How to Adopt a Dog (20 Tips)

Dog shelters these days are crowded, so much so that it is estimated that over 2.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized each and every year due to a lack of space in the shelters and too few people are looking to adopt. If you are looking to get a new puppy or dog, please consider adoption. This not only helps curb the overall dog population but also you’ll save a life!

How To Adopt a Dog
That being said you shouldn’t approach this with a careless attitude. Dogs are not a toy to select and play with when you want to. They are live animals with their own personalities and character. Adoption is what it is, an addition to your family! Below are 20 Tips on how to adopt a dog the right way.

1. Count the Cost $$$

Before you run out and adopt a new dog, be sure to understand the costs involved. Many dogs end up in shelters for that very reason, no longer able to afford the cost of raising one.

A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania estimated the average lifetime cost of a dog is roughly $23,000. So with an average lifespan of around 12 years you can expect to spend close to $2,000 per year! Know the costs …

2. Get the Essentials

Once you’ve made up your mind to adopt a dog, it’s a wise thing to do to go and buy the essentials for raising a dog if you haven’t already done so. Items to consider are dog food, as well as food/water bowls, collar, proper leash, grooming supplies, dog toys, as well as dog bedding such as blankets. It can be useful to take at least a collar/leash with you to the dog shelter or rescue.
Dog Essentials
After you have selected your new found friend, you will also want to get an ID tag. You can put contact info or the microchip info in order to get the dog back home.

3. Setup the Environment

Once you have the items needed for a new dog, you will want to setup your home/backyard for when your new family member comes home. The first thing to do is dog-proof your home.

Go through the house and remove dangerous items on the floor, cords, food out of reach, chemicals & medicine locked securely away etc… Here’s a good article on how to pet-proof your home.

Since the dog is coming straight from the confines of a shelter, you will want to put some tight boundaries when they first arrive. Letting them freely roam throughout the house may be a bit overwhelming for your new dog and could cause problems. Gated space, close to the family, with hard floors is a good idea!

4. Locate a Shelter

Next, you will want to locate your local shelter or rescue. The main difference between the 2 is that shelters are usually run by the city while rescues are private funded by donations and run by volunteers. YOu can use this nifty tool to locate a puppy in your area.

Try to schedule a time that are off hours which are less hectic & not the weekends. (shelters are loud!)

5. Ask the Right Questions

Once at the shelter you will want to ask the right questions to pick the most suitable dog for you. The shelter’s volunteers will be your best friend, so get to know them and ask them questions. They spend everyday with these dogs so they know them best! Things you can discuss are:

  • Health history if any
  • Age of the dog
  • Socialization issues
  • Behavior problems

6. Confirm Spay/Neuter

Another thing you will want to confirm before you drive away is if your canine friend is spay or neuter. Most shelters will have done this already but it never hurts to confirm this. Also, depending on the age of the dog, you will want to ask & confirm if he or she is up to date on all of their dog vaccines and the schedule going forward.
Spay & Neuter Your Dog

7. Choose similar lifestyles

While the Labrador Retriever is always one of the most popular dog breeds to own, many people choose this type of breed for that reason only. However, Labradors are very high energy and needs lots of outdoor time, exercise, and running.

If you’re an individual that prefers the couch than the outdoors, consider a breed to match your energy level. Each of our small dog breed profiles display energy level & exercise level.

8. Spend time with several dogs

Before you set your eye on 1 particular pup, ask the shelter if it would be OK to take a walk with different dogs to see how they relate to you. You can learn a lot from a dog with a short 5 minute walk around the shelter.

Don’t be hasty in making this decision, and don’t feel pressured to decide the first time you visit the shelter. It’s fine to come back 2-3 times and make your final decision and be comfortable with your choice of dog, than regret your decision.

9. Curious beats Fearful

When selecting your dog, take notice of the little things. While fearful is not always a bad thing, these dogs will require more tender, love, and care to overcome their fears.

Curious and alert dogs are positive signs and show interest in you as a prospective family. Also remember, shelters are noisy, it is common for dogs to bark and this doesn’t not mean that they will be keeping you up all night. Many times they are responding to other dogs barking in the room.

