How To Adopt A Dog

A new dog in the house will take no time to steal the hearts of everyone living with it. An increasing number of people are going down the adoption route in recent times. Adopting a dog in need and providing them with a safe and happy home – at any stage of their life – is an amazing gesture. There’s no feeling quite like knowing you’ve made a life changing difference in an animal’s life. People are beginning to look away from the more ‘desirable’ pure-bred breeding market. More dogs than ever are in need of rehoming and rescuing, and with this must come a wave of support from us to shelters.

If you’ve never done it before then pet adoption can spring quite a few surprises on you. It’s not quite as simple as walking in, picking a pup, paying, and leaving! There are also a few rules to learn and steps you can take to make the entire process go smoothly. We’re going to take a look through the process of adopting a dog, and everything you need to know to make life easier for yourself, and your new furry friend.


Find Your Local Shelter

You will no doubt have a nearby animal shelter. They are plentiful. Due to the number of pets that are shockingly abandoned or unwanted by their owners, however, shelters are taking the brunt of overcrowded spaces. The staff should all be animal lovers just like you and me. They will take you through the process from start to finish and answer any questions you might have.

  • Many shelters will only rehome dogs within their specified catchment area. Rehoming shelters do this to make home visits and regular checkups easier. This is why adopting local is often the best way to go. You don’t want to fall in love with a pup only for logistics to get in the way! Plus, it saves you time and effort going miles when your shelter down the street needs you just as much. It’s even better to do a good thing in your own community.
  • A plus of taking in a locally adopted pup on your end is that they are never too far away from their previous carers. Looking after shelter dogs is something that animal workers take great pride in. If you encounter any unusual behavior or are struggling, they will be more than happy to offer advice. At least in my experience.
  • On your first visit, you can also enquire about what kind of service they provide. Depending on how old the dog is, they should have already received any shots that they need, and the shelter may have also neutered or spayed them. You can usually take their harness with them for much less than you would buy new. (Helpful as the dog will be used to this harness by now.) Our shelter lent us Nacho’s harness until we found a suitable replacement.

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Check That You’re The Right Fit

Prepare yourself for an interview before you can take any animal home for adoption. While it won’t quite be as intense as the word ‘interview’ implies, it’s important for you to nail. You should, therefore, know what to expect going in. 

  • Firstly, can you spare the time? Rescue dogs often, heartbreakingly, end up in shelters due to abuse or neglect. They need more time and love doled out on them because of this. If you work long hours or will have to leave your dog alone for long periods, adopting might not be for you.
  • What experience do you have with pets already? Don’t worry if the answer is none; this isn’t an interrogation! Any experience you do have with pets – adopted or otherwise – is a great help and reassurance to the shelter.
  • How is your home situation? I’m sure you will have checked with the entire family already to make sure they are on board. If there are young children in your household then rescue dogs with more nervous or aggressive dispositions may pose a risk to your family. If you rent be sure to contact your landlord for the go-ahead before making any shelter visits.
  • Do you have enough space? Dogs need plenty of exercise throughout the day, and not just on walks. This comes down to the size of the dog. Hopefully, if you’re looking at a larger breed, you have a nice big garden to accommodate them.
  • Are you ready for a home visit? Get the house tidy and safe for your potential new friend to explore. Have an idea of where everything will go (bowls, toys, beds, etc.). You‘ll give off the feeling of care and attention to detail that home visitors will be looking for. 

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Do Your Research

It’s very important to know what you are talking about when you arrive for a shelter visit. You won’t be adopting any pets if you come across as someone who is making up answers as they go along. A bit of research and knowledge in the world of dog ownership will go a long way. Prepare some questions for the shelter. Come to your visit ready to dazzle the carers with your willingness to learn more about the pup you are seeing. Get the basics down: how old are they, are they house trained, how long have they been with you. These questions are fundamentals. 

  • You can go further, however. Asking the staff when the dog’s birthday is, how they get along with different types of people, and if they have special medications or requirements will endear you immediately to everyone working at the shelter. The shelter staff raises these pups as their own. They need to be content and reassured that they are going to a loving home.
  • Training and socializing. If you have had pets before, any knowledge you have about training and educating them is great to share. Even if you don’t know the ins and outs of training and raising rescues, just acknowledge the difference. Accept the fact that a rescue needs more care and attention and you are showing that willingness to rise to the challenge.
  • Be honest. Although it’s good to know what you’re talking about, honesty is far more important. Don’t fret about being a superstar animal boffin. Anything you don’t know, say so. The adoption process isn’t like a written exam. You won’t be turned away for not knowing things; just make sure you ask and attentively listen. As long as you show a desire to learn, you’ll be okay.

