General Information

7 Dog Adoption Tips I Learned From My 2 Dogs

Copyright © 2006 Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. Arf! Dog Health Comes Home


Adopting a dog? You want a special dog, perhaps just a full-grown adult. Maybe your code of ethics calls for saving a dog’s life – not buying an expensive purebred.

I’m not a veterinarian or a dog trainer, but I’ve enjoyed two successful adoptions. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  • Clarify your requirements ahead of time. Once you’re standing in front of a cage, it’s easy to say, “Well, he’s a lot bigger than I expected, and I really wanted a female, but oh he’s so cute!” No amount of love or training will help if your dog needs more exercise than you can provide.
  • Consider a rescue group. Most cities have humane societies where you can view dogs and choose your new friend. But if you’re not finding your canine soulmate, consider rescue groups, which tend to be more loosely organized. Some focus on specific breeds (“corgi rescue”) while others just supplement the local shelters. Instead of shelters, rescue groups work with a loose network of volunteer foster homes — which is good, because you can ask the foster mom all sorts of questions. My dog’s foster mom was able to assure me, “This dog lived with two cats so you know you can trust her.”
  • Be prepared to pay. Shelter and rescue dogs are not free, but you do get value for money. Expect to pay a fee that may include spay/neuter costs, licensing, and/or veterinarian visits.
  • Consider an older dog. By the time a dog has turned three or four, she’s as big as she’s going to get. No surprises! You’ll also have clues regarding his temperament.
  • Plan to confine the dog during a period of transition. Your new dog doesn’t get it. She was in a loving home (or left alone in a yard all day or even abused). Then she spent a few weeks in a cage, feeling lonely and isolated. Maybe she’s been passed around to multiple homes. Bottom line, she’s stressed. She may chew, dig, bark, or even lose her house training the first few weeks. Crating the dog prevents destructive behavior. My adopted dogs both looked visibly relieved as they retreated to their crates every day. “Time to relax,” they seemed to say.
  • Invest in training. Most dogs are turned over to the shelter because of behavior problems. If you’re new to the world of dog behavior, take a class or hire a professional. Most behavior can be corrected, even among older dogs. But if you’re not sure, ask a professional. Some behaviors can’t be “fixed.”
  • Incorporate large doses of exercise and walks into your day. A tired dog is a good dog. Walking together will help you bond in a new pack, but that’s probably not enough. Most dogs need to run and jump at least three times a week. Begin immediately so you can gain a sense of how much exercise the dog needs — an important factor in the dog’s adjustment.


About the Author: Dog Fanatic Cathy Goodwin wrote Arf! Dog Health Comes Home: Tips and resources to care for your sick, injured and senior dogs, based on her experience with her own dog. Download your copy at:

— is an Amazon Associate as well as a participant in various affiliate programs, as such fees are earned from qualifying purchases.