If you are undecided about adopting or rescuing a dog, and in particular a German Shepherd, this article might help you come to a decision.
The reality is there are many perfectly sociable and loving dogs in shelters and rescues out there waiting to give you their love, in exchange for yours.
Although adoption might seem daunting, or have a stigma or myth attached to it that all adoption dogs are damaged, these things are far from the truth.
In fact, adoption can be a great way to combat backyard breeders or irresponsible breeders, in addition to giving a loving dog a second chance – it can be a win-win.
Below is a list of things you might consider when adopting or rescuing…
23 Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd Dog or Puppy
1. Be aware of the reasons people may return an adopted dog
There’s likelihood people will return their dog either because:
- The transition for the dog to a new environment is too much – even after a few weeks to a few months to settle in or get comfortable
- People mean well – they want to give a dog a home. But, they underestimate the responsibility and care that is required to take care of a dog, or perhaps their lifestyle just doesn’t end up being compatible with the dog’s requirements
2. All adoption dogs are different in their own way
No two dogs are the same. Different dogs will have different factors that separate them – health, temperament, intelligence etc.
3. Be aware of what goes into adoption fees you pay
Be aware of what you are paying for with adoption fees:
- Registration tag
- Spaying and neutering
- Flea treatment/preventatives
- Food, shelter and staff costs (although most are volunteers)
- Extras like equipment such as leads and collars etc.
4. Consider the ongoing costs of pet ownership
Consider the ongoing and one time costs of owning a dog. You’ve got:
- the adoption fee (usually between $50 to $450)
- regular vet checks
- dog food
- accessories like leads, collar, harnesses, dog bed, bowls etc.
- dog insurance
- dog training fees
- + more
5. Consider how the dog will co-exist with other pets and children
Consider whether the dog will get along with your children or existing pets. Ask the shelter or rescue staff how you can see how the dog and your kids/exisitngs pets react to each other.
6. Be aware of foster shelters and rescues
There are rescue centres that foster their dogs instead of kennelling them. What you could do instead of making the commitment to adopt a dog from a kennel straight away, is you could offer to volunteer first.
Depending on the foster rules for the rescue centre, this will have two benefits:
- You can basically trial run what the dog is like in terms of feeding, exercise, compatibility with your lifestyle, temperament and more
- A dog that goes from one home to another, as opposed from home to kennel to home, tends to settle in slightly better
7. A choice to adopt, is a choice to reject puppy farmers and irresponsible breeders
Making the choice to adopt is making the choice not to support puppy farm breeders, and irresponsible breeders
8. Research how reputable the shelter or rescue is
Consider how reputable the shelter or rescue is – google them – are they an official organisation? Is there any bad press on them?
9. Consider the adoption process from a stage and time perspective
Most shelters and rescues require a visit, an application, a cooling off period, and then you receive the dog
10. Don’t fall for the myth that adoption dogs are damaged or broken
Rescue and shelter dogs are not ‘damaged’ or mentally broken. Most are sociable and waiting to love, and be loved
In the vast number of cases, dogs that don’t have a home are lonely, scared and just looking for someone to love, and have them love them back.
They have come from a place where their owner abandoned them, may have mistreated them, where they may not have been fed or given water consistently, and may not have had much interaction or love.
A lot of rescue or shelter dogs are the OPPOSITE of damaged – they want to give as much love as they can.
People that work in a good shelter or rescue will know straight away whether the dog is dangerous or aggressive, and will not make that dog available for adoption or rehoming.
You will usually be able to see this in the dog straight away too.
The rescue or shelter volunteers or workers will try their best to match the dog to the owner in the most compatible way.
So, the chances you get a dog that won’t be able to bond with you or will try to bite you because they don’t trust humans is quite low.
Go to a shelter for yourself if you don’t believe that.
11. Are trial and volunteer walking, visits and stays available before adopting?
Ask the adoption centre if they do trial walking, visits or stays. All good ways to get to know a dog.
12. Know how you might identify a well tempered dog
If you visit a shelter or rescue centre, look out for the signs of a friendly dog, but be open to picking a dog that might just be low on confidence.
Most of all, it’s best not to take the risk with a dog that shows aloof or aggressive behavior – these dogs might need professional help from a behaviour specialist.
Signs that can be of worry are:
- Charging or retreating
- Deep growling or bark
- Tense muscles
- Baring teeth
Excited barking, tail wagging, licking, eyes wide open, relaxed body language, and getting close to you for more attention are all good signs.
