When you adopt a rescue dog, you feel good. Everyone applauds you. You saved a life, right? Yes, you have – but how will it work out? While it's a great thing to do, adopting a dog – just like everything else in life – is not always the right choice for every family or person.
Anybody who wants to own a pet should adopt a dog from an animal shelter to save a life. But we've all seen those news of pets being treated poorly. There could be a number of reasons why that happens – not enough money, not enough time, or simply bad people. Sometimes, pet owners adopt a dog expecting different outcome, and then those dogs get returned, abandoned, given away or even abused.
Before you adopt a dog, you must know what to expect, and be prepared.
I've adopted many dogs myself, and I advised my friends and family to do the same. That said, I also understand that there may be personal situations and reasons where being a dog owner (whether adopting or buying) may not be the right thing for you, for your family or even the pet. In certain scenarios, it's simply a wrong thing to do.
In the below list I'm not trying to discourage pet owners from adopting rescue dogs but rather attempt to discuss some of those potentially wrong reasons for adopting a dog, some of which may do more harm than good, and when rescue may not be for you (and our editor Samantha has further expanded on this topic in her podcast episode).
Adopting a dog from a shelter
About 6% of shelter dogs are returned, and that doesn’t count the ones personally rehomed, or worse – abandoned. So please, before you rush into a decision to adopt, read this list and make sure you're ready to adopt a rescue dog.
According to the ASPCA, about 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the United States every year. It would be amazing if all of those animals could find forever homes, but there are numerous reasons why a rescue dog may not be the best option for your family. Before adopting, take the time to really think about what characteristics you want in your new pet.
What size dog are you interested in? How much time do you have to spend with a new canine companion? What are your reasons for wanting to adopt in the first place?
Once you've answered these questions, you can begin your research on which dog breeds would best meet the needs of your family. While doing this, you should also research shelter dogs and the hurdles that you may face by adopting one. I'm not trying to talk anyone out of adopting, but caring for a shelter dog for years to come is more than just a one-time save-a-life-and-forget-it thing. You need to be sure that you know what you're getting yourself into before you bring your new furry friend home.
ALSO READ: 13 Helpful Tips for Rescuing a Dog from a Shelter
10 Reasons Why Pet Adoption May Not Be for You
1. Never get a dog to be a friend to your other dog
This may not work out like you planned. Not only could they not get along, but they may hate each other, and even physically fight.
Most shelters or rescue organizations will require a meet-and-greet between the two dogs before allowing you to adopt. While things may seem fine at first, when you bring the new dog into your home things could get worse.
I adopted an adult terrier/beagle mix. She hated our other dogs, eventually she started fighting with them. We could never get them to get along. She would go for the throat and wouldn’t let go. After she passed, we got a terrier mix puppy from a friend, and the puppy grew up with our other dogs.
Yes, she is aggressive like the other, but she never physically fights them. They have established their pecking order. They play together and love each other.
2. Aging a dog is difficult
When dogs are adopted out, age determination is done by examining the teeth. Those examinations can be inaccurate, especially if the dog is a stray.
In fact, aging a dog who is older than a year is basically an educated guess. You may have kids and want an adopted dog that they can have for a while, but you may get one that only lasts a year.
We fostered a dog, and we were told he was about 7 years old. Within a few months of getting him, he had visible cataracts and was half blind. About 6-9 months after getting him, he started having violent seizures about 4 times a week.
We then found out he had congestive heart failure, and he coughed from this almost constantly. Our personal vet said there was no way he was 7 years old, he had to be much older.
The worst part is the shelter that provided health care at no cost to fosters said they were going to put him down. We said no, and kept him for another year on our dime until he passed away.
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3. The dog could have health problems that are unforeseen
Most rescue centers do get a vet to look over the pooch, give vaccinations, and “fix” them, but it is sometimes a cursory affair. The vet sometimes is donating services, and the rescue center usually doesn’t have a lot of money if they must pay.
In one recent situation that Washington Post published, a woman was blasted for writing about her experience in getting rescue dogs with serious health issues. After she had two rescue dogs that had unforeseen health problems, she purchased from a reputable breeder. Her new fur-baby is happy and healthy.
4. Never get a dog to teach your kids responsibility
If they don’t have a sense of responsibility right now, the dog pays the price. A fur-baby is a family affair. Canines are great for kids in about a thousand ways, but an adult needs to be overseeing and monitoring this relationship.
If you don’t have the time for that, then you will be doing a lot of work yourself. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, the dog becomes lonely and unhealthy. This may start causing problem behaviors.
A recent article probably isn't very popular, but it is definitely true. It tells the story of a ten-year-old girl who got a puppy from her dad. He wanted to teach her responsibility.
She didn’t take care of the dog. It was apparently a source of conflict in the family. The adults didn’t want to care for the dog either, so it went back to the shelter.
5. You'll have to answer A LOT of questions
It is understandable. You're adopting a living, breathing, sentient being. That being said, not everyone is that open. If you are a private person, then adopting from a shelter is not for you. Some private rescues will even visit your home before they approve you.
Just read this article. It has tons of real life stories about questions asked. Look over this real questionnaire for yourself to see if you would have any problems answering these types of questions. If you do, you may just want to save the trip to a shelter.
RELATED: 16 Commands You Must Teach Your Dog After Adopting
6. Adopting a dog will not make you exercise
If you aren’t motivated to exercise now, why would you be if you had a dog to exercise with? A lot of people get pups hoping that having to exercise the four-legged family member will make them get exercise, too.
It usually doesn’t work out that way. In fact, usually no one gets exercise. That will lead to the dog develops boredom behaviors, which is one of the top reasons pets are returned to shelters.
The internet is filled with post about people who don’t have time to exercise their dog. A lot of them come down to just not having the motivation to do it.
Just think of how many times you have heard someone (or maybe YOU have done it) say that they got a gym membership to motivate them to work out. How many ended up still not working out even though they pay money for a membership? If money can’t motivate you, how will a dog?
7. You may be denied if the shelter doesn't deem your lifestyle conducive to pet ownership
Let’s go back to those questionnaires on # 5. They don’t just ask the questions because they are curious. Every question is an opportunity to be denied approval for a fur-baby. You can be denied for living in an apartment, having a roommate, and even having kids.
One woman was denied adoption because of the neighborhood she lived in. Another similar article gives tons of stories about denial, from slippery floors to Irish accents.
Even on a motorsport’s thread, you have people railing against the dog adoption process. I myself was denied for living in an apartment. So, an apartment is good enough for me and my daughter, but not a dog?
8. DO NOT give a shelter dog as a gift
As strange as it may seem, people actually give dogs as a gift – not just to their kids either. If you are thinking of doing this it is a terrible idea, and I would go as far to say you are not a very good friend. There are so many reasons this wouldn’t work – maybe they don’t have the space the time, or the temperament for a dog.
Before I married my husband, a friend of his rescued a dog. They decided they couldn’t keep it, so they called him over and gave it to him. Her whole family was there and thought it was a great idea.
They said he was lonely and needed a dog. He refused multiple times, but they pushed, and he brought home that dog. He ended up being the one to rehome it, again.
Yes, he had a large, fenced-in yard, but he rented the downstairs of his house out and he lived upstairs. Taking the dog out was a big hassle. Also, he worked two jobs. It just wasn’t the right situation for a pet.
9. You may not get a dog that is suitable for your lifestyle
Some breeds are energetic, and some are lazy – some are big and some are small – some are independent and some are clingy. For many reasons, some people would rather get a pure-bred dog.
With a purebred, you can make some assumptions of their typical behavior. This is especially When you go to a rescue shelter, they may have what you want. Pure-breed dogs often end up in shelters, but they may not have it.
This thread was started by a dog lover who adopted from a shelter. The dog is a mixed-terrier, two different types of terriers. The stuff complained about in her post are common characteristics of terriers.
They constantly regretted their decision, and the dog was unhappy as well. They would have been better off researching breeds, and getting one more suited to their needs.
10. There may be a long wait
You may have quite a long waiting period to adopt at a rescue center, but this is usually not the case at a high-kill city pound. When adopting in a rescue shelter, there is usually a long application that is verified, a home visit, and a trial period. This can be an issue if you need to have your new four-legged family member before a certain occasion.
It doesn’t take long to find threads and posts about the frustration of waiting for rescue adoptions to go through. Here is one from an experienced dog owner who waits and waits, only to be denied. There are even articles written with tips on how to hear back quickly on your adoption.
I am certainly not trying to advocate for breeders over shelters, or stores over animal rescues for people looking to adopt a dog. I advocate for adopting dogs all the time. I have two adopted cats and one adopted dog myself. The need is there for people to adopt a dog, but in my experience, it isn’t the right choice for everyone.
If you are prepared for the adoption process, the sometimes unknown, and the possible time needed – that’s great. I work from home, and we are experienced pet owners it is easy for us to adopt. You may not have the same situation. The best thing for you, and your future four-legged family member, is to consider all aspects of your personal circumstance, lifestyle and goals.
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