Adopting a Rescue Dog

How cute is this guy, Gavin? Very jaunty in his plaid jacket, I’d say. He is a rescue dog recently adopted by my friend and her family, and from the sounds of it, it was a lot of work! Adopting a rescue dog is one of the best things you can do for a dog – rescue dogs are often older dogs (over six months of age) who have been given up or removed from an abusive or neglected household or the streets. I was surprised when I was speaking to this friend to learn that rescue dog adoption is no easy feat(!) and quite an exhaustive process.

I was under the false assumption that adopting a rescue dog was like gong to the pound or SPCA where you can walk out with a dog the same day. Was I ever wrong. My friend, who is a married, stay-at-home mother of two school-aged children (and an attorney by profession) and owns her single family home, was rejected by one organization because she didn’t have a fenced-in yard.

Next, she was allowed to bring home a rescued dog on a trial basis, during which her children became quite attached, only to be rejected and have the dog taken away. The organization thought since it was to be her daughter’s (she is eight) dog, there was a likelihood that the dog might be eventually neglected, despite the fact that my friend, the mother, insisted she would be ultimately accountable for the dog.

I personally think that this stringent process is testament to these rescue dog shelters and the importance they place on finding the right homes for these animals. Obviously adopting a dog is not something that should be done on a whim, as is evidenced by this screening process.

Here are a few tips on adopting a rescue dog and where to start:

1. is a good place to start the process to learn about local and national rescue groups, what breeds they have, contact information, etc. You can even plug in the breed of dog in which you are interested and your zip code, and it has an online catalog with photos of adoptable dogs. You can spend hours on this site, trust me. It also lists what to look for in a shelter (what are the conditions? what is the return policy?) and what to do when you are picking out your dog at the shelter (i.e., how to test the dog’s temperament).  

2. Typical screening questions from rescue groups include:

Why do you want this breed?

Do you have enough time and energy for a Border Collie (or a Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, or a…)?

Do you have a fenced yard? If not, do you plan to walk the dog a mile or more every day?

Will the dog live indoors or outside?

Do you have kids? How old?

Do you have other pets?

Do you plan to visit the veterinarian at least once a year?


3. Be prepared. Many rescue groups require a comprehensive application be filled out, references checked, and a home visit  before you can even see the dogs. They aim to match specific breeds of dogs with specific home situations (ie, a high energy dog wouldn’t be matched with someone who is at work all day).

4. Remember, it’s all worth it. You are saving a dog, but you are also getting a great dog. Rescue dogs are frequently pure-breeds that are often already house-broken and trained – for a fraction of the cost of going to a breeder.

If you have adopted a rescue dog, share your stories here!

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray