How to Adopt a Dog: A Beginner's Guide to Dog Adoption

Article at a Glance

  • Dog Adoption is a selfless act that gives a pet in need a new home
  • Before you adopt, consider the type of dog you want
  • To get approved for adoption, you’ll need to fill out paperwork, sit for an interview, and schedule a home visit 

Table of Contents 

  • Introduction
  • Why Should You Adopt a Dog?
    • Save a Life
    • Save Money
    • Fight Puppy Mills
    • Help Other Animals
  • How to Adopt a Dog
    • Make Sure You’re Ready for a Dog
    • Consider What Kind of Dog You Want 
    • Visit Shelters and Meet the Dogs
    • Go Through the Shelter’s Application Process
      • An Application
      • An Interview
      • A home Visit
    • Prepare Your Home for Your New Dog
  • Are You Ready to Adopt? 

Are you interested in adopting a dog but aren’t quite sure how the process works?Adopting a dog means giving a furry creature in need a home. But, the adoption process isn’t always as straightforward as people think it is. 

There are many things you need to take into consideration before you bring a pet into your home. Read this beginner’s guide to learn how to adopt a dog. 

Why Should You Adopt a Dog? 

Before we talk about the how, let’s talk about the why. Why should you adopt a dog instead of buying one from a breeder?

Save a Life 

When you adopt a dog, you save a life. Each year in the United States, about 1.5 million cats and dogs are euthanized. Shelters simply don’t have enough room to accommodate all of the animals that are in need of care. 

However, when people adopt pets instead of buying them, these euthanization numbers drop dramatically. 

Save Money 

Another major bonus of adopting a pet is that it’s a lot more affordable than buying one. Typically, you’ll need to pay an adoption fee of $100 to $500. If you get your dog from a breeder, you can easily expect to pay a few thousand dollars. Depending on the breed, you could even pay tens of thousands of dollars for the dog. 

Fight Puppy Mills 

Adopting a dog also helps fight puppy mills. Puppy mills are large facilities that breed dogs to be sold in pet stores, online, or even at flea markets. The goal of puppy mills is to breed as many dogs as possible, so little consideration is given to the dog’s health. Often, dogs are kept in cages for years and years without any companionship. After they’re no longer able to produce puppies, the mills simply discard them. When you buy a dog from a pet shop, you help these puppy mills stay in business. 

Adopting a dog ensures that you don’t give the puppy mills a cent. 

Help Other Animals 

Every time someone adopts a dog, they also make room for a new animal in the shelter. Many shelters are overburdened, taking in millions of lost and abused animals each year. So, not only are you giving the animal you bring into your home a second chance when you adopt, but you’re also giving a second chance to animals that now have a home in the shelter. 

How to Adopt a Dog 

Now that you know why you should adopt a dog, let’s take a look at how to adopt a dog. 

Make Sure You’re Ready for a Dog

While adopting a dog is a very noble thing to do, you also need to make sure you’re up for the task. The last thing you want is to adopt a dog, realize it’s too much responsibility or money, and then find that you need to give it back to the shelter. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Owning a dog costs more than just the adoption fee. There will be ongoing costs for food, veterinary care, and more. American pet owners spend an average of $1,380 per year on their dog’s basic needs, so make sure you have the extra money to care for a dog. 
  • Dogs are a major time commitment. You need to take your dog outside for walks, exercise them, and bring them to the vet. You also need to find someone to care for your dog when you’re away from home on vacation. 
  • If you have children or pets in your home, you need to consider whether they’ll get along with your dog. 

Consider the Kind of Dog You Want 

If you browse an adoption site like PetFinder, you’ll quickly realize there are thousands and thousands of dogs up for adoption. How do you choose just one to bring into your home?

To help narrow your search, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is my home suited for a larger dog or smaller dog?
  • Is my lifestyle better suited for a dog that’s active or one that’s more relaxed?
  • Is there a certain breed I prefer over others?
  • Do I want to bring a puppy into the home, an adult dog, or a senior? 
  • Am I ready to commit to training a puppy, or should I get an adult dog that’s fully trained?
  • If I get a senior dog, am I ready to potentially say goodbye to it in a few years?
  • Do my family members or housemates have a preference on the kind of dog I get?

