Etiquette for Applying to and Dealing with Rescue and Shelter People

Yesterday, I had a lengthy and understandably difficult conversation, with an intelligent, highly articulate and obviously educated woman about the treatment she received from a rescue person over a dog she wanted to adopt.


This woman, we’ll call her H., had applied for a dog in a rescue organization and was basically told she was not qualified, basically, because she asked questions. Imagine!


The first thing everyone should remember is, it is very difficult to correspond with a rescue or shelter.


“WHAT?” You might say, “If I don’t correspond with them how will I ask questions or inquire about a dog I am interested in?”


The easy answer to this is…you can’t…or better yet, you shouldn’t.


Rescue and shelter people are, in most cases, volunteers. They may have jobs and families and do rescue in their spare time. Their spare time is just that…spare or sparse. You need to read what is in the listing with the dog. If it says, “No Children” and you have kids. Don’t apply or even ask
questions, as you probably will not even hear back. There is usually a reason why it says no kids. The same with “Fence required.” If you do not have a fence or only have an e-fence, they will not adopt to you. Period! Trying to discuss
it is not your best option.


Sometimes, even if everything on your application is perfect, you still may or may not be contacted. They get many applications over the course of a week, especially on highly adoptable dogs. Often a rescue or shelter will scan them, pile them in a “reject” or “possible” pile to be looked at further.


So, what should you do? You should send in the best application you can to match what they are looking for. Try not to only answer “Yes” or “No” on the questions. Answer in full sentences and give details. Fill in all the questions and don’t leave blanks. When I was reviewing applications I always felt more was better, than incomplete or short answers. If one

question asks something like, “Is there anything else you wish to tell us?” or
something to this effect…answer it and put in all your reasons you really want
this dog. One line on H’s application that would have had me put it in the
“possible” pile is this: “I want a new schmoopie to love and spoil (other
than my husband!)” It may sound silly, but this one line tells me she would
love a dog. Don’t be afraid of putting your real feelings in the application. 


You might say, “Don’t they want to find homes for these dogs? Why do they put me through the ringer? It is harder than adopting a child!”


The answer is because they care about the dog. He or she is their priority and finding the right home so that the dog does not come back to their program or worse, is returned to a kill-shelter, is the main goal of most rescuers. You are not their priority and it is a little like adopting a child

and you should look at it this way, also. Most rescue people believe in a Lifetime Commitment and want that for the dogs in their program.


Many rescue people foster the animals in their own homes and become very attached to them. I know I do with my foster dogs. They know the personality of the dog, how it gets along with other dogs or cats in the house and how he interacts with people or children in the house. The foster has
“tested” the dog to see if he or she can be hand fed, if he can be touched while eating or have something taken it out of his mouth. They will walk them to see if they are agreeable to leash walking or if skittish to it, the rescue may insist on a fence for the dog. Other dogs are less jittery and can be
walked and trusted but many rescue dogs are scared of new people and situations and will bolt and run if not in an enclosed area, especially until that bonding
has taken place. It usually takes a rescued dog between 2-4 weeks to know their
territory and feel they are home.


These are the reasons why the dog is listed as “No kids,” or “No Cats,” or “Fence required” because the rescue or shelter has decided this by the needs and actions of the dog. As hard as it is, you will need to respect that and if you don’t match those requirements, please don’t apply for the dog.


Fill out applications but don’t send notes that say, “Can you tell me more?” They may not know more. Don’t ask, “Can I meet this dog?” If you are a “possible,” they will contact you. Many times, you might not hear anything at all but you shouldn’t take that to mean that there is something wrong with you. It may just mean that you were not a match for that dog or they

found someone was a better match. That is why I tell people to fill out many applications.


Sending in many applications to many rescues and/or shelters will increase your chances of being picked for one or more dogs. Plus, once an application is approved, most rescues and shelters will keep your app on file for the next dog that comes along that does meet your needs, if this one does not.


