Are you looking for a new furry friend?

If you’re like me, you balk at the cost of a puppy from a breeder or pet store.

Then again, I didn’t want a dog.

But my daughter begged and begged for a puppy. And my wife finally gave in and decided to get her a dog. I was against this because I knew the responsibility would fall to me. I’m too busy for a dog. But, that’s a moot point now.

My wife’s co-worker found a small dog wandering in a busy street. She lured the dog out of the street and took her to a rescue shelter. She remembered my wife talking about getting a dog for our daughter. So, she asked her if she’d consider adopting the dog she found.

Before this adoption opportunity came along, my wife considered buying a puppy from a pet store or a breeder. She balked at the prices, too. Also, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to commit to dog ownership yet. The up front costs looked steep. Prior to our pet adoption, we didn’t know any friends giving away any puppies. So at that point, a rescue dog from an animal shelter looked like the best option.

Except, my daughter wanted a toy poodle.

Cute. But not a wirehaired dachshund.

Finding a toy poodle at our local shelters seemed unlikely. So at that time, we gave up the idea of dog ownership.

Why adopt a rescue dog if you can’t find the breed you want?

As it turns out, adoption is still a great idea. You still have a lot to consider before making the commitment though– especially if you’re a first time dog parent.

Why Choose a Rescue Dog?

I’ve already alluded to the idea that a rescue dog tends to be cheaper than a dog from a breeder or pet store. But, not all rescue dogs are free for adoption. Some rescue shelters will charge adoption fees up to $500 dollars. Yet, that price can still mean savings compared to other options. And, if you find a rescue shelter that’s free– even better. Though, you may need to take care of vaccinations, spaying, and neutering. Shelters that have adoption fees usually take care of those needs for you.

By Erick Pleitez (Rejoyce over touch)
[CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Another reason to adopt a rescue dog: you’re showing love to an unwanted pet. An “unwanted” dog isn’t a bad dog to own. That dog happens to be unfortunate at that time in life. According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million animals end up homeless and go to shelters! About half of those animals– 3.2 million — are dogs. Hundreds of thousands of those dogs end up euthanized. Knowing that, why go buy a pet? Millions of decent pets need a home already. Why not be a hero and help one of them out?

One concern worth mentioning is not know what problems your pet may have. You may adopt a pet with phobias due to abuse. Or, your pet may not be socialized. Socialization is important if you already have other pets or young children in your home. You don’t want your adopted dog showing aggression to others. But with enough love, patience, and training even a troubled dog can turn into the best of companions.

Another concern to consider is the rescue shelter itself. An article in the Washington Post delved into the world of animal auctions. Some rescue shelters use donation money to buy dogs from puppy mill auctions. Sometimes these rescue teams pay into the thousands of dollars to “rescue” the dog. Then, the shelter will charge you several hundred dollars to adopt the dog. Regardless of their intent, such shelters keep many so called puppy mills in business. Not all rescue shelters do this. But, you may want to learn a little more about a given shelter’s practices before you adopt or donate.

Say Hello to my Furry Friend

So . . . you’ve decided to adopt? Keep in mind a few things so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised later.

  • Be prepared for any fees and paper work. As I’ve stated before, not all shelters have free adoptions. And if the adoption is free— Prepare yourself. You’ll likely pay for the vaccinations, sterilization, heart worm, flea, and tick treatments.


  • Get as much health info from the shelter as possible. Find out if the shelter spayed or neutered the dog already. Can they put a location microchip in your dog? Take note of any known vaccinations that your new pet received by the shelter. That way, you won’t have to pay for unnecessary shots on your first round of vet visits.


  • Breed? You may find yourself guessing at what type of dog you’ve picked up.
    At first, we had no idea the breed of dog we had adopted.

