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Whether you choose to purchase or adopt a dog, the entire process can be incredibly stressful. You’ll need to pick a breeder or shelter that offers the type of dog that’s best for you, as well as one that is legitimate, ethical, and produces healthy pups – otherwise, you can end up with a very ill, difficult to train, or even aggressive dog.
Luckily, we’ve put together a complete guide to adopting or purchasing a dog, so that choosing the right pup for you is as simple as possible.
Bringing a New Dog Home: Your Complete Guide
There’s a lot to consider when selecting your furry best friend. That’s why we’ve put together all the information you need to decide what type of dog is right for you, if you should adopt or purchase from a breeder, and how to bring them into your home.
Whether you’re a first time pup parent or have had multiple canine companions, our guide will help make sure the next dog you bring into your life will be a perfect match.
Should You Buy or Adopt a Dog?
One of the first questions you’ll face when selecting a pup is where you should get your dog. The two primary choices are adopting your dog through a shelter or rescue, or purchasing your dog from a breeder. Both options have their own pros and cons.
Adopting a Dog
Adopting a dog can be a fantastic choice. Unfortunately, in an average year, there are over 3 million dogs in shelters in the United States. While many shelters have no-kill policies, not all do, and so by bringing a shelter pup into your home, you could be saving their life.
Shelters and rescues are also much less expensive than purchasing from a breeder, as a rule, and adopting can also often be a much faster process. Some people also prefer to adopt dogs that are older, as they may already be trained or have a calmer disposition than energetic puppies, and shelters can be a great place to find older dogs.
However, there are a few cons to keep in mind when adopting a dog as well. You’re limited to the selection of what is available, so if you have your heart set on a particular type of dog, or if you only want a purebred dog, you may not be able to find that in a shelter. If you are set on a certain breed, you can also seek out rescues that focus on specific breeds; these often have longer waiting lists than general shelters, but for the right pup, it can be worth the wait.
If you decide adopting a dog is right for you, we have an online course to help you through the entire process, from how to choose the right dog for you to a detailed breakdown of how to introduce even a timid pup into your home.
Purchasing a Dog
If you’re certain you want a specific breed, especially if it’s a popular breed that’s in high demand, or if you’re only interested in purebreds, then purchasing from a breeder may be the right option for you.
This is often much more expensive than adopting a dog; for rare or very sought-after breeds, your cost could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. (For instance, Tibetan mastiffs can be as much as $7,000 per puppy.) However, if you hope to show your dog, or if you’re completely in love with a breed rarely put up for adoption, this can be worth it.
Finding a Reputable Dog Shelter Near You
Picking the right shelter can be nearly as important as picking the right dog. You’ll want to make sure your dog has been treated as well as possible, and that the shelter is honest about your pup’s history, personality, and health.
To make sure you pick a good shelter or rescue, look for a shelter that does the following:
Allows You to Meet With the Dog Before Adoption Day
If a shelter won’t let you meet and hang out with the pup before you pick them up, that’s a major red flag. It’s important to make sure you and the dog are both comfortable with each other and a good fit – and you should never be pressured to take a dog you aren’t sure about.
Only Adopts Out Puppies That Are Over 8 Weeks Old
Any dog younger than this is not properly vaccinated, and also cannot be fixed. Plus, when a dog is adopted out this young, it can make them more aggressive. This isn’t just a matter of preference – it’s illegal in many states to adopt a dog under 8 weeks of age.
Offers Full Proof of Vaccinations
Don’t just trust a shelter when they say a dog is vaccinated – make sure they provide you with documented proof. If a shelter says they can’t afford to vaccinate their animals, then they likely aren’t caring for them in other ways, either, and shouldn’t be supported.
Is Willing to Answer Your Questions
You should feel comfortable asking the shelter about where they get their animals, how they treat them, how they determine who can adopt them, and what kind of post-adoption support they offer. They should also be willing to answer any questions about specific dogs, including honest answers about issues they may have.
