Dogs for Adoption: Your Essential Checklist to Be Adoption Ready

You need more than love and a leash before you can bring a dog home from the adoption center or rescue shelter.

There are many things to consider, some research to do, a few decisions to make, and yes, a shopping trip in preparation for bringing the right furbaby in to join your family.

This checklist will help you prepare by walking you through the following steps:

  • Getting your home and lifestyle in order
  • What type of dog is best for you?
  • Buying all the stuff!

By the time we’re done, you should be well on your way to completing your doggo adoption readiness.

A Note of Caution: While going through this checklist, you may discover that adopting a dog might not be the best choice for you right now. That’s fine. Better to know now than later.

Consider the following options instead:

  • Volunteering at a local shelter.
  • Donating to a rescue charity or shelter.
  • Creating or donating to an emergency medical fund for other dog families at a local veterinarian.

Step 1. Preparing Your Home and Your Life for Your New Dog

Many human parents aren’t truly ready for the realities of parenthood before they bring home their new bundle of joy. Likewise, first-time dog dads and moms can be just as equally unprepared and caught off guard by the changes that furbaby will bring to their lives.

Let’s look at changes you may need to make to prepare your home for the pitter-patter of tiny (or not so tiny) paws.

Preparing Your Home for a Dog Adoption

Here are some questions to answer and some items to check off to make your home doggo safe, puppy friendly, and create a happy home for your new pooch.

  • Are there areas where that’ll be off-limits to your new dog? Do you need:
    • A dog crate?
    • Doorway gates?
  • Are you planning on adopting a puppy? Will you need:
    • Puppy pee pads?
    • Cable/cord management or rearrangement (to prevent chewing)?
    • Chew toys?
    • Stair gates/balcony barriers (to prevent falls)?
  • What sort of outdoor area does your home provide a pupper? Is there a need for:
    • Fencing and gates?
    • Pooper scooper and bags?

Is Your Life Ready for an Adopted Dog?

Now that your home is adoption-ready, let’s look at the lifestyle you currently have and what changes adopting a dog might bring.

  • Do you work long hours or travel for work? Will you need a dog sitter or dog walker to care for your pet while you’re not at home?
  • Are you physically capable of the kind of daily exercise your new pet might need?
  • Are you going to need training on how to properly train and care for your dog?
  • Do you have people in your life who are supportive of the dog parent lifestyle? Anyone allergic? Dog-phobic?
  • Are you financially capable of meeting a doggo’s daily needs? Medical expenses?
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If you’re good with all that and still think you’re up for the challenge of being a pup parent, let’s move on. There’s a lot more ground to cover.

lot of stuff before you bring them home

Step 2. Deciding What Type of Dog to Adopt

There are two big decisions you have to make about your potential adopted doggo:

  • Does their breed fit your needs?
  • Does this dog fit your needs?

Dog Breeds Matter When Adopting a Dog

When dealing with shelter dogs, you’re often looking at mixed breeds, the Heinz 57 Varieties of the dog world. There’s no way of knowing just what that cute puppy’s DNA is going to result in when he’s a grown-up doggo.

Even dogs from “breed” rescues can have questionable parentage. However, knowing at least some of their ancestral background can give you a clue.

Dogs for adoption tend to have different personalities, too. I’ve met calm, laid-back Chihuahuas and hyper Greyhounds. They’re just like us, and while different breeds do have their similarities, no two dogs are exactly true to their breed.

That said, there are generalities that we can discuss when it comes to deciding what breed(s) would be best for you.

  • Your energy and activity levels? High-energy, athletic, on-the-go types of people might do better with a pupper that’s also high-energy, athletic, and loves to go, too.
  • Your home’s space? Bigger dogs need bigger spaces. Smaller fur babies don’t. You may want to consider a mid-sized or smaller breed for a smaller home. We’ve got an article on adopting the bigger breeds for you to read and consider, too.
  • How much time and energy do you have to devote to your doggo’s beauty regime? Long-coated dogs require more regular grooming than smooth coats. Some “low maintenance” beauties are.
  • Are there tiny humans in your home? Some dogs for adoption do better with children than others. The best family pets come from these breeds.

Do some research into any breed you find interesting. Find out as much as you can about your potential adoptee’s character and characteristics before you go.

What Else Matters When Adopting a Dog?

Another thing to consider that you may not have thought of is the age and condition of the dog you bring home. Let’s walk through some of the possibilities you may not have considered.

