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Rescue Dogs: Tips on How to Get One

If you are looking to a adopt a dog, you might be finding that you are having a difficult time.

Surprisingly adopting a rescue dog from either a local shelter or rescue group is not that easy.

There was a time when adopting a dog was simply a matter of going to your local shelter and picking up whatever dog was available at the time.

But things have changed.

Now that more people are choosing to adopt rescue dogs over buying from breeders, the demand for rescue dogs has gone up.

This has allowed shelter and rescue groups to become more selective when finding adopters for the dogs in their care.

Plus there are many more rescue groups that are now in the dog adoption area.

This is especially true for the more popular dog breeds, like Golden Retrievers and Doodle dogs. In fact some rescue groups specialize in purebred dogs.

Having gone through this experience ourselves, we will provide you with the tips and tricks that helped us get the rescue dog we were looking for.

Rescue Dogs: How to Find Your Perfect Rescue Dog

Rescue Dogs in the Past

Years ago when we adopted our first dog, Charlie, we simply went to our local shelter and asked to see the available dogs.  We were asked a few questions about the type of dog we were looking for, where we lived and if we had a big yard. Next, they showed us a beautiful 5 year old purebred Golden Retriever. Since we really didn’t know much about selecting a dog from a shelter we asked a few basic questions and decided to adopt him. After filling out the required paperwork which included personal references, we paid a small fee and left. A couple of hours later, after they checked our references, they gave us a call to come get Charlie. The process was very quick and very easy.

This was not our experience when we were recently looking for our newest rescue. It took us over four months and a lot of rejections before we were able to find a dog we could adopt.

Rescue Dogs Now

Purebred dogs don’t often find themselves at local shelters anymore. Typically, breed specific rescue groups will “rescue” these dogs from a shelter to prevent the dog from being put down. Since rescue groups tend to use foster homes to house the dogs they are able to rescue more dogs then a county run shelter could. Also since the overall cost to foster a dog is lower than keeping a dog in a shelter they can hold on to the dogs for a longer period of time.

Thanks to a lower cost to take care of the dogs and the higher demand rescues can be very selective about prospective adopters. It also means they have some leeway in how much they charge for the adoption.

Why Are Rescue Groups So Selective?

  • Dog Safety – There was a time when people would adopt animals from shelters only to resell them to research companies for experiments. Also there are cases where adopted dogs were used as bait in dog fights. You may never think to harm an animal but there are some that would. For those reasons, rescue groups go to great lengths to ensure the dogs go to a good home.
  • They don’t want the dog returned. You will find that almost every dog rescue group and shelter requires that if you cannot keep the dog for any reason, you must return it to them. This is to ensure the animal does not end up in harm’s way. Although the dog might be returned for no fault of their own, most people are leery of dogs that have been returned making it harder to find a new home. For this reason the rescue group wants to make sure they find the right person for the dog.

How to Increase Your Chance of Being Selected By a Rescue Group

Be Flexible

The more flexible you are with the type of dog you are looking for, the easier it will be to find a dog. Here are some ways to compromise on the dog you want:

  • Consider getting an older dog instead of a puppy. Older dogs sometimes have the benefit of being previously trained.
  • Be open to different genders or colors
  • Purebreds are hard to come by – Consider getting a mixed breed dog that is part your desired breed

At this point you might be asking what is the right dog for me? Only you can answer this question. But we can help. We have laid out a series of questions to help you decide which type of dog best fits your lifestyle in What is the Right Dog for Me?

Research Local Shelters/Rescues

Adoption Process

Do your research on the dog shelters/rescues in your area to find out how the adoption process works. You should find out if:

  • They take multiple applications on a dog and then decide which applicant best meets the dog’s needs?
  • There is a strict first come first serve policy?
  • Personal references are required?
  • Veterinarian references are required?
  • You need to bring your dog to meet the rescue dog?
  • Your kids need to meet the dog?

Tip: You should do these last two points even if the dog rescue group does not require them.

Dog Adoption – Where is the best place to find your perfect match? These days there are so many places where you can go to find a rescue dog. With so many options it is sometimes hard to decide. We will look at the pros and cons of each and touch on where you should not go for your dog adoption in Dog Adoption – Finding Your Perfect Pup

Know their Requirements

Find out what the dog rescue/shelter requirements are. You should find out if:

  • There are age restrictions for children?
  • Living in a house a requirement?
  • They require a fenced in yard?
  • You need to have an older dog in the home to teach the new dog manners?
  • They require you to be an experienced dog owner?
  • Home checks are required?
  • You need to reside within a certain distance from them?
  • They require follow-up home visits?
  • The dogs neeare spayed or neutered before leaving the rescue?
  • They require that the dog have a microchip.

Narrowing Down the Search for Rescue Dogs

Now that you have done your research on local rescue groups you should narrow the number of rescues you want to follow. Here are tips on how to decide which rescue groups best fit what you are looking for:

  1. Look at the rescue group’s past adoptions to see what types of dogs they tend to offer. Many times rescues chose to specialize in certain types; like Golden Retriever Rescue, Labradoodle rescue or Doodle Rescue.
  2. Make sure you fit their requirements. When I first started looking at rescues I searched all rescues within a 4 hour driving radius. I was turned down several times because I lived too far away to do a house check.
  3. Ask around for references. Chances are if they are a local group someone you know may have had a previous experience with them.
  4. Check on line to see if there are any complaints about the group. Local Facebook groups can be helpful. Be very caution if you see people complaining about the rescue group online

Once you have found a hand full of rescues/shelters that fit what you are looking for and you fit their requirements, concentrate looking at just those shelters.

Finding Rescue Dogs to Adopt

Now that you have your preferred groups in order, it’s time to get down to finding an adoptable dog. To increase your chances of finding a dog and being selected you should do the following:

  • Fill out an application at the shelter or rescue that you are interested in. Most places will keep the application on file for 6 months.  This will allow them to check your references ahead of time and speed up your approval process. With rescue dogs in high demand you have to be quick.
  • Check the pet rescue sites at night and/or first thing in the morning to see what was added. For groups that use the first come first served method of selection being the early bird will get you the worm, or in this case dog.
  • Set up email alerts on pet rescue websites. allows you to fine tune your search down to the type of dog and your preferred location.
  • Follow your preferred rescue/shelters on Facebook. Rescues tend to send out notifications on new available dogs before they show up on the big rescue sites.

Be Patient

It is very important that you be patient. You will find the right dog for you but it may take some time.

The process might seem a bit overwhelming to you at first, but with a little work and a lot of patience you will soon find your furry BFF.

Have any tips to share you would like to share on how to adopt a rescue dog?  Please let us know in the comments.

Other related posts you may like:

Deb donker

Monday 15th of February 2021

My husband and I love dogs we are in our 70’s so really looking for an adult dog already trained ( dog one hypoallergenic due to grandsons with allergies.) looking best pick for us would be yorkie poo

Rayneen McClelland

Sunday 29th of November 2020

I’m looking for a dog, not a puppy. It needs to be small because I live in a mobile home. Cawcapoos are nice. Any poodle mix


Sunday 29th of November 2020

Hi Rayneen,

Try searching on You can filter your search by breed, size and age. I found that was the easiest way to see what dogs are up for adoption nearby. Good luck on your search!



Saturday 14th of November 2020

I’m looking for one of the smaller doodles. You know like 15-20lbs. Not sure of the sizes. They are adorable. I have had Bichons all my life. Love them too. Possibly adult or senior.


Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Hi Terri,

It’s wonderful that you would consider a senior or adult doodle. Just be patient with the process. Even adult doodles are in high demand.

If you would like to learn more about doodles please check out my posts on doodles;Oodle Dog Guide – What You Need to know and The Best Terrier Poodle Mix Breed Guide

Good luck on your search!