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Providing a loving home to a dog in need is an incredible feat. Often, the best way to adopt a dog is through your local shelter or a rescue organization. These places usually have staff that work selflessly to find forever homes for dogs. However, some raise red flags that indicate they aren’t good places to adopt a dog.
Watching out for warning signs in rescues and shelters is crucial. Otherwise, you might be giving adoption fees to irresponsible organizations that run their operations to make money rather than think about the good of the dogs under their wings.
This article will list the common red flags you shouldn’t miss when adopting a dog. Read on to keep yourself informed before bringing home a new furry friend.
Be Aware of These Signs When Adopting a Dog
You’re likely to come across numerous red flags when adopting a dog. For instance, some shelters are happy to let dogs go without asking any questions.
Make sure to be aware of the following red flags when adopting a dog.
1. Downplaying Behavioral Issues
As you browse ads or talk with the shelter staff, they might use careful language to describe the dog’s behavior. Watch out if they choose statements like “protective” or “loves being around people” or other language to downplay behavioral issues like resource guarding or severe separation anxiety.
Behavioral issues like these are expected with dogs up for adoption, and you can always train a dog no matter their age. However, these tricky descriptions may mislead you about the dog’s personality and behavior.
Novice dog owners should be particularly cautious with dogs displaying severe behavioral issues. Some behavioral issues like aggressiveness or destructive behavior are particularly difficult to handle for inexperienced dog owners.
Before adopting, it’s important to ask questions about the dog’s personality and demeanor. Spend as much time as possible with the dog before adopting to observe their behavior. Doing this can also help you determine if you two are a good match for each other.
2. Missing Information About the Organization/Shelter
Shelters and organizations with dogs up for adoption are generally active and always want their voices heard. They try reaching out to as many people as possible to increase the chances of finding forever homes for their pups.
If you can’t find any information about the organization or group that listed the dog, it’s a major red flag – especially if there’s an adoption fee involved. Puppy mills are often disguised as adoption groups and want to give dogs away quickly for a price.
This is something to watch for if you’re adopting a dog online. It’s best to stay away from individuals selling dogs and unregistered organizations with no online presence. If you don’t know where to adopt a dog, your local shelter or AKC’s Rescue Network are good places to start.
3. You Are Pressured or Manipulated to Adopt
Avoid shelters and rescue groups that pressure or manipulate you into adopting. You should adopt a dog with excitement and joy, not because someone manipulates you with a heart-breaking story or makes you feel nobody will take a particular dog.
Be cautious of shelters or rescue groups that use heart-wrenching stories or emotional tactics to manipulate you into adopting. Sure, rescues and shelters will post information about a dog’s backstory and share if they’ve been pulled from a bad situation. However, it’s best to walk away if they are overly dramatic about it.
It may be difficult to resist the urge to adopt a dog that has faced tough times, but you shouldn’t do it just because you feel sorry for them. Adopting a dog isn’t about which dog has the most dramatic story. It’s about accepting a four-legged companion into your family that fits your life.
4. Missing Information About the Dog’s Health
Dogs made available for adoption usually receive an initial medical exam and a round of vaccines just to be safe. Some organizations also implant microchips if the dog doesn’t already have one. These are green flags that indicate where you’re adopting provide dogs with medical attention and prioritize their health.
The past medical records of the dogs may not always be available, especially with dogs that are rescued. However, shelters and organizations should at least know the general health of a dog.
A dog with health problems isn’t a red flag – inadequate information about their health and problems they might be having is. If a dog has health problems, the adoption center must keep you in the loop.
As with behavior, observe the dog and look for any discomfort or abnormal behavior that might indicate health problems. You can look for specific health conditions the breed is prone to, for example. If you see anything off, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
5. Insufficient Basic Information
Adoption centers have a clear description of where the dog came from, their personality, behavior, age, and breed. If the basic information of the dog is missing, you better be careful with your decision.
Although the background of the dog may not always be clear, shelters and rescues should know how the dog ended up in their hands. It’s a major red flag if they’re as clueless as you about the dog’s history when asked.
The same goes for the dog’s age, breed, and behavior. Reputable rescues and shelters always make an initial assessment of dogs to determine their basic information. When these are missing, it’s your sign to look elsewhere to adopt a dog.
6. You Aren’t Assessed as a Forever Home
As you look for red flags, the adoption centers do the same. They want to make sure their dogs go to a forever home and ask many questions to ensure you’re the right fit. If you aren’t vetted and can walk out the door with the dog after paying the adoption fee – no questions asked – it’s a major red flag.