You’ll also want to choose a shelter or rescue that isn’t too far from you; heading to a new home is already stressful for nearly any dog, and longer travel time can make that even more of a challenge.
Finding the Perfect Rescue Dog for Your Family
There’s a stereotype that all adopted dogs have severe emotional issues, or that they can even be aggressive. While this can be true in some cases (especially if the dog was saved from a very traumatic environment), it’s certainly not true for all – and it absolutely does not mean that a rescue dog can’t be a great option for a family.
Most shelter dogs just need a bit of patience and reassurance, so as long as everyone in your household is ready to offer them that, things should go smoothly. Plus, there are many rescue dogs that are as happy-go-lucky from the moment you take them home as any purchased pup. And if they have particular issues, a reputable shelter will be honest with you about that.
It’s important to make sure any rescue dog you pick will feel comfortable and safe in your home, and that everyone who lives in your house is ready to give them the space and time they may need. However, this is also true of purchased dogs; it’s not solely something to keep in mind when adopting a pup.
How Can You Choose a Good Dog Breeder?
No matter what breed you’re considering, you’ll want to make sure and choose a reputable, ethical breeder. To determine if a breeder is reliable, you’ll want to do the following:
Meet With the Breeder
Your breeder should be willing to meet with you, either in person or through a video call, and give you a tour of their premises. Notice if the property is clean, if the dogs seem well-cared for and happy, and how the dogs interact with each other and the breeder, and also the breeder’s general temperament.
Ask the Breeder Questions
Don’t be shy; instead, have a list of questions ready for the breeder. You can ask about the breed itself, how to raise the puppy, their parents’ history and health records, how long they’ve been breeding and why, etc. Pay attention to how patient they are and how forthcoming – a good breeder should have nothing to hide, and should be happy to help give you all the knowledge you need to make your puppy happy and healthy.
Request Health Records
A good breeder should have no issue sharing proof of health screeners, and they should also be open about common health issues the breed is more likely to face.
Pay Attention to Reviews and Word-of-Mouth
Read reviews online, and also consider asking vets, groomers, other pet parents, or any trainers you know who they recommend as a breeder.
Following these steps can help you be much more confident in your choice of breeder – and dog!
Choosing the Perfect Dog for You
When deciding what type of dog you want to bring into your life, you’ll want to keep several factors in mind.
What Is Your Living Environment?
One of the first things you’ll want to consider is the size and type of home you have. For instance, a small apartment in a dense city is good for a different sort of dog than a large farmhouse in the country. This is a major component of deciding what type of dog is right for you – a high-energy, larger dog will need more space, while a small, quiet dog may be great for apartment living.
You’ll also want to think about if other animals are in your home, if you live with young children (or if they visit frequently), if your home is generally loud or quiet, and how often you have people over.
A dog needs to be compatible in the same way a perfect roommate would be – after all, your house will be their home as well, and it needs to be somewhere they’re comfortable, safe, and content.
How Much Time Can You Commit to Your Dog?
Some dogs, like Australian shepherds, can require hours of exercise a day, as well as lots of mental stimulation. Other dogs, like greyhounds, can be much calmer, and won’t take as much time out of your day. Think realistically about how much time and attention you can give your pup each day, so that they don’t end up feeling neglected – which can even lead to your dog becoming destructive.
Also think about how often you’re home. Do you work remotely, or are you away from your house for 40-60 hours a week working? If your dog will be home alone, you’ll want to choose one that isn’t as prone to separation anxiety, or consider a doggy daycare for your pup.
How Comfortable Are You Training Your Dog?
Whether or not you want to extensively train your dog is one of the bigger considerations when deciding if you want an older or younger canine. Puppies need to be fully trained – you’ll have to teach them everything from how to walk on a leash to how to recognize their name. An older dog may already know all of this – although you may still need some additional training, or to help them relearn certain commands.
