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How to Adopt a Dog (Guide: Updated 2018)

A dog or puppy is a fantastic addition to any home.

Once you have done your research and found the perfect breed, size, and temperament for you, it’s time to head out and find the perfect one for your family.

There are a generally two ways you can bring home your new furry friend:

  • Visiting a breeder
  • Or getting your dog from a shelter

While most breeders are humane, and therefore not a terrible choice, there are many benefits to adoption, making it a great way to add to your family.

Why Adopt a Dog?

There are hundreds of reasons why you should consider adding a dog to your life and adopting over buying one from a store or breeder carries a few unique benefits.

For starters:

Whenever you adopt a dog from a pound, shelter, or from another owner who may not be able to care for their furry friend anymore, you are helping to save lives.

In the United States alone, approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized each year — dog adoption helps to save those lives, giving a dog another chance at happiness.

Some of the reluctance around adoption is due to selection:

People often have a particular breed in mind and are not very eager to stray from that idea.

This makes sense; each breed has a different temperament and is suited for particular lifestyles.

For example:

Families with a lot of space may want a large dog, whereas those who live in small apartments may prefer a tinier breed.

Additionally, if you have children, you need to find a breed that is suited to that lifestyle.

But, going through an animal shelter does not mean that you cannot choose your breed. Current estimates state that somewhere around 750,000 pets adopted are purebred.

And if the breed you want is not at your nearest adoption center, consider visiting one a little further away.

Posting your intention to adopt a certain breed on social media sites, such as Facebook, can also help you find a shelter that has the perfect dog for your family.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

Many people are drawn to the idea of adoption but worry about sky-high costs.

Contrary to popular belief, adoption does not cost more than buying a dog from a breeder.

In fact, it is actually much cheaper.

When you buy a dog from a breeder, you are typically paying a lot of cash up front.

From there, you need to be sure that the dog gets microchipped, vaccinated, dewormed, examined by a vet, and spayed or neutered.

Those additional costs may not seem like a lot, but they quickly add up — when you visit a shelter, all of those extra expenses are typically covered by the adoption fee.

The exact fee depends on the shelter and how many dogs they have available.

Overcrowded shelters tend to be more flexible on fees than others, often waiving them altogether if they have started to turn people away.

Generally speaking, shelter fees can vary from $100 to $500 when they are charged.

Some may charge a base rate and encourage you to donate more, while others may have a geared to income program.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Adopt a Dog?

Each shelter has slightly different age requirements, so you should check before you head out.

In general, you can expect 18 to be the minimum age requirement.

Some shelters, such as those run by the SPCA, require all adoptive parties to be at least 21 years of age before their applications can be reviewed.

Ideally, you should be old enough that you can adequately cover everything needed for pet care.

This means taking your pet for regular walks and vet visits, as well as playing with them, feeding them, and generally giving them lots of love and affection.

Some individuals who are still students or who are working multiple jobs may not be the best pet parents at this time, due to multiple commitments that take them out of the home.

Adoption age requirement is usually set so that the agency can be sure all pets are going to be well cared for by responsible parties.

What Documentation Do You Need to Adopt a Dog?

Shelters and agencies have different documentation requirements depending on their company policies.

In most cases, you are expected to bring proof that your residence permits dogs, such as a mortgage statement or lease agreement expressly allowing for pets, a piece of ID with your address and age on it, veterinary records of any existing pets in the house, and proof of income.

Certain shelters may also require that you, your family, and any other pets come and have a “meet and greet” with the dog you want to take home in advance to make sure that everyone is compatible.

While this can happen on the same day, many shelters prefer that you visit on your own first, and then bring the rest of your family to a subsequent appointment.

This makes things less overwhelming for the animals at the shelter.

Additionally, it gives the staff time to find a spot for your current pets to meet the new dog safely.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Dog?

The adoption process varies considerably depending on the shelter and the circumstances under which you are adopting.

In some cases, you can bring your new furry friend home on the same day.

Other shelters have a two-day waiting period while they review your application and check references. Others still may take as long as three weeks.

If the dog is ready to go, with all of his or her vaccinations up to date, and your paperwork is in order, the process goes by much faster.

Delays are caused when there are delays in getting touch with the dog’s foster family, or when the shelter cannot verify information or contact references.

Depending on how much time shelter staff has when you drop off your application, you may want to ask them to give it a quick review to be sure that all boxes and fields are filled out.

In most cases, the adoption process happens in a few steps.

First, you come down to the shelter to meet the dogs they have. If you are keen on continuing with the process, you are asked to fill out an application.

The information required varies depending on the shelter and the dog in question. Some pets may need additional care than others, and the shelters want to be sure they are not matching you with a dog you do not have the time or money to handle.

General information you can be expected to provide includes things like the size of your home, your work schedule, who lives with you, and references.

Essentially, the staff at the shelter just want to make sure they are sending their dogs to safe and loving homes.

Adopting a dog is a big decision, but one that ultimately benefits you and your family. Dogs add warmth to any home and are scientifically proven to make their human companions happier and healthier.

When you are looking for your next furry friend, visit your local shelter first to learn more about their specific policies and procedures and the adoption process in general.

Chances are, the perfect dog for you and your family is there, just waiting to find their forever home.

Dog Adoption Resources