7 min read

How To Find The Perfect Rescue Dog For You

Soulmates 💞

Are you interested in adopting a dog but you’re wondering how to find the right one for you?

Whether you want a dog who loves to Netflix-and-chill, or you’re looking for a pup who loves running 5Ks and climbing mountains — there’s definitely a dog out there with a personality to match your lifestyle.

But the idea of sorting through hundreds of adoptable dogs might seem daunting. To you help figure this all out, The Dodo spoke to Shelby Semel, head trainer at Animal Haven rescue in New York City, to learn how to find the right dog for your needs.

What dog is right for you?

According to Semel, it’s a good idea to figure out the type of personality you’re looking for in your future family member before actually heading to the shelter.

“Before meeting or picking a dog, I think everyone should make a (realistic) wish list of what they are looking for in a dog and what they absolutely could not help [him] work through,” Semel recommends.

For example, some things on your “must-have” list could be:

  • I’m looking for a cuddly dog
  • I’m looking for a dog who pees on pads
  • I’m looking for a dog who’s OK being alone

And on your “no-go” list, you might include things like:

  • I can’t have a dog who doesn’t like kids
  • I don’t have the time to potty train a puppy

In the case, above, maybe your ideal dog is super friendly and cuddly with people but doesn't love other dogs, but that's OK — he’s still a good fit for your individual needs!

Find a shelter that does assessments

It’s also important to work with a shelter or rescue that’s totally committed to making sure their dogs are matched with the right family — not just letting any person take any dog without really understanding each other’s needs.

“I suggest choosing a dog from a shelter who does assessments and is completely upfront [about any issues with an individual dog],” Semel said.

According to Semel, it’s even better if the dog was living in a foster home for a while so you’re able to see how the dog has adjusted to a family and home environment.

“Checking in to see other people’s experiences with the organization is also helpful as sadly many rescues do not have the best reputation for pairing dogs with their owners,” Semel said.

Choosing the right dog helps limit returns

“At Animal Haven, the rescue shelter I work with, they do a very commendable job placing their dogs with appropriate families to minimize returns, which leads to stress for the family as well as the dog,” Semel said.

It’s important the rescue you work with knows how to make decisions about whether an individual dog is good with kids, can handle an urban environment, and similar personality traits — especially since it helps limit inappropriate pairings, which leads to happier dogs and dog parents.

“With dogs with more difficult behavioral issues, a member of the staff (or me!) will talk to potential adopters to let them know what could be expected and what training would be involved. We ask many questions, listen very closely to their answers, and then decide if a meet and greet would be appropriate,” Semel said.

Even after a meet and greet, a good staff will let you know directly whether or not they think a dog is a good match for you.

Of course, if you want to be extra sure a dog is the perfect match, you can look for rescues that will let you foster to adopt — which means the dog will live with you on a trial basis before you need to make a final decision.

There’s really nothing like the magic that happens when you find the right dog for you — and taking the time to be honest about what you need, as well as what your potential new pup needs, will help give you the best friend you’ve ever had!

“Something’s gotta give and often a dog is not perfect but may be perfect for you!” Semel said.

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