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How To Adopt a New Dog

brown and black dog being adopted

If you want to welcome a dog into your life, adoption is a rewarding way to find your canine companion. 

Roughly 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States and only about half of those pups are adopted. If you want to adopt a new dog, you’ll not only better your own life, you’ll also be doing something outstanding for a pup in need -- giving him a loving home.

Although dog adoption might not be the top choice of everyone who is looking for a new dog, it can be one of the most rewarding.  There are many pups that end up in shelters due to overpopulation, breed prejudices, or a number of other reasons. All of these dogs are hoping for a forever home, but is adoption for you?

black dog being adopted

How Do You Adopt a Dog?

The overall process of adopting a new dog is fairly simple; you search for a pup that is a good fit, the shelter checks out your references, and you take your new furry friend home. Okay, so there are a bit more details involved, but basically, it’s pretty easy. Where it gets a little tougher is if you are looking for a specific type of dog.

If you have certain requirements in mind for your new pup, then you might need to be willing to either wait longer or go farther. The dog you’re looking for could be in a shelter 100 miles away, so are you willing to go the distance? If you aren’t in a rush to bring home a new pup, you can submit your criteria to certain shelters and they can alert you when a dog that matches your wish list becomes available. However, many people visit a shelter and see if they have a connection to any of the available dogs; sometimes, it’s love at first sight.

Where Do You Start When Adopting a Dog?

Unless you have a specific organization in mind, a good starting point is your local animal shelters. You can also look at local rescues, especially if you are looking for a particular breed since there are several breed-specific rescues that work with finding pups their forever homes. Another great resource is, which can help you narrow down your search based on a variety of criteria.

No matter where you decide to adopt a new dog, make sure to do a thorough check of the facility itself. For example, is it clean? Are the animals healthy? Does the organization seem reputable? If you think the answer to any of these questions is no, then move on to another option, but first, you might want to consider reporting the facility to the proper authorities. 

What Kind of Dog Should You Adopt?

The answer to this question is of course a personal choice, but it depends on a variety of factors. Before you start your search, it’s helpful to have a basic idea of what kind of dog you are looking for, at least in terms of things like size and age. You don’t want to end up falling in love with a dog that you won’t be able to adopt. In other words, your condo only allows small dogs, yet you become smitten with a Great Dane. 

If you are open to any dog, that’s great, but keep in mind some of the logistics of your decision. For example, a dog that has special needs or medical issues will require a bit more of your budget, where a puppy needs a lot of attention and special considerations like potty training and basic obedience instruction. Therefore, consider your financial situation, how often you have to be away from home, and your current lifestyle and schedule when you are making your list of potential canine pals. 

In addition to choosing between a puppy or an older dog, size is also an important point. You might prefer large breeds, or you might need to find a dog that won’t get bigger than 15 pounds because of your particular living arrangement, such as a small apartment. Basically, know the answers to these types of questions before you start your search, and then it’s up to you to see how much your heart or your head factors into your final choice. 

What Does It Cost To Adopt a Dog?

The price to adopt a dog varies from shelter to shelter, and it can be anywhere from free to hundreds of dollars. Often, when you do pay an adoption fee it is to cover things like vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and other odds and ends, as well as a donation toward the shelter. Some places even have special “name your price” days where you can decide how much you will pay when you adopt your pup. Of course, there are also the costs that go along with actually owning a dog, so even if the adoption itself is free, remember that you’ll still be spending money on your pooch.

What Do You Need To Adopt a Dog?

Besides any possible adoption fee, the shelter will usually require references from you. You will fill out some basic personal info and in many cases will be expected to provide character references. The shelter might also conduct an interview to get a sense of your reliability and ability to care for an animal, and quite a few places have started running background checks on potential adopters. If you already own animals, the shelter will also usually talk to your vet to assess your skills as a pet owner. Depending on how stringent the shelter’s adoption process is, you might be able to take your new dog home that day, or you might have to wait a few days.

dog behind cage being adopted

What To Ask Before Adopting a Dog

You might know what dog you want in an instant or it might take you several searches, but remember, you don’t have to choose the first dog that you see. Adopting a new dog is a huge decision, and it is not one that should be taken lightly. Although most shelters have a certain length of time, usually a few weeks, in which you can return the animal to the shelter if things don’t work out, this can be an upsetting situation for everyone, especially the dog. It can take a new dog anywhere from weeks to months, and even over a year, to fully adjust to his new home, so make sure you are prepared to be patient and work with your new furry friend.

In order to avoid making a rash decision, or ultimately having to bring your dog back to the shelter, ask yourself these questions first (and be honest with all of your answers):

  • What are the restrictions, if any, concerning dogs where you live? 
  • Do you want an older dog or a puppy? Do you have the time and attention that a new puppy requires? 
  • Do you already own pets? If so, you need to find a dog that is good with other animals.
  • Do you have kids? If so, make sure the dog you adopt has a good track record of being good with children.
  • How much do you have in your budget to put toward a new dog?
  • Does your current lifestyle make it feasible for you to have a dog and give it the appropriate amount of attention?

When you find a potential pup to adopt, in addition to considering the above answers, also ask these more specific questions:

  • Is this dog good with strangers, kids, or other animals?
  • How much food does this dog eat?
  • How much exercise does this dog need every day?
  • Does this dog have any special needs or medical conditions? Does he take any medication?
  • How much grooming and maintenance does this dog require?
  • How and when did the dog come to the shelter?
  • Is there anything important you should know about this dog’s history? (He was abandoned, abused, etc.)
  • Is this dog current on all of his shots? Has he had heartworm prevention?
  • Is the dog spayed/neutered, or will he be?
  • If the dog is still a puppy, how big will he get when fully grown?
  • How old is the dog? What breed is it, or what mix?

If you have any unique concerns or questions, make sure to ask them all before making the final choice to adopt a dog. Adopting a new pup is super exciting, and once you meet that dog that melts your heart, it can be hard to resist taking him home with you as soon as possible. However, being patient and doing your homework makes it more likely that you find the perfect pooch for you.

When you’re ready to add a dog into the mix, it can be a wild ride, but it’s also one of the most incredible experiences that you can have. Adopting a dog is a great way to help provide a loving animal with a wonderful home while enriching your own life; just make sure you don’t rush into it. For more great resources and advice on how to take care of your pets, make sure to check out the rest of our blog! Neater Pets also has fantastic products like the Rolly Cannoli and our amazing Neater Feeder, so you can start gathering all of the supplies that you need for your new addition!

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