For me, rescuing a dog was harder than I thought.

Part of the reason was that I wasn’t too picky about the breed. My main criteria was that the dog is good with kids. allows you to search rescue dogs by zip code, breed, and sex while also allowing you to indicate if you need the dog to be house trained and good with kids.

This is how we found our new dog, Scooby.

Tips for rescuing a dog

Here is some advice I have if you’re going to rescue a dog.

Be Patient

It may take a while for some rescues to respond to your inquiries. Be sure to fill out their applications when you indicate interest, to speed up the process.

Remember that most rescues are volunteer run and likely overwhelmed.

Also, the rescues know that you’re serious when you fill out an application. They may even start to send you dogs via email that never make it online because they are highly desirable.

Be Persistent

I phoned and cyber-stalked a rescue until they finally told me a dog I was interested in wasn’t available (3 weeks later).

You can get attached to dogs on (or other websites) without actually meeting them. It was important for me to be sure that the one I picked was “the one.” Persevere with patience, and you’ll find him or her. Don’t give up immediately if you don’t hear back.

Don’t Get Attached

Keep in mind that dogs shown as available online might not be. I received a lot of emails back saying that the particular dog I was interested in was adopted weeks/months ago.

These rescues, bless them, can’t always update information quickly or return your calls promptly. Or, at places like Helen Woodward, dogs can get adopted very quickly.

We fell totally in love with a dog while there, but while we were waiting at the counter to ask if we could meet him, someone adopted him.

Decide Where The Dog Will Sleep

If you intend to have the dog sleep outside or in the garage, most rescues aren’t going to go for that. They have a strong preference for the dog to sleep inside with you.

Realize that a lot of dogs snore. Scooby snores more loudly than my husband, so I wear earplugs.

Verifying Breed

You can DNA test your dog if you want to be sure of what breed he or she is. The kits can be ordered online.

After swabbing your dog’s mouth, you can send the kit away and receive results back in a matter of days. I’ve read that these are not 100% reliable and only certain breeds (though a lot) can be recognized.

Scooby is supposedly part American Bull Dog (the larger kind without the scrunched up face), but some of the tests I looked at won’t detect this breed.

I thought it would be a fun family project, but I am going to pass since it’s not likely to be accurate in our case.

Sleep On It

If I could have, I would have walked away with Scooby on the day we met him.

However, I am glad we stepped away so that I could fully wrap my head around what we were about to do because he’s a larger dog (70 lbs) than I thought we’d wind up with. (I realize that sometimes waiting isn’t an option.)

Don’t Stress About the Home Check

Before we were allowed to take Scooby home, a volunteer came to our house to see if it was appropriate.

They aren’t looking to see if your bathroom mirrors are streaked. I painstakingly cleaned the entire house,  but on hindsight, I laugh.

They’re looking to see if your house is what you indicated on the application, and that there isn’t anything dangerous about it.

Consider Pet insurance

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It’s not expensive and might be worth it for you. It’s complicated, and some don’t cover routine care (while those that do don’t fully cover it), but if you had a medical emergency, pet insurance could save you a bundle.

And, if you’re rescuing, the insurance companies let you approximate the age of the dog and choose a standard option of mixed breed (which is less expensive).

We chose Petplan pet insurance, and it’s been a literal lifesaver. Later on, we learned that Scooby has allergies. It covers his monthly medicine and occasional skin laser treatments. He also had TPLO surgery, and it covered most of that. Please consider some pet insurance before you have an incident.

Be Home

I’m so glad we’re in a position to be home. Scooby has been a low maintenance dog, but he is my shadow.

Every day, he became more comfortable. Leaving him home, in the beginning, was not a great idea because he became incredibly stressed.

He doesn’t bark so it took us a while to understand when he needs to go outside, and we missed his cues a few times.

He likes to snuggle with blankets. I laid one on the ground in our room, and he had the best night of sleep yet. He snored from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., when I woke him up.

Be Social

The one thing that cracks me up is how many La Jollans carry Scooby snacks in their handbags even when they don’t have their dogs with them.

We have been the beneficiary of many an organic snack, so I need to make a point of returning the favor. It’s important to safely socialize rescue dogs with other people and dogs. Find a professional to help you do this if your dog isn’t ready.

Be Mindful

A few issues surfaced as he settled into our home.

He is acutely sensitive to other people bringing stress into the home and does not like men with hats and sunglasses. I’m not sure if these two issues stem from his past, but through some serious training, we’re still working through it. Just be aware that something might crop up later, as the dog gets settled.

Scooby came from The Barking Lot rescue in El Cajon. We received personalized attention during our visit. We came specifically to meet him, but they also gladly introduced us to other rescue dogs they thought we’d like so that we could be sure. I couldn’t ask for an easier, nicer, smarter dog and it just makes me sad that he was rescued from a kill shelter. He is fantastic with my daughter, and they are snuggling as I type this.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Pingback: 8 Tips For Rescuing a Dog
  2. Yay for Scooby! I was very hesitant to adopt a rescue dog, was worried about behavioral and health problems. After adopting from San Diego Pug Rescue, I can’t imagine buying from a breeder again. Our rescue, Henry, is the absolute sweetest dog ever! I can’t imagine how anyone willingly let him go, but they did, and their loss has definitely been my family’s gain. I know Scoopy will bring you just as much joy.


    1. I could wax on all day about how much we love this dog! I have to contain myself. We just ran at La Jolla Shores and I’ve actually dropped a pound since he arrived with all the exercise.

  3. Awe, Scooby has the same coloring as my dog, Patch – also found at a rescue through

    Adopting a rescue is the best thing you’ll do!

    1. I agree Aimee! I intend to get more active with our local rescues. There are so many dogs that need homes out there.

  4. I’m so happy for you! Scooby is absolutely adorable! I’m a huge advocate for adoption and your post is so educational without being preachy. Congrats on the new addition to your home 🙂

  5. Congrats on the newest member of your family. I know that our search for Scout was a long and heartbreaking process but in the end we ended up with the perfect dog for our family. Rescuing/adopting is definitely the way to go!

  6. Pingback: 10 Tips for Pet Adoption: The First Steps in Being a Pack Leader | Aimee Desiree Press - ADP
  7. I have read this blog before a couple times and did not realize when we met that it was yours…. How cool! I am glad Farkus, now Scooby is doing so well. And thank you for the shout out to The Barking Lot. We LOVE to hear about success stories. XOXOXOX

  8. What a sweetie!! She looks like a pit to me – and I love pits (one of our dogs is part pit). Or maybe boxer. Or maybe both – and more!

    Both our dogs are rescues. They are now 11 and they have always been part of the family. But the snoring? SO LOUD!

    Congrats on your new furbaby!

    1. Thanks! They think American Bulldog/Staffordshire Terrier mix of some sort, but he does look like a Pitbull until you put him next to a Pitbull which happened at the dog park yesterday. Oh and yeah, he snores so thank goodness I wear ear plugs.

  9. Scooby is adorable. He looks like my Pit Bull mixes Marv and Goldie. They love to curl up in blankets also. Short haired dogs can get chilly, especially here in Montana. My dogs are my shadows they follow me everywhere around the house and patiently wait for me to go to bed at night. They love pillows. Goldie especially has to have a pillow to sleep on. They are the best dogs I’ve ever owned and i’ve had several dogs. Our’s are rescues as well. Almost all our pets have been rescues. Thanks for giving scooby a great home.

    1. Interesting you should say that Carol. We were out on a chilly day (for La Jolla) and I noticed him shivering. I just ordered him a warmer bed. My dogs growing up had long hair and just slept wherever with no problem. It makes sense, he barely has any hair!

  10. I recently was blessed with a rescue cocker spaniel “prince” from the Fl cocker rescue of Ft Lauderdale. He is truly the best dog we have ever had in our family! I sat in the Pet Smart in Boca Raton where they show the dogs every Sat and Sun and watched all the dogs. He was the most laid back and well behaved!!

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