12 Super-Critical Things You HAVE to Know Before Adopting a Rescue Dog

Make safety a priority for yourself, your family, and your new rescue dog with these simple tips.

Congrats on your new pup!

Lunja/ShutterstockAccording to the ASPCA, 3.2 million people adopt a rescue pet every year. And if you are one of them you know that there is no feeling like the one you get as you lock eyes with a dog and know its "the one." Whether you visited your local shelter, you fell in love as you walked through a rescue outside your favorite big box store, or you agreed to adopt a pup site unseen from a website like Petfinder, the day you bring home a new dog is one of the most memorable days ever. It's important to remember though, that your new rescue dog has been through some upheaval and there are several things you need to keep in mind as your new pet adjusts to their new family.

Your dog is scared

Anna-Hoychuk/ShutterstockYour new pup is most likely freaking out, and that's OK. He's been through an ordeal, either surrendered by his previous owner, picked up as a stray, and/or separated from its mom and litter mates for the first time. Rescue facilities, while important and necessary, aren't exactly calm, quiet places. Your new dog was probably in a run or cage, maybe with one or two other dogs in the same run with him, surrounded by even more dogs in other cages, all of them barking and howling. Then, a stranger (you) put him in a car (which may or may not be frightening in itself), and took him to another completely new place. It is an adjustment, so be sure to give your pet time to get used to the new digs.

You know nothing about your dog's personality

Anna-Hoychuk/ShutterstockObviously, your new dog did something to charm you or she wouldn't be your new dog. But rescue dogs, especially older ones, can be unpredictable and even if they pass a temperament test with flying colors, it pays to be safe. Never leave your children alone with a new dog, even if you think it's the sweetest dog in the world. Take your time getting to know your dog. Better to err on the side of caution until she's comfortable in her new home. Not all dogs at the shelter are abused dogs and not every one has been mistreated, but they've still been through trauma and can be unpredictable. Here are the etiquette rules every dog owner must follow.

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He will need training

Dmitry-A/ShutterstockEven if your new rescue had a previous owner, he probably picked up some bad habits while he was up for adoption. Improper urination, chewing, jumping, and pulling on the leash are all super common behavior problems in rescue dogs (especially pups who may never have had obedience—or potty—training) but they are also correctable. Consistent training is important in establishing new habits and teaching your new rescue his boundaries and the rules of his new "pack." Here are 13 facts about your dog we bet you never knew.

She doesn't know you "saved" her

runzelkorn/ShutterstockWe like to anthropomorphize animals and imagine our pets have human thoughts and feelings. But animals, even your rescue dog, aren't capable of the broad range of emotions that we often give them credit for. Your new fur baby knows she was somewhere unpleasant and she knows that now she's not. She doesn't know you saved her from being euthanized. She likes you, yes, but she's not able to feel grateful or appreciative. And she doesn't know you won't mistreat her if she's been mistreated before. She may not trust you at first and just because you adopted her doesn't mean she's going to be your BFF right away. (Find out all the secrets your dog knows about you.)

She may chase your cat or fight with your other dog

Massimo-Cattaneo/ShutterstockShe may hate your other pets. Or your other pets may hate her. She may have never been around a cat and she might be aggressive. Or, if she was a stray, she may have only been around other dogs who were competing for resources and she therefore, sees them as a threat. It may take time for everyone to settle in. Let them take it at their own pace and don't just toss your new dog into the same room with your old dog and think it will be fine.

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He will be entirely different from your other dogs

Tymonko-Galyna/ShutterstockEven if he's the same breed and looks exactly the same, he will be completely different from your other dogs. He may have bad habits or weird tendencies that your old dogs never had. He may not like to have is belly rubbed or he may be afraid of loud noises. No two dogs are the same, regardless of breed, and you should not expect your new dog to be anything like your previous dogs.

You may not know what breed your pup is

Thaspol-Sangsee/ShutterstockSome rescue dogs have so many different breeds in their family trees, even the vet won't be able to tell what she is. And while, knowing breed can be helpful in knowing what kind of behaviors to expect (herding dogs vs guarding dogs, for example) or how large your tiny up will grow up to be (even 70-pound dogs start out as tiny 5-pound puppies), lots of mixed breeds are so mixed that breed-specific tendencies have been watered down. It is vital however, that if you are looking for specific breeds, that you do your research. Some breeds are not appropriate for families with small children, or other small animals, or even other dogs. If you have your heart set on a particular breed, try reaching out to a rescue group that focuses on that breed (for example, adoptaboxerrescue.com).

She may have health problems

Lucky968/ShutterstockRescue organizations do their best to have every dog in their care checked by a veterinarian, but those vet checks don't include blood work or allergy tests or anything beyond a routine physical exam. Usually, if a severe health problem is discovered, the rescue organization will take the dog back, but if you keep your pet, treatment will likely be at your own expense. Regardless of how healthy your new pet may seem, a visit to your vet in the first week is a must to make sure your new furry friend, especially a puppy) is current on shots.

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It may be up to you to have your dog spayed or neutered

padu_foto/ShutterstockMany rescue groups and animal shelters routinely spay or neuter all dogs in their care. Others don't have the resources or, if you're adopting a puppy, it may be too young to have the surgery. If that's the case, ask your vet if there are low-cost spay and neuter programs in the area. Find out the 50 things your vet won't tell you.

Your new dog may need a license

korkai-HD/ShutterstockMany cities and municipalities require all dogs to have a license. Check with your town hall or hometown website shortly after bringing your pup home.

Your new dog will love you

Helen-Sushitskaya/ShutterstockAfter the transition period is over and everyone is used to each other and rules and boundaries have been established, your rescue has the potential to be the most loyal and loving pet you've ever had.

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