If you are called and it is not a right fit this time, you can always decline, but if it is a right match, you will have found your Forever Friend and that is everyone’s goal after all.


Lynne Fowler

The Rescue Resource Collective

Oodles of




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Well said Lynne, and with me being someone looking this is excellent information.

I would like to add that I am in the process of adopting my twin boys and believe me, we have to go through a lot more. We had to take a mandated state approved 12week class as well as have a home study and background check complete with criminal background and finger printing BEFORE we were ever given a license to foster. We also had to have cpr/first aid and given a complete checkup by a physician. We have to maintain 24 hours of learning each per year and maintain our cpr/first aid certificate. And dont forget the case workers come in your home monthly for a "visit" and yearly to update your homestudy. Then we waited 1.5 years for the children to be matched to us. Adopting a dog is NOTHING like adopting a child. Our boys are now going on 3 and we are just now in the actual "adoption" stage that wont be final for atleast 2-3more months. That was a 3 year process because we got them at 6wks old.

Even though I have complaints and faults with some of the pet adoption rules, I understand them and I am willing to make some hoops in hopes that they are doing this equally with everyone and weeding out the truely bad. Im my area I know the shelters dont do checks and its a shame because it is a viscious cycle.
Thanks, Krista. I appreciate your analogy to adopting a child. I think it really should be looked at as similar. Many people do not understand why it should be such a big deal to adopt a dog and what they do not understand is many rescues feel about these dogs like they are a child. That child in many instances has already been in one or more homes or was mistreated or abused, or even a puppy, we do not want that dog to have to go through it again. We want to make sure the home is right and the last home that dog will see.

There are some rescue and shelter people who are not very nice (just like in anything) but the majority of fosters, rescuers and shelter people DO have their hearts in the right place. Most are only in this "business" because they care about the animal and want to find the best FOREVER home for that animal and as I said, their priority is that dog and not people. You have to keep that in mind when applying. Someone once equated like this: "You are not buying a pair of shoes, but a life."

Adopters need to remember these things when they send note after note asking for more information, or sending follow-up after follow-up. This is NOT a customer service, business oriented transaction. All of it, from start to finish has to do with the heart and sometimes heartbreak costs much more than buying a pair of shoes that don't fit. If the dog is not a good fit, it will break that dogs heart. We all want to prevent that.
After 30 years in rescue I could write a book. I looked in my, "You Won't Believe This" rescue older and here are a few of the ones that floated my boat!

My husband used to be allergic to dogs, but he does not sneeze when he is around
our neighbor's dog. He does have a little trouble at my sister's house...sneezes.

Our 8 year old is frightened to pieces of dogs and we want to teach her not to be!

We want (name any kind of dog) because our neighbor's just got one and she's a doll!

We will only take a dog who is already trained. Don't want accidents, barking, etc.

Our dog is out of his crate three hours in the course of the day. We would like another fully crate trained dog and need the crate to come with the dog.

Fido is 14 and he doesn't like other dogs, but we think a puppy will cure him of that.

We are in the process of a divorce and a move. I think the children need the consistancy of a dog to love to help them get through these difficult days.

We have always used a soft muzzle on our dogs to protect the childrem when our dogs have been inside, we will be doing this again with our new friend.

We will take any dog as long as it doesn't bark.

Our chidren would like to experience the birth of puppies. We are really looking for a
pregnant dog about half way through her pregnancy. We have friends who will take the puppies.

Can we test the dog for about three months?

If I can't know everything about the dog's past, I don't want it. Niether does my husband.

No shedding, no shedding, no shedding, no shedding!

I really don't like to answer these questions, I feel this is all too personal.

After we adopt the dog will you help us with the Veterinarian bills? What if she gets
sick in a few years, please let me know.

Please Note: Our landlord said we could have a dog if he could meet the dog first and see if it is friendly. If it's friendly, we can keep it.

I need a very good watch dog. I live alone.

We don't want an overly friendly dog. A dog has to know it's place if you know what
I mean.

After a few months if it doesn't work out, will you take the dog back and return our

I must have close to 150 of these application statements...all of them give pause to me as a rescuer. Getting to the bottom of the issue takes time. The thing we don't usually have in rescue is time. If all of the other information looks good, I may try and work through these application statements, but if the conversation starts to get iffy, I must move to the next one. I speak for the dog. I cannot and will not put the dog at risk again. Adopters need to think very carefully about whether they are ready to bring a new friend into the house, is this the right time, are these the right
circumstances, will this dog fit easily, or will the dog be like a pair of tight shoes. The
application for a dog in rescue is one of the most important documents we recieve; certainly up there with the first of the documents used in placement. Next comes common sense. Not all people who apply for a rescue dog will get that dog. Red flags and warning language makes final placement both meaningful and a lasting relationship. Yes, applications are very important. And generally, if it isn't on the application it will come out in the conversation or the talks with listed references. Multiple sources on the application are checked, everything has to fall together to make the placement work. Sometimes part of my job is to convince people to wait a bit until thier life plans are more in sync or stable with bringing a dog into thier home. I will even keep that application...hoping I have word things have changed. If I find I am spending hours on a placement that my 6th sense tells me isn't going to work, then "my" people need to be told this dog is not a match, and I need to move on to the next family. Rescue and rehome people are generally very kind and thoughtful, they want the best placement, but if there is something o the application that gives pause to the rescuer or placement person, trust me it will not and cannot be overlooked. We MUST speak for the dog...this could be the dog's best or sometimes only and last chance at being safe and loved forever.
Thank You, Judy. Well said. This is the point I was trying to get to. I speak for the dog when I am the foster. It is sometimes a fine line to walk with regard to customer service and satisfaction.

But the majority of folks who do this, do it because they love and want to help the dog. Adopters should keep this in mind when they apply. And, if you do get one who is not so nice or you do not hear anything, keep in mind they are volunteers.
This is a great article. So many things I wouldn't have thought about. Thanks.
Thank you Lynne. You provided some very useful information and insight as to why one can be 'rejected'. It takes time and tenacity to adopt, and we have to remember that everyone involved is just looking for a good forever fit.


You may have decided that you would like to adopt from a Labradoodle or Goldendoodle rescue. However, you need to understand that there is more to the adoption process then simply contacting a rescue and informing them you are interested. Rescues will not hand over their dogs to just anyone. Furthermore, adopting is not free, you will be required to fill out an application form, and the process is not generally quick.

Why must I pay and wait to adopt from a doodle rescue? Shouldn't the rescue be happy that one of their dogs is going to a loving home? It is important that you do not misunderstand the intentions of rescues. The fee you are charged is usually to help them cover the vet costs of the pooch you wish to own. As far the waiting period is concerned, the organization takes the time to review the form you have filled out so they can learn about you, your lifestyle, your living environment, and dog experience.

Essentially, the volunteers simply want to ensure that your lifestyle is compatible with doodles, and also to match you with the best dog they have available. In fact, in many cases, a long wait is the result of waiting until the right rescue dog is available for the person wanting to adopt.

Anyone interested in adopting a doodle or any other animal through rescue, must be prepared for baggage. You can not know what that dog has been through or the experiences he has seen or felt. It requires time, patience and understanding to build the bond of trust, friendship and unconditional love. If you read through some of the posts in Rescued Doodles, "Stories" you will start to understand that pet adoption requires patience, compassion and COMMITMENT. Rescue is not for everyone.

You need to ask yourself if you are truly willing to make this kind of commitment and expect that there may be issues that could require schedule and/or lifestyle changes. The adjustment period for these dogs takes more time than most. These dogs need --Time to trust--Time to be certain--Time to love. See "Only A Rescue Mom Would Know" discussion for details.

