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What You Need to Know Before Adopting A Puppy

Written By
6 min read

Updated - Mar 23rd, 2022

Adopting a puppy is one of the most rewarding experiences any animal lover can have. With so many lovable, adoptable dogs out there, you’re bound to find the one for you. 

But if this is your first experience with dog adoption, there are things you should know, including pitfalls to avoid. Whether you’re adopting from a shelter or rescue group, every adoption organization is different, so it’s important that you do your homework before embarking on your adoption journey.

We’re covering the ins and outs of the dog adoption process to help you bring an amazing new puppy home. Let’s dig in!

The difference between shelters and rescues groups

Believe it or not, there are a few differences between shelters and rescue groups, and knowing them can help you determine how you want to move forward with pet adoption. 

A local shelter is typically funded by local governments, and houses animals that have either been surrendered or abandoned by their previous owners. A rescue group is usually a private, volunteer-run organization that takes in animals from various circumstances. Whereas shelters have more dogs to choose from, rescues provide prospective adopters the opportunity to consider breed, temperament, and other dog traits. 

Both are excellent options, and certainly ethical (unlike puppy mills and irresponsible breeders). There are many dogs in need of a loving home, and adoption is a great way to change their lives for the better. 

How to browse rescues responsibly 

Although most rescue groups have dogs’ best interests in mind, there are a few that are less intentional. We highly recommend that you do your own research before contacting one, making sure it’s a trustworthy, reputable organization with a history of successfully rehoming and caring for dogs. 

If you decide to adopt from a rescue, it’s important to also prioritize transparency: always ask where they source their dogs from, and if they have any relevant records or documents that you can access. Ask about what policies they have in place to further protect their dogs, especially ensuring a good fit with their new owner and rehoming circumstances. 

If the rescue means well, they should be able to freely share this information with you. However, if you find that they’re more hesitant and actively dodging your questions, consider that a fair warning and trust your instincts. 

Finding the right pup for you 

Adopting a puppy is not a small decision and should not be taken lightly. Before jumping straight into the process, think about the reasons why you want a dog. Make sure you want to proceed with adoption because you want a lifelong companion and are willing to adjust your life accordingly in order to give them the love that they deserve. 

There are several factors to consider when finding the right dog for you. Depending on your lifestyle, home setting, and activity level, your preferred breed might vary. For instance, if you have a large and spacious home with a backyard, you may think about adopting a larger breed, like a Golden Retriever. However, if you live in a small apartment in a more urban setting, you might prefer a smaller, less active dog like a French Bulldog. Like people, dogs have different personalities and needs. Do a bit of research to find out which one will work best for you.

Bear in mind that most rescue groups or shelters will have mixed breeds with unknown origins. Some prospective dog owners might feel hesitant not knowing how big their dog will be or how their energy levels will pan out, but it’s good to keep an open mind. Even purebreds fall on a spectrum of temperament and disposition, so don’t count out a perfectly lovable mutt! There are also plenty of amazing dog DNA test kits out there, that can help you learn about your pup’s traits and ideal lifestyle.

The dog application process 

A shelter or rescue group can have many available dogs. However, because it’s crucial that they go to loving homes with the right family, organizations will often require you to submit an application. If your adoption application is initially accepted, the animal shelter can contact you for a follow-up interview and may even ask for official references.

Typically, adoption centers ask for more information about your home: whether you rent or own property, how many other family members or pets you have, and if you have prior experience owning and caring for a dog. They will also want to make sure that your home is pet friendly: so if you have a landlord, you’ll need to get their written or verbal approval before adopting a puppy. 

If your application is accepted, you’ll be able to meet your dog and see if you’re a right fit for their temperament and potential history. Some dogs require additional medical care or need homes that meet certain requirements; ensure that you’re in a good place to provide both if needed. Depending on the shelter or rescue, they might also allow you to foster the dog for a set amount of time. During your foster care, you can then see how compatible you are, and make a more informed decision afterwards. 

In the end, you may need to pay an adoption fee that covers various expenses, such as vaccinations and microchipping. But if your heart tells you that you’ve found “the one,” the costs will be well worth it!

Connect with a veterinarian 

It’s extremely important that you find proper veterinary care after adopting a puppy, as emergencies or unexpected events can happen at any time. Whether you have to get them a microchip, ask for a deworming treatment, or look into a potential spay/neuter procedure, partnering and communicating with your veterinarian will help you maximize your dog’s health. 

Feel free to shop around and find a vet you like. You want to find someone who not only fits your budget but can confidently take care of your pet when they need it most.

Be patient and loving 

Many rescue or shelter dogs have suffered neglect or abuse (good organizations will make you aware of this!), so depending on their background, it may take some time for them to adjust and bond with you. Gentle puppy socialization can greatly benefit your pooch as they adapt to their new life. Your dog will have to practice how to behave around people and animals, as this determines their long-term ability to safely interact with others in various settings. Training your dog isn’t an overnight feat, and it’ll require a lot of patience and love.

With that said, adopting a dog is an incredible experience that will change your life for the better. As long as you show proper care, love, and attention, your dog will become a happy, confident member of your family in no time. 

Your new pup’s health will be your top priority, so you want to make sure they can get the best care possible. Alongside finding a great veterinarian, getting pet insurance can help you afford the best care, even when it’s costly. We know this, that’s why Pumpkin’s dog insurance plans help cover 90% of eligible vet bills when the unexpected happens.

Don’t wait – fetch a free quote for your pup today!

Shi-won is a copywriter and an enthusiastic dog aunt to Maltese and Shih Tzu puppies.