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Adopting a Shelter Dog

Saving a dog from a shelter is one of the best things a dog lover can do. But choosing the right one can be quite difficult. Being stuck in a shelter is a hard thing for a dog to go through and the surroundings in a shelter can make dogs depressed, scared, nervous and even manic. Therefore, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting and what they’re really like. Are you considering adopting a shelter dog? Here’s a few tips for a successful adoption.

What kind of dog do you want?

First of all you have to figure out what kind of dog you are looking for. To find out which type of dog may be a good fit for you and your family, it’s not so important to decide on a particular breed as it is to decide on size, energy level, and sociability. So take your time, do your homework, and find out which dog matches your lifestyle and personality. The stars of “101 Dalmatians” and “Beethoven” are wonderful dogs, but are you sure that they are the right fit for you and your family?

Pick a good shelter

There are different kinds of animal shelters. There are big shelters with open-intake (accepting all dogs and cats) and privately owned with limited-intake facilities. It’s not really possible to say if one shelter is better than the other, so the best you can do is to visit the shelter and see for yourself. If you go there, you will quickly know whether or not you like the shelter (just follow your gut feeling). Additionally, it’s wise to read the information cards from the shelters – do the dogs have names or just a number? Names are often a good sign. And don’t be afraid to talk to the staff and ask as many questions as possible. How often do the dogs get one-on-one playtime with people? Do the dogs receive training? How much can they tell you about individual dogs? Watch how staff interacts with their animals. The more gentle the staff, the more relaxed the dogs will be.

Observe the dog from a distance

Try to spend as much time as possible on the dog(s) you’re interested in and observe the behavior from a distance. Is the dog sitting quietly and watching? Does he seem calm, friendly, and relaxed? Is he pacing and whining? Does he seem stressed, fearful and nervous? What does he do when people or other dogs walk by? Always trust your intuition and follow your gut feeling. Does the dog seem comfortable with you, and are you comfortable with the dog? Does he give you a good, warm feeling, or a weird feeling? You’ll be spending many years with your new dog, so it’s worth listening to your instincts.

Alone time

When you have your eyes on a specific dog, take the dog to a separate room—preferably a relatively quiet room with few distractions. Remove the leash, kneel down, and let the dog explore you, without trying to engage with him. Is he curious and confident? Scared or cautious? Does he try to leave the room? Does he come to you when you call him? Does he jump all over you or does he seem fearful when you try to interact? If the dog you’re assessing has been outgoing and friendly, try to play a bit with him. See if he’ll chase a ball or a soft squeaky toy. If he won’t play with toys, try running away from him and see if he’ll run after you. Does he seem interested in playing with you? Or does he seem nervous – biting and barking?

Different areas

Some dogs will act completely different indoors than outdoors, or in a busy area vs. a quiet one. Some dogs may be quiet in the mornings and crazy in the afternoon. If you want to know a bit more about a shelter dog, take him to different areas. Many shelters has more than one area for adopters to interact with the dogs, like an indoor meet-n-greet room and an outdoor play yard.

Not just a one-time visit

Once you’ve found a dog you like, try to come back in a few hours or even the next day to visit again before you adopt. You never know what the dog was doing immediately before you interacted with him the first time. Could be that your dog of choice just woke up from a nap and was then really tired when meeting you. It is best if you see the dog during different moods and minimize the chance that you just caught him on a particularly good (or bad) day.

Last but not least, be the best dog owner you can be

When you finally get your new pup home, be the best dog owner you can be! Have fun with your dog, love your dog, and include him in your life. Be sure that you know the laws for dogs where you live and practice good manners. Teach your dog the basic rules and make sure he gets daily training in order to be a responsible member of your family. To keep your new dog extra safe, you might want to get him a Tractive GPS Tracker. Your dog has to get used to a lot of new things and surroundings and if he feels uncomfortable, he may run off. With a Tractive GPS Tracker, however, you will always know where your dear pup is.


Is your dog adopted? Please tell us your story in the comment field below. You can also read the great story about Mela the shelter dog right here!



Sarah is a Certified Fitness Trainer, pet lover and the happy owner of a 2-year-old Japanese Spitz named Bailey. Sarah spends a lot of time outdoors, running, hiking and biking. She loves inspiring Tractives all over the world with weekly pet tricks and tips.

One thought on “Adopting a Shelter Dog

  1. After having a very loving relationship with two Staffies sixteen years ago we said we would never have another dog, not to have to go through the upset when you lose them. However about eighteen months ago I felt the need to go and look at some dogs homes. Why?, I have no idea, but for a number of weeks you could find us wandering round the local, and not so local ones to us. Despite all the cuddles when we met puppies we never felt we had to bring one home, until..
    We went to a new home in Macclesfield, it was I the top of a dry bleak hill and had cats and dogs. We waited to be shown around and my husband said, out of the blue that he felt comfortable there! The lady came out to take us to look and asked what we wanted. My husband said a puppy, not too big, not too old. In all our previous visits he had been the one who said No, no, no!
    The lady apologised you’d saying that the youngest dog they had was about 14 months old but my husband insisted on seeing this dog. Who knows why?
    Well she was beautiful, she had a very pretty face, she was attentive, she was friendly. Yes she was badly in need of feeding up, you could feel all her ribs and shoulder bones. She had been found as a newborn puppy by the local blacksmith. She had lived with three families already, one with a disabled kiddie, one who only had her three days and one who only kept her a day! She had been wit the home for about eight weeks in between the two placements. We took her for a walk in the field next door and my husband was hooked. We arranged to take my teenage son to meet her the next day and he also loved her. Three days later she moved in with us.
    Rosie is the most beautiful little Patterdale cross, everyone comments on her and she is so loving. Yes we have had a few issues, she was very nervous for the first twelve months, she cowered from lots of things, she is petrified of squeaky toys and she is a “runner”, if she gets out of the front door or occasionally when on her walk around the park she will run! The longest we have lost her for is 5 and a half hours. It was after that particular loss that we bought our tractive unit.
    Now my husband is confident that he could find her even if she did run.
    She is idolised in our house, the best £80 we had spent for a number of years. We are so happy that we went to that home on that day.

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