercise.  Will you, a family member or a dog walker be able to take the dog out long enough to get that energy out for exercise?  It is not unusual for a high energy dog who doesn’t get enough exercise to be destructive at home.  All dogs need exercise to get their energy out of their system.  Is there a park nearby?  Are you able to exercise the dog in the backyard (not just let him outside, but to actively play around and throw a ball for at least a couple of hours a day).

Questions to ask someone from the adoption agency:

-Review details about the dogs with people who have some familiarity with the dogs.  I have asked questions like:

-Does the dog have any health issues?

-What is the dog’s background story?  Was he abandoned?  Abused?  Neglected?  Why was he/she surrendered?

-Does the dog have any fears or anxiety about anything in particular that you know of?

-Is the dog ok with children?  Other pets?

-Are there any behavioral issues that I could address and focus on?

-Is the dog house trained to go outside?

Adoption is the greatest alternative to buying from a puppy mill.  There are all types of dogs available for adoptions.  For those who have a breed preference, there are rescue organizations which focus on individual breeds.  Do your research.  You can contact the AKC to confirm that the rescue group is authentic.  I also have an article called, Buying a Puppy – Red Flags



  1. Deena Haas

    Some rescue groups sometimes push people into pet stores because they can be so picky. It is fine to be careful and do your best to find a good home for a dog but some of them ask for too much. In two instances I saw two families looking for homes for their rescues. They should have given those dogs back to the rescue. I just browsed Petfinder not looking for a dog.

    1. Janie

      Hi Deena!

      It has been a long time. I JUST had an issue with a group myself (of all people)! My application was approved – OK – great!!! Well, the foster mom contacted me and told me I was approved and we can discuss the dog I was interested in. This is progress right??? Next, I asked a few questions. She only answered on of the 5 questions and ignored the others.

      I asked about wee wee pads. She answered firmly stated, that as a matter of organizational policy, they are unable to endorse the use of wee wee pads in any way. I hit the ceiling on this one. My dog Bevi has seizures and she cannot go outside during certain weather conditions. I always have the wee wee pads down (just in case because she goes indoors and outdoors as well). I CLEARLY stated that I use the wee wee pads indoors and I take my dogs out for the sole purpose of exercising them. Furthermore, I live directly next door to a large park with 2 fenced in dog runs.

      I told her that my last dog Harriet was on diuretics and needed to go every 20 to 30 minutes around the clock. I also have wee wee pads on my own bed wo if Harriet wet the bed during her sleep it would’t be a problem.

      So why would I need a newly adopted dog to be familiar with pads? Well, if a new dog saw Beverly peeing, the new dog might mark all over. I have clients and their dogs over all the time. Those dogs would then mark on top. No matter how vigilant I am about cleaning up with the best products, there is always a possiblity of not seeing a spot.

      So getting back to this foster mom (at least I deduced that it was a foster mom), she took the liberty to overturn my approved application.

      So let’s say that I was unable to take a 7 pound adult or senior dog out to walk (maybe I am handicapped and it is difficult or maybe I am lazy) and I decided to use wee wee pads and NOT take them out. Wouldn’t such a situation be better for a dog than going off to the pet store after being rejected?

      Another one is how some (not all) rescues will demand that you live in a house with a fenced in yard. Many times people will let their dogs out to do their business and then call them back in. They don’t necessarily take them for walks or to play with them in the yard. The dog gets no exercise. Some rescues won’t let their dogs go to people who live in apartments!

      Listen… There are standards that must be upheld, but the most important thing is to provide loving homes for dogs in need. These dogs need shelter, love, food, and some exercise. Let’s not perpetuate the success of the puppy mill industry and the backyard breeders.

      Listen readers… PLEASE don’t quit your search for dogs from shelters and rescue organizations. I wouldn’t get a dog any other way. These dogs need us!!!

      Thanks for writing
      All the best

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