Published: January 11, 2024  

Last updated: January 11, 2024  

Adopting a dog is a life-changing decision, filled with excitement and anticipation. While the idea of giving a pup a second chance at a happy life is heartwarming, the journey to adopt from a rescue can be unexpectedly challenging. 

So why do rescue groups and animal shelters make it so hard to adopt a dog? Shouldn’t it be enough that you will love the dog and give them a safe home?

Let’s explore both sides, from the rescue perspective and yours, the good hearted person just wanting to give a dog a good home. 

black shelter dog behind bars looking up

The Adoption Application Maze

Rescue organizations typically have a thorough adoption process, including a detailed application form with a lot of questions. These adoption application and interview process can be extensive and invasive, with questions probing into their living situation, daily routines, and even financial stability.  Some rescues will even perform background checks. 

While it might seem like an interrogation, the goal is to ensure that the pup finds a suitable forever home. The key is to be patient and understand that these questions are aimed at ensuring a good match for both the adopter and the dog.

Some people get so frustrated with the application process they opt to get their dog from a pet store or breeder.

Crazy Specific Requirements

From the perspective of the rescue, they put specific requirements in place to ensure the dog is a good fit for your family and situation. 

In my experience, breed-specific rescues and small rescue organizations have the most specific requirements. The most common requirements are a fenced yard, no young children, or owning your own home. This can be a good idea depending on the dog’s personality and needs. 

Another adoption requirement I’ve heard about is that your current pets must be up to date with vaccinations and won’t consider titer testing as an alternative. 

I do feel there’s a point where the rescue needs to have some flexibility and understanding of the big picture. But in the end it is their organization and they can do as they see as the best solution for the dogs in their care. 

brown shelter dog laying on blue blanket

The Home Visit Dilemma

One aspect that often catches potential adopters off guard is the home visit requirement. Some rescues conduct home visits to assess the living conditions and verify the information provided in the application. 

While this may feel like an invasion of privacy, it is essential to remember that the rescue’s primary concern is the well-being of the pup. A tidy and safe living space is an indicator of a responsible pet parent, and this step is taken to ensure that the dog will thrive in its new environment.

Performing home visits is one of my volunteer positions with the rescue I work with. Since 2020, we now do them virtually, which feels a little less invasive. From my perspective, it gives me a better feel on the potential adoptees energy levels, personality and how care for any current animals in the home. All things that help us find the right dog for them. I can also point out any areas that may need to be dog-proofed.  

The Waiting Game

Once the application is submitted and the home visit is completed, the waiting game begins. The lengthy waiting periods between application submission and approval can be frustrating, leaving potential adopters anxious and uncertain. 

Rescues often have limited resources, relying on volunteers who dedicate their time to process applications. While the anticipation can be challenging, it’s crucial to stay patient and trust the process. I get it, when most people decide they want to get a dog, they want it NOW. It’s hard to wait. 

But waiting is a good thing, it means you can take the time to make the right decision because when adopting a dog in the heat of the moment, you can end up with a dog that is not a good fit for you and your family.

Adopting a Dog Process application denied

Understanding Rejection

Rejection is a harsh reality in the adoption process. Not every application is approved, and potential adopters may find themselves facing disappointment. 

Understanding the reasons for rejection is vital for personal growth and improvement. So don’t be afraid to ask the rescue the reasoning behind the denied application.

Common reasons include a mismatch in lifestyle, lack of experience with certain breeds, or concerns about the safety of the living environment. 

Instead of dwelling on rejection, use it as an opportunity to learn and reassess your readiness for becoming a dog owner.

If you feel your application was rejected for no good reason, then search for a different rescue. There are thousands upon thousands of dogs in need of a home. Keep your head up and don’t give up. You will find a new rescue dog that is the right fit. 

Adoption Fees

Another stumbling block in the adoption journey is the cost of adoption. Most rescue organizations and local shelters require an adoption fee to cover the costs associated with veterinary care, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and other necessary expenses. 

Some potential adopters might be caught off guard by these fees, leading to a financial strain that they didn’t anticipate. It’s crucial to be aware of the costs associated with adoption and plan accordingly, ensuring that you can provide the necessary care for your new pup.

Check out our Dog Adoption Cost Chart

Dealing with Behavioral Challenges

Rescue dogs often come with a unique set of challenges, including behavioral issues that stem from their past experiences. It’s essential to be prepared for potential behavioral problems such as separation anxiety, extreme fear, or aggression. 

Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key when helping your new pup overcome these challenges. Some adopters may find themselves unprepared for the time and effort required to rehabilitate a dog with behavioral issues, leading to frustration and disappointment.

The Unforeseen Health Issues

While rescues strive to provide the best care for their dogs, unforeseen health issues can arise. Some adopters may discover that their new pup requires medical attention, leading to unexpected vet bills. 

It’s essential to be financially prepared for potential health issues and consider investing in pet insurance to alleviate some of the financial burden. Understanding that no dog is immune to health concerns allows adopters to approach the situation with resilience and commitment.

The Emotional Rollercoaster

Adopting a dog is an emotional journey filled with highs and lows. The initial excitement of finding the perfect pup can be followed by moments of doubt, frustration, and even regret

It’s crucial to recognize that the emotional rollercoaster is a normal part of the adoption process. Building a strong support system, seeking advice from experienced dog owners, and participating in training classes can help navigate the emotional challenges and ensure a successful bond with your new dog.

A Rewarding Journey Despite the Hurdles

While adopting a dog from a rescue may present various challenges, the rewards far outweigh the hurdles. The satisfaction of providing a loving home to a pup in need, witnessing their transformation, and building a lifelong bond make the journey worthwhile. 

By understanding and embracing the complexities of the adoption process, prospective dog parents can navigate the path with confidence, ultimately giving a deserving dog a second chance at a happy and fulfilling life.

Rescue Dogs 101 has an entire library of resources to help in your journey of adopting a dog for the first time or for the tenth. 

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About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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