8 Steps to Prepare You for Your New Rescue Dog - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
Updated date:

8 Steps to Prepare You for Your New Rescue Dog


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

Advice for Adopting a Dog

Advice for Adopting a Dog

Dogs Know How to Tug at Our Heart Strings

Adopting animals is always a worthwhile endeavor. If you visit a rescue or a shelter, these wonderful creatures can be persuasive, especially dogs. Research even 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. Although he 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 the 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 like our family and home.

Rerun is a happy Rat Terrier.

Rerun is a happy Rat Terrier.

Things to Do Before Going to the Shelter

There are some things you should consider doing before going to the shelter. Firstly, 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 if Rerun would become a part of our family. 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 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.

What to Ask Before Adopting a Dog

These are important subjects to discuss with the workers, but understand that the animal shelter staff may not be able to answer all of your questions. Usually, employees and volunteers at the shelter will try to give you as much information as possible:

Social Background Questions

  • What is his or her social history?
  • Did he or she live with other pets?
  • How does he or she get along with people?
  • What is his or her temperament?
  • How long has he or she been in the animal shelter?

Based on how Rerun greeted us, we determined that 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 dog been injured?
  • Has he or she received all of his or her shots?
  • Are there other conditions we should be aware of?

We inquired about his shots, and it turned out that 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 reached home. The little fellow needed eye drops as well. Examining Rerun’s weight, we knew he needed more exercise as well, which he now receives 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 that you can place your contact information on.

Your new dog needs to know where his food will be.

Your new dog needs to know where his food will be.

How to Set Up Your Home for Your New Dog

1. Establish a Place to Sleep

Have a comfortable spot for the dog to sleep. During the warm days, Rerun has his own space on the porch where he sleeps. There are pillows and blankets around because the other dogs may join him. Dogs need a place 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 him/her home. Choose a bowl that is not easily destroyed, such as ceramic or metal. At feeding time, walk your dog to the spot where he/she will be eating. The dog will learn to associate the spot 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 both can 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

Personal experience has shown that if several dogs reside in your home, respecting the “order of the pack” is essential. Follow what the dogs have established as their 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 his/her 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 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 Vital Step Is to Provide a Loving Home

The most crucial aspect of adopting an animal is providing love. 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.