2020 was a record year for dog adoptions. With pandemic lockdowns occurring across the globe, many people realized they had a lot of free time on their hands.
And while some parts of life are getting back to normal, for many people, working from home is the new norm. There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of WFH, but for people who would otherwise not have time for a new dog, it’s a perfect combo.
Whether you’re enjoying the work from home life or just looking to adopt a new furry friend, the adoption process can be stressful and draining, even for the most prepared of potential owners.
If you want more information on how to adopt a dog, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to dog adoption. Read on to find out more!
Unfortunately, as much as we humans love dogs, we are not always the best stewards. Strays and overpopulation from backyard breeding, unethical puppy mills, and “oops” litters leave millions of animals in shelters with thousands euthanized every year.
Adopting a dog can be a life-changing experience, for both you and the dog. Saving an animal from a shelter situation can gain you a best friend for life. And one less animal having to live in stressful, isolated conditions is a win-win.
Most adoptable dogs have been vetted for their personality, temperament, likes, and dislikes by volunteer shelter workers or foster owners. This can give you a good idea of what the dog will be like, and whether their personality and needs are compatible.
Adopting is also much cheaper than going through a breeder. While purebred dogs are an excellent fit for people looking for certain qualities (such as working breeds), there are thousands of excellent pet dogs waiting for adoption.
Shelter Vs. Rescue
When researching how to adopt a dog, there are generally three avenues people take. The first, adopting from classified ads, is quickly falling out of fashion. More rescues and shelters are taking on dogs that would otherwise be adopted in this way.
Additionally, a lot of online ads for adoptable dogs can actually be for backyard breeder dogs or dogs with serious behavioral and health issues. Going through a shelter or rescue can often screen these dogs beforehand.
Animal shelters are by far the most common and easiest way to adopt a dog. Most shelters have a variety of dogs ranging in sizes, ages, and temperaments.
Shelters generally have low adoption fees to encourage people to take home a new furry friend. They also do health checks, spay and neutering, and vaccinations, which are generally included in the fee.
Shelters are usually funded by local municipalities and supported by donations of money and supplies, which help offset the fees on your end. Public shelters are usually not highly selective when vetting adoptees, for better or for worse.
Rescues tend to be a bit more focused. Breed-specific rescues are by far the most common type and are a good way to go if you are looking for a specific kind of dog, such as a Doberman or a Labrador.
Rescue fees also tend to be a little higher as they are smaller volunteer-run operations. Many rescue dogs are fostered instead of kept in a shelter or kennel, meaning that they have been vetted in a home to see what they are like.
One downside of going through a rescue is that many are extremely selective of who gets to adopt their dogs. Many have strict requirements on previous dog ownership, financial situations, and your home/property.
Some “rescues” can also be covert puppy mill rings or animal hoarders. Make sure to research thoroughly, and walk away from any “rescue” charging insanely high adoption fees, especially for purebreds and designer breeds.
The decision to adopt through a shelter or rescue really comes down to what kind of dog you’re looking for. If you are just looking for a furry four-legged companion, check your local shelter first. If you have more specific desires, research rescues.
Are You Ready To Adopt A Dog?
Before bringing a dog into your life, remember that caring for one is more than just providing food and shelter.
Many rescued dogs suffer from some degree of behavioral problems. The average age for dogs to be surrendered to shelters is from six months to a year, right when they are hitting their adolescent phase and need a firm hand.
If the previous owner did not socialize or train them well, they might have issues with obedience, housebreaking, or reactivity and anxiety.
These are all issues that can be easily dealt with if you have some patience and persistent training, but that is a major consideration to keep in mind when deciding to adopt. Do you have the time to commit to helping your new dog adjust?
Dogs are also financially stressful. Vet visits, food and toys, training sessions… all things that take a big hit on your wallet. If you struggle to make ends meet for yourself every month, it wouldn’t be fair to bring a dog into that situation.
Finally, dogs are social animals. They need to be with people. If you work or travel a lot and will not be able to spend a lot of time with your dog, reconsider adoption. There are less expensive and needy lawn ornaments you can purchase instead.
Before Adopting: Questions to Ask Yourself
- Are you able to financially provide for a dog? This includes surprises such as emergency vet visits and behavioral training for issues that may arise.
- Do you have other pets? Some dogs might not get along well with other animals, including other dogs and cats.
- Do you have children? Some dogs do not like children. Kids should always be supervised around dogs and taught how to properly behave around them to prevent incidents.
