Is a Rescue Dog Right for Your Family?

Looking to adopt a new furry friend into your family? Each year, about 3.2 million shelter pets are adopted out. (That’s 1.6 million in dogs) Although rescuing a pup is very rewarding on both sides of the leash, the tricky part is figuring out which one the perfect fit for your family is. I adopted my puppy 4 years ago and it was the best decision I have ever made.

Questions to Ask the Members of Your Family

Getting a new dog is always exciting and everyone looks forward to picking the “perfect” pup out. Before choosing a dog based on color and looks, there are a few questions we should ask ourselves first.

  • Size. The size of a dog is a huge factor in many families. Some homes and apartments do not allow large-sized dogs or perhaps having a larger dog may make you feel safer living in a large home.
  • Age. Are you looking for a puppy that will need lots of attention and training or more interested in an adult dog that already has a more established behavior?
  • Family/Living situation. We need to consider if everyone in the household is on board with getting a dog before you proceed any further.
  • Breed. If there is a specific breed in mind, have you researched the breed thoroughly and understand the breed temperament.
  • Coat. Are you looking for less shedding, long coat or does it not play a role?

Should I Adopt From a Shelter or Rescue?

All of these options are amazing as they all result in rescuing a dog in need of a home. So what is the main difference between these options?

Animal shelters typically take dogs of any breed, age, and temperament. They are typically government-owned and select shelters are no-kill but that is not the case for the majority of animal shelters.

A few pros of an animal shelter are

  • Most animals are housed on-site and getting to meet them is a quicker process.
  • Processing time for the application is typically shorter due to fewer requirements due to space.
  • Most shelters will treat minor wounds and usually pay for spay/neuter

A few cons of an animal shelter are

Shelter Dog
  • A shelter is usually a scary place and you may not see each dog’s personality based on the environment.
  • Some pets have no known history because they were either found on the street or dropped off at the shelter.

On the other end, we have animal rescues that are more privately funded from donations and are able to choose which animals to take in. They also have breed specific rescues available as well.

A few pros of animal rescues are

Dog in Foster Care
  • Dogs usually are living in a foster home which gives a better idea of how they behave in a home setting.
  • The adoption process is more detailed and thorough and some do home checks.
  • Dogs in rescues are also typically spay/neuter and vetted.

A few cons of animal rescues are

  • The adoption process may take a few weeks and some people do not want to wait that long.
  • Meeting the dog may take longer since you are coordinating schedules with the foster parent.

Getting Your New Dog Home and Settled In

Congratulations! You just adopted a brand new pup and the family is super excited to bring it home and show everyone. One thing to keep in mind is that dogs are a creature of habit. Change can be stressful for your new pup and it may take days to weeks to months for your new pup to adjust.

What to do on Day 1

  • Keep it as low-key and uneventful as you can. I know it is super exciting to call the entire family and neighborhood over, but it is way too overwhelming for the new dog.
  • Start by creating a room/area where the crate, bed, and previous toys/chew from the shelter in order to give it a choice in case it has anxiety.
  • Make sure the new pup has a collar on with proper identification since it will be in an unfamiliar area.
  • Relax and observe. Let the dog explore the new area and all the new smells and people. We definitely do not want everyone hugging and kissing all over the dog at first.
  • If you have other pets in the home, keeping them separated for the first 24 hours is going to be very helpful. The new dog may already be stressed by everything new that throwing a new four-legged friend first thing might just tip over the stress ladder.

The First Week

  • Start by slowly introducing new areas of the home, yard, animals, and neighborhood to your new pup. Depending on the dog’s history, it may have never seen a bike, truck, neighborhood, or in some cases the outside world.
  • Work your way into making a daily routine for the dog to help adjust it more quickly to your day-to-day.
  • Giving a toy or a chew from the shelter or previous owner may help with offering him a choice of comfort if there are signs of anxiety.
  • Consider dog training classes if you notice unwanted behaviors or consult a veterinarian if you notice unusual behavior or severe anxiety.

Introducing your Dog to the New Dog

Introducing Dogs

After the new dog has a day or two to explore the house and get settled in, it is time to introduce the dogs to each other. If you have multiple dogs to introduce, I would recommend one dog at a time.

  • The first step is to have one person leash one dog and another person leash up the other dog and go outside.
  • Stand about 15-20 feet away so that the dogs are not able to have any contact and walk parallel down a few streets.
  • As the dogs seem more comfortable and relaxed on the walk, move a little closer and let them sniff each other as the other is walking. Any signs of play behavior such as a play bow is a major positive sign!
  • After a while of relaxed and calm walking, move closer, and walk side by side.
  • If the parallel walk was calm and both dogs look relaxed, the next step would be introducing them off-leash in either a fenced-in yard or an off-leash area with space. Always make sure there is supervision between the dog interactions until you feel comfortable and safe.
  • Do this process with each individual dog in the household.

Introducing the dogs to each other right away will not be as successful due to the nature of all the extra stressors and excitement of the first day. If during the walk, one dog is showing signs of growling and lunging, create more space by moving away with the other dog and reward treats with positive behaviors.

A Look into the Life Stages of a Dog

Each individual dog matures and develops at its own rate. Size plays a role, smaller dogs tend to mature faster and live longer than the bigger dogs. This chart will help show what life stage your dog is at and will help you understand each phase.

Life Stages of a Dog
PuppyBirth – ends 6 to18 monthsPrimetime of learning
AdolescenceStarts 6 to 18 monthsHormones start to kick in and show “moody” teenager signs.
AdultStarts 18 months to 3 yearsCalms down and easier to manage
SeniorStarts 7 to 10 yearsEnergy slows down and sleeps more often


Miller, P (2020, September 24)Preparing Your Family For A New Dog. Whole Dog Journal.

Shelters Animal Count (2015-2018) Pet Statistics. ASPCA.

Mckee, D (2018, September) The First 7 Days – Bringing Your Adopted Dog Home. Rescue Dogs 101.

Author Bio– Hey my name is Tiffany and I am a dog mom of a rescue pup! I have previous experience working in rescues and shelters. I was a former zookeeper and now currently training dogs.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *