You’ve always wanted a dog and now you’ve finally decided to get one. Or you already have one and are looking for a friend. Instead of going to a breeder, you’ve made the choice to adopt a rescue dog. Great! 🐕
Maybe you’ve already found the dog of your dreams, but got rejected by the rescue organization. Wait, what?! Aren’t they happy that someone wants to give that dog a loving home? Yes, but…
You would be surprised how many dogs get returned to the shelter. It’s sad, but it’s true. We foster dogs who have been adopted (after careful investigation by the rescue) and are not longer wanted by the adoption family. Dogs are often returned after not even a month, they don’t even get the time to adjust to their new home… 😔
The rescue doesn’t know you. They have to assess if you’ll be a good dog owner by just having a conversation with you. The dog’s life is on the line here. They want what’s best for the dog and sadly sometimes that means they make the wrong decision… A dog goes to the wrong home or doesn’t get to go to people who actually are great.
Remember that most rescues work with volunteers (like me) and they don’t all have the same experience and good judgement. In some cases you might just be unlucky with who you have in front of you…
Having a lot of experience working with dog shelters, fostering dogs and doing house visits to assess if a family will be approved, I thought I’d share some tips with you on how to ace your application. I’ve been told that I set the bar quite high for adoption families*, so if you apply my tips, you’ll be well prepared. 😜
*The reason for this is that we often end up with foster dogs that have serious issues and trauma. The person who did the adoption process for that dog didn’t emphasize enough how much work it would be for the family, leading to the dog getting returned. Better be well prepared for the worst and getting the best than the other way around…
1. Why do you want a dog?
The first question you will probably get is why you want a dog and why this one in particular. Think about this for a second. Do you want a dog because you’re bored at home during covid? Then remember there will be a time you’ll be going back to work and hanging out with friends (hopefully).
If you’re applying for a Husky, do you want it because it suits your active lifestyle or because you fell in love with those blue eyes? 😍 Never choose a dog solely based on its looks.
Why are you applying for a rescue dog? What motivates you to save a dog instead of buying one from a breeder? And why this rescue?
The rescue will probably ask you about your experience with dogs. How many did you have, what breeds and most importantly: did they pass away or did you give them up? If so, what was the reason for that?
2. Research the breed
Do your homework. There’s plenty of information to be found on any breed. It might save you and the rescue a lot of time if you realize in time that a pug will not be the ideal companion for long hikes. Some breeds are prone to certain medical issues, such as HD. Be sure to check these as they might give you an indication about the vet bills to come. 💸
The rescue knows its dogs. If you tell them upfront what you’re looking for in a dog, they will be able to point you to some potential good matches. Most rescues offer a detailed description of the dog’s personality and possible behaviour issues on their website.
3. Be aware of trauma
A rescue dog is not like a dog from a breeder. A pup from a good breeder has been socialized and has had nothing but good moments in his short life. A rescue dog most likely experienced trauma, physically and/or emotionally.
Dudu was found in a garbage container when he was still a tiny puppy. He was raised by the rescue and came to me when he was only three months old. You might think he doesn’t remember anything from what happened. Being separated from its mother at such young age leaves imprints on a baby dog. He has serious anxiety issues and doesn’t trust strangers at all. We’ve worked through it and he’s come a long way, but the trauma never fully goes away.
Be prepared for the possibility that your dog has suffered trauma and be patient, this doesn’t go away overnight. Being impatient and pushing your dog will only make things worse.
4. Be prepared
When I visit a home and everything still needs to be done to make it dog-friendly, I’m already hesitating. Some things take time and definitely need to be done before applying for a rescue. Here are some things you can do to show them you’re serious about this:
- Fence your yard 🌳
No one is getting a dog with an unfenced yard. Make the fence high enough, dogs can be quite the escape artists. Want to make them really happy? Put up a 2m high fence.
- Doggie-proof your home 🐶
It’s a bit like baby-proofing. If you don’t want your dog to go upstairs or you have a dangerous staircase – where a small dog could fall through for example, get one of these little safety gates. If your front door opens on a busy street, is there a way to make sure your dog can’t just run off? Is there maybe a little hallway with a double door or could you put a safety gate there too?
- Get accessorized 🧸
Get some dog toys, a basket, some things that will make your dog feel right at home.
- Find a vet 👩🏻⚕️
Do some research to find a good vet nearby. You can even go meet them already. It’s important to have a good feeling with the person that will be taking care of your pooch when he’s sick.
- Check with your landlord 🏡
If you’re a home owner, great! If not, check if you’re allowed to get a dog and what the rules are.
- Fun activities 🎾
Are there nice walking paths nearby? Is there a doggie field or playground? Will you be doing a fun sport together like flyball? Do you have friends with dogs with whom you can organize playdates?
