Adopting a German Shepherd from a Rescue Organization

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German Shepherds are intelligent, loyal, and active dogs that make wonderful companions. While you can purchase a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder, there are many benefits to adopting an adult or senior German Shepherd from a rescue organization.

Rescue dogs are often house trained, socialized, and have known backgrounds. Adopting from a rescue also gives an abandoned dog a second chance at finding a forever home.

Key Takeaways

1. Adopting a rescue German Shepherd saves a life, provides a home to a dog in need, and costs less than buying a puppy.
2. Rescue German Shepherds are often house trained, socialized, and have calmer temperaments than puppies.
3. Thoroughly vet rescue organizations to ensure ethical practices and full disclosure about any health or behavior issues.
4. Prepare your home by dog-proofing your house and yard to keep your new Shepherd safe.
5. Use positive reinforcement training tailored to your adopted dog’s needs. Seek professional help if behavior issues emerge.
6. Provide proper daily exercise, grooming, veterinary care, socialization, and a high-quality diet. Monitor your dog’s health closely.
7. Opening your heart and home to a rescue German Shepherd is extremely rewarding. Do your research to find the right dog, then get ready for loyal companionship.

Benefits of Adopting a Rescue German Shepherd

There are many good reasons to consider adopting your next German Shepherd from a rescue organization:

  • Save a life – Millions of dogs enter shelters every year. Adopting a rescue dog saves them from euthanasia and gives them a loving home. Many shelter dogs are surrendered through no fault of their own when their families can no longer care for them.
  • Get an adult dog – Adopting an adult German Shepherd skips the chewing, house training stage. Adult dogs usually have established personalities and temperaments, allowing you to choose a dog that fits your lifestyle.
  • Find a mixed breed – While purebred German Shepherds are common in rescues, you can also find German Shepherd mixes. This adds diversity to your options when looking for the perfect dog.
  • Save money – Adoption fees are usually less than buying a German Shepherd puppy. Most rescues cover the initial vet care too.
  • Avoid health issues – When you adopt from a rescue, you skip the chance of hereditary conditions associated with poorly bred puppy mills. Rescue dogs are thoroughly vetted before adoption.
  • Give back – Supporting a German Shepherd rescue helps the organization save more lives. The adoption fee provides medical care, food and shelter for rescued dogs waiting for new homes.

Finding a German Shepherd Rescue Organization

Many kinds of rescues offer German Shepherds for adoption:

  • Breed-specific rescues – Organizations dedicated to German Shepherds and German Shepherd mixes. This allows you to be matched with the perfect Shepherd for your home and lifestyle.
  • Municipal shelters – Check with your local city or county shelter. Tell staff you are looking to adopt a German Shepherd. Shelters will contact you when one becomes available.
  • Humane societies – Human societies care for all types of dogs. Let staff know you want to adopt a German Shepherd to prioritize your application when one is surrendered.
  • – Petfinder aggregates dogs available for adoption across hundreds of shelters and rescues. Search by breed and location to find adoptable German Shepherds in your region.
Different Rescue TypesAdvantages
Breed-Specific RescuesKnowledgeable about breed traits, specific health concerns, experience matching Shepherds to owners
Municipal SheltersMore urgent need for dogs to be adopted quickly before euthanasia is considered
Humane SocietiesOffer diverse range of dogs besides just German Shepherds
Petfinder.comEasily search for German Shepherds available within your desired adoption radius

When researching rescue organizations, look for non-profits with a reputation for ethical practices and humane treatment of animals in their care. Avoid rescues that adopt out dogs with undisclosed medical or temperament issues.

Questions to Ask the Rescue Organization

When speaking with a German Shepherd rescue, ask these questions to learn more about their adoption process and the dogs in their care:

  • How long has the dog been with your rescue?
  • Where did the rescue get the dog from? Was he an owner surrender or pulled from a shelter?
  • How would you describe the dog’s personality and activity level?
  • Is the dog housetrained and crate trained? Does he know basic commands?
  • Does the dog get along well with other dogs and pets?
  • Has the dog been socialized with children?
  • Does the dog have any behavioral issues you are working on?
  • What is the dog’s medical history? Does he have any chronic conditions?
  • Is the dog on monthly heartworm and flea/tick prevention medication?
  • What food is the dog currently eating?
  • Is there a trial adoption period in case the match isn’t perfect?

Don’t be afraid to ask in-depth questions to ensure you and the rescue are transparent about the dog’s needs. This allows you to make an informed adoption decision.

