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So you’re thinking about adopting a dog — that’s wonderful! You’re about to embark on a journey of rescuing, caring for and providing a loving home to a pup in need. In return, you’ll get unconditional love, unlimited snuggles and all the kisses and tail wags you could ask for!
Use our complete dog adoption guide to prepare for your journey. The links below will help you navigate.
Before you head to the shelter, it’s a good idea to prep your home for your furry friend’s arrival. In addition, you should purchase items they’ll need to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Check with the shelter before you purchase dog supplies, as some of these items may be provided when you adopt:
When you start your dog adoption search, you’ll be greeted with a wealth of choices and options. What breed should you choose? What size dog is right for your home and lifestyle? Do you want an energetic, on-the-go dog or a couch potato companion? Are you up to daily coat maintenance, or are once-a-month baths and nail trims more your style?
Make sure to do some research ahead of visiting a shelter; our Dog Breed Selector is a great place to start.
Try not to go to the shelter expecting to find “your dog” the first time, because you may not — although it is difficult to leave without a new family member once you’re there! It’s important to find the right dog for you — one that fits your lifestyle, family dynamic and home. Be prepared to visit as many times as it takes. In the long run, it’ll be worth the wait.
Bring a notepad and pen so you can write down pertinent information and important questions you want to ask. And make sure to have your phone handy to take pictures; some shelters may not let you take pics of their dogs, but most will. Consider leaving the shelter with your notes and pictures and giving the decision more thought before coming back to adopt a dog.
It’s very easy to fall in love at first sight, but you should spend time with a dog before adopting them. Look for a dog who’s happy and friendly, and avoid aggressive dogs. Many shelter dogs are energetic because they’ve been confined, so don’t rule out a dog just because they seem hyper.
If you find a dog you think is meant for you, you’ll start the application to adopt process. This involves some paperwork, including the most important document, the Adoption Questionnaire, which typically contains questions such as:
Keep in mind that the purpose of these questions is to place a dog in the best home for them, weed out people who will potentially abuse their dogs (use them for dog fights, etc.), and keep the chances of having the dog returned to the shelter as slim as possible.
After the paperwork is complete, a shelter worker will sit down with you and ask a series of questions based on the information you’ve provided.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding a potential new best friend, but make sure you take the opportunity to ask some questions of your own. To make sure you cover your bases, download our list of questions you should ask the shelter when adopting a dog.
Ultimately, if you’re approved, you'll pay a fee or donation, and may be asked to sign an adoption agreement, which is like a contract.
And then — unless they need to be spayed or neutered first — you can take your new dog home immediately!
Adopting a dog is a serious, years-long commitment, which is why the adoption process is so involved. If you have second thoughts at any point, listen to your instincts. However, if you’re sure the dog you’re considering is the perfect match for you, get ready to enjoy years of long walks and snuggle sessions with your rescue pet at your side.
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