10. Get Every Family Member Involved

Are you married? have kids? It is important to get every family member involved because dogs react differently to different people. Especially if you have kids, make sure everyone is on board and the dog is comfortable.

This is especially true if you have another dog or pet. Observe how the dog gets along with other dogs in the shelter.

11. Determine Breed Type

One of the unfortunate myths about dog shelters in general is that they won’t have the specific breed you’re looking for or they don’t have any purebreds. A recent study by the humane society showed that 25% of all dogs in a shelters are purebreds! This is quite a high number.

Also, you should not overlook mixed breeds, as they often get the best traits of both breeds. A mixed breed also has less chance receiving breed-specific diseases that are passed down through pure breeding.

12. Let the Dog Decide

It is often said, you don’t pick the dog, the dog picks you. One strategy is to sit down with a group of dogs and see which ones come and approach you. This will immediately let you know that they are comfortable with you instead of you singling out one to take home.

Also it is said to avoid excessive eye contact. This is somewhat of an intimate connection, wait until the dog warms up to you before making intense eye contact.

13. Don’t Overlook Black

Schipperke breed
Many people pass over the black ones. Don’t be that individual. Make an effort to consider each and every dog that fits your type regardless of coat color.

14. Consider an adult

Yes, puppy eyes can often be irresistible but don’t overlook the older and more senior dogs. There are a handful of benefits one it comes to adopting an older dog. Most often older dogs will be house trained and have been through living with a family before so they won’t be chewing on your cords or peeing on you floor.

Also these dogs have established personalities and won’t grow out of them like younger pups can. You can check out Sr Dogs which is a site dedicated to educating on the importance of adopting senior dogs.

15. Expect an Adoption Fee

Remember even though you are adopting it will still cost $$$ up front. Usually less expensive than buying from a breeder, most shelters require an adoption fee for taking the animal to keep the shelter running. Spaying & neutering, microchipping, and vaccinations are usually included with adoption, making it a much cheaper option than buying from private breeder.

16. Follow Up Services

Depending on the shelter, you will want to ask what follow up services they offer. Many shelters and rescue groups have obedience training and dog classes, initial medical services, and consultation for behavioral issues. The shelter may also want you to come back 1 month later to check that everything is going well with your new dog as well as discover better ways to make the adoption process simple and easy.

17. Give Some Time

When you have selected that special dog, a wise thing to do is take a day or 2 off right after you bring he or she home. Or better yet bring the canine back home on Friday to allow for some quality time with the new family member over the weekend. There needs to be adjusting for both sides as this can be stressful. Allowing the dog to have special attention while they adjust to their new home and surroundings will better make them feel welcomed and secure.

Adopting during the middle of the week when no one will be home the next day is not very wise. Give some time to your new found friend!

18. Begin Training Right Away

The first thing you should do when you arrive home, is take your dog to his toilet area immediately. You want to train him right away, stay in this area until he relieves himself. Just a word of warning, be prepared for a handful of accidents when your dog comes home. It will take a little while depending on how house-trained they are. Also, note that some of these dogs may have never lived in a home.

The best thing to do is set a regular routine the first few weeks; do this with toilet training, feeding, & exercise times. Both your dog and you will greatly appreciate having a daily schedule you can follow and expect. Below is a great simple video on house training your dog for the beginner:

19. Schedule a Visit to the Vet

Dogs coming from a shelter or rescue have varied backgrounds and sometimes spotty health records. You will want to take your dog to the vet within 1-2 weeks after bringing him home. This will establish a baseline health record for your new friend and get any vaccinations that they may need. This will also give you a heads up on any diseases your breed may be at risk or other common health problems.

If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, be sure to get this done soon. No need to add to the growing dog population.

20. Damaged Dog Myth

It’s unfortunate that many view dogs in shelters and rescues as damaged dogs. But quite the opposite is true. Many of these animals are in there with no fault of themselves. These dogs are just as active, healthy, and ahappy as dogs you will find from a breeder or anywhere else. Lots of times, a divorce, death, or just lack of resources force an owner to give up on the animal. Each year over 1,000,000 dogs are euthanized, so take one home and save a life!

Bottom line is adopting a dog really does save lives. Thank you for considering adoption!

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