This can also help you decide what type of dog you want. Some breeds can be much easier to train, like golden retrievers, while others, like Akitas, can be incredibly stubborn. And while highly intelligent dogs, like border collies, are very trainable, they’re so smart that they require more challenging tasks – and even a job around the house – which can be challenging for a first-time trainer.
A mixed breed can be a good option as well, since the traits of one breed can help tone down the traits of another. You’ll want to get to know an individual dog well before you take them home; a shelter or rescue should allow you to hang out with them on the premises to feel out their personality.
What Kind of Activities Do You Want to Do With Your Dog?
Are you hoping for a quiet lap dog to cuddle with on the couch every night, or are you hoping to go out on long hikes with your furry best friend by your side? Think about why you want a dog and how you want to spend your time with them before you choose what pup to bring into your home.
Luckily, dogs are as varied as people, so you’re likely to find one that fits your wants exactly!
Dog Adoption Fees and Other Costs
How much it costs to adopt a dog can vary widely depending on where you live, what shelter you choose, and if you decide to adopt from a breed-specific rescue. In some areas, the cost to adopt a dog can be as little as $50, but it can be as high as $350 or more. However, this is still much less than purchasing a dog from most breeders.
Usually, your adoption fee covers more than just the dog itself. Check with your individual shelter to know exactly what is included, but as a rule, you expect the fee to cover:
- A general wellness exam
- Spaying or neutering
- Heartworm tests
- Heartworm, flea, and tick preventative medications
- A microchip insertion
- Administration fees
In addition to the adoption feel, you’ll want to keep in mind how much it generally costs to care for a dog each year. This can depend a lot on your dog’s age, size, and medical history, but you’ll want to budget around the following for your pup each year:
- Food and treats – $200-$2,500
- Toys – $10-$300
- Vet care and medication – $120-$300
- Potty bags – $80-$200
There are also supplies you’ll have to purchase when you first get your dog, including food and water dishes, leashes, collars, tags, any coats or clothing they may need, a crate, etc. And if you’ll need professional training, doggy daycare, a dog walker, or a dog nanny, you’ll have to factor that into your budget as well.
Preparing Your Home for Your New Dog
Before you bring your dog into your home, you’ll want to do the following to make sure your house is ready for your new pup:
- Make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need for your new dog, including an appropriately sized crate, a bed, food and water dishes, a collar, a leash, potty bags, food, treats, and toys.
- Place any foods, cleaners, or plants that could be toxic to your dog out of reach of your dog (or remove them from your home).
- Repair anything that could injure your dog, including broken fences, and make sure there’s no sharp or dangerous equipment left out in your yard.
- Until you know how likely your pup is to chew, make sure cables, shoes, blankets, and other items they may chew on are difficult for your pup to get to.
Puppy proofing your home can help both you and your new pup feel calmer, safer, and happier once they’re in your house.
What to Expect When Your Adopted Dog Comes Home
When you first welcome your new pup into your home, no matter how happy they are, they’ll need some time to decompress and adjust. It’s vital to respect this process, and help your dog adjust to their new environment, so that they feel safe, secure, and trusting of their environment – and you.
To make sure you help you pup decompress, take the following steps:
- Before you even bring your dog inside your home, take them for a long walk, and let them go potty outside (ideally in the place you’ll want them to as a habit).
- Keep things as calm, quiet, and unstimulating as possible on the first day. Don’t have visitors over, don’t overwhelm them with attention or too many toys, and let them relax. It’s also very important to set up a quiet area where they can be alone – ideally, this should include a crate, their bed, their food and water, and a toy.
- Let your pup come to you. Don’t demand their attention, and don’t let anyone else who lives in your household (including young children) be too demanding of them. Also, introduce them slowly to any animals that live in your home, or even consider keeping them separated until your pup is more comfortable.
- For the first few days, you may want to keep your dog on a leash and lead them around the house to avoid accidents or them chewing on too many things. It can also be a good idea to only introduce them to a few rooms each day, so that they don’t get overwhelmed by their environment.
