How To Adopt A Rescue Dog – Taking Out The Risks

Sunset Family landscape

I have been talking to a friend where we discussed adopting an adult dog, taking out and avoiding the risks; in particular how to adopt a rescue dog. On the one hand it seems a beautiful and charitable thing to do but on the other there is the risk of not knowing if his background will be problematic


You Have Made The Decision To Adopt An Adult Dog


So lets assume you have already made the decision, you have decided the time is right and a dog will fit into your current lifestyle and he yours. You may even have done the research into Breed, Size of Dog and Personality.

You are also reading this blog which means you have been doing your research, I would like to say well done on the decision to adopt an Adult Dog, so many adult dogs are left in the shelter simply because they no longer look cuddly and adorable like they did as a puppy.


Where Do I start


It can seem daunting when first you consider adopting an adult dog and questions you may well ask are:

Where do I start?

What is and isn’t a reputable seller?

Will my judgment be reasonable and can it even be trusted?

These and many more questions like them   were going around my friends head, she thought maybe if she enlisted another opinion and help then she may find the process a little easier.  So she asked my advice.

As I am no expert we did some research together, some fairly lengthy research it has to be said. It became apparent quite early on that we were not alone with these concerns, it was at this point I knew I should write down the process and make a blog post from it. Jack Russell with Ball

First thing we found that no matter from where you find your new family member you need to do as much research as you can about the dog you wish to adopt. Some shelter dogs have limited information, don’t let that put you off, there is still a lot of useful stuff that can be provided. The best information source are those who are currently in foster care. The Foster parents will have invaluable information surrounding behaviour and personality. So do not be afraid to ask all the questions I have listed below


Adopting A Dog From A Rescue Shelter


During our research we even visited a rescue centre which I highly recommend, it was actually a wonderful experience and not the heartbreak I thought it would be. The whole process at the shelter was and is quite easy, it also took us through a rigorous interview, rightly so, but equally there are some crucial questions you should also be asking, between you and the Foster/owner/Shelter you will soon be welcoming a new member into the family.

Look at more than one rescue centre if need be. Look at the history and success rate of pairing. If they have a history of returning dogs then it may beg the question. It is inevitable that some dogs will be returned but it should not be more than one in ten. Sometimes new “would be” owners are so desperate for  a new family member that they will consider a poor match. The shelter can only pair the right dog if you are honest with your expectations.

This brings us nicely to:

Sad Dog


Do Not Feel Pressured


First bit of advice. Do not feel pressured into adopting a particular dog. Any doubts say NO, wait awhile do not be in a hurry or persuaded by big brown eyes, or other family members (in particular children) on that note it is worth mentioning that perhaps you could go alone during the research phase and if you find a dog which you think maybe suitable then and only then bring along the younger members of the family. This new dog will hopefully be part of the family for 10 years plus.

As mentioned previously you will be asked some fairly rigorous questions by the Shelter to ensure the dog is in safe hands. You too need to ask some questions and I have listed them below.

Questions To Ask When Adopting An Adult Dog


  1. How did the Dog come to be here? Or if meeting the owner
  2. Why do you want rid
  3. If the Dog is in a Shelter ask How long has he been there

Look at his surroundings, ask to see where he sleeps, eats and socializes


  1. Does he socialize
  2. How is he with children
  3. Does he have possession issues (food, Toys, people, house, etc)
  4. Is he nervous or shy
  5. is he a barker when alone
  6. Is he used to being left alone and for how long
  7. Does he suffer separation or anxiety issues
  8. Any problematic fears. (IE Loud noises, thunderstorms) The latter is perfectly normal behaviour and many dogs are frightened by loud noises like fireworks.
  9. Is he a chewer of owners things (like shoes)
  10. If he is to be integrated into a home with other pets then ask to see how he interacts.                                  shy dog
  11. How is he around Cats
  12. Does anything make him aggressive or fearful (uniformed Men/Women, men, Strangers, Bigger/Smaller dogs etc)
  13. Has he previously nipped or bitten

If he is to travel frequently and for long periods in the car then ask how he travels


  1. Has he been spayed or neutered
  2. Check Vaccine status, including lung worm, flea and ticks
  3. Has he recently been checked by a Vet, if so what was the result
  4. Has he been micro-chipped
  5. Is he House trained, if not is he pad or paper trained, if not why not. (I will give you tips on easy ways to train your adult dog in another post and will add the link when written) Dont be too dismayed if the dog has not been trained but do be wary if he is is unable to be trained due to anxiety issues
  6. How much exercise does he need

Please be realistic with this, if you only have time for a short walk morning and evening then don’t bring home a Labrador or lurcher

Does he responds well on a Lead/Leash, or does he pull and lunge. again you can train this out of a dog with patience and a little time so don’t let that put you off

Some breeds work well with food training others with a ball. It’s worth remembering each breed has personality traits. Example a terrier is never going to be the star of the obedience class as they are can be quite feisty and sometimes stubborn with selective hearing. Equally, a Pug or flat nosed breed is never going to be with winner in the agility class. So get to know your breeds and which will suit your family. happy pekinese

Have I Missed Anything

It is such a huge decision when adopting an Adult Dog that you will inevitably worry you have missed crucial questions. Or that your dog is not going to be perfect for your family or equally you may worry that our new dog doesn’t like his new family.

