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Do you want to adopt a rescue dog but worried about finding one that is the right match for your family? Worried about the dog being good with kids? The right energy level to match your lifestyle? Will the dog have behavior issues?

I understand the concerns of adopting a new dog for your family. As a foster dog mom, I even worry about which foster dogs we choose to bring into our home. I have to consider how that foster dog will react with my young daughter and my two resident dogs.

young family with a dog wanting to adopt

When you are ready to adopt a dog, you want to make sure you do it right. What is the right way to adopt a dog? Do you know what to look for when adopting a dog? Is there a wrong way to adopt a dog?

Follow these easy steps on how to adopt a rescue dog and you will be on your way to adopting the dog (or puppy) of your dreams.

>> Sign up Now for the Rescue Dogs 101: Roadmap to Adopting Your Perfect Dog >>

1. Find a Reputable Dog Rescue or Shelter

a. Pet adoption websites and are a great way to start but are not your only option.

Dogs that are listed on these websites are not sponsored by Petfinder or Adopt-a-Pet in any way. The websites are just online services the rescues and shelters use to easily get their dogs listed online and seen by millions of people.

I talk about the benefits of each of these adoption websites here.

b. Local dog rescues

Do a quick Google search for local dog rescue near me, and you will be surprised with all your options.

The long story short of it is, do your own research and find the rescue or shelter that best fits your needs. Ask neighbors, friends, and family for recommendations. Look at reviews online. Do they have a license? Are they a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization?

There are even breed specific rescues, so this would be a great option if you want to adopt a particular breed. Expect these rescues to have more stringent guidelines for whom they will adopt out to. But even the humane society will occasionally have a pure breed dog.

Two Kids petting a dog learning How To Adopt A Dog

c. Stay away from shady shelters aka puppy mills

It’s unfortunate but there are rescues out there that are in it just for the money and not for the welfare of the dog. They may have an easier adoption process, but they also adopt out sick dogs and dogs that have not been assessed for behavioral issues.

How do I know? I hear stories every week about people adopting a dog and quickly finding out that the dog is sick and has parvo, is leash aggressive, or other serious behavior issues. This is not to scare you from adopting a dog, it’s to inform you that you need to do your research!

Look for a rescue that shares the same values as you do. The welfare of the dog should be the number one priority. Matching the dog with the right family is crucial to a happy dog and happy adopter.

Make sure to read 53 Questions You MUST Ask a Rescue BEFORE Adopting a Dog

d. Pet stores

Some states have new laws in place that make it illegal for pet stores to sell puppy mill dogs. The laws are supposed to help prevent the puppy mills, but I just read a story that the puppy mills are now registering themselves as a non-profit rescue as a way around the law. Ask the pet store where the puppy came from and do your research on the rescue they use to get their puppies.

e. Be patient

I know the feeling all too well, you decide it’s time to adopt a dog and you want the dog today. But it doesn’t work that way, at least not if you go through all the proper steps. You may be able to head into your local humane society today and bring the dog home, but will it be the right match for you?

How to Temperament Test a Puppy Before You Adopt

2. Research the Dog(s) You Want to Adopt

If you haven’t asked yourself the important question about what personality type you are and what personality type dog will be a good fit, now is the time to hunker down and figure this out.

You are in the right place here. The Rescue Dogs 101 website is a great resource for you. We are here to guide you in every step of your dog journey, starting with adopting your perfect dog! Take some time to read through our adopt page.

Adopting a high-energy dog if you are a low-energy kind of person, you and the dog are going to be very unhappy. Everyone in your family should be involved, your husband, wife, kids and other dogs. Why type of dog is going to fit in with your entire families lifestyle?

a. Searching for dogs online

Once you decide on the energy level, size, and maybe breed of dog that will be your perfect dog, you can start searching online with your chosen rescue or shelter. Pet Adoption Websites have search options that allow you to narrow down your search by shelters near you, by breed, by age and more.

Hopefully the dog that you like has detailed information about his personality so you can make an informed decision. Remember to ask a lot of questions when preparing to meed a dog you want to adopt.

b. Meeting dogs in foster homes

This is my favorite way to adopt a dog. Don’t be afraid to ask to meet several dogs. I realize sometimes this can be difficult when dogs are in foster homes. If you can’t meet them in person, then ask to talk to the foster family on the phone. Take this opportunity to ask all your initial questions before meeting the dog.

In my experience as a foster home, the more questions I answer on the phone, the better prepared the adopters are when they meet us in person. It’s also great that Fetch, WI allows us, as a foster, to write updates for the dogs adoption page. This allows us to document the full personality of each dog, good or bad. I believe in being fully transparent about the dog, this prepares an adopter for everything to expect when they choose our foster dog.

When you do get to meet the dog, spend at least a half an hour with the dog. Ask to take the dog for a walk around the block. Spend time on the floor playing with the dog. And you should perform a personality test on the dog.

c. Meeting dogs at the humane society

Humane Societies and other big shelters can be big and scary for any dog. When you do get to see the dog you are interested in, ask to be able to spend some time with the dog in a quiet room. Spend at least a half an hour with the dog. Ask to take the dog for a walk around the block. Spend time on the floor playing with the dog. And you should perform a personality test on the dog even if the shelter already said they did.

Don’t settle for adopting a dog just because you feel sorry for him. I can’t express enough the importance of choosing the right dog that fits your personality and lifestyle.

3. Prepare your home for a new dog

While you are searching for a dog, you can start puppy proofing your home if needed. I would hold off on buying food, crate or collar until you know which dog you are adopting. Some dogs may have a special diet and size matters when it comes to crate and collars.

As soon as you have decided on which dog you will be adopting, then you need to go shopping BEFORE you bring him home. You will need some supplies to get started, including food, collar, leash, a name tag, crate, and more. Head over to our Amazon page to see all of the items I recommend.

Do not bring your dog to the pet store on the way home. The dog is going to be stressed enough as it is, he needs time to decompress and not have to worry about meeting new people or dogs.

Bringing a new dog home

4. Bring your dog home

Yeah! It’s finally the day you get to bring home your new dog! Congratulations, it’s so exciting to start a new life with a new dog. Dogs will bring so much unconditional love into your life, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without a dog.

Make sure to read our First 7 Days and the 3-3-3 Rule, these will help you understand the process your dog needs to go through to become part of your family.

I recommend you read through our adoption articles, so you are completely prepared for any situation that may arise.

Take it slow, give your new dog some space, and enjoy the moment. Take lots of pictures and share on Instagram and make sure to tag @rescuedogs101 so we can congratulate you personally.

Recommended just for you:
Bringing Your New Dog Home and the 3-3-3 Rule
The First 7 Days – Bringing Your Adopted Dog Home

>> Sign up Now for the Rescue Dogs 101: Roadmap to Adopting Your Perfect Dog >>

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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