How to Choose a Rescue Dog

Choosing to adopt a rescue dog is a wonderful idea. You add a family member to your household and give a dog a home and a family. But deciding which dog to bring home can be tricky. How do you know which dog will blend into your family the best?

This article will provide you with suggestions for choosing a rescue dog.

How to Choose a Rescue Dog

Ask Questions

The shelter will sometimes have some background information on each dog. Also, the people who walk and feed the dogs each day may be able to tell you a little about each dog’s temperament.

How Old is the Dog?

Training a puppy is time-consuming. For the first few weeks someone will need to be home with the puppy during the day to take him outside as needed. It’s very hard to house-break a puppy if you’re gone all day.

If you don’t have time for puppy training, you should choose a rescue dog that’s already house-broken.

Many dogs are turned over to a rescue around the age of one. They have lost their puppy cuteness and entered their rebellious years. Dog trainers often compare this time to that of a human teenager.

These dogs need lots of patience and someone who will train the dog firmly and consistently. Be aware of this problem in advance if you adopt a dog of this age.

An elderly dog will usually be more docile and willing to sit in your lap and keep you company. But as they age they may need more medical care.

What size dog do you need?

Consider the size of your home and yard. Can you accommodate the needs of a large dog? A large dog will also eat a lot more food so be sure your budget is ready to handle the extra cost.

If you have young children a small dog might be too easily harmed by a tight squeeze. A medium size dog that’s sturdier might be a better choice.

Energy Level

An elderly person will be happier with a low energy dog that’s happy to sit in their owner’s lap and watch television. Young children might fear a high energy dog that knocks them over in his exuberant need to play.

Older children might need a dog that will run and play outside. They’ll be disappointed with a dog that wants to nap all day.

A high energy dog will need a large backyard or daily walks. Otherwise, he’ll use all that energy indoors and cause chaos.


Some people are introverts and some extroverts. It’s no different with dogs. While one dog is friendly to everyone he meets, another might fear or even snap at a stranger.

Required Grooming

Do you want a dog that needs to be groomed on a regular basis? Some types of dogs will need to be taken to the groomers or else you’ll need to learn to groom the dog yourself. You might prefer a dog that only requires bathing.

Temperament Tests

The rescue might provide some sort of temperament tests. The jury is still out on how beneficial these are. Some trainers claim that any dog in a shelter is not going to be acting his normal self in such a stressful environment.

Testing in the dog’s foster home or a neutral area away from the noise and distractions of the rescue facility will usually give you more accurate information.

Does the dog engage with you and want to play? Or does he huddle in a corner acting scared? Does he ignore you and prefer to just chew on his toy?

What happens when a new person enters the room? Does he bark or act frightened?

If another animal enters the room how does he react?

Drop your keys or something behind the dog to see what he does when startled?

Pick the dog up and hold him with his stomach up, like a baby. Pat his tummy. A more docile dog will submit and enjoy this attention, a more energetic or aggressive dog will try to escape.

A more aggressive dog will not necessarily make a bad pet, but they will need a firmer hand with their training.

Adding a dog to your family is a long-term commitment so find out as much as you can before you choose a rescue dog.

What to Do Next: Download Your Free "So You Think You Want to Adopt a Dog?" Kit

Adopting a dog is one of the most wonderful and rewarding things you can do, but it's not something to be entered into lightly. Before Making This Big Decision, You need to know:
  • If adopting a dog is right for you (it may not be)
  • What type of dog is best for you or your family
  • What you need to be able to care for a dog
That's exactly why we've created this free downloadable kit to help you make the best decision for you or your family. Free Dog Adoption Kit

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  • How to Decide on the Best Dog for You and Your Family - This checklist will help you figure out exactly what kind of pet is best for you.
  • Everything You Need to Welcome a New Dog into Your Home - Another handy checklist to ensure you're ready to welcome the newest member of your family.
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