    Guess what? The people at the shelter will be guessing, too. And your vet will likely guess. You may have a more accurate classification of your dog by searching the Internet. You may want to learn about breeds before you start looking around at shelters. Some breeds are better suited for certain situations. Some breeds need lots of attention and exercise. Others are generally content with the basics. Balance breed characteristics with the fact that each dog is an individual. Even if you don’t care about the breed, you might later. In either case, consider talking to your vet about getting a genetic test done for your dog. This can also help you understand what breed (or mixes of breeds) she is. This information can help you better understand any special needs your dog may have.


  • Be prepared for the drive home. Don’t expect your new dog to sit still on the
    You can use this to tether your dog to the back seat for safe travel.

    ride home. If you already have a travel crate, have it with you on adoption day. Even better if the shelter will loan you one. Otherwise, you may want to buy a seat belt tether. Use it to tether your dog to the back seat area of your vehicle. The tether may look pricey, but it’s cheaper than an auto accident! Your chances of a collision increase when you have an excited dog jumping all over you while you drive. Even worse if he gets underfoot and you mash the wrong peddle while driving. Also, don’t stop for any errands on the way home. Leaving the dog tethered in the car is tempting. But don’t do it! Run your errands (and pick up some dog treats) before you go to adopt your dog.


Home, Sweet Home

Once you make it home, it’s a good idea to take her on a long walk. When a dog gets plenty of exercise, she tends to be calmer. You may end up adopting a dog that has no leash manners and doesn’t know any commands. In that case– a walk is especially important. Take some treats with you to lure her along in your walk. Be patient. Don’t scold or punish. Lure and reward good behavior. Especially reward her if she potties during the walk. And if she isn’t potty trained– well, now you’ve started the training at least!

Make sure you establish your boundaries once you bring your dog into your home. If you don’t want your dog to sleep on the furniture, then do not let him on the furniture. Period.



If you’re OK with that, then let him. But, you can’t take it back. You can also train your dog to only sleep in one chair but not the other. Whatever you decide– be consistent and up front. Remember that a dog will gravitate to comfortable places to lie down. Consider a pet bed for your dog if you make the furniture off limits. Small dogs especially shouldn’t jump down from high furniture. So, encourage miniature dogs to stay off the furniture and sleep on a pet bed.

Close off any areas where you don’t want your dog to go. As your dog learns the rules, you can dial down the supervision. But, your dog will always need some level of supervision. And always supervise your dog around young kids. Kids can antagonize dogs. In such situations, a dog may nip or bite the child in retaliation.

Hm. What’s a good picture to hang on my wall?

Do you have a crate? If not, you’ll want one. Dogs are den animals. A crate will simulate this and those den instincts will kick in. So, an adult dog is less likely to potty while in her crate. Until your new dog gets settled in, this is a great way to prevent potty accidents in your house. You also want your dog to view her crate as a bedroom and safe place. So, never send your dog to her crate as punishment. Avoid leaving your dog in her crate unnecessarily. But do place your dog in her crate during those moments when you can’t supervise her. This keeps your dog safe and out of trouble. And this keeps you from worrying about what your dog may be getting into behind your back.

It’s All Up to You

Of course, my wife went through with the adoption of our dog. We decided to give it a week. If we didn’t like the situation, we would return the dog to the shelter. In that case, another prospective pet owner was willing to take our place. So, in my case adoption turned out great. We had no up front costs with the shelter. We had a trial period. And, the shelter even did a few vaccinations for us.

Now, I had no idea what type of dog we had adopted or even how to care for a dog. Still, my daughter fell in love and forgot about her demands for a toy poodle. At first, I had a hardened heart. But I confess, my dog has won me over and melted my heart. A rescue dog can do the same for you. But in the end, the choice to buy a dog or adopt is all up to you. At the end of the day, make sure you love and care for your dog properly. She didn’t ask for you to take her in.

You did.

Well . . . not in my case at least.

Want to share your experience adopting a rescue dog? Want to share some other pet related story? Enter your comments below.

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