13. Consider professional help when selecting to adopt
Consider taking a professional trainer along with you to help you make a choice on adopting
14. Older adoption dogs can suit some people better than puppies
Older dogs have benefits younger puppies and younger dogs might not.
Older dogs tend to be
- more experienced with life in general
- more calm in temperament – including around kids
- more obedient
- are potty trained – won’t leave poos and wees around for your children to pick up or play in
- are past the chewing stage – won’t chew on furniture or your kid’s toys
- and have less energy (for people who don’t have heaps of time to exercise).
SO they may be a better options for some people.
With puppies, it’s hard to determine exactly how they will turn out temperament wise, even with good training and a good owner-dog relationship.
Older dogs are pretty much what they are – mistreated or not. So, good chance if you meet an older dog and they are calm and friendly, that’s what you’re getting.
15. Most adoption or rescue dogs have been abandoned or are strays
Be aware that most dogs that shelters take in are:
- Strays found wondering the streets (so may not be used to a restrictive home environment)
- Given up by their owners (which means they may still be looking for their owner when they are surrendered, and might try escape a new home)
16. Allow adoption dogs a settling in period
Be prepared to give your adopted dog anywhere from 6 weeks to a few months to get comfortable with their new environment.
Some dogs may be running very low on confidence – so it’s a matter of them getting comfortable and relaxed in the environment.
For dogs that are very jittery and attention starved, consider an initial 2 week period where you do nothing with them (no training or expectations) other than let them get comfortable with the home.
Take your dog to a profesional trainer if you are having real issues, or call the shelter/rescue.
17. Make sure your property is well secured
You should have a decent fence in the yard you keep your dog, and a decent sized yard.
18. Be aware of careless shelters and rescues
Although most shelters and rescues are heroes, and try their best with their lack of funds and lack of resources to give dogs and owners what they need, some shelters and rescues can be careless.
You can spot a careless shelter or rescue if they put very little time into asking you about your lifestyle, wants, explaining the dogs to you, or the application process isn’t very thorough.
19. Know what German Shepherds are like as a breed and as pets
German Shepherds in particular as a breed:
- Are large and powerful dogs
- Are naturally herding dogs – meaning they may try to ‘mouth’ friends and family
- Need walks daily
- Need daily mental stimulation – tend to be intelligent
- Are naturally alert and aloof
- Will form a strong bond with their leader
- Need a strong leader
- Will shed a lot of hair
- Have a history of hip dysplasia in their genetics
- Tend to mature and stop puppy type behavior by about 4 to 6 years old. Dogs of about 7 years or older tend to be more relaxed and calm
- Come in many different colors, and color has not been scientifically proven to effect the health or temperament of the dog – it’s just a color
20. Speak to shelter or rescue staff thoroughly to match with the best dog
Talk to adoption/rescue centre staff – tell them who you are, what you’re looking for and ask for their recommendations or advice
21. Get to know the dog as much as possible before bringing them into your home
If you commit to a dog, at most rescue or adoption centres there will be a period of time between when you select your dog and when you take them home. Use this time to get to know the dog as much as possible
22. Know how to manage emotions and focus on compatibility when adopting
Try to block out emotions. Make a choice based on what you can offer a dog, and pick the most compatible dog logically.
We are not saying you can’t love the dogs, but if a dog has a health condition, or is high energy, and you don’t have the financial or time capacity to care for them – even if you feel sorry for or love the dog – chances are it won’t work out.
Outline what your lifestyle and financial, time and personal factors look like, and pick the dog that best lines up with these factors and will be most compatible with your long term.
23. You can support adoption without adopting
Whether you adopt or not – consider putting charitable donations towards shelters, rescue centres, or animal socialisations and behavior programs.
You can help dogs you don’t adopt by doing these things.
How To Find A Shelter Or Rescue Near You
If you are looking specifically for a German Shepherd, you could try:
- Contacting your country’s main German Shepherd Organisation and asking for a reference to, or contact details to a GSD rescue or shelter in your area
United States residents might try the German Shepherd Dog Club of America
UK residents might try the British Association for German Shepherd Dogs
Australia residents might try the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia
Canada residents might try the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada
- Contact your regional German Shepherd club and ask for a referral or contact details to shelters or rescue groups
- Contact your local humane society
- If you know of official or registered rescues or shelters in your area, you might contact them
Case Studies & Additional Resources on Adoption
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