How To Adopt A Dog: Adoption Process & What To Expect

Written by: Samantha Erb

March 30, 2022

Choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group is not only a selfless and generous act, it is just as likely to introduce you to your canine soulmate as going to a breeder. Did you know that you can still find purebred dogs in rescues1? If you have your heart set on a particular breed, you can still choose to adopt.

Some shy away from adoption because they fear that dogs in shelters are too “damaged,” physically or emotionally. Others are concerned that the rescue process will be too grueling. The truth is, many homeless animals end up in shelters through no fault of their own, and most organizations are committed to providing help and services to make the transition to dog parenthood as breezy as possible2.

While the application process can be long and quite personal1, these protocols are in place to ensure that:

  • You are prepared for the responsibility of having a dog
  • You are committed to providing a safe, loving, long-term home
  • The dog you are applying to adopt is a good fit for you

How To Adopt A Dog

Your local shelters and rescues are the place to go! Shelters are typically run and funded by their local governments with all the animals housed on-site, whereas rescues get their funding primarily through donations and may or may not have a physical location. A reliable network of fosters may care for the dogs until they’re adopted, and dedicated volunteers keep everything running smoothly.

a very small puppy

Choose A Dog That Best Fits Your Lifestyle

Although choosing your new furry housemate is the most enjoyable part of the process, it’s best not to rush into it2. Before you visit the shelter or rescue, consider making a list of what you are looking for in a dog. Do you want a lazy couch companion or a jogging partner? Do you have the space for a giant breed bruiser or is your home better suited to a petite pooch?

A volunteer familiar with the available dogs may be able to recommend the perfect pup that you might otherwise have overlooked.

Fill Out An Adoption Application

Most shelters and private rescues will require you to fill out an adoption application. Prepare to answer questions about:

  • Your activity level and expectations from a new dog
  • How much time you spend at and away from home
  • Whether you are a renter or homeowner
  • If you have a fenced yard or nearby access to green space
  • Others you share your space with (roommates, children, pets)

The shelter staff or rescue volunteers will likely ask you to provide personal references who can vouch for your love of animals and the ability to care for a pet. If you have had other pets in the past, they may want to contact your veterinarian to get an idea of the level of care you provided.

a shelter volunteer and a dog

What Happens Once Your Application Is Approved?

Once your application has been approved, the next step may be a home inspection. A volunteer will come out to your home and ensure that it is safe and comfortable for a dog, and that you haven’t misrepresented your living situation in any way. They will also require that all members of your family and any dogs already at home come for a visit.

When the hardworking folks at the shelter or rescue group are satisfied that you and the dog you have applied to adopt are a perfect match for one another, you will likely pay an adoption fee. The dollar amount can vary widely and may depend upon what the dog has had done while waiting for their forever family. That includes a spay/neuter, vaccinations, microchip, and other veterinary care. It also ensures that the adopter is serious about their commitment to caring for their new pup.

a dog being pet

You are now officially an adoptive parent! It’s time to take your new pal on his or her Freedom Walk, when your new best friend marches out of the shelter door and into your loving arms! It’s the moment you realize that all the time, effort, applications, inspections, and fees have been worth it!

Related Article: How Do You Prepare To Bring A New Dog Home?

Here are a couple of additional resources to help you find a municipal or on-profit shelter or rescue near you. You can also use these to search by breed and other characteristics.


1Reisen, J. (2020, January 12). How to choose the right dog rescue group. American Kennel Club. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from

2Adopting from animal shelters or rescues. The Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from

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Written by: Samantha Erb

March 30, 2022

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