Get To Know Your Pup

This is probably the most important point I can make in regards to adopting a dog. All the knowledge and preparation in the world are great to get you ready to have a new four-legged housemate. However, spending some time and bonding with the dog you’ve found is essential to a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

  • Make multiple visits to the shelter to spend a bit of time with the dog before committing to taking them home. Keep things as consistent as possible each time. Wearing the same scent, for example, provides that signifier to the dog that it is you visiting them. 
  • The longer you can set aside to spend time with them, the better. I stayed for at least an hour whenever I visited my rescue before we took him in. The more time you can spend socializing with them, the quicker they will get used to you. Likewise, the more you will learn about their personality. 
  • Don’t get down if the dog doesn’t warm to you at first. Rescue dogs can be – understandably – cautious and even aggressive towards new humans. My dog, for example, was very mistrustful of me the first time I visited. However, I spent a few hours with him over the next few weeks. Before long, he was approaching me freely and I could take him on walks around the grounds.
  • Try not to initiate contact. Due to the mistrustful nature that I mentioned, approaching rescue dogs directly will frighten them. On your first visit, sit in a common space where it is just you and the dog. Most shelters have a room like this for bonding. Bring a toy along, if you want, so that when they engage you will have something to entertain them.

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Prepare For Your New Addition

Once the paperwork, vets, insurance, and all the other essentials are sorted, you’ll be bringing home a new pup! Between your adoption being confirmed and bringing the dog home there are a few preparations that you’ll want to do.

  • The shelter that you are adopting your pup from will have their own dog food. They may provide you with a small sample of their food to keep the dog’s eating habits regular. This will usually be factored into to charges you pay to adopt. You should ask them what food they use if they don’t supply a sample, so you can buy in the correct food that won’t cause an upset stomach. 
  • Prepare your home. Obviously! Remember when you had the home visit (if you did)? Use the information you were given and any feedback you received to implement all of your dog’s necessities into your house.
  • If you didn’t require a home visit for any reason, there isn’t much to the home prep. Get a bed, an ample supply of food as close to their current food as possible, treats, toys, and a crate. Set everything up in the room that you spend most of your time in. This will make your dog feel included.

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What To Expect And Consider

There’s a large element of responsibility that comes with bringing any animal into your home. This is even more applicable to rescues. Before you sign on the dotted line, a few final things to consider; and what you can expect initially.

  • Prepare yourself for a longer adjustment period. It will take more time than you might expect for your dog to trust you. Even if they have done the house visit and you spent hours with them bonding, they are now living in an entirely new environment. Patience is a virtue, and you’ll need plenty of it!
  • If you have dogs already, be wary when introducing a rescue. As you’ll have spent plenty of time bonding with the new pup your other dog(s) will have picked up on their scent and be more receptive. For the rescue, their temperament is the deciding factor on how you go about the introductions.
  • Extra training might be needed for some dogs. By finding out about their life before they came to the shelter you will know if they were used for breeding, hunting, or any other purposes. If they have, you will need to take some extra measures to help them adapt to the rules of your house.
  • Take the financial side of things in. you’ll need to account for food, vet bills, and insurance among others. If you live on a relatively small budget then it’s your duty to be 100% confident you can afford to take on a dog. Rescues don’t need any more upheaval than they’ve already been through in their lives.

Final Thoughts

Why should you adopt rather than buy? You’re making the world of difference to a dog that has had a rough go in life. For animal lovers, there is no better feeling than the moment you look into your rescue dog’s eyes and see a confident, safe, happy pup in place of the frightened, betrayed dog you first took in. 

We’ve had our Nacho for just over a year now. Every now and then he will look at me with pure love and gratitude and I will start to well up a little! It does wonders for your own self-confidence when you make such a difference for another life. The adoption is a tough but joyful time for the people working at the shelter as well. We still keep in contact with the shelter that Nacho came from to let them know how he’s getting on.

As for going forwards with the process of adoption, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. There is, however, such thing as being under-prepared. You might be the most loving puppy parent in the world. If you come in with no knowledge or expectation of what you’re taking on, however, you will leave empty-handed. Likewise, your home and work situation just might not be right for some rescue dogs. I promise you this. If you visit your local shelter tomorrow, you will fall in love with at least one furry ball of joy.