Considering Dog Adoption?
Follow these Tips
for a Happy Dog!

Shelter dog adoption is the best way I can think of to get a great canine companion, while also giving a second chance to a deserving homeless animal.

But the saddest thing about dog adoption is when Buddy finally thinks he has found his forever home – only to get dumped right back at the shelter by the person who adopted him.

Getting adopted – and then returned – is one of the most traumatizing things that can happen to a shelter dog.

Make sure this does not happen to your new four-legged friend.

Consider the following before you adopt a dog:

I go into greater detail about this in my article dedicated to choosing a dog, so I will just cover it briefly here.

Before entering into a dog adoption, carefully consider your home environment and what type of dog will best fit in. If you have a small yard – or no yard – it’s not going to be a good idea to adopt a dog that needs a lot of exercise. You will only be frustrated later when the dog is tearing around your house trying to burn off energy.

Adopting a dog that fits into your lifestyle is also very important. If you have kids, ask the shelter which dogs will get along best with children.

Likewise, if you prefer a more sedate environment, choose a dog that does not require a lot of running around and exercise. You might even want to consider a

senior dog adoption in order to give a home to a deserving older canine.

Please remember that your new canine companion is coming to you from a background of stress – and possibly even abuse. So, even though you want him to blend right in as part of your family, please understand that he is going to be overwhelmed and confused by his new environment.

dog lying on plaid blanket

The sudden change he is experiencing is drastic. He is basically going right from a cage – where he is used to the shelter staff and volunteers – to a strange new home with strange new people. It’s only natural that he will be confused at first (I know I would be!).

Adding to the stress and pressure is that fact that, all of a sudden, the rules will be changed on him. Suddenly, what was expected of him at the shelter (and possibly in his previous home) will not be what is expected of him in his new home. At first, he simply will not know what to do.

All of this upheaval will cause him to be shy, introverted and even afraid. He will be looking to you, as his new leader, to guide him as to what is right and wrong in his new home. This is why it is so important for you to have patience.

Be aware that 99 percent of the time – even if the shelter says he is house broken – he is going to have accidents. He is not doing this to be bad. He simply is confused and doesn’t know what to do.

Shelter dog adoption is a two-way street. While he is adjusting to you, you need to adjust to him. Please be patient.

Don't get upset if your new companion refuses to eat for a few days. Remember, at first he will be stressed and upset, and this stress will disrupt his system. He might even go a few days without “going potty” (number two, that is!). Don’t worry. This is normal. Just do your best to get him on a regular schedule. And, by all means, don’t scold him if you take him outside and he doesn’t want to “do his thing”.

It’s also common for dogs to bark a lot while they are adjusting to their new surroundings. This is only natural, since everything is strange and new to them. Again, please be patient and don’t scold him. He is already confused and stressed enough.

Often, after a dog adoption, the new owner will expect the dog to instantly bond with them. After all, most of us love it when our dogs cuddle with us on the couch or share our beds. But remember (especially if you are adopting a dog that is not a puppy), that you are probably not his first owner and you don’t know the rules under which he lived in his previous house.

big dog on couch

He might have been kept in a cage or kept outdoors and strictly forbidden from ever going on any furniture. It’s easy to understand, under these circumstances, that it will take him time to learn that he is now a welcome member of his new household and that you will not yell at him if he joins you for a little TV watching on the family sofa.

The key with shelter dog adoption is to take it one day at a time while your new companion becomes comfortable with his surroundings. Let him get to know you at his own pace. And, even though it might be tempting, don’t try to force yourself on him. Let him come to you. Give him a lot of affection and attention, but don’t try to change him overnight, or he will become overwhelmed and scared.

This especially applies to training. Many times, new dog parents are eager to teach their companions to “sit”, “stay” and learn other commands right away. Just imagine the added stress that learning these things will put your new dog under. You will have plenty of time to teach your dog lots of commands in the future. The most important thing is to first let him become comfortable and secure with you and his new surroundings.

The key to transitioning a shelter dog, as I’m sure you’ve figured out from this article by now, is to understand the stress he will be under and to take things slowly. The same applies when it comes to introducing your new dog to his two-legged siblings.

golden retriever with child

Don't let kids try to sit on the dog, pull his tail or grab him. You might not even know the dog’s background, and if he is used to kids. And, again, he will be stressed and could snap at a child that accidentally hurts or frightens him.

It’s also important not to let children go near the dog’s food or try to take his toys away from him, since that could also provoke him to snap.

The best rule of thumb when it comes to your new canine companion and your kids is to introduce them slowly. Supervise everyone closely until there is familiarity – and respect – on both sides. Read more about

dogs and kids.

With shelter dog adoption, it's important to take the time to learn from your new dog, just as he is taking the time to learn from you. Get to know his likes and dislikes.

Exercise patience and love. Just think about how you would feel if you’d endured stress and hardship (and possibly abuse) before finding the security of a shelter – only to be ripped away from it and thrown into a strange environment!

When it comes to shelter dog adoption, whatever extra time and patience they need to adjust is more than made up for by the extra love and loyalty you will get from them.

I know many, many people (including myself) who have found their new “best friends” right at their local shelter. If you are looking for a loyal, loving canine companion, I highly recommend shelter dog adoption!

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