Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
rescue and adoption

How to adopt a dog

Here’s everything you need to know about bringing a dog into your family, according to a pet specialist

Updated May 6, 2020

First, consider whether an adoption is right for you

Like welcoming any living being into your home, you shouldn’t take the decision to adopt a dog lightly. Discuss with your family members why you want to take in a dog, ensuring the reasons are enough to keep you committed.

Adopting a pet is saving a life. But if you can’t provide the necessary time and commitment, it’s better to save the lifesaving duties for someone else.

You need to think about whether you have the time, money, and stability to give the dog the love and attention it deserves. If you are unsure if it would be a good idea, talk to your local rescue shelter about what makes a good, responsible dog owner.

Step 1: Scout out the rescues

Firstly, decide the rescue you want to adopt from. This can be based on your budget, proximity, and any dog based requirements such as age, breed, or disabilities. Within the U.S, animal welfare organizations are plenty. There are so many routes you can take when looking for your perfect pup. Here are the four adoption services that our team uses the most:

👉 The Shelter Pet Project. A joint partnership between the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund. It seeks to educate on the benefits of adoption, making it the first option when people desire a new pet. It offers a cool search tool, where you select whether you want a dog or cat and you Zip, it then offers a selection of animals on offer.

👉 ASPCA. A trusted animal welfare organization which offers a pet rehoming service in NYC and Los Angeles.

👉 Adopt a Pet. A service in which dogs from over 17,000 shelters and rescues can be filtered and selected.

👉 Pet Finder. It offers a similar service but allows you to set up email alerts for breed and location. Ideal if you’re waiting for your ideal dog.

Step 2: Find the perfect pup

👉 You should filter your list down to about five potential matches that you feel would be right for your situation and home life.

Most rescues allow you to use some in-depth filters, such as whether they are good with kids or cats. Use these! There is no point in enquiring about a dog that hates children if you have triplets at home. If you haven’t found one that you like, try another rescue or wait a while until your dream dog is free for rehoming.

Step 3: The evaluation process

Many rescues require an evaluation process. Not all of them require this many steps, but in general, this process is a great way to make sure you’re right for a potential dog. Call the rescue ahead of time to make sure that you’re prepared.

The interview

This can be either face to face or via email or telephone. You’ll likely be asked questions like how long you’ve lived in your current home and/or how long you’ve been employed at your current job.

Be prepared to be questioned about the details of your house — yard, type of neighborhood, whether you rent or own, and more. They may also ask about things like your daily schedule and how you plan to take care of your new pup. Make sure you have all of these details handy and are ready to discuss them with the rescue organization.

Although it may seem they are asking a lot of very personal questions – it is only to ensure that you are a good match for the dog you have accepted.

The home check

They want to make sure that your home would make a suitable environment for their dog. Are there any dangers, like a balcony or pool? Will it be easy to escape? How much room is there? Are there places nearby for you to explore with your dog?

Don’t despair if you live in a flat in the city — many dogs can live happily in a small home as long as they are walked enough. Be honest in the interview and home visit. Don’t say there is a huge park across the road if there’s not. If you have cats at home, don’t give them to your neighbors for the day. This stage is for your benefit to ensure a safe and happy environment.

The meet and greet

You can now meet the potential dog(s) to see if you are both happy with one another. Please remember that you are a stranger to the dog. They may not automatically be jumping up all over you, and that’s okay. If you and the dog seem to “get along” and you are comfortable handling them, the shelter may ask for you to bring in other family members, including furry ones (within reason)…

Step 4: It's confirmed!

Once the shelter is 100% certain that you are making the right decision, they will confirm the adoption process. You may have to sign a contract with certain rules about insurance and veterinary processes. You will pay the adoption fee. Once this is done, your dog will be handed over to you, along with their pedigree papers, if applicable.

We recommended that you purchase the necessities well before your dog walks into your home. This includes food, bowls, toys, a bed, a lead, and a harness.

Preparing your home

First things first, make sure your home is ready for your new pup. You’ll want to have certain pet supplies ready to go, including a collar and leash, food and water (and accompanying bowls), and a few toys. If you plan to crate or potty train your pup, you’ll also want the needed supplies like puppy pads and treats.

Decide in advance what the house rules will be. Will you allow them up on the furniture? Will they sleep on the bed with you or somewhere else? What will their routine look like each day when it comes to who walks them and when they’ll eat meals? This way you’ll know what boundaries to set and what changes to your own routine to expect once you bring your dog home.

Getting used to each other

Give your dog about a month to settle in properly. Some dogs are settled within the first day, but others may need a longer adjustment period. The shelter environment is different from the home environment, and your dog may need time to understand what is going on. Keep being patient and understanding, and use lots of praise and reward when your dog engages in promising behaviors.

The process can take a while, but don’t give up!

Each rescue is different. However, they all have the shared aim of helping dogs that no longer have a home. We understand the adoption process can be lengthy, and you may become impatient. However, every rescue wants to make sure that their adoptions are successful. In order to have a high success rate, they must match dogs to the best potential owner.

Why an adopted dog?

Adopting a dog can have less outright cost than buying from a breeder. You usually must pay a small adoption fee, which can vary depending on the shelter, the breed, and the age of your dog.

Because of their higher desirability, puppies cost more. If you adopt a dog that is older, you will be alerted of any diseases or illnesses that the shelter is aware of. This can let you prepare for your dog properly, ensuring you have the correct funds, and reduce any surprises later on down the line. If the dog came from a loving family home, they will likely already know tricks – and be house trained!

If you do end up going the adoption route, you can also consider bringing home a special needs or elderly dog. Puppies are more commonly adopted (they are pretty adorable, huh?), but special needs dogs can be very rewarding. Adult dogs with special needs do require extra work and preparation, but with the right fit, you can provide a dog with a forever home that may have otherwise been stuck in a shelter.

Myths about shelter dogs

There’s a negative stereotype about shelter dogs, which affects their chances of adoption. They are viewed as “damaged,” and are assumed to have behavioral problems. That’s not always true.

Here are a few of the reasons that dogs can end up in a shelter:

  1. Abuse or neglect. In some rare cases, an animal welfare organization may be alerted to animal abuse or neglect. They then seize the animals that are in bad circumstances. These animals can then be rehomed.
  2. Change of circumstances. Although a dog is a lifetime commitment, sometimes people’s circumstances can get in the way. Jobs can be lost, promotions offered, divorces and breakups occur. If people can no longer offer their dog the same quality of life, it may be in the dog’s best interests to be rehomed to someone that can.
  3. Unwanted litter. When a dog breeds and has an unwanted and unplanned litter, it may be too much for the owners to care for the puppies. Rather than selling them themself, they may surrender them to a shelter.
  4. Behavioral problems. Some dogs are rehomed because they are displaying negative or potentially dangerous behaviors. These can include aggression (either person or other animal directed), anxiety and excessive chewing or barking. You can ask for a dog that doesn’t have behavioral problems, not everyone has the resources to deal with a difficult dog — and that’s okay.
  5. Stray. The dog may have been straying, and the owners failed to collect it.