Trust your judgment, trust the process and if you have asked the fundamental questions above then trust all the questions. If you have ever owned a dog previously then you will know they take time to settle into the family routine. If they are from a rescue shelter they will take far longer, but with patience and with love you can feel confident and rest easy that have done the very best you can to ensure a happy outcome.

Whilst buying a puppy removes the possible learned poor behaviour which may have been why an adult dog is in the shelter in the first place, the rewards of bringing a nervous and anxious homeless dog into a loving environment and watching him thrive are almost limitless.

& Finally

You have researched your dog breed, you have looked at suitability in terms of family dynamics, you have decided an Adult dog is the way to go, you have visited 2 or 3 Shelters and or Foster Homes, you have asked all the questions and have the answers you require. Now is the time to say “I do”

You have done everything you possibly can in terms of happily adopting a dog. The next chapter, is for another blog. (Taking your Rescue Dog Home, The First 7 Days)

My friend found and adopted a 6-year old Staffie called Flo, the most adorable thing which had been sadly handed to the shelter as her owner had died and no one else could look after her. It was and is a happy ending and each and every time I see them together I know she did the right thing. Flo chose my friend and my friend chose Flo.

staffy with mate
Flo and canine Friend

If you can think of anything else that may help the adoption process then please do tell me. If you have any “Happy Adoption Endings” tell me that too.

If you are reading to this point thank you for staying. Please comment on my post below.

Speak soon

Cordelia & Flo

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10 Replies to “How To Adopt A Rescue Dog – Taking Out The Risks”

  1. Excellent info. I believe in doing as much research into the different breeds of dogs before choosing one from a rescue (or in general) because too many people don’t do this. They end up regretting it and returning the poor thing back to the shelter. And I think people should (as you suggest) see how a dog socializes at the shelter before making a decision.,

    1. Thank you Nate,
      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blog.
      It is always such a terrible shame and causes great heartache (for all concerned) when research is not thorough.
      On the up side many new owners do do the research and offer a loving home to an otherwise homeless dog. Long may that continue. ?

  2. This really is an excellent post, adopting an adult dog can have it’s risks and I know this from experience because a few years ago I took a dog in, it wasn’t actually from a rescue home, it was a dog that the owner could no longer take care of and she was giving the dog away, free to a good home, well, everything went well for the first few days, then the dog bit my fathers face, as you can imagine I wasn’t happy at all, I immediately took the dog back, however I do know of quite a few people who have adopted from a dogs home and the dog has been great, and your post here is a great show people to look for before making the decision, thank you for sharing this helpful and informative post. 

    1. Thank you for the comment, really appreciate. That was quite a sad story about the rescue dog which bit your father. It’s all too familiar and an unhappy outcome for both rescue dog and owner. Hopefully it didn’t put your father of adopting an adult dog.. I would like to think the dog also found a home where he could grow….👍

  3. Oh, this is really wonderful the story of how your friend was able to find Flo. You see, I was also looking to buy an adult dog before after my dog died but it was really daunting for me and I just gave up the search because it was just too daunting a task for me to handle. Luckily, I have found your post and now I know exactly what I need to do to make it right thanks to you. Thank you so much for sharing this beaut of a post with sufficient information on what to look out for and ask. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for this informative post. When I move to my next apartment I want to adopt a rescue dog. Currently I cannot have pets because if the lease. My friend adopted a mix of 50% poodle and 50% Maltese. Her name is Bambi and she is 100% adorable. My friend inspired me to adopt rather than buying. Good point on visiting the shelter and also do not feel pressure to adopt. I know me, if I see all those sad eyes I just t want to adopt them all. Thanks for the list of questions to ask, they are very helpful. I am glad that I came across your site. 🙂

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I am really pleased to hear you are considering a rescue dog. Once you have the right space and visited the rescue shelter I think you will be really pleased you followed this path. I would love to hear your progress please do let me know 🤞

  5. A very thorough post, thank you!  You listed some excellent questions people should be asking to make sure they absolutely have the right type of dog for their needs.  Personally, I believe those are excellent questions, especially regarding exercise and whether or not the dog will get along with cats, children, or other dogs, etc.

    Another thing I would like to mention is adopting a dog should be a lifelong commitment and people should definitely go into this with that thought in mind so they can choose a dog whose energy meets your time needs, definitely, but even if not everything is ‘perfect’, as each dog is an individual, dogs (and cats) can be trained and helped to overcome some of the problems that might arise.  

    Definitely don’t just pick the cutest dog in the shelter!  Definitely adopt a dog, don’t buy a puppy from a breeder.  Adult dogs need us even more.  Plus they aren’t usually as hyper as a puppy and are often over the chewing phase.  Which is a HUGE help.  ^_^

    Thanks again for the post.

    1. Thank you for commenting on my post. Excellent points raised, it is for life not just for Christmas. I also like that you pointed out not to pick the cutest looking dog. 

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my blog

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