How To Adopt A Dog: The Why, The Where, The How

how to adopt a dog

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Dog rescuers of the world, unite! You are all to be commended for adopting a dog in need of a loving home instead of supporting the puppy mill economy. We get all the fuzzies and feels when a dog goes from homeless to ruler of the house!

While we are totally on Team Adopt, we also know that even the most well-intentioned rescuers have questions about how to adopt a dog.

So that’s what we’re going to tackle here: what you need to know about the process of adopting a dog:

  • Why you should consider adopting a dog
  • Where to adopt a dog
  • What are the requirements to adopt a dog
  • Dog adoption interview questions and application
  • Dog adoption home visit and meet-and-greet
  • How much it costs to adopt a dog

Do your homework first.

Before you pack up the kids and take that impassioned drive to your local animal shelter, you need to do your homework.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do we want to adopt a dog?
  • Does everyone in the family want a dog?
  • Are my children (assuming you have them) age-appropriate for the kind and age of dog we want to adopt?
  • Do we have the time and commitment to give a dog what it needs in the way of attention, training, care, and love?
  • Is everyone willing and prepared to do his/her share in caring for a dog?
  • Is our home set up for a dog’s safety and exercise needs?
  • What is our lifestyle like? Are we outdoor adventurists? Do we travel a lot? Work away from home a lot? Have a lot of obligations away from home?
  • Are our health and fitness levels a good match for the dog we want to adopt?
  • Is anyone in our home allergic to dogs?
  • What dog breed do we want to adopt?
  • Can we afford the costs of owning a dog (food, veterinary care, pet insurance, grooming, toys, supplies)?

And, perhaps most important of all: Are we prepared for a lifetime commitment to a dog’s well-being and happiness, no matter what that requires?

Pets, after all, are family. And they need – and deserve – a family-level devotion.

why adopt a dog

Why adopt a dog instead of buying from a breeder?

Look at the state of pet homelessness around the world, and you will see that the United States ranks near the top in most categories.

We love our pets and consider them family.

But we also have a shameful number of homeless pets trembling in shelter kennels, wondering how they got there and when they will be saved. Many were lost, many abandoned, and, sadly, many surrendered.

However, there is one underlying culprit primarily responsible for the overpopulation problem: backyard breeders.

And, tragically, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year in the US, primarily because no one comes for them. And the need for space to accommodate the 6.5 million pets entering shelters every year ultimately drives the euthanasia rate.

Where to adopt a dog: The shelter isn’t your only choice.

If you’re planning on adopting a dog, know that you have several choices for how to find your newest family member.

Places to adopt a dog near you:

What do you need to adopt a dog?

There are a few ways to answer that question. At first, you might be wondering what you need to have ready at home when you bring your newly adopted dog home.

Bringing home your new puppy or rescue dog is exciting, but are you anxious about what to get for a new dog? Read our checklist and guide for new dog owners to be prepared for their arrival.

You might also be wondering about the adoption costs, adoption process and adoption requirements. What’s involved?


What are the requirements to adopt a dog?

You can go to the shelter and walk the aisles, waiting for a pair of eyes to lock with yours.

You can also do your preliminary search online.

But the next steps will be about vetting you, not the doggo of your dreams.

Any legit shelter or rescue is going to be committed to placing its pets in safe, loving homes. It wants those pets to thrive for a lifetime, without ever landing in a shelter or rescue again.

And that means asking you a number of questions and putting you through an application process. Typically, shelters ask about your job and how it influences your lifestyle. For example, if your job requires you to be away from home for long hours, such as a trucker, a shelter may ask if you plan to bring your dog on the road with you and suggest the best dog breeds for truckers.

When you accept the fact that those responsible for placing a dog are first and foremost concerned with the dog’s well-being, the process won’t seem so invasive.

And, if you have done the homework listed earlier in this article, you will be prepared for all the questions and expectations.

If you are adopting in person from a shelter, you will fill out an application and meet with an adoption counselor.

Dog adoption interview questions and application

Your interview and application may involve questions like:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or elderly family members in your home? Who else lives with you?
  • Is everyone in your home agreeable to the adoption?
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you have a safely enclosed yard?
  • Do you have a pool?
  • Have you owned a dog before?
  • Have you ever surrendered a dog to a shelter or rescue? If so, when and why?
  • Do you have dogs now? How many? What breeds, ages, and temperaments?
  • Why do you want a dog?
  • Are/were your dog(s) spayed or neutered?
  • Did/do/will you give your dog(s) heartworm preventative every month?
  • Did/do/will you get your dog(s) regular veterinary care, both preventative and for health issues?
  • How many hours a day will the dog be left alone?
  • What is your job and how does it affect your lifestyle?
  • Do you have time to socialize, train, and exercise a dog?
  • Are you familiar with positive training methods?
  • Can you provide references regarding your experience with dog ownership?
  • Can you afford the dog’s basic needs, as well as unexpected health needs?

Most shelters and rescues will vet, vaccinate, and spay/neuter dogs before releasing them for adoption. If, for some reason, your shelter/rescue does not do this, your adoption counselor will want the assurance that you will.

Just as there are questions you will have to answer, there are also questions you should ask before adopting a dog.

If you are going through an online website, you will still have to fill out an application and answer a lot of questions. You may also have to provide references and vet records for prior dogs.


Dog adoption home visit and meet-and-greet

Many rescues will expect to do a home visit to make sure the dog will be going to a safe environment. They will also want to do a meet-and-greet between the dog and its potential new family members (both human and animal).

While this may seem intrusive on the surface, it’s really a sign of due diligence on the rescue’s part. Welcome the opportunity to show that you have properly dog-proofed your house and are set up for a new family member.

And express openness to all helpful suggestions for giving your dog the best life.

How much to adopt a dog: Is there an adoption fee?

Every shelter and rescue is different when it comes to adoption costs. Many shelters waive adoption fees when they reach capacity and need to make room without euthanizing pets.

However, you should have the attitude that paying an adoption fee demonstrates genuine intentions for pet adoption. It also takes into consideration the vetting, vaccinating, spaying/neutering, feeding, and housing that has already taken place.

Look at it this way: An adoption fee is nothing in comparison to the lifetime costs of having a dog. And it helps to ensure that shelters and rescues can continue their work of saving homeless animals.


We Applawse You In Considering Dog Adoption

If you are committed to adopting a dog in need of a home, you already have a rescuer’s heart. And we applaud you – and the doggos in the shelter applawse you as well. The world is a more hopeful place because of you.

We encourage you to consider those dogs who, through no fault of their own, have the least chance of getting adopted.

Black dogs, senior dogs, and dogs with disabilities have the toughest time getting out of shelters alive. And yet, they make some of the best, most loyal, appreciative companions of all.

Whatever dog ultimately wins your heart, remember that you are actually saving two lives: the life of your dog and the life of another dog coming into rescue for a chance at furever love.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to Dog Life Mag at no cost to you if you decide to purchase the product or service. You can read our full affiliate disclosure in our privacy policyThis site is not intended to provide financial advice or replace your veterinarian’s recommendations and is for entertainment only. Please check with your veterinarian first before giving your pet any medication, treatment, or new foods and we recommend following your veterinarian’s recommendations. 

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