How to Adopt a Dog—and What to Do Before You Bring Your New Pet Home


If you’re thinking of adding a fur baby to your family and wondering whether and how to adopt a dog, we urge you to start with this oft-repeated quote from author and animal advocate Karen Davison: “Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

We couldn’t agree more. Adopting a dog (or cat) from a shelter or rescue group not only yields benefits for the adopter and the lucky dog in need of a home, but it also benefits overcrowded shelters. Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals, says that in 2021, approximately 355,000 dogs and cats were killed in shelters. While this is down from the millions per year being euthanized prior to efforts by Best Friends and other organizations, Castle says “it was the first time in five years that we’ve seen the number of dogs and cats killed in U.S. shelters rise (from 347,000 to 355,000). Choosing to adopt,” she adds, “saves two lives: the pet you adopt and the one you make space for in the shelter.”

Shelters and rescue groups, including breed-specific rescues, can help you find the right pet for your lifestyle, the dog (or dogs!) most suited to kids, a loyal dog breed or a lovable mutt, and also help you understand the cost of owning a dog. Here, we walk through the questions you should ask yourself before adopting a dog, the steps involved in the adoption process and how to prepare your home—and yourselves—to welcome your new canine family member.

What to consider before adopting a dog

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Caution the kids

If you have young children at home, they’re probably beside themselves with excitement at the idea of a new dog joining the family. But lots of little hands and squealing voices may frighten your pup. Make sure the kids know they need to contain their excitement—it’s tough, we know!—and let the dog approach them when it’s ready. Remind them there’s no poking, prodding, picking up or hugging until the pup’s more comfortable with its new family.


  • Julie Castle, CEO, Best Friends Animal Society
  • Nicole Savageau, DVM, veterinarian with The Vets mobile pet health service

Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

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