Rescue, while rewarding and wonderful should never be a snap decision. That's another reason why an indepth application process is essential to ensuring that the potential adopter is not jumping into a situation they may not be able to handle. Your rescuing a "forever friend" should never be because it's the latest" fad" or something "everyone else does" because it's fashionable or "politically correct". You simply must be ready, willing and prepared to give your all to that animal, just as if you were adopting a child.

What information should I expect to find on a doodle rescue application form? Karen, Lynne and myself present the following guide. Requested details may vary between rescues, but the following list of information should give you an idea:

Name, address, phone numbers, email
Your age
Details about other family members you may live with, including the number of children under 18 years of age.
Is there a sex of dog you prefer?
Is there a size of doodle you prefer (I.E. standard, medium, miniature)?
Would you adopt a dog from a doodle rescue who has health problems or is of a senior age (10 plus)?
Have you owned a dog or a doodle before?
Do you currently own any dogs, cats, or other family pets?
What type of home do you live in (I.E. house, apartment, etc.)
If you have a backyard is it fully fenced and secure? How high is the fence?
Will someone always be at home with the dog? If not, how often and how long would the doodle be left alone?
Where will the dog sleep at night time?
Are you aware of how much it costs to maintain the health and care of a doodle (I.E. grooming, annual vet checkups, food, etc.)
The name and contact information of your chosen veterinarian
Name and contact information of the person who will be your reference, and how you know them (I.E. friend, relative, vet, etc.)
What will happen to the dog if you"1. have to move 2. change your job 3. get married 4. get divorced, etc?

There may be other questions that the doodle rescue will ask on the application form, but now you should have a good idea of what to expect. You may be surprised at some of the questions, but remember that the rescue is not trying to attack or intimidate you. They simply want to ensure that their doodles are going to a good family who will care and love them for the rest of their lives.

And another question a potential adoptive parent might expect....Have you ever given up an animal and returned it or taken it to a shelter?  Please explain.


In order to protect a dog in foster looking for a forever home the rescue organization must make sure that potential owners are not simply looking for that 'honeymoon period with a dog, are able to handle the behaviors of a new member of the family should some of those be worrisome or unsettling, OR, that all of the family are on the same page so there are no surprises about the new companion and it's lifetime destiny with the forever family.  Giving up a previous animal may not preclude new owners for this specific dog, but important questions and answers must be discussed.  We do know, for whatever reason, there is some small segment of the population who have what I call, "Revolving door relationships with dogs".  The excitement turns to everyday responsibilities, those sometimes become overwhelming, newness wears off, an accident in the living room causes disdain and worry and anger.  Those are families who may adopt and love for a while, then return to a shelter putting the dog at risk again.  Thus, making sure this dog will remain both loved and secure over it's lifetime is an ever present consideration in its placement.  Many shelters make sure that the family understands that if the dog is ever in this situation, the dog is to be returned to the rescue group opposed to a local or county shelter or humane society.  Potential adopters must think with their heart's and their mind.

Great points, Judy. I really hope people interested in adopting a rescue dog take all these points to heart. It is so hard on the dog to be shuffled from place to place. Dogs get attached to their "people" and it really does hurt the dog to be left, returned or forgotten.

This is an excellent post!

After having volunteered for a rescue group that charges to fill out an application (disgusting) and to surrender a dog (totally wrong) and seeing that most of the applications ended up in the trash I made sure that our application is so detailed that we know immediately if it is a match for the particular dog they are applying for. The biggest problem we have is the applicant applies for a dog that they do not match the requirements of a dog or incomplete applications. It gets to the point that we just don't have the time to respond and we also question why they would apply for a dog that needs a fenced in yard when they don't have one? It becomes draining to the point when I do receive a fully filled out application that matches the needs of the dog I am excited and surprised! The main thing people leave off their applications is their age, they feel that it is not relevant but in the dog world it is absolutely relevant. We don't want to place a dog into a home where the dog may out live the owner and have to get re-homed all over again. That goes against everything rescue does.

