Pet Adoption Tips: How to Care for your Rescue Dog

Pet Adoption Tips: How to Care for your Rescue Dog

Adopting a dog is one way of keeping dogs off the streets, which are home to over 70 million stray animals. Every year, about 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the U.S. Many shelters and rescue centers can’t accommodate the huge numbers of stray pets, which leads to overflowing shelters and, sadly, sometimes euthanization.

Adopting a dog can be immensely rewarding - both to you and the dog. For many adopters, taking care of a rescue dog is a new adventure! Of course, the experience is quite different from raising a puppy. The good thing is that rescue dogs often have basic training, so it becomes easy to get your new furry friend settled in their new place.

Keep on reading to learn more!

Table of Contents

  1. Are you ready to adopt a dog?
  2. Where to go to rescue animals?
  3. Prepare home for your rescue dog
  4. Visit the veterinarian
  5. Build a bond with your dog
  6. Do some training

Are You Ready to Adopt a Dog?

There are reasons why they say dogs are man’s best friend! Most dogs like attention, company, affection, and playing - they develop connections and relationships with their humans. It’s very important to consider your availability when planning to adopt a pet. How much attention will you be able to give your dog? How long will they be home unattended while you’re at work, running errands, or away from home? While many dogs are left at home for hours unattended, you won’t know how your rescue dog will react to being left alone for extended periods of time.

You need to have time to commit to your dog. This includes taking them out for a walk or playing catch with them. Dogs don’t come with knowledge of how to live in a new home. You need to spend time with them to teach them such skills.

Adopting a dog also comes with additional costs, including food, medication, vet care, grooming, emergencies, boarding/daycare, household items, among other things. On average, owning a down can cost you about $1,314 and $1,843 every year. Planning for such costs is quite important.

You should also take into account the pet lifestyle. For example, you need to be ready for dog walks, scheduled vet visits, cleaning your pet, among other tasks. Also, keep in mind that different breeds of dogs have different needs. You should be able to take care of the breed you’ve chosen.

Another vital consideration is choosing between puppies and adult dogs. Raising puppies requires hard work and a lot of time. So, you should be ready for this if you go for a puppy. Adult dogs, on the other hand, have established personalities, so it’s easier to connect with them.



Where to Go to Rescue Animals?

When you’re ready to adopt a pet, there are several places you can go to get a pet. Online tools, such as and, have made it easy to find shelters and organizations around you that offer dogs for adoption.

Bear in mind that local shelters and rescue groups might require you to pay an adoption fee. However, the amount will be significantly less than what you’ll pay when buying a dog from a pet store or breeder.

Local Shelters

Your local animal shelter is a great place to start when looking for a dog. If you don’t know any shelter near you, be sure to search the ASPCA database. Such databases allow you to search for shelters by zip code. Shelters usually provide a home to animals until they find new owners.

Rescue Groups

Unlike animal shelters, rescue groups and organizations are dedicated to pet adoption. They take unwanted, stray, abused, or abandoned pets and strive to find suitable homes for them. A good example is or

Animal Sanctuaries

Sanctuaries take in animals that have been abused, abandoned, or neglected and provide them a home for life. GFAS-accredited and verified sanctuaries never sell or breed animals. So, this means you can get your pet for free from a sanctuary.


Prepare Your Home for Your Rescue Dog

Bringing a new dog at home usually evokes some excitement. You’ll want to ensure everything is as perfect as possible for the new member of the family. Your home should be safe for them, too.

Here is how you can prepare:

Get the Essential Supplies

First, you need to stock up the necessary dog supplies and essentials. This includes a litter box, potty bags, crates, collars, toys, leashes, and a bed. You also purchase the same type of food the dog has been eating at the shelter or rescue. Be sure to ask them for food recommendations -- you shouldn’t introduce the dog to a new diet immediately.

Create Space for Your Dog

It’s also vital to find and prepare your new dog’s personal space. This particularly important if you want to restrict your pet to a particular area of your home. They want a safe space that makes them feel comfortable while adapting to the new environment. Be sure to set up the dog bed and kennel in the space.

Prepare Your Family

You should also talk to your family about the pet’s arrival. There is always a period of adjustment when dogs come into a new home. Your family members shouldn’t be quick to judge the pet for every problem after the dog arrives. For example, when you have other pets, they’re likely to act territorial. Everyone needs to keep an objective and open mind as the dog adapts to its new home.

Pet-Proof Your Home

You need to make your home safe for your new pet. Being in a new environment, your rescue dog is likely to wander off to areas it is not allowed to go. Be sure to keep cleaning solutions, poisonous food, and domestic substances away. Here is a list of items that could harm your dog. Also, tape electrical cords to the wall and use barriers where necessary.