Keep in mind that your pup may be timid, shy, or nervous at first – even if they were outgoing in the shelter. They may even lose their appetite (although it’s important to make sure they are drinking.)
This is very normal, and if you let them decompress, they’ll likely begin adjusting within a few days or weeks. If you feel especially concerned about your pup, or if they don’t seem to be adjusting, don’t hesitate to reach out to the shelter for advice, or reach out to your veterinarian.
Adopting or Purchasing a Dog – FAQs
If you still have questions about getting your new dog,
Should You Adopt or Buy a Dog?
Whether you adopt or purchase a dog depends on what kind of dog you want, if you want a puppy or an older dog, and what your budget is. As long as you choose a reputable breeder or shelter, either option can provide you with a loving, happy, healthy pup.
Are All Adopted Dogs Aggressive or Scared?
This is a common misconception, but it’s not true at all. Most rescue dogs are loving, grateful, and happy to find a home – though some may be a bit timid at first, and may require a little patience. If a dog does have more intense emotional issues, the shelter should warn you first.
Is It Ethical to Buy From a Dog Breeder?
As long as you take the time to make sure a breeder is reputable, concerned with the health of their pups, and honest, purchasing a dog from a breeder can be a very ethical decision. They’re also much more reliable than pet shops, since they often source from puppy mills.
Can You Adopt Any Type of Dog?
Generally speaking, it can be hard to find purebred dogs to adopt, especially breeds that are very high in demand – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great dogs to choose from! If you have your heart set on a breed, consider a rescue that focuses on a specific breed.
Where Can You Adopt a Dog?
You can find a dog to adopt at shelters or rescues, as well as from breed-specific rescue groups. We recommend looking for the shelters nearest to you, so that you can easily visit them before adopting, as well as avoid a long, stressful trip home with your dog.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?
The cost to adopt a dog depends heavily on where you live and which shelter you choose. In general, adoption fees range from around $50 to $350. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to purchase supplies for your new dog as well.
How Much Does It Purchase a Dog From a Breeder?
Purchasing a dog can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the breed, where you live, and which breeder you choose. If you’re hoping to save, we recommend adopting from a breed-specific rescue over purchasing from a pet shop.
Can an Adopted Dog Be an Emotional Service Animal?
Absolutely! As long as a dog isn’t aggressive or destructive, they can make a fantastic emotional support animal – even if they’re adopted! In fact, many adopted dogs are very affectionate and loving, which can make them a perfect choice for this role.
Can an Adopted Dog Be a Service Dog?
Yes! As long as the dog is trainable, intelligent, and capable of performing the specific tasks you need, they can be a great option. In fact, adopting and training your own service dog can be one of the most affordable ways to acquire one.
How to Train Your New Dog
Depending on your dog’s age, breed, personality, and history, you may have a lot of training ahead of you. Of course, you always choose a professional trainer to work with, but it’s also possible to train most dogs yourself, even if you’re brand new to it!
We offer a wide range of courses you can complete online and at your own pace, including general obedience, puppy training, canine first aid and CPR, dealing with reactivity. There are even courses on training an emotional support dog or psychiatric service dog!
No matter whether you’re training your pup to be a service animal or if you simply want to teach them some fun tricks, we strongly recommend positive training, which avoids all negative reinforcement. This training is designed to work with your dog’s psychology, so it is highly effective, plus it builds a stronger bond, built on trust and respect, between you both.
Get Ready to Bring a New Dog Into Your Home
Whether you’re adopting or purchasing a dog, bringing a pup into your life can help bring more happiness, fun, and companionship to every day. If you take the time to pick the right canine for your lifestyle, and make sure you choose a reputable shelter or breeder near you, you can be rewarded with one of the most fulfilling relationships possible.
Take your time, be realistic about your needs, and make sure your home is ready for your new pup – and get ready to start the adventure of a lifetime!