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Tips for Choosing the Right Rescue Dog

Did you know that besides giving unconditional love and loyalty adding a dog to your family can have tangible health benefits? It’s true. Having a dog in your home can reduce the likelihood of kids developing allergies, motivate all members of the family to be more active and reduce stress, heart rate and blood pressure.

Ready to add a new pooch to your pack? In honor of National Animal Shelter & Rescue Appreciation Week, we’d like to share a foolproof way to choose the right rescue dog for your family. Follow these tips and you’ll see the health benefits and get some extra kisses and snuggles in no time.

When choosing a rescue dog for your family, here are some things to consider. It is best to decide on these important aspects well before you head to your local shelter or rescue.


If you live in a studio apartment or a tiny home, you probably don’t have room for a 150 lb. behemoth of a dog. If you live in a large home and/or have acres of land, you have more flexibility to choose a dog of any size. The dog’s physical size can also be a barrier to care. As the dog ages or when injured he or she may need help up and down stairs onto furniture and into vehicles. Think about the size dog you and your family members can manage physically.


While not always deserved, certain breeds carry with them specific reputations. For instance, little dogs like Chihuahuas, Yorkies and Rat Terriers are often called “ankle bitters” because of their often-unfounded reputation as barky, aggressive dogs. “Bully” breeds like Pit Bulls, as well as other breeds like Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes and Siberian Huskies, have the reputation of being large, dangerous and aggressive, leading some insurance companies to deny coverage to families with dogs of specific breeds. The bottom line is that no matter the breed’s reputation, what matters most is the specific dog you choose. It also doesn’t hurt to check with your insurance carrier before adopting a dog.

Probably the most important element on this list, a dog’s temperament can make him a loving, integral part of your family or the backyard outcast. That’s why choosing carefully is so important. Seek a dog with a similar energy level as your family. If you are adventurous, outdoorsy types, choose a dog of a decent size and medium to high energy level that can go running, hiking and swimming with you. If you are more of a homebody or have young children, choose a mild-mannered dog with low energy who will enjoy cuddling up on the couch with you to watch a movie and with tolerate a toddler pulling her ears and tail.

While young dogs are the most sought after for adoption, consider the pros and cons of dogs of all ages. Puppies will likely live the longest with your family and will bond with you from the beginning but require a lot of attention, time, training, medical care and upkeep. Adult age dogs are not in as high demand but are often good for families without the time to train a puppy. An additional benefit of adopting an adult dog is that their personalities are fully formed, so it is unlikely that Fido will do a 180 is his personality, like puppies sometimes do as they grow up. Also, don’t discount senior dogs. They are often the most loving, gentle canines and are in desperate need of loving homes.

Noise Level
Some dogs are almost-constant barkers, while others are quiet as a mouse. Think about what you, your family and your living situation can handle in terms of noise. When visiting a prospective adoptive dog at a shelter you may not be able to best evaluate a dog’s tendency to bark there. They are often riled up by other dogs barking or scared and afraid to show their true selves. If possible, get the dog out of that environment, outside around a few other dogs and people and see how he or she behaves. You may also need to check on your community’s rules and ordinances regarding barking dogs to be fully prepared to make an informed decision.

Grooming Needs
Some dogs require almost constant upkeep while others almost none. Think about the time, money and patience you and your family have for that before adopting a dog. In general, the shorter a dog’s hair, the less maintenance they require. According to the American Kennel Club, the breeds that require the most grooming are Poodles, Bichon Frises, Afghan Hounds, Portuguese Water Dogs, Pulis and Komondors. Chihuahuas, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Jack Russell Terriers, Beagles and Dalmatians are considered to be among the most low-maintenance breeds. If you have your heart set on a Poodle or Poodle mix, go for it, but know that you’ll be putting in some hours and/or shelling out some dough for grooming.

Exercise Needs
Do you have the time and ability to walk your dog twice a day for at least 15-30 minutes? Do you have a large outdoor area for him to run around? Are you gone for extended periods of time most days of the week? These are things to consider before choosing a dog to adopt. Talk to the rescue or shelter about the exercise needs of any dogs you are considering adopting and think about how that fits in with your schedule and abilities. Dogs needing exercising with no outlet often act out by destroying homes, furniture, bedding and other items.

Special Needs of Your Family
Are you looking for a dog for a specific purpose, like helping around your farm, being an indoor companion, etc.? If so, evaluate the adoptive dogs you meet laser-focused on his or her “job” and suitability for it. For instance, a low-energy, old, small dog would probably not be best suited for hearing cattle but might be ideal for an indoor companion of a senior or family with young children.

Regardless of what dog you choose, you are doing a great thing by providing a home to one of the 3.3 million dogs who enter shelters each year. In return, your new dog will give you unconditional love, admiration and loyalty. That’s a win-win in our book.

Learn more about keeping your new dog happy and healthy at



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