Meeting rescue dog.

You’re ready to adopt a new pet! Congratulations. Of course, your first thought is probably to check out our local shelter, and we couldn’t agree more. Shelters and rescue organizations have many loving and wonderful pets of every size, shape, and personality just waiting for their forever homes.

Adopting a shelter pet is most successful if a little planning and preparation takes place before you set foot in the building. Felton Veterinary Hospital is ready to be your tour guide along the journey of adopting a shelter pet. 

Know Before You Go

All in the family – talking with your family is the first step. Hold a family meeting specifically about adopting a shelter pet. Make sure everyone is on board and that responsibilities are clear. Who will take care of the pet each day? Who will take her to the vet? Dogs live up to 15 years and cats well into their twenties. It’s important that everyone in your household is ready for that kind of daily commitment.

Do your research – consider your own lifestyle. Do you own or rent your home? We all know how tricky it is to find a rental with pets in our area. How much free time do you have to dedicate to pet care? What are your family’s needs? Then, research different breeds and species of pet to find one that will fit into your life well. Call us for recommendations; we are breed experts!

Pet proof your home – new pets of any age are unpredictable, and you won’t want your new pet to get into things that can break or that can hurt him. Gate off any areas you don’t want your new pet to access before you bring her home. Place valuables and hazardous substances far out of reach.

Learn the basics – there are several essential items you should have before bringing a new pet home. A high quality diet, food and water dishes, leashes and collar, a litter box, and toys and chews are all important gear to have on hand.

The lay of the land – most shelters and rescue organizations have all their adoptable pets listed on their websites. It may be helpful to peruse this ahead of time, so you can ask shelter workers to see specific pets. Shelters are busy, overwhelming places, so a little prep can make things easier for you once you go.

A Trip to The Shelter

Nothing is more exciting than going to pick out your new pet. Here are our best tips for adopting a shelter pet.

Make new friends – with the shelter workers, that is. No one knows the pets at the shelter better than they do, and they can often help make your perfect match. 

A grain of salt – take each pet’s personality while at the shelter with a grain of salt. Shelters are busy and noisy, and many pets use coping mechanisms such as tail tucking, barking, or aloofness. Remember that a pet’s personality may not be what you see in the shelter environment. If you’re looking at dogs, ask to take the ones you like for a short walk (individually). You can tell a lot about a dog’s energy, personality, and activity level on a 10 minute walk. 

Black is the new black – for whatever reason, pets with black coat colors are often overlooked at shelters. Don’t ignore the darker coated pets – one might just steal your heart!

A golden oldie – take a close look at middle aged or older pets. Many of these senior pets end up in the shelter only when an aging owner can no longer care for them. They are often housebroken, have trained at least one human, and are wonderful, loving companions. 

Adopting a Shelter Pet

Congratulations! You’ve met and adopted your new best friend. Now what?

A slow start – give your new pet time to get acclimated to your home and immediate family. Don’t throw a new pet party or take them out to meet the neighbors right away. A couple of weeks of quiet time is in order, to allow them space to get comfortable. Don’t be surprised if your new pet hides when you bring her home. And give us a call for tips on introducing your new pet to your existing pets. 

Establish a routine – a routine of feeding (where, what, and how often), going out to the bathroom, sleeping (where) and play/ social time is important to help your pet acclimate. With love, gentleness and stability you’ll see their true personality come out. 

Bring them in – one outing that should be the exception is a visit to see us, hopefully within 48 hours of adoption. We can help the transition by making sure your pet is protected from infectious disease and parasites, and that they are healthy and well. We can also answer any of your questions about behavior, nutrition, and wellness. And, we can make sure your new pet has a great first experience with their new veterinarian – one that will last throughout their lifetime!

Go to a training class – especially if you’re a new pet owner, a training class can be eye opening and a huge relief. Not only is it fun to get to know your new pet, it’s important to know some basic positive training skills so that your new pet feels confident and secure in your kind leadership. The more common language you share with your pet, the fewer behavioral issues you’ll experience – and the happier your pet will be, too. 

Keep in touch most shelters welcome questions about a pet that they’ve adopted out. If something doesn’t seem right, they are often more than willing to help. And, most shelter workers and organizations love to get updates on the pets they have helped. It’s rewarding to know that a pet they’ve known is in a forever, loving home. Shelter work is often thankless work, so these updates and pictures are worth their weight in gold.

If you have any questions about adopting a shelter pet – whether before, during, or after – please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to give you whatever support we can. And, we are looking forward to caring for your new pet now and in the future!