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Adopting a New Dog: Your How-To Guide

By: Jo Stewart

Let’s face it- everyone wants a dog, but not everyone considers all the factors. Many forget the most important part of finding a new companion. Everyday, dogs are abandoned, dropped at shelters, or given up by their owners. The question I hear most when I recommend shelter adoption is, “How do I adopt from a shelter but still get everything I’m looking for in a dog?”

It’s a tricky question, and makes a lot of sense. Whether you have young children, love a specific breed or just aren’t familiar with how shelter adoptions run, getting a new pet has lots of challenges. Today, let’s look at a list of eight tips when adopting a new pet, and how to consider adopting a shelter pet.

  1. Do your research!

While there are many resources on breeds, such as The American Kennel Club's Breed Guide, it can be even more simple. What’s your favorite dog to encounter on a walk? Does your family, friend, or neighbor have a dog you adore? What dog makes you say, “awe”? Or, are you open to a brand new experience? 

After the fun questions, it’s time to get a little more serious. Consider the dangers of unethical breeding practices (and costs)! Ask yourself; Do you have kids? Are you going to be at work all day? Do you have the right space for a dog? Are you able to handle any health problems that may occur? These are all important questions to ask when starting the adoption process, and will guide you to the best breed for your lifestyle.

2. Plan Ahead.

Think of a typical day for you. The only way to have a dog is if you have proper time to care for a dog! Do you have time to take them out for a walk on your lunch break? Or, should you consider researching Dog Daycare? Can you afford a dog walker, or do you have someone to feed your dog when you’re not around?

It’s especially important to think about any other pets you may have. Will they be able to adjust to a new friend? This is an important factor for cats and dogs! Many shelters allow you to bring in your current pets for a meeting before committing to an adoption.

3. Take a look at your budget.

Let’s face it- a dog will quickly become your new child, and kids can get expensive! It’s important to consider, especially with a shelter dog, how you are going to afford anything that gets thrown your way. Many dogs have certain allergies requiring a specific diet. Breeds like Frenchies and Pugs are known for dry skin and breathing issues. All dogs need some form of grooming- some more than others! These factors can add up, so it’s important to consider all the parts of your lifestyle before adopting.

4. Don’t settle for the first shelter you find!

You may go to the shelter and feel defeated after not feeling drawn to a certain dog. Don’t give up! Outside of shelters, there are many rescues that work outside the universe of shelter’s. Some of these rescues are even for specific breeds! If you have your heart set on a certain dog, a rescue may be more suitable for you than a more broad form of shelter. This article is a great resource for breed-specific rescues in the chicagoland area.

5. Use your resources!

When going to a shelter or contacting a rescue, don’t be afraid to ask questions and use your resources. Shelter volunteers are there to help you and get dogs adopted! It’s easy to feel defeated when you don’t connect with the first dog you meet, but the people helping you want you to leave with a new friend. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be shy!

6. Utilize online groups.

Use the internet for good! Many social media platforms include re-homing or shelter groups. These groups can be very broad or specific to your area, and active groups can post almost every day! Many small pet businesses also support rescues and adoption, so keep up with your favorite pet companies (like Sit Social)! If you are worried about working with a shelter or it is inaccessible to you, there are many resources online for saving furry friends. Be wary of scams, though!

7. Have a trial run with fostering.

Getting a new pet of any kind can be overwhelming or scary. How are you supposed to know a pet is meant for you after only a brief meeting?

The answer? Try fostering! Many dogs up for adoption are also eligible for fostering. With fostering, you get to take home a furry friend for a set amount of time without having to 100% commit. Fostering is a great thing to do if you love dogs but can’t have one 24/7. It gets dogs out of the shelter, provides them human interaction, enrichment, and allows you to get to know them in a more intimate setting over a longer period of time!

8. Prep, prep, prep!

If you have decided that you want to take on a new furry companion, the first step is NOT adopting a dog. Before anything, you need to prepare (especially if you’re adopting a puppy)! Time to do some shopping! Your dog will need food and water bowls- preferably lifted for digestion.

You will need a proper sized collar and leash. Your pet will need a safe, comfortable place in your home to first arrive at. Your outside space should be free of toxic plants or chemicals. Even mature dogs have accidents- it’s never bad to have some pee pads on hand! Take a trip to your local pet store before your adoption- someone there will be happy to guide you in finding everything you need.

After these tips, you should hopefully be feeling much more prepared for your new best friend! Remember to do what works best for you, but also consider how you can help save a dog in need.

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