5. Plan for the future
You might be working from home now, but what about when you’re spending your days at the office again? Your dog might have developed a serious case of separation anxiety if it spends every single day with you now and then has to stay alone for several hours.
A lot of rescue dogs already have separation anxiety because they’ve been abandoned before. Look into a doggy daycare nearby or get a dog walker or family member to come check up on your dog.
Are you planning on having kids? 👶🏽 How will the dog fit in that image?
Do you want to get more pets in the future? What will you do if they don’t get along?
Think about what you’re going to do with your dog when you’re on holidays. Will he come with you? Do you have a friend that agreed to take proper care of him while your gone? Maybe a dog hotel? 🏝
6. What about your other pets and family members?
Recently I paid a visit to someone who wanted to adopt a puppy. When I entered her home, I noticed one dog was outside so I asked if it could come in. She replied that the dogs can’t be together because the old one doesn’t like the younger one. When one is walking around, the other has to go in the kennel and the other way around…
Needless to say, I rejected the application. Think about the pets you already have. Do you have an old dog that might be in pain, then don’t get a puppy that will jump on her all day. Some dogs just like their peace and quiet. Choose a furry friend whose personality matches well with those of the dogs you already have. If possible, the rescue will let the dogs meet to see if they get along. 🐾
Make sure that everyone is on board with adding a member to the family. If you have a kid that is terrified of dogs, maybe introduce him to a friend’s dog before getting your own. If your kid is the whole reason you’re getting a dog in the first place, don’t expect him to take care of the dog. A child is a child. A dog is not something that you use ‘to teach your kids responsibility’. 🤨
7. Be willing to give it your all
People get a dog and they want everything to go smoothly. They see all these cute dogs on Instagram, read heartwarming success stories and expect theirs to be the most beautiful of all. As someone who has eight dogs and has fostered close to fifty, I can tell you this will most likely not be the case.
Every dog is different. Rescue dogs come with an extra backpack filled with baggage. 🎒 Maybe your dog is gonna be the happiest pup in the world, with no issues at all and you’ll live happily ever after.
But maybe your dog suffers from anxiety. Maybe he’ll try to bite you as you approach him with your best intentions. Maybe you’ll have to work years for him not to be reactive on the leash. And you’ll live happily ever after too.
Don’t give up when it gets hard. It’s even harder for your dog. 🥺 He’s already been through so much… Be patient, go see a professional – five different ones if you have to.
8. Ask questions
- What does the dog eat at the rescue? What do they recommend? 🍗
- What’s his personality like?
- Is he afraid of anything? 😱
- What’s his backstory?
- How many owners has he had and why did they give him up? ☹️
- Does he have behavioural issues? How do they recommend you work on it?
- Are there any medical issues?
- How is he with other dogs, cats, children, …? 🐈
- Can he walk on a leash? Does he know any commands? 🐕🦺
Things that make me instantly say NO
Sometimes it just takes one thing to get rejected. Everybody has their own idea of how a dog should be treated and I know not everyone sleeps with their pooch, but these things will make me say no without hesitation. 🙅🏼♀️
- The dog can never come inside
When I visit a family and they have an inside Pomeranian, but want an outside GSD as a guard dog… Get an alarm system instead please. 🙄
- The dogs that are present don’t look healthy or happy
Pets that already live with you are a pretty good indicator of how well you treat your animals.
- The dog has to stay alone for eight hours a day
No matter how fun it is for you to come home to a happy dog, there’s really no fun in being left alone all day, every single day…
- Dirty house
My house is messy and full of dog hair. That’s not what I’m talking about here okay. I’ve been to places that made me want to bathe in Purell right after. 🤮
- Training by punishment
“If he pees, I’ll just rub his nose in it” and more of this old fashioned retardedness. 🤦🏼♀️ Hitting a dog is obviously a big no-go! Use positive reinforcement, thank you very much. And yes, I also put my dogs in time-out sometimes when I’ve had enough (it’s a time-out for me too, lol). I don’t say it has to be all rainbows and butterflies, but the focus should always be on the positive.
- Lack of commitment
This can mean a number of things. Some people don’t seem to listen when I explain what it means to have a rescue dog. Others just want a dog cause it’s fun to have in the house, but don’t want to do anything with it. Sorry but “we have a garden” is no excuse for never going on walks.
- Not being open to behavioural therapy
I’ve seriously heard the answer “then we’ll bring him back” when asking what they would do if there were any issues regarding the dog’s behaviour. For real, people? 😑
Have faith that the right one will come 💞
I hope this list helps and makes you think a bit before applying for a rescue dog. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments or DM me on Instagram @nayatribe!
Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected at some point. Maybe this just wasn’t the dog or rescue for you. You can always ask the rescue for their reasons. Believe it or not, but I’ve been rejected for adoption once too! It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m sure your right match will come. 🤗
Do you have a rescue dog? Did your application go smoothly or did you get rejected at some point?