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How We Determine Which Dog Will Become A Sanctuary Resident

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Often I am asked, "How do you get all the dogs to get along?" And recently, another person looking to surrender their senior German Shepherd said, "It's harder to get my dog into Woody's Place than it is to get into Harvard." And there's probably some truth to that because not only are space and finances limited, the bottom line is that we can't take every senior German Shepherd because not every senior German Shepherd will be a good fit for our program. Woody's Place Senior German Shepherd Sanctuary is a true sanctuary meaning that it's not just a word in our name. We actually provide sanctuary for abandoned senior German Shepherds for the rest of their lives. In fact, our catchphrase is, "We are that place in the country where old dogs come to retire." Therefore, because the senior German Shepherds remain with us for the rest of their lives, we have to pick who is a good match for us and who would not be. So how do we go about determining who is a good fit for the sanctuary?

#1 Must be human and dog friendly

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they must be human and dog-friendly with no bite history. The reason for this is that we are a cage-free, communal type living environment, which means once we agree to take an abandoned senior German Shepherd, and after the first few days of integration with the rest of the residents, there are no boundaries between the dogs, with the exception of gates to separate some residents for feeding purposes. go along, they have to get along here at the sanctuary. And, of course, human-friendly goes without saying.

Therefore, we can only accept senior German Shepherds who are completely human and dog friendly.

Getting along is paramount, but another part of accepting a newbie is, of course, their age. We are a "senior" German Shepherd sanctuary.

To us, a German Shepherd is a senior at 8 years of age, with geriatric being 10 and older. Now, we understand that other people may feel senior is 6 or 7 for a German Shepherd, and that's fine, but we are not going to split hairs over it. For us, the magic number is 8.

#2 Must be 8 years and older

(Whippersnappers need not apply)

Of course, there are plenty of senior German Shepherds out there that are 8 years and older in need of a home, but some don't know they are seniors and act more like a 3 or 4-year-old German Shepherd because they have lots and lots of stamina and energy.

And while we have taken high-energy seniors from time to time, we actually try to adopt a senior like that out before leaving us no option but to bring them into the sanctuary for the simple fact that his energy level may not be a good match with residents who may find his energy upsetting. Plain and simple. It would be like having a rambunctious toddler live in a nursing home, and we all know that won't fly.

#3 Must be on the "slower" side of life.

(Seriously. We don't wanna tick off the queen)

So that's a lot to cover, right? It is, but there's more to our formula for successful doggie cohabitation than that.

Since all the residents can come and go as they please here at the sanctuary, and we have lots and lots of toys, treats, beds, and other things a dog would consider a possession, we can't accept senior German Shepherds who are possessive.

Of course, that's not to say there won't be times when two residents are both clamoring for the same bed or ball even though we have 5 more beds and 10 more of the exact same ball.....ahem....Prince and Atticus.

That happens from time to time, and we deal with it. But I'm not talking about a little tiff. I'm referring to a dog who is REALLY possessive and will fight for what he deems as his, which is typically everything.

#4 No Uber Possessive Dogs

Ok. So we have all that covered. If we have enough $$$ and space, and they have to get along with people and all other dogs, are 8 years and older, and on the slower side of life, and not be uber possessive.... that leaves the last part of our secret sauce when determining who will be a good fit for Woody's Place.

#5 Take local first

We have pulled dogs from all over the country....seriously, as far away as California, but we always try to take in locally first. That means if there is a senior German Shepherd in need right here in the Pocono Mountains (where the sanctuary is located), and that dog is a good fit for our program, we take him.

Outside of the area, our next priority is from surrounding counties in Eastern PA, with many coming from the Philadelphia area. Seriously. I don't know what the deal is in Philly, but about 80% of our residents have come from there over the years.

We also try to be available for northern New Jersey, and New York, since we are located in a tri-state area.

Our reason for helping local first is so we can actually meet with the senior German Shepherd in person to determine for ourselves if he will be a good fit and because we believe you should help locally first. Unfortunately, there are some in need locally that are not a good fit for our program, but that doesn't mean that we don't help find placement for them because we do.

If there are no senior German Shepherds who are a good fit locally or even semi-locally and we have $$$ and space available, then we take senior German Shepherds farther away and rely on shelter staff or another rescue to help us determine if the dog is a good fit for us.

That was Brandi's case. We were so top-heavy in the male department (and still are), with not a female insight until Brandi. She was in Florida, and the shelter staff knew what was required of a dog to fit into our program, and I must say that they did a great job assessing her. Brandi couldn't be a better fit for our program. :) Ultimately though, we prefer to keep it local.

So there you have it! As I said, people are often curious how we manage to get all the dogs to get along while they reside here at the sanctuary. There's a lot that goes into it, and it takes time. But we start with these preliminary steps listed in this blog post that put us on the path to success.


Dawn, your podcast was fantastic and very informative! You and everyone you work with are very special people.


Fernand Moreau
Fernand Moreau
Jul 16, 2021

WOW ! You have to be very special people. Congratulation to you and your people. Your hearts must be bigger than yourselves. God bless you all.


Jul 16, 2021

Great article. Great job with the pups.

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