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Tips to Find Your Perfect Match: The Best Rescue Dog

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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What could be more rewarding than giving a second chance to a homeless dog who is desperately seeking a loving home?! You could help a dog whose family moved and decided not to take him along, or one who was born a stray in an empty warehouse, or give your love to a dog rescued from an abusive home... Whatever his story, there is a dog out there who wants to put his sad life chapters behind him and write a happy ending with you.

Most pets are in shelters for reasons that are no fault of their own - either their previous owners' issues or plain bad luck. So don't fear that by adopting a homeless dog you will be getting "damaged material". Shelter dogs are often extremely loving and eager to win your heart.

By adopting a rescue dog, you're not only giving a grateful pooch a new leash on life, you will gain a faithful friend who will brighten every day. As a bonus, rescue dogs are usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, licensed, and sometimes even trained!

How do you find a rescue dog who is perfect for you? Read PetPlace's Adopting a Dog: The Ultimate Guide to Dog Adoption and follow these tips:

  • Research the shelter and rescue group options in your area. Check the Internet, talk to your veterinarian and pet-loving friends, and don't be afraid to call these facilities and ask questions. Most rescue groups are quite humane and clean, but you still should do your homework to be sure they are right for you.

  • Remember to think with your head. When you're looking at those adorable doggie faces, it is easy to make a decision based purely on what your heart feels. BEFORE, you go looking for the perfect dog, seriously think about the canine characteristics that will be best for your family and home, and stick to those guidelines while at the shelter.

  • List what you are looking for in a dog. Go to the shelter with a plan. Tell the staff why you want a dog, and they will help you find the right one for you. Do you want a jogging partner, a lap dog, a hunting dog, a companion for the kids.....? Do you want a puppy or would you like to rescue an old dog? Small, large? Long-haired, short-haired?...

  • Consider your finances and lifestyle. Pets are a lifetime commitment, and they deserve the best care possible. Will your pocketbook allow you to feed a dog a quality diet, provide him with the supplies his needs to nurture his daily life, and give him adequate preventative and emergency medical care? Do you have plenty of available time to spend with a dog? Do not adopt a dog only to find that you do not have time or money for him. This is never fair to any pet.

  • Take your time when making this big decision. Do not rush into pet ownership. Take the time needed to find the right dog and get to know him. Several visits to the dog at the shelter may be best before taking him home. Also, take the time to be sure your house is ready for the new family member.

  • Visit with the dogs outside their cages. A shelter is a stressful environment. The other animals and all the noise may make a dog nervous and unsocial or over-exuberant to win your attention. Taking a dog outside or to a private visiting room will give you the opportunity to get to know the dog's true personality.

  • Interact with the dog. Don't just say, "He's cute, I'll take him." If the staff will allow you, walk him, play with him, find out if he knows any commands or tricks, give him a snack... Get to know the dog, and let him get to know you.

  • Allow the dog to meet all members of the family. Bring Mom, Dad, kids, even other pets if the shelter allows it. Be sure the dog you are considering for adoption is comfortable with the whole family.

  • Talk to the staff. The staff members are handy tools for helping you learn more about the dog, his likes and dislikes, his quirks, his health, etc. The staff members spend a lot of time with these rescue dogs and have gotten to know them well.

  • Evaluate the dog's health and body condition. Check for discharge from the dog's eyes and nose. Is the dog coughing, sneezing, etc.? Note the dog's gait. Is the dog overweight or underweight? Check for fleas and ticks. Check the condition of the teeth. If you see any issues in these areas, talk to your vet and / or the shelter staff about them. Learn what you can do to resolve any health problems, and think about whether you are willing to do so.

  • Bring needed supplies on adoption day. Be prepared, and help your dog feel welcome. Bring a collar, leash, blanket for the car seat, and possibly a toy on the day of adoption. Try to make your dog's transition as stress-free and calm as possible.

  • Do not expect everything to go perfectly. There will be struggles. Remember your dog will be a little nervous in his new home, and he will not immediately know your expectations. The rules and ways of his previous home probably weren't the same as they are in his current home. BE PATIENT as your dog adjusts.

  • Show him your love. Give your new dog abundant time, attention, and affection. This is especially important during his adjustment period. Help him feel wanted and comfortable.


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