Adopt A Dog

Sacramento Shelter Pets Alive Adoption Counseling Services

Thank you for choosing to adopt! Our goal is to assist families, their resident pets and our Stockton shelter animals in achieving positive outcomes for all. When you go through SSPA for adoption counseling, we can help you choose a dog who fits with your family’s needs and lifestyle.

Things to note:

  1. Dog socialization testing: We test large breed dogs with other large breed dogs. We are unable to test dogs with cats and small dogs. We also – for very obvious ethical reasons – do not test dogs with young children.
  2. Adoption counseling: We conduct all adoption counseling via email, along with post-adoption support. When needed, we offer one-on-one appointments.
  3. Expectations: Stockton Animal Shelter is a high-intake, underfunded and under-resourced facility. The shelter operates with a veterinarian on average 4 days a week despite tons of animals coming in. When you adopt a shelter dog, you’re getting a wonderful companion who’s dog-tested, gets free spay/neuter, is microchipped, and has received bordetella and DHPP vaccinations, flea and deworming preventative, and a rabies vaccination if of age. For dogs that are four months of age or older, a one-year license is also included for City of Stockton or San Joaquin County residents. . 

Common Issues for Adopters

“I need my dog to get along with resident cats.”

We absolutely want to make safe and successful lifelong matches for all pets in the home. We have found time and again that a key ingredient in the recipe for harmonious pets is very slow introductions. It’s very difficult for us to know which of our dogs will be best suited for a home with cats. Science and data have proved that in-shelter cat tests are highly unreliable at best and cruel to subject our shelter cats to, and therefore cat tests do not take place at the shelter. We ask all adopters with cats to read this article detailing how to introduce a new dog to a resident cat and agree to follow the procedures described. If you are willing to follow these guidelines, then we are happy to help you choose a dog, keeping in mind that we can make no guarantees about how easy or difficult the process of introducing your new dog to your cat will be. It can sometimes require a significant amount of patience and commitment to ensure the safety and success of all animals involved.

“I want a mellow/couch potato dog.”

All dogs, even the mellowest, have daily exercise needs to consider, as well as needs for engagement with their people and mental stimulation. Please read this article about dog exercise needs and energy level to decide which energy level is right for your family. Also consider that we have very few dogs who truly fall into the low energy category. Most of our dogs are medium energy and would love a family to take them on walks or jogs of a few miles per day, play with them using toys daily, and take them on fun outings frequently.

“I need my dog to get along with all other dogs.”

We frequently hear from adopters who want their dog to get along with all other dogs. Just as humans don’t love every person they meet, dogs have a range of tolerance for other dogs. Please read this article and proceed with the understanding that dog relationships require patience and supervision, just like relationships between children. Also check out this great video on dog tolerance: Dog Politics: Understanding Dog-Dog Tolerance Levels from on Vimeo.

“I need my dog to get along with children.”

Absolutely! Most of our dogs will be great with children, given proper supervision of the kids and dog involved. With all dogs, proper training and management of both the kids and the dog will be key for success. Please read this article, as well as this one regarding babies, for more information on making sure your children interact safely with your dog. We also recommend that you visit The Liam J. Perk Foundation website for terrific resources to help teach your children how to behave with dogs.

“I want a dog I can take to dog parks.”

While we love the idea of dogs playing happily together, we know from experience that dog parks can set some dogs up for failure. Take a moment to imagine how it must feel to suddenly have a bunch of dogs you don’t know barreling toward you, their intentions unknown. Many dogs find this scenario very stressful. Factor in as well that the behavior of the other dogs in the park is often unsupervised, and you are putting your dog in a dangerous situation. We recommend supervised play dates with other known dogs for socialization time. If a dog park dog is a must for you and your family, let us know and we’ll see if we can find a match.

“I work full time and need my dog to be OK alone during the day.”

Please consider a dog who has shown no signs of separation anxiety and who is around 3 years old. Exercising the dog before leaving for work and providing the dog with some significant bonding time so they have plenty of mental and physical stimulation during their time with you will help with calm behavior when gone. Consider hiring a dog walker or coming home for lunch daily, as well. Also read the next item for ideas on other options for dogs who need to be alone during the day for long hours.

“I plan to crate/kennel my dog for more than 6 hours per day.”

Please don’t crate your dog for 8 or more hours regularly. Crates can be wonderful training tools, but they were never meant to be a way of housing a dog long-term or for many hours per day. Four to six hours per day is pretty much the maximum number of hours most dogs can handle being crated without becoming very frustrated or developing behavior problems. Many dogs, especially if exercised well, can tolerate being left alone for 8-9 hours max, either to roam free in the house and yard (with a doggy door), or given a similar comfortable setup ( a bedroom), depending on your living situation and the particular dog. If you are faced with the dilemma of having a dog who can’t hang out for that long and have to figure out how to have a dog not be destructive in your home while you are away for more than 6 hours per day, the humane options are: doggy daycare; hiring a dog sitter to come walk your dog during the day; dropping the dog off at someone’s house who is home and willing to watch them; or, where it is an option, bringing the dog to work.

“I want a dog who is already housebroken and/or doesn’t have any behavioral issues.”

We do too! However, dogs are imperfect beings, just like us. Whether you adopt your dog from a shelter, a foster home or a breeder, there is no guarantee of how the dog will behave in your home. A dog who is perfectly housebroken in one home might struggle with potty accidents in another, at least for a while until a routine is established. A dog who behaves perfectly in one home could very well develop behavior problems in a new home where the rules and boundaries are different. Behavior is conditional and responds to the environment and relationships influencing it. So if you want a housebroken dog, commit yourself to a period of adjustment with your new dog, during which you set him up for success and are patient with his accidents. If you hope to live with a dog whose manners are impeccable, know that with most dogs, this will require a high level of commitment on your part to training and positive reinforcement. Luckily, positive training is fun and a great way to bond with your dog and keep him or her happy! Visit our resources page for more information on housebreaking and training issues.


How Our Counseling Works

Email counseling: After you send us your application via email (see below for instructions), we will read it over, ask questions to learn more, and make recommendations based on our knowledge of the dogs we feature. In order for us to approve your adoption, we will need to feel your family and the dog are a good match. We want happily-ever-afters for dogs in which they become true family members and indoor companions. A good match takes into consideration how your lifestyle fits the dog and how many hours each dog can handle being unattended to by his or her people. And yes, we help out-of-town adopters, too!

Other Ways We Help

We can also provide resources and support for all stages of the adoption process. Whether you have questions about how to successfully transition a new dog into your home, introduce dogs to resident pets or solve behavioral issues after adoption, we are here to help our adopters succeed. Email us your questions at

Let’s Get Started

We’d love for you to take part in our adoption counseling process via email at Complete the application and submit it to get started!

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