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8 Steps to Prepare You For Your New Rescue Dog

Tim Truzy has a small pack of happy and healthy rescued dogs.

This is Rerun, our happy Rat Terrier.

This is Rerun, our happy Rat Terrier.

How to Prepare for a Rescue Dog

Adopting animals is always a worthwhile endeavor. When you visit a rescue shelter, the wonderful creatures you meet can be quite persuasive, especially dogs. Research shows that dogs have unique muscles in their eyes (the levator anguli oculi medialis muscle) that help them to deliver those notorious “puppy eyes.”

Indeed, our dog, Rerun, a Rat Terrier, bonded with us as soon as we met. We couldn’t resist bringing the charming canine home. The little guy is warm and playful, friendly, and loves a good meal. AlthoughRerun fits right in with our little pack of dogs, we took precautions before going to the western part of the state to meet him.

Dogs don't perceive the world as humans do. Generally, dogs use smell as their primary sense. In addition, most dog breeds use hearing as the secondary sense, with vision coming in third. By understanding these facts, we were able to determine immediately whether or not Rerun would be a good fit for our family and home.

Things to Do Before Going to the Shelter

There are some things you should consider doing before going to the shelter. Primarily, we took a towel and rubbed it on ourselves and our other dogs to get our scents blended in for Rerun to smell. By taking this step, we were prepared to judge whether Rerun was comfortable around the various odors in our home. We were ecstatic when he repeatedly walked to the towel and sniffed it happily. He wanted to climb in our laps as we talked to him soothingly.

Since shelters may have a limited number of leashes, we took one with us. We were also prepared with references. Our investment in time and effort proved productive. We decided he was a good match for us while exploring with the staff the concerns outlined below.

Taking a towel to the shelter with the scents of other dogs, cats, and people in the house may help you judge whether your home is right for the new dog.

Taking a towel to the shelter with the scents of other dogs, cats, and people in the house may help you judge whether your home is right for the new dog.

Important Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog

These are important subjects to discuss with the staff at the shelter you visit. Understand the employees and volunteers may not be able to answer all of your questions. Usually, the staff at the shelter will try to give you as much information as possible. Some crucial things to ask when considering a potential pet, include:

Social Background Questions

  • What is the social history of the animal?
  • Did the potential pet live with other animals at the home?
  • How does the cat or dog get along with people?
  • What is the pet's temperament?
  • How long has the rescued animal been in the shelter?

Based on how Rerun greeted us, we determined he had great people skills and a mild disposition. We also discovered Rerun lived with an individual who had to surrender him. The staff was uncertain if there were other animals at his previous home, but the terrier had been in the shelter for nearly two months.

Medical Background Questions

  • Has the dog been spayed (female) or neutered (male)?
  • Has the canine been injured?
  • Has the dog received all relevant shots?
  • Are there other conditions we should be aware of?

We inquired about his shots, and it turned out Rerun was current on his vaccinations. Most shelters provide shots and spay/neuter their animals, but these are questions you would benefit from asking.

We discovered Rerun had trouble with fleas, which we took care of when we got home. The little fellow needed eye drops as well. Examining Rerun’s weight, we knew he needed more exercise, which he now receives daily while dashing around the yard with his pack.

Is the Dog Microchipped?

Before leaving the animal shelter, be sure to ask if the dog is “chipped.” Most shelters and rescues place microchips in the scruff of the dog, and once registered, the chip will be linked to your contact information. Ask the staff about how to change the information to your address and phone number in case your animal gets lost. Also, buy a collar with tags so you can place your contact information on it.

Your new dog needs to know where food and water will be.

Your new dog needs to know where food and water will be.

How to Set Up Your Home for Your New Dog

Before you bring your new adopted pal home, it's important to prepare your living space for the new arrival. It's a good idea to have sleeping, eating, drinking, and playing areas established before bringing the pet home.

1. Give your friend a good Place to Sleep

Have a comfortable spot for the dog to sleep. During the warm days, Rerun has his own space on the porch. There are pillows and blankets around because the other dogs may join him. Dogs need areas they can recognize as their territory.

2. Designate a Space for Food and Water

Have a dog dish and water bowl ready when you bring your new pet home. Choose a bowl that is not easily destroyed, such as ceramic or metal. At feeding time, walk your dog to the spot where eating will occur. The canine will learn to associate the location with where food is served. Likewise, have a feeding schedule. Dogs prefer predictability.

3. Offer Plenty of Toys

Find soft, squeaky stuffed toys for your pet to play with while you enjoy fun games of “fetch.” If your adopted dog likes toys, having these items around helps with relaxation.

Your new dog may like toys.

Your new dog may like toys.

Maintain the Pack Order

Coincidentally, personal experience has brought to mind another important consideration. Respect the “order of the pack” if several dogs reside in your home. Follow what the dogs have established for the group. This step allows for a happy household and a quiet transition for the rescue animal. If there is only one dog in the household, the canine will come to recognize the humans in the house as the pack.

However, if you have more than one dog in your family, observe which one is most dominant. Truthfully, dominance is not aggression necessarily, but you should be ready to intervene with a water bottle to squirt or a commanding voice to calm the pack. Dominance is exhibited in nudges, soft growls, and where the dogs choose to sit or rest.

Notice which dog eats first and leads the others. Studying my dogs revealed that our dog, Love, is the alpha in the group, and I always give her treats or pet her first because she is the pack’s commander-in-chief. Going down the order to the last member of the pack, I repeat whatever I’ve done for Love.

This is the rest of our little pack.

This is the rest of our little pack.

The Most Vital Step Is Providing a Loving Home

The most crucial aspect of adopting an animal is providing kindness and compassion. Although the “no-kill” shelter movement is expanding, millions of dogs and cats are euthanized annually. Some research suggests more strays are being returned to owners, reducing crowding and the need to put down animals. There are also efforts underway to develop national statistics on adoption. Yet, my family is glad to provide for a few of these dogs. In short, we named our recent arrival Rerun because we believe everyone deserves a second chance.


  • Arnold, J. (2012). Through a dogs eyes: Understanding our dogs by understanding how they see the world. London: Souvenir Press.
  • McConnell, P. B. (2003). The other end of the leash: Why we do what we do around dogs. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Upward, A. (2015). A dogs world. London: New Holland.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.