- Do you have adequate space for a dog’s needs? Some breeds are content in an apartment with potty walks while others need a big backyard to run free.
- What are you wanting out of your experience with a dog? Do you want a hiking buddy or a cuddly lap companion?
- What size of dog are you looking for? How much shedding, drooling, and barking are you willing to tolerate? These can all vary by breed.
- What kind of personality would fit you best? Do you want an exuberant, eager companion or a more independent, quiet type?
- What is your living situation? If you rent, what are size or breed limitations? Are your neighbors and housemates cool with a dog?
- Do you have plans in place for when you cannot spend time with your dog, be it for work, travel, or social obligations? If you have to crate a dog for eight or more hours a day with no breaks, you might want to reconsider adopting.
How to Adopt a Dog: At the Shelter or Rescue
The process for adopting a dog is not usually as simple as picking one at the shelter and leaving the same day.
Usually, you will have to fill out some sort of questionnaire that assures shelter/rescue workers you are able to provide for the dog’s basic needs and have no bad intentions.
There may also be an interview process with the shelter or rescue to figure out if a dog is a good fit for you and potentially suggest dogs that are a match. The questions above are similar to what you might be asked.
Many shelters and rescues have a waitlist for their dogs, especially this past year with such high demand. Even if you find a perfect match, you might not be the first in line to adopt them.
After you pass the application process and find a matching dog that is ready to go home, you will usually have to pay an adoption fee, which can vary based on time of year and from shelter to shelter.
Coming Home: The First Month
Before bringing home your new furry friend, you should be equipped with plenty of items that are necessary for dog care. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Food and dishes
- Toys of various types
- Chews (such as bully sticks or Kongs)
- Leash and collar
- Grooming supplies (nail trimmers, brushes, shampoo and conditioner, etc.)
- Cleaning supplies (accidents can happen even with adult dogs)
House-Proofing and Introductions
A new home is an exciting thing for an adopted dog. It can also be scary. To prevent issues from arising in either circumstance, make sure you are prepared.
Crate training helps a large majority of dogs adjust to new homes. It keeps them from getting into trouble (such as chewing or having accidents) and gives them a safe space to retreat to if they begin to get stressed.
Make sure the dog has their own designated space in your home, and block access to areas you are not willing to clean up a mess in.
When bringing a new dog into your house, it can be tempting (and cute) to let them run wild and see the whole place. But it is actually less stressful for them to start out small and gradually allow them more access to the house.
If you have existing pets, first impressions are very important. For other dogs, meet away from the home in a neutral space, such as a park, and take the dogs for a pack walk together.
This will prevent any territorial issues from arising right away and give them a chance to get comfortable with each other outside of the house.
If you have cats, make sure that the cats have their own spaces as well so they can escape if they find the dog to be too curious or rambunctious. Confining the dog to a smaller area at first will help your cats be more comfortable.
The Adjustment Period
All dogs go through an adjustment period when coming into a new home, whether they are puppies or adults. This is when many trainers say to implement a two-week “shutdown” period to give the dog time to adjust.
It can take several weeks, or even months, for a new dog to get adjusted to their new routine and lifestyle. This is the time period when many shelter dogs are returned for “behavioral issues.”
These are generally not issues that should be deal-breakers. Many shelter dogs, even adults, will be confused by their new environment and soil in the house. Using a crate to reinforce housebreaking will definitely help in this situation.
New dogs may also be anxious or fearful. Give the dog space and time to adjust to all these new sights, sounds, and smells. Pushing an adopted dog before they are ready can result in reactive bites or growling and barking.
Becoming Part of the Family
Once your new friend starts to become comfortable in their new home, their personality will really start to shine through. They’ll also learn the routines and rules of your house, and you’ll notice them bonding more deeply.
This is a good point to start working on obedience, loose leash walking, and any behavioral issues such as reactivity or barking. Pushing a new dog too soon can make issues worse, so wait until they’ve adjusted nicely.
The internet is a wonderful resource for anyone considering adopting a new dog. Tips and information for dog owners are plentiful, so make sure to do your research if you have any questions or issues, and speak with a trainer on behavioral problems.
Adopting a Dog?
We hope this guide has helped answer how to adopt a dog. Here’s to many years of long life and fun together. A dog is a friend for life, so make sure that you are prepared ahead of time, and your new friend will fit right in.
If you want more tips and advice on living a healthy lifestyle, make sure to check out our other blog posts, and feel free to contact us at any time!