5 Things To Know Before Picking Out A Pup At The Shelter

how to adopt a dog

Reshot/Shane Cook

Dog rescue is all the rage these days — everyone is doing it, from your teen neighbor to your favorite celebrity. It’s clear that getting a furry friend from a breeder is so outdated, and for good reasons. It’s estimated that 1.5 million shelter animals are killed every year because the facilities are too full to host them all and there aren’t enough adoptive homes to go around — and 670,000 of those animals are dogs. So why get a pup from a breeder when there’re already so many adorable ones cooped up in overcrowded shelters, eagerly waiting for you to take them home?

If you’re thinking of jumping on the bandwagon and adopting a pup, keep in mind that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Swirled spoke with Rena Lafaille, the director of New York City’s ASPCA Adoption Center, for expert insight on the rescue dog adoption process and what to look for in your perfect rescue pup match. Here are the five you need to know before welcoming a new doggo into your home.

1. Make sure you have the right lifestyle for a dog.

how to adopt a dog

Unsplash/Kevin Grieve

While everyone loves the idea of having a furry companion to come home to at the end of the day, the responsibilities of owning a dog go far beyond supplying adequate water, food and shelter.

“Dogs benefit from several hours of exercise and companionship every day,” said Lafaille. “If your work demands that you travel often, or if you’re out of the house most days and evenings, this may not be the right time to adopt.”

So if you’re considering adopting a rescue dog, seriously think about whether your job, hobbies and other obligations would allow you enough time each day to appropriately care for your pup. Neglecting to spend enough time with a new dog and not giving him enough exercise could lead to him becoming overweight, anxious and even depressed.

2. The energy level of your ideal rescue pup should match your own.

how to adopt a dog

Unsplash/Leon Liu

Just because you’re a German Shepherd or Husky lover doesn’t mean that you should necessarily seek out these breeds if you’re looking to rescue. Self-proclaimed couch potatoes who rarely leave the house likely won’t have the energy needed to properly exercise these high-energy dogs.

According to Lafaille, this is why it’s so important for potential dog adopters to look for pups who have similar energy levels to their own. “People that enjoy athletic activities may be better suited to an energetic pooch, while others may be better matched with a snuggle buddy,” she said.

Before making a final decision on which furry friend to bring home, Lafaille advises speaking with the shelter staff to make sure that the pup you picked has an activity level and temperament that will match you and your lifestyle.

3. The “perfect dog” that you’ve always dreamt of may not be the perfect dog for you.

how to adopt a dog

Unsplash/Grace Ho

Most would-be dog adopters have painted a pretty clear picture in their minds of what their ideal dog would look like. Some people are set on getting a puppy, and others are looking for specific breeds or sizes. But it’s important to keep in mind that your dream dog may not be the one that matches your lifestyle or living conditions the best. For example, Lafaille recommends that people who live with small children avoid adopting really young puppies and opt for a medium-sized dog that’s at least five months old, if not older, instead.

Rather than focusing on what you’d want your ideal rescue pup to look like physically, think about what dog temperament and personality type would suit your current and future living situation the best. If you live in a small apartment and/or you’re not a huge fan of the outdoors, you’ll want to opt for a low-energy pup that’ll enjoy snuggling on your couch and binge-watching Netflix with you. Not sure what to look for? Lafaille suggests asking the staffers at rescue shelters for guidance because they’re experts at making perfect pup-human matches.

4. Don’t be surprised if your new pup isn’t an instant cuddler.

how to adopt a dog

Unsplash/Marcus Wallis

Like humans, dogs are often stressed out by change and need time to adjust to new surroundings and routines. So don’t be surprised if your rescue pup keeps to himself initially when you bring him home from the shelter.

“You wouldn’t expect a new person in your home to know your routine and to snuggle with you on command, so apply the same principles to your new pet,” said Lafaille. Just because your new furry friend isn’t immediately affectionate doesn’t mean that he’s not grateful that you’ve given him a forever home. He’ll grow comfortable soon enough.

5. If you do choose to get a dog from a breeder…

how to adopt a dog

Unsplash/Judi Neumeyer

Beware of puppy mills! A puppy mill is a commercial establishment that breeds puppies for sale at a rapid rate, often in conditions that are considered inhumane — think small cages, little exercise and lack of proper veterinary care.

If you do decide to purchase a puppy from a breeder, Lafaille strongly advises you to physically go to the breeder’s place to see it for yourself. This is the only way to be 100 percent sure that the breeder you’re considering buying from treats his pups with love and care. Finding a good breeder might take more time and effort, but Lafaille says that it’s essential for ensuring that you’re not supporting cruel breeding practices. If you want to learn more about how to look for a responsible breeder, the ASPCA offers additional information here.


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