Most people apply for a dog they have 'seen' but have no idea if we are a reputable rescue. Only work with rescue groups that do it right or you could have a problem down the road. Make sure the rescue group does home visits and brings the dog to your home, if they don't want to see where the dog is going to be homed, do they really care about this dog? If this was your dog being placed wouldn't you want the rescue group making sure your dog is going into a clean and caring home? We know other Poodle rescue groups who are too lazy to go and do a home visit!

The abuse we receive when we have to decline an application for a certain dog as well is brutal, I have had people personally verbally attack me, family members berate me, or have shown up at meet and greets to confront me. It never changed the outcome and they did not get a dog from me and now never will! 

I work full time and come home and sit down at my desk for about 5 hours, plus I have to groom all our Poodles and do home visits, my life is given to saving these Poodles so when someone is disrespectful that does not bode well with me.  

Best Advice for potential adopters

Before you start working with a rescue, check them out see what previous adopter experience's were, most reputable rescues have a website where you can go and look and read who they are and how they work. 

Be prepared to work with the rescue to find the best match for you, so many want to adopt a dog/Poodle for the way it looks and looks in a Poodle can be changed,or they want to re-produce the dog they just lost in color and looks and we highly advise against that as temperament is so much more important.

Be honest, a rescue group will stop working with you if you are not honest with them. 

Want to work with a group that supports your adoption not just today or tomorrow but years down the road.

THAT is a good rescue group!

Thank you. Sue.
Toy Poodle Rescue 

Sue, I empathize with you about the weariness.  It is no easy work to match a dog with the right family.  Over the years I have come to think that all of our rescue applications should include an introductory page that tells people why we may adopt out and why we may not, the good news and the bad news...and all of that is about the best match for a dog in need and a family in "want".  If we say, fence needed, we mean, fence needed, if we say no leaving a dog outside all day that is what we mean, if we say this dog may not be good with children, don't think about how cute the dog is...think about putting the children and the dog at risk.


I guess we are eager to place and almost always surprised with a new dog moving into rescue, sometimes overwhelming, and mostly, all of us are volunteers...with our own families and our own home dogs, and work place issues too.  Given that scenario, somehow we must be upfront right from the beginning of the process so that rescue organizations and those wanting to adopt are on the same page.  What would be interesting is if so many of us could come up with that one page  agreement and then apply it universally as best we could.  Reality based...this dog could pee on your couch, this dog may need at least two weeks to adapt to your family, this dog cannot be tied outside, this dog could be afraid of strangers... ARE YOU READY AND PREPARED TO BRING THIS DOG HOME.   Likewise the list of The dog you adopt may have no issues whatsoever when it transitions to your home, brushing, bathing, and grooming are part of responsible dog ownership, yes, this dog may be used to sleeping in the master bedroom, possibly this dog is used to sleeping in it's crate....I can't really say all the good things, but you know what I mean.  

Maybe Lynne could start a page here that all of us could contribute to and then enourage rescues to copy it as their frontspiece in adopting.  Reality based  and highly useable.  Sure some people still may not get it, but if they need to read it and sign it, possibly SOME of the issues we face in saying "No" would be erased, because they know we mean business, we know our dogs, we know their needs, AND we are their ombudspeople, the dog cannot speak for itself.  Oh, I so hear you.  Judy 

Please don't confuse shelters with rescue organizations. They are very very different.

I would suggest if you have a pet (your cat) already in your home that you need to have another compatable animal join the pack. For that you definately need to work with a rescue that does a home visit with the dog to see the interaction and compatability before moving forward with an adoption

I'm so sorry for your bad experience but going to a shelter and picking out a dog by written words rather than physical interation can only be pure luck if it works.

We have Poodles that like certain other Poodles and not others and that is the same species and breed, animals are just like people some we like and many we don't.

Good luck finding a compatible companion.

Toy Poodle Rescue


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