Everything You Need To Know About Adopting A Dog

Rescued cuddles are the best cuddles 💕

Jump to:
What is a rescue dog? | Should I adopt a dog? | Where to adopt a dog | Adopting vs. fostering a dog | How much does it cost to adopt a dog? | Can I adopt a purebred from a shelter? | What questions should I ask when adopting a dog? | Do rescue dogs need special training? | How to find the right dog for me | Tips for bringing your dog home | What if I want to return an adopted dog?

Are you interested in adopting a dog?

While you might be daydreaming of long walks, couch snuggles and hours of playtime, there are tons of other important things you need to know when it comes to adopting.

And since you probably have so many questions about EVERYTHING surrounding adopting a rescue dog, this guide will give you tons of information and answers to your most burning dog adoption questions — so you can find the best dog for you!

What is a rescue dog?

In short, a rescue dog is a dog you adopt from a rescue group or shelter. Unlike buying a dog from a dog store or breeder — which costs way more money and contributes to dog overpopulation — you’re adopting a dog in need (and often saving a life in the process).

Sometimes you’re rescuing a dog who’s lived a tough life, but you can also find puppies, purebreds and dogs who may have just been surrendered because their families couldn’t keep them for whatever reason.

Should I adopt a dog?

Before you do your research on available dogs in the area, it’s important for you to know if you’re actually ready to adopt a dog.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Do I have enough time to take care of a dog?”
  • “Am I financially able to care for a dog?”
  • “Do I have the space for a dog?”

Once you know you’re able and willing to handle not only adopting a dog but taking care of her far beyond that initial adoption stage, then you know you’re ready.

Where to adopt a dog

You can adopt a dog from a local shelter, rescue or from a friend who may be looking to find their own dog a new home (sometimes due to moving or other circumstances).

Rescue vs. shelter

While sometimes used interchangeably, rescues and shelters are two distinct places — but both are important to have in the world of dog adoption.

In general, but not always, a rescue is volunteer-run and funded by donations. Sometimes they don’t have a building to hold all of the different dogs they have available. They’ll usually foster out their dogs (aka let volunteers care for them), so their pups will be in varying locations.

For shelters, the application process tends to be a little more extensive and might take several weeks to get approval.

A shelter, on the other hand, is funded by local governments and staffed by their employees. There’s usually a building with all the available dogs ready to be adopted, and the pups can go home with you that day in most cases.

What’s the difference between adopting and fostering a dog?

The main difference between adopting and fostering a dog is that adopting means you’re committing to the dog forever, while fostering means you’re giving the pup a temporary home — usually because he can’t be adopted yet.

Fostering is so great because it basically lets you do a trial run of owning a dog for real while you help out a pup in need.

If you’re interested in how to foster a dog, the steps include:

  • Step 1: Complete an application process.
  • Step 2: Meet with your potential foster.
  • Step 3: Help her adjust to her new environment.
  • Step 4: Train your foster.
  • Step 5: Help in the adoption process.

How much does it cost to adopt a dog?

Adopting a dog can cost you anywhere from $0 to $750. (Though it’s rare to hit the high end of that range.)

The cost of adopting a dog depends on many different factors, like the city or state you’re adopting in, the breed of the dog, the age of the dog and the policies of the individual rescue group.

Keep in mind that another benefit of adopting a dog is that she’ll come with many initial veterinary expenses already taken care of, like:

Can you adopt a purebred from a shelter?

Contrary to popular belief, you can TOTALLY adopt a purebred from a shelter! Puppies are also available!

Since rescues come from all different backgrounds — and shelters often take in pregnant mamas or purebreds rescued from a backyard breeder — there are tons of opportunities to find the breed you’re looking for.

In fact, if you do a bit of research, you can probably even find a rescue dedicated to the breed you’re looking for! These are a few breed-specific ones:

Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue
New Jersey Schnauzer Rescue Network
Carolina Poodle Rescue
Yorkie 911 Rescue
Husky House

What questions should I ask when adopting a dog?

When heading to the rescue, it’s best to know the right questions to ask when adopting a dog.

These questions will help you learn about your favorite dog’s background — so learning about how the rescue ended up with the pup, their approximate age and so on.

Others questions should be medical related — so you can find out if the dog is fixed, if he has any underlying medical issues or if he needs a special diet.

And others questions should be behavioral — to find out how the dog is around kids and other pets, or if he has issues like separation anxiety.

Going in with smart questions will help you know exactly what extra care a dog might need, so you can be sure a dog is right for you before you bring him home.

Do rescue dogs need special training?

While one benefit of adopting a dog means yours might come already trained — SCORE! — you might also be wondering if a rescue needs any special training!

It very much depends on your individual dog’s background — but in most cases, nope! While you do want to let your dog decompress when he first gets home, once he’s adjusted, you can housebreak him (if needed) or go ahead and train him like you would any other dog or puppy!

How do I find the right dog for me?

When looking for the right dog for you and your family, it’s best to head to the shelter or rescue with a solid idea of what you absolutely need in a dog — and also anything you definitely can’t deal with.

This helps you and the rescue staff really narrow down the available pups so that you can find the perfect one to match your lifestyle.

Tips for bringing your dog home

Some helpful tips to keep in mind when you first bring your new dog home include:

Prepare your home ahead of time

Before you even pick her up, you’ll want to prepare your home for your new rescue dog.

This means having everything she’ll need ready to go — like food, a bed, blankets, collars and leashes.

Let her decompress

You’ll also want to remember that your dog will need plenty of time to decompress when she first gets home.

This is just to give her tons of space and time to adjust to her new surroundings, rather than immediately trying to play and cuddle with her. It’s a totally normal process and will work wonders to make sure she isn’t too overwhelmed with all the newness!

What if I want to return an adopted dog?

Make sure you know the shelter’s return policy before adopting your dog, and remember that you’re committing to the pup you choose for life.

And while there are unfortunate situations where returning a rescue dog is a possibility, remember that the vast majority of issues you’ll face as a new dog owner are fixable with the help of a vet or trainer.

While adopting a dog is one of the best things in life, it can definitely be a little overwhelming at first! Just take each step one at a time — and get ready for some of the best cuddles you could ever imagine!