Visit the Veterinarian

Getting a full physical and wellness exam for your pet is essential, and this should be done within the first week of bringing the dog to your home. The first exam is also vital in introducing your dog to vet visits. This helps the dog to avoid developing life-long fears. It also helps to develop initial relationships with the vet practice.

Be sure to carry with you the dog’s health records during the initial visit. Shelters usually have records on each dog they have.

Physical Exam

The vet will check your dog’s heart, lungs, eyes, ears, legs, and other body parts, too. These checks are vital in ensuring the dog is healthy. They also help to provide a baseline for future vet visits.

Diagnostic Testing

Depending on the dog’s age, medications, and health status, your vet may recommend urine and blood testing for further assessment. The vet might give more care and diet recommendations based on the diagnosis.

Weight and Diet

The vet will also weigh the dog. If they’re not at a healthy weight, he or she will provide measures you need to take to get the dog to a healthy weight. Your vet will also advise you on dietary changes if needed.


Build a Bond with Your Dog

As your dog settles in his new environment, you should strive to build a lasting bond and develop relationships with him. It might be challenging at first, but it gets easier over time. The most important thing is to focus on making the dog as comfortable as possible.

Introduce family slowly

After picking up the dog, you should bring him straight home. Avoid welcome-home parties during the first day - the dog is likely to get nervous. When introducing the dog to your family members, you should do it outside, one at a time. The atmosphere should be calm and quiet.

Allow the dog to approach and sniff them. Let them offer the dog treats to build the initial relationships. If you have other dogs, you should also introduce them to the rescue dog outside, one at a time. You shouldn’t leave them alone until you’re sure it’s safe to do so.

Be Patient, and Let the Dog Come to You

When building a bond, always be patient. Understand that every dog is different, and it can take several weeks to start connecting with your dog. As you give him treats, the dog will begin associating you with good things. Over time, he’ll slowly begin to approach you.

Just give him space and time to process the new reality. Be sure to commit time to understand the dog’s personality and habits. Keep in mind that this is a bonding and trust-building period, so avoid yelling or any other activities that might scare the dog.

Be Playful and Loving

Dogs tend to be playful, running around your home with toys all the time. As such, create time for having fun and playing games with your pet. This will help to strengthen your bond. Touching the dog is also recommended. Physical contact helps to reduce anxiety, thus keeping them calm in their new environment.


Do Some Training

Good dog training should show the dog exactly how to behave, not endlessly correcting certain behaviors. Aim to begin training your new dog right away. This helps him to settle into his new home right away.


Adult dogs will still need a little housetraining to understand their new environment. Your dog needs to learn the house rules, so the house training refresher is quite vital. Give him a tour of the house while keeping him on a leash.

Training helps with mental and physical stimulation, and this improves the overall well-being of your dog. Introduce him to the crate right away, and allow him to stay in there for a while. Just avoid confining him longer than they can hold it. Housetraining should also involve rock-solid potty training.

Take Some Training Classes

If it’s your first time owning a dog, taking some training classes is vital in learning the best approach to training your dog. There are lots of online courses and training videos that guide you on housetraining and behavioral issues.

In addition to online courses, you can also join online communities, such as forums and social media groups, to get support from other rescue dog owners. Learning from their experiences will help you know the best training methods for your furry friend.

Establish Daily Routines

It’s also advisable to get your dog into a daily routine. This helps with training and behavior. However, don’t push for strict adherence to a daily routine as this is likely to result in anxiety when they go out of line or a particular event is missed.

As part of establishing daily routines, give your dog outdoor potty opportunities, particularly after eating meals and waking up. Depending on their feeding schedule, you’ll be able to anticipate when they need to go to the potty.

You also need to pay attention to when they have breakfast and dinner. Other activities include walks, training, rest periods, and games. As noted before, don’t focus on strict adherence to these activities. Dogs are likely to experience separation anxiety when you’re not available. Instead, focus on consistency.


Final Thoughts

Instead of buying a new puppy from a puppy mill, adoption is usually the recommended approach to owning a dog. It’s also a way of saving lives and freeing up space and resources in shelters for other dogs.

Be sure to consider your lifestyle and personality when adopting a dog. The good thing is that adult dogs have established characters, so you can just focus on learning them. Their energy levels are usually manageable, too.

The first few months should be about building relationships. Focus on taking things slowly as you bond with your pet. Keep in mind that your new dog will also be learning more about you during this time. Be sure to keep an eye on possible destructive and behavioral issues during the first few weeks.


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