  • How old will your doggo be? A new puppy takes lots of training and time. An older dog may need some retraining to break old habits. A senior doggo may not be with you for as long as you’d like.
  • What about your pup’s health? A special needs pooch can be a new and exciting challenge. Certain health issues are more prevalent in some breeds than in others. Senior dogs can have the same sort of issues—arthritis, blindness, etc.—that older humans have.
  • What’s your dog’s history? A pup straight off the streets might need lots of training, regardless of age. A dog that’s been surrendered to the shelter will come with its own set of issues created by past owners.
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I’m definitely not trying to dissuade anyone from adopting. I just want you to be 100% certain that the dog you choose to bring home is the right dog for you.

And who knows? Maybe it won’t be a cute and fluffy puppy. Take a look at my video of just how cute senior dogs can be. Camp Golden Years is a rescue that focuses on senior dogs. We went there and hosted a pie eating contest. It was so fun.

Step 3. Do You Have the Right Stuff?

Dogs are like babies. They need a lot of stuff before you can even bring them home. And they need the “right” stuff right away. Here’s a list of what you should have on hand and why before those new paws hit your turf.

  • Travel leash and harness OR pet carrier. You’ll need these to make sure your new pooch arrives home safely.
  • Regular leash and harness. For all those walkies you’ll be taking.
  • Dog food. If possible, find out what the shelter was feeding (and when), so your new pup doesn’t have to adjust to a new diet right away. (You can ease them off by mixing old with new.)
  • Dog feeding station. You’ll need a food and water dish or dispensers of some sort to keep your doggo fed and hydrated.
  • Some toys and a non-consumable chew bone. Your dog’s personality will decide what their favorite playthings will be, but having a few from the start will help you bond and relax. A chew bone they can’t chew up will help with doggo anxiety, too.
  • Dog brush and nail trimmer. Even short-haired pooches need the occasional brushing, and doggy pedicures are a regular must.
  • Pooper scooper and bags. Again, for all those walkies you’re about to take around the block.

Getting your ducks in a row before you bring home your hound can make for a smoother, easier, less-stressful transition from shelter to forever home for both of you.

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Let’s Compare Some Dogs for Adoption

We talked a good bit about the type of dog breed you might want to consider when adopting a new furbaby. The table below gives you some comparisons between 6 of the AKC’s most popular breeds of family dogs.

Dog BreedHigh/Low EnergyHigh/Low Maintenance
Labrador RetrieverHighLow
Irish SetteHighHigh
PugSomewhat bothLow
NewfoundlandSomewhat bothHigh

(The “High/Low Maintenance” column simply denotes how much grooming/brushing these dogs for adoption require. Your shorter-coated puppers can get by with once-a-week grooming, while your longer-haired pooches may require more frequent brushing.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for when I’m at the shelter?

When going through the rescue center or shelter, here are some signs that a dog is friendly and ready for a new home:

  • He comes to the front of the kennel, without barking, eager to meet you.
  • He wags his tail low and wide, showing he wants to be friends.
  • His ears are back and down, not perked and forward.
  • His forehead is smooth and unwrinkled, not furrowed in confusion or anger.

How do I know my dog is a “good” dog?

Most shelters have “getting to know you” rooms where you can meet and greet any of the dogs for adoption. Here are some tips to tell if a dog has a good temperament and is ready for a furever home:

  • Ignore the dog for the first 30 seconds or so after it’s been brought in. Does it try to get your attention by nudging your hand, jumping up, or sitting in front of you? These are all good signs. A dog that cowers or ignores you has socialization issues.
  • Pet the doggo in long, slow strokes. These are meant to calm and soothe. Well-tempered, “good” dogs will become relaxed and chill. High-strung or anxious dogs will become more stimulated and wiggly.
  • If possible, ask to see how the pooch reacts to other puppers. Some dogs can be dog-aggressive even though they’re people-friendly. It doesn’t mean they’re a “bad” dog, just that you’ll both need some training to deal with the issue.

Where can I find the best shelters in my area?

There are several sources for finding a reputable shelter or rescue in your area. The ASPCA and the American Humane Society run shelters across the US. Online resources like Petfinder and The Shelter Project can also help you find dogs for adoption in your area.

Adoption feeThis is the fee that a rescue or shelter charges to cover the costs of caring for the dog before adoption.
Foster CareThis is a temporary arrangement where a person or family or caregiver takes a dog into their home and provides care for the dog.
Rescue GroupThis is charity or non-profit organization that helps to find homes for dogs that have been abandoned, neglected, or surrendered.
ShelterThis is a facility where dogs that have been abandoned, neglected, or surrendered are housed until they can be adopted. Also called a kennel or pound.
Spay/NeuterThis is a surgical procedure that removes the reproductive organs of a dog to prevent reproduction.
VaccinationsThese are injections that protect dogs from certain infectious diseases.
MicrochippingThis is a small device that is inserted under a dog’s skin and contains identification information.
Definitions to common terms

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