Preparing Your Home for a Rescue Shepherd

Before bringing home your new German Shepherd, take time to dog-proof your house and yard:

  • German Shepherds are strong, athletic dogs. Fence your yard to keep your new dog safely contained. Check for loose boards or gaps along the fence line. Bury chicken wire at the base of the fence to prevent digging.
  • Remove small tempting objects like socks, children’s toys, remote controls. Anything that can be swallowed presents a choking hazard.
  • Move houseplants and toxic items like antifreeze out of reach.
  • Dog-proof interior doors by removing loose door handles. Install baby gates if needed to block access to certain rooms.
  • Create a comfy bed and quiet area just for your German Shepherd. Offer toys and chew bones to make it enticing.
  • Stock up on quality dog food recommended by your vet. Purchase leashes, collars, dishes, and any other supplies you’ll need.

Training Your Rescue Shepherd

While most adult rescue dogs have some basic obedience and manners, expect there to be an adjustment period as you get to know each other. Be patient and move slowly during the first few weeks. Positive reinforcement builds trust and communication with your new dog.

Here are some training tips:

  • Enroll in a training class specifically for adopted dogs. This gives you expert guidance tailored to common issues that rescues may have.
  • Start with re-teaching basic cues like Sit, Stay, Come, Down, and Heel. Use small tasty treats to reward and motivate your dog during short frequent sessions.
  • Socialize your Shepherd properly by exposing them to new sights, sounds, people and experiences at their comfort level. Let strangers offer treats to build positive associations.
  • Avoid using punishment or force-based training even if your dog is difficult or untrained. This risks creating more behavior problems or damaging your bond. Always use kind, reward-based methods.
  • Seek help from a certified dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist if your dog develops anxiety, aggression or other concerning issues. Catching problems early improves outcomes.

With proper training tailored to your German Shepherd’s needs, rescue dogs can become wonderful family companions. The rescue organization can provide training advice specific to your adopted Shepherd.

Providing Proper Care for Your Shepherd

While every dog has unique needs, here are some general care guidelines that apply to most rescue German Shepherds:

  • Exercise – German Shepherds require 30-60 minutes of exercise and activity per day. Walking, running, hiking, playing fetch and participating in canine sports gives your dog needed physical and mental stimulation.
  • Grooming – Brush your German Shepherd 1-2 times per week to control shedding and keep their coat clean and healthy. Trim nails as needed and clean ears regularly.
  • Diet – Feed a high quality large breed dry food. Follow package portions based on your dog’s weight and activity level. Avoid over or underfeeding. Don’t give table scraps.
  • Vet visits – Schedule annual exams to monitor your German Shepherd’s health. Stay current on vaccines and heartworm/flea medications. Take immediate action if you notice changes or issues.
  • Socialization – Continue socializing your adult Shepherd. Arrange play dates with known dogs. Introduce new people properly and muzzle if needed for safety. Desensitize to loud sounds using positive reinforcement.

With rescue dogs, their past is uncertain. Be vigilant for any emerging medical or behavior problems so you can get your German Shepherd necessary treatment right away. Monitor their weight, appetite, activity level and overall health daily.

FAQs About Adopting a Rescue German Shepherd

Here are some common questions about adopting a rescue German Shepherd:

What is the average adoption fee for a rescue German Shepherd?

The adoption fee for an adult German Shepherd from a rescue or shelter usually ranges from $100-$400. This helps cover the costs of vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, microchipping, heartworm testing and any other necessary medical treatment the dog received while under the care of the rescue.

The fee is much less than purchasing a German Shepherd puppy, which can cost $500-$1,500 from a breeder.

How old are most rescue German Shepherds available for adoption?

German Shepherds in rescues range from young puppies to senior dogs over 10 years old. However, most tend to be between 2-7 years old. Owners often surrender younger adult dogs due to changes in housing, lifestyle, or if the dog’s exercise needs overwhelmed the owner.

Senior German Shepherds often enter rescues when an owner passes away or can no longer care for the dog. Adopting an adult dog still leaves many years of companionship.

What kind of temperament do rescue German Shepherds have?

While temperaments vary by dog, most adult German Shepherds from rescues have a calm, loving temperament. Dogs from rescues are often house trained and know basic obedience.

Rescue organizations evaluate dogs in foster homes for any major behavior issues before placing them up for adoption. Dogs with a history of aggression or bite incidents are rarely offered for adoption to the general public.

Are rescue German Shepherds healthy dogs?

Rescues thoroughly vet dogs before adoption, checking for any medical issues and getting them up-to-date on vaccines. Just like any dog, rescued German Shepherds can develop health conditions as they age. Discuss any health concerns with the rescue organization prior to adoption.

Be prepared that senior rescued dogs often require more veterinary care. Overall, most rescued German Shepherds have many healthy years ahead thanks to the medical treatment they received from the rescue organization.


Whether you adopt a young German Shepherd ready for training or a mature dog who wants to relax, opening your heart and home to a rescue Shepherd changes their life. Adult rescue dogs already have so much love to give back.

They repay your kindness with years of unwavering loyalty and companionship. There are many deserving German Shepherds out there hoping for a second chance. Do your research to find the perfect dog, then get ready to embark on a rewarding journey together!

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.