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What is the adoption process like when adopting a dog?

german shepherd dog sitting on beach with adopted written out

So you've decided that you'd like to adopt a brand new furry friend, huh? Let's talk about the how's of that process, so that you're familiar with it and don't walk into a situation blind!

Where do I begin the adoption process for a dog?

This is the question that most people arrive at when they first start thinking about adopting a dog. It can be a hectic process, with a wide variety of options. When we say "adoption" in this case, we're talking about the act of acquiring a new dog to bring home to your family. Depending on your particular situation and wants/needs in a new dog, your options may be more limited than others. The biggest thing here is you and your family should decide on what breed of a dog you want. And if there's no particular breed in mind, then you should definitely set a size limit as your goal. Your house or apartment may not be set up or equipped to deal with large breed dogs, which would limit your choices.

All three of my dogs were adopted from three different sources. One I got from the pound, one I got for free in a Walmart parking lot, and one I paid a girl I met on Facebook for $25. Let's talk about adopting from a rescue center such as the ASPCA or your local animal shelter.

Where should I go to adopt my dog?

Most counties (in the United States — check your local areas otherwise) have a pound where stray animals are picked up and held until they're either claimed by their rightful owners, or are adopted out to a good family (that would be you). Where I live, most of our shelters are kill shelters. Meaning that when they get full and overflowing as does tend to happen, they will put the animals to sleep that have been there the longest, in order to make room for new inmates. The shelter will make sure that the dog is not aggressive and will perform several personality tests to make sure that the dog is suitable for adoption. In most cases, an animal that is particularly aggressive will not be allowed to be adopted out and will generally be put to sleep if their owner does not claim them.

Are there any processes in place?

This process is a lot like window shopping, in that you go to your community pound and essentially pick out the dog you wish to adopt. The shelter will almost always have the “approved” dogs separated from dogs that are on hold or have been quarantined for whatever reason. Generally, the shelter will have a specific amount of time that they have to hold the dog before they can adopt it out in order to give their correct owner time to come claim the animal. For instance, where I live, they are required to hold the animals four business days (M-F) before they can legally adopt them out. And, it is usually a first come, first served basis. So, if you are there on Monday and see a cute dog you think you'd like to adopt but wait until next week to come back, they may have already adopted out the dog to someone else who was quicker.

What do I do when I find the right dog?

From there, you pick out whichever dog you'd like to try and adopt. Most shelters encourage you to play with the dog for a few minutes, to make sure you're a good match. It really doesn't do anyone any good if you adopt the dog and then decide that you're just not a good match for one another. That's why it's encouraged to play with the dog, pet them, try to feed them, etc. What you're trying to do is establish a connection with the animal. It's important to remember here that the dog's history may be unknown, so you might be in for a few surprises. Be patient, take your time to get to know them after you've adopted them.

What comes after adopting my dog?

Get your new dog checked out.

So, you've adopted your dog from your local shelter, ASPCA group, etc. Congratulations! Now, you're probably wondering “Well, now what?” which is a very good and valid question. First thing you want to do is take your new dog to the vet to get a check up. You'll want to make sure that the dog is up to date on all of its shots and if there's any medical issues to be treated and dealt with. The shelter should have had you fill out some paperwork to complete the adoption. If you don't plan on breeding, you should talk to your vet about spaying or neutering your new dog. This is usually considered the responsible thing to do. It helps to prevent extra litters of puppies being brought into the World with nowhere to go. “Accidental” litters have a high tendency to end up at the shelter.

Stock up on the necessities for your dog.

From here, you'll want to see what brand of food that you'll be purchasing for your new family member. Your vet may recommend a particular brand in order to help gain weight or to help with their medications, etc. This special dog food which usually requires a prescription can usually be bought from the vet's office or PetSmart, PetCo, occasionally Walmart and other fine retailers. You may already have a pet food in mind, or a favorite brand that you like to use. You might even be able to get a coupon for several different brands in the puppy pack from your vet (if they offer those) for a more expensive brand such as Blue Wilderness. Either way, you may need to try different brands in order to find something that your dog likes and their system can handle, and your wallet can handle!

Determine if your dog needs any training.

You should also check to see if your dog has already been trained to do certain things or already has certain habits ingrained, such as bringing you a particular toy when they need to go potty. You might do this by giving your new pet some of the more common commands such as sit or stay. You may also need to look into potty training. Some dogs are harder than others to potty train, so be prepared for that. You may also wish to purchase a couple of toys to provide your new companion some activity and stimulation. For instance, my dogs have toys like this dragon chew toy and this treat ball which they absolutely love.


From here, the World is your oyster! You've brought home a new friend, so it's time to get to know one another. Remember that every dog has a unique personality with unique traits and quirks that will mesh with yours. Be patient, it will be adjustment for both you and your new dog.