Published: July 20, 2019  

Last updated: July 18, 2024  

How long it takes to adopt a dog is going to depend on a lot of variables, considering factors like adoption through rescue groups, shelters, or humane societies. 

It could take an hour at the humane society, or it could take days to weeks, even months with a rescue group.

Adopting a dog involves several key steps, regardless of where you choose to adopt. The process typically begins with your decision to add a new dog to your family and progresses through researching suitable organizations, completing adoption applications, meeting potential dogs, and finally, bringing your new best friend home.

Let’s dive into the process of adopting a new rescue dog and discover whether a faster adoption process is better.

4 puppies in kennel and shelter

Adoption Through Dog Rescues

Adopting a dog from a dog rescue could take anywhere from a day to weeks to months. 

With the rescue I volunteer for, they start with a thorough online application, background and reference check, communication with the adoption coordinator, home visit interview, foster home meeting, a 24 hour wait period, then after the 24 hours, you can adopt and bring home the dog.

Not all rescues run this way. In fact, our one and only failed adoption, had a very simple online application, a quick phone call with the adoption coordinator, then meeting the dog and adopting on the spot.

Many rescues are run by volunteers, so timing can depend on their availability and how many applications are in front of you.

If you are searching a dog adoption website, it could even take a couple of days for them to get back to your request for information.

The adoption process through rescue groups may vary, but it often involves the following steps:

  1. Researching Rescue Groups: Start by researching reputable rescue groups that align with your values and preferences. Look for organizations that prioritize the well-being of animals. Ask friends and family for recommendations. 
  2. Adoption Application: Once you’ve found a reputable rescue group, you’ll need to complete an adoption application. This application helps the group understand your lifestyle, preferences, and the type of dog that would be a good fit for your family.
  3. Home Visit: Some rescue groups conduct home visits to ensure that your living environment is safe and suitable for a new dog. This step aims to create the best match between the dog and your family.
  4. Meeting Available Dogs: After your application is approved, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and interact with adoptable dogs. This step is crucial in determining if there’s a good fit between you and a particular dog. Some dogs may be in foster homes, so you will be coordinating with the foster family to arrange the best time to meet the dog. 
  5. Adoption Counselor Assistance: Adoption counselors from rescue groups provide guidance and support throughout the process. They help match potential adopters with dogs that suit their lifestyles and preferences.

The time it takes to adopt a dog through a rescue group can vary depending on factors such as the availability of suitable dogs, the thoroughness of the application process, and the scheduling of home visits. It’s important to remember that most dog rescues are volunteer-run organizations, and those volunteers likely have other full-time jobs.

Another possibility when adopting from a rescue is that the dog you saw on the website may not be available after you go through the application process. Make sure you are prepared to wait for another “perfect match” to come along?

black and brown dog standing in grass

Adoption Through Shelters or Humane Societies

Humane societies or shelters usually are much quicker in how long it takes to adopt a dog. You can walk in, fill out an application, have an interview and meet the dog(s) you are interested in and bring them home that same day. So maybe an hour or two is how long it would take to adopt a dog from a humane society.

It’s a great feeling when you want instant gratification on adopting a new dog, so you may think the humane society is your best option. But don’t let the quickness of it all fool you.

And just because you decided you want to adopt a dog today, doesn’t mean you should come home with the only available dog that kind of matches what you wanted. Don’t be afraid to come back another day and wait to find the “perfect” dog for you.

Recommended just for you: What’s the difference between a dog rescue, humane society or shelter?

Here’s a general overview of the process when adopting through a shelter or humane society:

  1. Visit the Adoption Center: Start by visiting your local animal shelter or humane society. These organizations often have a variety of dogs available for adoption.
  2. Meet Adoptable Dogs: Spend time interacting with the available dogs. Many shelters have designated areas where you can meet and spend time with dogs to assess compatibility.
  3. Adoption Application: If you find a potential new family member, you’ll need to complete an adoption application. This step helps the shelter understand your ability to care for the dog.
  4. First-Come, First-Served Basis: Some shelters operate on a first-come, first-served basis, especially for highly sought-after dogs. If you find a dog you love, be prepared to act promptly.
  5. Adoption Fee: Shelters typically charge an adoption fee, which may cover vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and other medical expenses. This fee contributes to the care of other animals in need.

The adoption process through shelters may generally be quicker than that of rescue groups, especially if you’re open to a variety of breeds and ages.

shelter dog outside in grass running

Is a Faster Adoption Process Better?

Adopting a dog should never be an impulse decision. 10-15 years is the average life-span of a dog. Deciding to adopt a dog should include a lot of research. 

Even if you’ve have had dogs before, finding a reputable rescue or shelter and then finding a dog that matches your lifestyle takes time. I learned this the hard way. You can read our heartbreaking adoption story here.

What I actually love about our rescues 24-hour policy I mentioned above… is that it makes you really think about whether or not this is the right dog. It truly helps reduce the impulse decisions…. Because let’s face it, all puppies are cute and dogs have a way of stealing our hearts at first sight. And just because he’s cute, doesn’t mean he’s meant to be yours for the next decade.

So don’t be in a hurry. Take your time, research, research, and more research. Don’t choose the first dog you see, don’t adopt a dog just because you feel sorry for them. And certainly, don’t adopt a dog just because you woke up and decided you need a dog.

Head over to our I’m ready to adopt page next, so we can help you in your adoption journey.

The speed of the adoption process is subjective and depends on various factors, including your preferences, lifestyle, and the specific circumstances of the adopting organization. Here are some considerations:

  1. Time of Adoption: If you’re looking for a quick adoption process and have a specific dog in mind, a shelter might be a good option, especially if they operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
  2. Good Match vs. Speed: While a faster adoption process may be appealing, the priority should be finding a good match. Rushing the process can lead to mismatches that may not be ideal for the dog or your family.
  3. Foster Homes: Some rescue groups place dogs in foster homes before adoption. This allows for a better understanding of the dog’s behavior and personality in a home environment, increasing the likelihood of a successful match.
  4. Adoption Fee: While shelters typically have lower adoption fees, rescue groups may have slightly higher fees. However, these fees often cover more extensive veterinary care, making it a worthwhile investment in your new dog’s health.


In conclusion, the time it takes to adopt a dog varies based on the organization you choose and the specific adoption process they follow. Whether you opt for a rescue group, shelter, or humane society, the key is to prioritize finding a good fit for both you and the dog. 

Take the time to understand the adoption process of your chosen organization, and remember that the journey to bringing home a new companion is as important as the destination. Happy adopting!

Head over to our I’m ready to adopt page next, so we can help you in your adoption journey.

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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  1. It depends on what service you go through. When I adopted from the local humane society, it took maybe a week tops, but when I adopted from a breed specific rescue, it took much longer

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