Dog Adoption Guide: Everything You Need to Know

January 13, 2022


January 13, 2022

Adopting a dog is a huge step, and you need to carefully consider the ways your life will change before you welcome home a four-legged family member. Then, once you’ve decided what type of pooch you want to join your pack, you have many other considerations, such as where to adopt a dog, how to prepare your home for your dog’s arrival, and the supplies needed to keep your new pet happy and healthy. We cover all these topics and more in our comprehensive guide on how to adopt a dog.

What to consider before adopting a dog

Nothing brings joy to your life quite like a fluffy, four-legged ball of love, but choosing to adopt a dog is a considerable commitment. Before you take the leap, here are some things to consider.


Caring for a dog, from the initial purchase to a lifetime of food and veterinary care, can rack up the bills, so you must budget appropriately for your new pet. Consider the following recurring costs of dog ownership:

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Parasite prevention
  • Veterinary care
  • Health insurance

You will also need to purchase other items and services, including grooming supplies or trips to a groomer, training tools and classes, and bedding supplies and a crate, which can be substantial expenses, despite being needed less frequently. And, don’t forget that the expense for the occasional emergency, such as your pup’s foreign body surgery to remove an object from their intestinal tract, can also pop up.


Dogs certainly require a great deal more attention and time than their feline housemates, so ensure you have ample time to spend with your pooch. While cats don’t need to be walked outside to eliminate, your dog will need to venture outdoors several times a day to urinate and defecate. 

Dogs also need daily exercise and interactive play to ward off boredom, obesity, and problem behaviors. Some dog breeds have higher exercise requirements than others. Carefully consider the amount of time you have to spend before choosing a high-energy dog. Also, puppies typically require a greater time commitment than an adult or senior dog. Keep in mind the extra time they will need for training and play, before you are sucked in by that adorable face.


Cramming a high-energy, large-breed dog into your studio apartment is a recipe for disaster. Match the size of your dog with your available indoor and outdoor space, to ensure their comfort.

Current pets

Some pets prefer to be an “only child,” so to speak. If your current cat or dog prefers to be alone, consider their feelings, and do not adopt another pet. But, if your pet would appreciate the companionship of another four-legged housemate, adding a new dog to your family could be a great fit.

How to choose the perfect dog to adopt

Deciding on the type of dog who will best fit your family and lifestyle requires plenty of thought. Consider the following characteristics when choosing the perfect pooch.


If you’re considering a certain breed, do extensive research on what that particular breed requires to be happy and healthy. Learn if your potential pet is at risk for breed-related medical conditions, how much activity the breed requires, and if they’re good with children and other pets. If you’re set on a particular breed that’s hard to find in shelters, look to breed-specific rescues for your perfect pet. Or, if you aren’t picky about your new dog’s breed, determine their size category—small, medium, large, or giant. 


Consider your family situation and lifestyle when deciding on your new dog’s ideal temperament. If you have young children, a playful, easy-going dog will make a wonderful playmate. If you live alone, and want extra security, an alert, intelligent dog can help protect you and your home. 

Activity level

Do you enjoy hiking new trails every weekend, or do you prefer to binge watch the latest hit series on Netflix? Choose a dog with a corresponding activity level, so they don’t become  destructive because of inactivity or boredom. 


Don’t be swayed by the first fluffy face you see when adopting a dog. Instead, stick to your decision about a pet who will suit your lifestyle, family, home, and finances. If you don’t, your new pet may be unhappy in your home, and may not meet your expectations.

How to prepare your home for a dog

Before rushing out to adopt a dog, ensure your home is a comfortable, welcoming, and safe place for your new pet.

Remove dangers

Whether you bring home a puppy or a senior pet, they may chew on household items and your belongings. Get down to dog level, and search for exposed electrical cords, sharp objects, small items, and plants, and cover or move them out of paws’ reach. Ensure no toxins or medications are accessible, and remove anything that may look tempting to a dog.

Block access to hazards

If you’re adopting a senior pet with poor mobility, block their access to stairs, to avoid injury. Puppies should be kept in the main living area, to ensure someone is always watching. An adult dog may need to be similarly supervised while they settle in. Once your pet has learned the household rules and can be trusted around stairs, the bathroom, and bedrooms, you can open doors and remove baby gates.

Supplies you need for a dog

Being fully prepared to welcome your new dog home with the proper supplies will create a smooth transition from shelter to home. Stock up on necessities before bringing your new pooch home, to avoid a last-minute shopping trip with them in tow. 

Food and treats

Choose an age-appropriate food for your new dog, whether it’s a puppy, adult, or senior formula. And, purchase plenty of treats to reward your pooch for learning the household rules, and to help form a strong bond.

Food and water bowls

Purchase a large bowl or pet fountain, to ensure your dog has ample fresh water, and consider ditching the food dish in favor of a food puzzle. Food puzzles are an excellent way to keep your dog occupied and prevent boredom.


Purchase a cozy bed that’s suitable for your dog’s needs, such as an orthopedic option for a senior pet. Add a soft blanket for maximum comfort.


