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5 Things I Wish Dog Rescue Groups Would Never Do

I’m not surprised when people are frustrated with rescue groups.

I can totally see where they’re coming from. You know, like, you’re excited to adopt a dog, thinking you’re doing a good thing by saving his life even, and then … Bam! Rejected!

Dog rescue people have a bad rap of being shall we say, socially awkward.

Like, poor people skills, major attitudes and clinging to dogs with all their life because no one is good enough for them. That kind of nutty.

Sometimes I drag my husband to dog rescue fundraising events and it’s embarrassing how well some of these other volunteers meet that stereotype!!

He and I just kind of glance at each other sometimes because there really are no words.

So, I’m going to write this post in the kindest way possible because I know dog rescue volunteers have big hearts (I’m a rescue volunteer myself).

It’s just easy to lose touch with reality sometimes. I get it, we all love the dogs and want what’s best for them.

But …

5 things I wish dog rescue groups never did

Dog rescue groups

1. Criticize someone for returning a dog.

It’s extremely difficult emotionally to return a dog.

Returning a dog makes you feel like a failure. Here is this poor dog that’s been abandoned or mistreated (in your mind anyway), and all you want to do is love him and give him a good home.

Only, he’s trying to kill your cat or he’s able to bust out of his crate or he’s barking nonstop.

These are things you can’t always predict or plan for. And guess what? Even the most experienced dog owner is not going to be excited about separation anxiety or cat aggression.

Returning the dog is sometimes the responsible and best thing to do, so it makes me sad to see rescue volunteers bashing people on facebook for returning a dog that wasn’t a good match.

2. Holding double standards.

This one’s frustrating.

So, if you volunteer to foster dogs and you have 7 dogs total in your home at any given time (your 4 dogs + 3 fosters) you’re viewed as a hero among rescue volunteers. And you probably should be because God knows I could never care for 7 dogs.

But then … if a potential adopter applies for a dog and writes that she has 4 cats and 2 dogs already … well, she might end up getting rejected for being “over the pet limit.” Especially if she’s in an apartment or within city limits.

All I’m saying is let’s judge each situation by the level of care the animals are receiving. The number of animals isn’t really the issue. It’s how they’re cared for.

3. Making excuses for aggressive dogs.

I’m not talking about dogs with obvious, severe aggression.

I’m talking about the dogs that are a bit more under the radar by showing less serious reactivity or resource guarding here and there that’s brushed aside time and time again.

Often, the rescue board members will blame the foster volunteer, not the dog. “So and so should’ve known better.” Or, “this happened only because of the resident dog” or “the kids must’ve been too rough.”


A bite is a bite.

Sure, people make mistakes but all nips and bites and snarls should be discussed and taken seriously. And adopters need to be aware of all these little “quirks” no matter how minor they might be and no matter whose “fault” it was.

5 things I wish dog rescue groups never did

4. Introducing new dogs head on, face to face.

I know this one comes down to knowledge of dog behavior and experience. I can’t blame people for not knowing any better.

But if I could shout anything to rescue volunteers from the rooftops, it would be “Introduce new dogs slowly by walking them side by side!!!!”

These introductions can make or break an adoption.

If either dog snaps at the other, the adoption usually won’t happen. This can be avoided by a slow walk around the parking lot and then doing an intro after 10 minutes. DO NOT RUSH INTROS!

5. Not stepping back to re-evaluate their own adoption policies.

Times change.

If rescue groups don’t take a step back to re-evaluate their own intake policies, adoption policies, marketing procedures, public relations, budgeting, fundraising, etc., the dogs will suffer.

It’s important for any business, team, school, church or nonprofit to pause, slow down and evaluate how things are going at least twice a year. Rescue groups need to make it a priority to do the same.

If you’re so busy you can’t take two hours to evaluate your own organization, something is seriously wrong.

Maybe everything’s going great. How can you be sure if you don’t take the time to evaluate?

So those are my 5 main issues.

Really there are probably more but I better stop here before I say too much.

Let me know if you can relate to any of these or what you’d add to the list.

Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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