Dogs’ personalities can be just as varied as humans, so before you decide on a dog, it’s a good idea to read up on breed-specific personalities. For example, pugs are known for being very attentive, mischievous, and playful. Basset hounds are known for being gentle, devoted, and tenacious. Often, the adoption website creates profiles for their dogs that explain their personalities in greater detail, so make sure to check these out as well. Keep in mind, though, that you may not know what type of dog you want until you visit the shelter. For many dog owners, it’s love at first sight. 

Visit Shelters and Meet the Dogs

The next step is to set up some appointments at your local shelters to visit the dogs. Most shelters allow you to observe the dogs from inside their kennels. If you see a dog you’re drawn to, you will also be allowed to walk up to the kennel and pet it. If you feel a connection with a particular dog, you can ask a staff member to take the dog out of the kennel so you can interact with it one on one. If you can, try to take the dog to a quiet room so you can observe it without distractions. 

When you sit in a chair, does the dog come to you or ignore you? Observe the dog’s personality- is it tentative and cautious, or boisterous and excited? You can also do a brief training session with the dog to see how well-behaved it is. Ask the dog to sit down, stand up, and lie down. You should also engage in some playtime with the dog by tossing it a ball or toy. If the shelter allows it, you should also take the dog for a walk. Observe how the dog behaves on the walk. Is it tugging on its leash a lot, or is it walking close to your side?After visiting a couple of shelters, you’ll hopefully meet a dog that’s a good match. 

Go Through the Shelter’s Adoption Process 

Once you’ve found the dog of your dreams, you need to go through the shelter’s adoption process. The adoption process typically involves:

An Application

Most shelters take applications on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you find a dog you’re interested in, you should get moving right away. Applications vary from shelter to shelter, but typically you’ll need to:

  • Verify your income
  • Verify that your landlord allows pets if you rent
  • List references
  • Give your history of pet ownership
  • List everyone who will be in the home
  • Give basic information such as your full name, address, and contact info
  • Show valid ID (in most places, you need to be 18 years or older to adopt a pet)

An Interview 

If your initial application gets approved, the shelter will then set up an interview for you to make sure you’re a good fit for the dog. Some common interview questions include:

  • What is your work situation like? (The adoption center wants to make sure you’re financially responsible. Also, if you’re away long hours for work, you’ll need to have a plan in place for someone to take care of the dog.)
  • What is your housing situation? (If the dog is very active, the adoption center will want to make sure there’s enough space for it to roam and play.)
  • What is your family situation? (How many kids are in the family? Does everyone in the household want to adopt a dog?)
  • What is your previous experience with pet ownership? (Have you owned a dog in the past? What was your relationship like with previous pets?)
  • What kind of lifestyle do you have? (In other words, are you traveling a lot or away from home a lot?)
  • What’s your knowledge of rescue dogs? (Are you prepared to train and care for a dog that’s maybe been previously neglected?)

Don’t be nervous about the interview. The adoption center wants it to be a match just as much as you do, so be yourself and answer the questions honestly. 

A Home Visit 

The final step of the adoption process is usually a home visit. A staff member from the shelter will visit your home to make sure it’s a suitable living environment for a dog. To increase your odds of the adoption going through, make sure your home is clean and dog-friendly. 

Prepare Your Home for Your New Dog 

Once everything has been approved, it’s time to get your home ready for your new pet! Here are some things you should do:

  • Stock up on food, toys, leashes, and other pet supplies
  • Make sure the plants in your home aren’t poisonous to pets
  • Roll up and store decorative rugs until your new dog is fully housetrained
  • Put a cozy pet bed in every room of the house 
  • Buy some CBD products for your new dog to help them relax 

Are You Ready to Adopt? 

Now that you know what the dog adoption process looks like, it’s time to decide if you’re ready to adopt a dog. If the answer is yes, then you can start researching shelters in your area or browse PetFinder for dogs that are in need of a home. 

And, be sure to check out this guide to learn about the best pet insurance for dogs

Written by Mead Johnston

Mead is an experienced dog trainer, writer, and lover of animals. She has always been surrounded by animals and had a passion for learning more about them every day. This passion grew tremendously when Mead brought home a Great Pyrenees x Golden Retriever named Mac in 2018. Mead has continued to learn more about dogs whenever possible and wherever possible, while also helping so many wonderful clients. Her goal is help her clients and their dogs become confident in their daily lives. As a dog trainer, she often helps clients who are starting off with a puppy or they might have an older dog that is presenting challenging behaviours. Mead believes in the all-natural uses of Pet CBD to help our furry loved ones live longer, happier and healthier lives.

Find similar articles
NewsPet Wellness

Leave a comment