Crate-training your new dog is highly recommended. Purchase an appropriately sized crate, with enough room for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not so large they have room to eliminate in one corner and rest in another.

Leash and collar or harness

Use a collar or harness and leash to keep your dog safe during walks. Avoid retractable leashes, which can easily snap, or the locking mechanism can break, allowing your pet to get too close to danger.

Chews and toys

Provide plenty of entertainment for your new dog with various chews and toys. Without knowing your dog’s favorite activity, purchase an assortment of toys until you discover what they like best. When picking out chews, choose healthy, safe options that won’t damage your dog’s teeth, or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.

Grooming accessories

No matter how thick your new dog’s hair coat, they will require some brushing and bathing, so stock up on brushes, combs, and shampoo. Add a pair of nail clippers and a jar of styptic powder to keep your dog’s nails from overgrowing. 

Pet health insurance

Purchasing a pet health insurance policy immediately will help guarantee lifelong coverage, so do your research on the policy type that will best suit your needs. Options range from comprehensive coverage that includes wellness, dental, and holistic care, to accident and illness coverage only.

How to choose where to adopt your dog

Deciding where you get your new dog is as important as deciding which dog to bring home, since not all shelters or rescues are the most reputable. Before choosing a place to search for your new dog, consider the following criteria. 

Check the shelter’s website

A good shelter or rescue will provide plenty of information about their pets available for adoption, rather than using a generic description. This shows the staff takes the time to get to know each individual dog, to ensure a good match.

Read shelter reviews

People are prone to complain about negative experiences, so check out the reviews to discover shady operations or poor animal husbandry. 

Ask shelter employees about their adoption process

Going straight to the source will give you a positive or negative vibe from the shelter staff. Ask questions about the adoption process, such as whether you can foster to adopt, or perform a meet-and-greet with your current pets. Determine how the shelter decides if a person is a good fit for a dog, and their criteria for adoption (e.g., a fenced-in yard, veterinary references, vaccinations). 

How to choose your new dog from a shelter

Now that you’ve narrowed down the type of dog you want and chosen an adoption facility, it’s time to choose your new canine companion. Keep in mind the characteristics you wanted in your new dog. Once you find the best match, ask about the dog’s history, personality, and health care requirements. You’ll want to know if the dog was surrendered—and why—or found as a stray; how they act around children, other pets, and strangers; and if they have any underlying medical issues. A reputable shelter will answer these questions honestly, to ensure their adoptable pets find the perfect home.

How to welcome your new dog home

Bringing home a new dog can be a stressful experience for them, you, and your current pets, so here are some tips on making the transition smooth and comfortable. 

Create a pleasant car ride home

To help your new dog feel comfortable on the way home, have a family member sit next to them. If your dog doesn’t appear to be carsick, offer small treats to begin forming a bond. Provide a soft blanket to curl up on, and a chew or toy for entertainment. Once you arrive home, ensure they are securely leashed, to prevent them from leaping out and running off.

Hold off on introductions

A new environment and owner is a lot for your dog to take in, so keep introductions to a minimum until your pooch has had a chance to settle in. Keep your new dog confined in their personal area, and block your other pets from entering for the first few days. Ask family and friends to give your new dog time to become accustomed to their surroundings before they visit.

Let your new dog settle in 

Avoid smothering your new dog with affection when you first arrive home. They’re undergoing a huge change, and may need some time to adjust to their new family and surroundings. Show them their bed, food, water, and doggy door, and give them space to settle in.

What to expect the first month with your new dog

Dog adoption requires plenty of patience, as the pet is going through a massive transition. Give your dog at least three months to fully adapt to their new life, but here’s what to expect and plan for the first month.

Set a schedule

Create a schedule for your new dog right from the start, so they know what to expect. They should eat, play, exercise, and go to bed at the same time every day, to help them adjust to their new life.

Sign up for training

Training classes are a great way to refresh basic obedience commands, learn new skills, and build the bond between you and your dog. If you’ve adopted a puppy, you’ll certainly want to enroll them in a training class, but adult and senior dogs can also benefit from training courses.

Schedule a veterinary appointment

Scheduling a wellness exam with your veterinarian is most important when adopting a dog. This initial visit will establish a relationship between your new pet and your veterinarian, in addition to recording baseline values that will be used to monitor subtle changes throughout your dog’s life. Your veterinarian will provide health care tips tailored to your dog’s unique needs, vaccinate if needed, and prescribe parasite prevention, to help keep your pooch happy and healthy for years to come.

Choosing the best veterinarian for your new dog can be overwhelming, so let VetVet help you sift through the options, and make the right choice for your new furry pal.

Sources: Betterpet. 2021. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 2021. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 2021. Animal Dental Clinic. 2020. Nationwide. 2021. DogEmbassy. 2021. Rescue Dogs 101. 2021. Anything German Shepherd. 2021.

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Disclaimer: Our content is for informational purposes only — it’s not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.