Bringing a Pet Home from an Animal Shelter How to Bring Home a New Dog or Cat

Bringing a Pet Home from an Animal Shelter

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Adopting a pet from a shelter is a wonderful and generous thing to do, but it can sometimes be a challenge. Learn more about what to expect here at PetCareRX.

Adopting a pet from an animal shelter is a wonderful and generous act that can bring years of joy to you and your new friend alike. While transitioning any pet into a new home can be a challenge, shelter pets often require a little extra TLC to make sure that they will adjust comfortably to their new surroundings. With some thoughtful planning and actions, your new family member will feel at home in no time. Here are some tips:

do your homework Before going to shelters

While it may be tempting to wander into a shelter and take home the first puppy or kitten you lock eyes with, part of being a responsible pet parent is understanding the personality traits and special needs of specific breeds and making an informed choice about what type of animal will be the best fit for your home. Remember that a lot of animals you will see have found themselves in shelters simply because their previous owners did not make smart decisions about bringing them home in the first place. Ask yourself questions about your particular lifestyle, learn about different breeds, and be realistic about what kind of pet and breed will be appropriate for you and your family. For example, if you live in a small apartment, a large, boisterous dog whose breed typically needs a lot of room to run around will probably not be a good choice, no matter how adorable the dog may be. If you have small children, you will want to avoid choosing a breed that may be more aggressive or prone to biting. If you or a family member has allergies, you may want to focus on breeds with hypoallergenic coats.

ask questions about any pet you are considering bringing home

It is important to learn as much as you can about the history of a new pet so that you can plan for their special needs. Unfortunately, a lot of shelter pets have been mistreated or are not well socialized. If you know in advance that you will need to show extra patience to such an animal, it will be more likely that they will find a long and happy new life in your home. Also, make sure you know whether or not the shelter has provided vaccinations and spaying or neutering for your new pet, or whether or not you will need to take care of this on your own.

Make preparations before you bring your new pet home

It can be overwhelming for a dog or cat to come into a new home, particularly if you have other pets. To ease this transition, don't wait until you get your new pet home to realize you need to buy supplies -- have food, water, toys, kitty litter, scratching post, bed, etc. ready in advance. Set aside a small, contained, quiet space in your home where your new pet can spend their first couple of days getting used to you as well as the sounds and smells of their new surroundings. Once they are comfortable in this small space, you can gradually expand the boundaries and ease them into having access to the rest of your house.

Introduce pets gradually

Introducing your new pet to any existing pets should be done carefully and gradually. Never assume that the animals will just be able to "work it out" if placed in a room together. Keep in mind that dogs and cats are territorial about spaces and about their humans. Pay attention, proceed slowly and calmly, and be ready to jump in and intercede if a conflict occurs. Give existing and new pets alike lots of love and attention, both separately and together, as they are getting to know each other so that they will not feel the need to compete for your affection. If you are taking a new dog out on a walk with your existing dog, take a friend along the first few times so that you have the option to physically separate the dogs if any unexpected conflict arises. Even after they have adjusted to the idea of sharing their home and you, it is always a good idea to have a separate food bowl for each pet to avoid conflict or competition over food.

Welcoming a pet from the shelter into your home may take a little extra planning and love on your part, but doing so will ensure many happy years to come for both your pet and your family.

3 Common Shelter Dog Breeds to Adopt

Thinking about getting a dog? Think about adopting! When you adopt you not only save a life, you also save money. Dogs adopted from shelters or rescue groups are much less expensive than those bought from pet stores or through breeders, and because most shelters take care of spaying/neutering and vaccinations, the initial health care costs will be less, too. Of course, when you adopt a dog from a shelter you won’t necessarily get the “ideal” dog that you have in your mind: a perfectly pudgy French Bulldog puppy? A soft and fluffy Labradoodle? You might see these dogs at the shelter, but it’s not as likely as seeing one of the breeds below. These are the breeds that end up in shelters most often, for a variety of reasons, and well, they just don’t deserve it. If you’re a dog lover, consider loving one of the common shelter dog breeds below.

1. Pit BullCommon shelter dog breeds: Pit Bull

These widely misunderstood dogs are perhaps the biggest populators of shelters across America. According to the ASPCA, 35% of shelters take in at least one Pit Bull a day, and in one out of four shelters, Pit Bulls make up more than 20 percent of the dog population. Why are there so many? The main reason is irresponsible breeding by individuals who are only interested in Pit Bulls for one of two reasons: fighting or protection. But these common shelter dogs are not inherently dangerous; with the proper training applied from a young age (just as you should with any other dog), they can be incredibly gentle, obedient, and friendly -- and they are even great with children.

RELATED STORY: 10 Questions to Ask When Adopting a Dog 

2. ChihuahuaCommon shelter dog breeds: Chihuahua

It might be difficult to imagine someone kicking a tiny Chihuahua out of the house or dropping it off at the shelter, but in California alone, Chihuahuas make up about 30% of the shelter dog population. This is likely the result of unprepared owners who think that a small dog won’t be much work, and when they find out that taking care of a Chihuahua is not unlike taking care of a larger dog, they send it packing. Chihuahuas are strong-willed dogs who require a strong leader, but with the right training, they can be fun, lively, and affectionate companions.

3. German Shepherdgermanshepherd

Like the Pit Bull, the German Shepherd is commonly purchased or adopted with a job in mind: protection. However, German Shepherds are intelligent, sociable dogs who crave companionship and require lots of stimulation. Many owners soon realize that they can’t just plunk their Shepherd down on the front porch and leave it to its own devices. Without proper training and exercise, these dogs can become destructive, and an undedicated owner may decide dropping them at the shelter is easier than putting in the work. This is especially unfortunate given that one of the German Shepherd's greatest traits is loyalty.

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What are the most common shelter dog breeds in your area? Leave a comment and let us know. And if you’re getting ready to adopt a pet, consider signing up for PetPlus! PetPlus is a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. Learn more at

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