I grew up with dogs my whole life. As a kid, we would always bring home puppies (from puppy mills, before we really knew how terrible they were) and so I never had the experience of adopting an adult dog until I was in my early twenties. And then I started adopting adult dogs from overseas when I got connected to a few shelters in Asia (one being Free Korean Dogs in South Korea, the other The Bodhi Shelter in Thailand). And I am here to tell you… it’s a vastly different experience adopting a puppy, to adopting an adult dog in your home country, to adopting an adult dog overseas. But adopting overseas has been such a wonderful experience that I’ve decided that’s how I’ll continue to adopt moving forward.
I got connected with Free Korean Dogs back in 2017, when I found a Petfinder profile from a dog a couple towns over. Come to find out, the dog was actually located in South Korea and hadn’t actually flown here yet. But by then, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
I am now on my third overseas adoption. Each time has been a different experience, depending on the age, background and temperament of the dogs.
Our first dog, Jessie, was 4 when she was adopted and had lived in an outdoor shelter her whole life, with over 80 other dogs, and without much one-on-one attention. That meant that it was a huge adjustment period for her to now be an indoor dog (and at that time, our only dog in the house). She took a lot of time to warm up to us. For a solid week straight, she would bare her teeth any time we approached her. She stayed in one corner of the house and was too scared to roam around, so we had to bring her food and water bowls to that corner and feed her there. We started slowly petting her when she would eat, and eventually, she stopped baring her teeth when we got close. We also figured out that she was much more comfortable outside than inside, so we took her on more walks and once we returned to the house, would walk her on leash around the interior of the house until she got comfortable walking around indoors on her own. It took several months, but eventually she warmed up to us. Once we adopted our second dog, she fully settled in. I think it helped having another dog around for her.
Our second dog, Ollie, was seven months when we adopted him, and came into our home with another dog already there, so he didn’t have as bad of an adjustment period. He had also lived in an outdoor shelter (although much smaller), so we did have to potty train him which took a while. He got along better with other dogs than he did humans, so we would take him to dog parks in our spare time for socialization. Due to his young age, he was able to adjust much easier than our other dog, although he is still wary of humans he meets until he learns to trust them.
Our third and final dog, Oreo, came to us at one year of age, but he came from a foster home, so he had individual attention from humans starting from a young age and was used to being indoors. Because of this, he had the easiest adjustment period out of any of our dogs. He is a social butterfly, fits into any situation and absolutely adores people. He’s also the bravest out of all our dogs.
Adopting an overseas dog is such a rewarding experience, especially when you earn that dogs trust. There’s nothing else like it. But potential adopters should take into account the dogs background, how much socialization they’ve encountered from an early age, and what environment they’re going to be placed into in your home. This may influence how that dog will adjust in your home, and how much time and effort you are willing to invest to help them get adjusted. You are going to need to be a very patient person! And go at your dogs speed, not your speed. Listen to their cues and adjust your behavior accordingly.
I hope your decision to adopt from overseas is an easy one. It was for me! It may be hard in the beginning, but it is so worth it.
**Written by Lexi Reeve, who adopted Ollie in 2017 and Oreo in 2020