Shelters and rescues with a good reputation always ask questions about you, your home, and your reasons for adopting a dog. Since it can devastate a dog to be returned back to after some time, they aim to ensure you’re the perfect candidate.
While it might be overwhelming to go through the screening process and answer questions, it’s for the good of the pups waiting for a loving home. So, if a rescue or shelter asks a lot of questions or comes to visit you, it’s a good sign.
7. You Can’t Meet the Dog in Person
It raises a red flag when you reach out to the adoption center and want to see the dog in person but you aren’t allowed. There can be honest reasons why this might be the case, however.
It makes sense that you’re not allowed if the dog is undergoing a medical procedure or training for rehabilitation. However, if you can’t meet the dog in person without a valid reason, you’re likely to come across challenges later.
Additionally, meeting the dog in person may not always be possible. For example, when you want to adopt a dog from a different state or abroad. In these cases, the organization should be very clear about the dog’s description.
Dog Breeder Red Flags
The above red flags are a must to watch out for when adopting a dog from rescues and shelters. If you plan to get a dog from a breeder, there are also warning signs you need to be aware of to avoid contributing to irresponsible breeding.
The following are the major red flags when choosing a dog breeder.
1. They Post Many Ads on Social Media and Local Listings
Reputable dog breeders don’t need to post ads to market their puppies. They usually have people signed up for their waitlist and aren’t rushing to find people to take their puppies. If a breeder relies on ads, it’s a red flag that might indicate irresponsible breeding.
2. They Have No Records
Good dog breeders have a website or – at the very least – an established social media presence where you can learn more about their business and services. If they don’t have any online records and use their personal social media profiles to present available puppies, they might be backyard breeders. It’s best to avoid them and look elsewhere.
3. You Can’t Meet the Dog Parents in Person
If you only get some pictures and videos when asked about the parents of the puppies, it isn’t a good sign. A reputable dog breeder wouldn’t have any problems with you getting to know the parents of the puppies. Unless there’s a good reason you can’t meet the dog’s parents in person, it’s a red flag to watch out for.
4. They Have Many Available Puppies
One of the signs of a puppy mill is how many puppies are available at a time. If the breeder presents you with an overwhelming number of puppies, place your attention elsewhere. Reputable dog breeders never overbreed their dogs and have breeding schedules that require prospective adopters to sign up for their waitlist.
5. You Don’t Get Any Guarantees
Reputable dog breeders offer guarantees through written contracts. Typically, these guarantees provide protection such as refunds, exchanges, or partial payments in case of genetic diseases up until a certain age.
On the other hand, backyard breeders usually lack written contracts and don’t offer any support after getting the puppy. Even if they do, it’s only verbal promises.
Additional Considerations for a Successful Adoption
While it’s important to look for red flags in the shelter and breeders, the dog you’re adopting should be a good match for you and your life circumstances.
Dogs come in different sizes, breeds, and needs. Some are energetic and require a lot of exercise; some are lazy but have demanding coats or or drool excessively. The dog you’re adopting should match your lifestyle and fit right into your family.
Here are some of the considerations to make to ensure the adoption is successful in the long-term.
- Age: Puppies are adorable but require a lot of attention and training. Older dogs demand less, but your time with them might be more limited.
- Your other pets: Consider your other pets in the family. Dogs with a strong prey drive might not do well with smaller animals like guinea pigs and hamsters, for example. The same works the other way around. It isn’t a good idea to bring home a Chihuahua when you have a Great Dane.
- Exercise needs: A Belgian Malinois certainly isn’t the right fit for someone with a laid-back life. The exercise needs of the dog you’re adopting should match your activity level. Otherwise, you will have a dog that exhibits destructive behaviors or another that wants to stop you during walks.
- Allergy and grooming: Dogs that need regular grooming require frequent trips to the groomer, which can be an added expense. Dogs that shed heavily can trigger allergies or make it difficult to keep a small apartment clean. These are important considerations to make before adopting a dog.
Take Your Time and Do Your Research
Before bringing home your new furry four-legged friend, get the necessary supplies, research the dog’s previous owners, and don’t rush the process. Take your time to plan ahead and list some of the bonding activities that can help you build trust and connection.
Adopting a dog is a rewarding experience that will set you up for years of joy. But it’s important to use both your heart and head during the adoption process.
Our article listed some of the most common red flags when adopting a dog that can help you weed out the bad shelters and rescues and breeders. Make sure to look for these in the places you plan to adopt a dog.