Do you know what was one of the most life-changing experiences I ever had?

Adopting my first dog.

I still remember my excitement and joy when I took that furry bundle of joy home with me. Seven dogs (and 10 cats!) later, I still think that opening my heart to rescues is the best decision I ever made.

Rescued Dogs Collage Meet the adorable dogs rescued by Angela: Lily, Beban, Zara, Senka, Iskra and Cesar in the middle.

People who adopt a dog like to say that the dog rescued them, not the other way around. And I tend to agree.

So, in honor of National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, I decided to share my experiences with dog adoptions with all of you looking to save a dog this October. This comprehensive guide will answer all of your questions, including how to adopt a dog from a shelter, how to pick the right dog for your family and how to welcome a rescue into your home.

  1. Why Should You Adopt a Dog?
  2. What to Expect When Adopting a Dog
  3. How to Choose a Rescue Dog
  4. Preparing Your Home for a Rescue Dog
  5. Petcube Rescue Program
  6. Final Thoughts
  7. FAQ

Why Should You Adopt a Dog?

A better question would be: why shouldn’t you adopt a dog? There are so many benefits to adopting a dog over buying your furry companion that they warrant an article of their own. But, let’s keep it simple. Here are the top 3 reasons for adopting a dog:

#1 Adoption Saves Lives

Did you know that around 670,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters across the United States every year?

Yup. That’s over half a million dogs that didn’t get to have their second chance. That waited for someone to take them home, but no one ever showed up. That died alone.

I know it’s hard to hear things like this, but it is necessary to let this number sink in. Only after you allow yourself to REALLY understand the severity of the situation can you realize why adoption matters.

When you decide on adopting a dog, you’re not only getting a new best friend. You’re giving an unfortunate pooch a new chance at life and a loving family to call their own.

Lola rescued dog

Lola’s amazing transformation - before and after: She was found seriously neglected, abused and poorly treated, with matted hair and tons of fleas and ticks. This is the magic a little care and love can perform.

#2 Adoption Costs Less

If you’re wondering how much does it cost to adopt a dog, and you’re worried that you won’t be able to afford getting a pooch from a shelter, you’re in for some good news. Adopting from dog shelters is much cheaper than buying a dog from a breeder - and it can often even be free.

The cost of adopting a dog is even smaller when you realize that rescue dogs are already microchipped, spayed or neutered, dewormed, and vaccinated, and that all that is covered by the adoption fee.

Sometimes, people have their heart set on a particular breed and think that going to a pet store or a breeder is their only option. That’s one of the most common mistakes people make when thinking about dog adoptions. Over 25% of rescue dogs . Considering that about 3.3 million dogs enter shelter each year, that means that there are over 750,000 purebred dogs to choose from. Chances are that the pooch of your dreams is already waiting for you in a local shelter!

#3 Adoption Is Humane

Apart from saving lives, by taking in a homeless dog, you will also help suppress overpopulation. Surgical sterilization is mandatory for each dog or cat that end up in shelters, which prevents them from reproducing and bringing more homeless animals into the world. There are already too many dogs and not nearly enough available homes. When you decide to adopt, you’ll be reducing the number of shelter dogs (even if it’s just one dog) and you’ll be sure you didn’t contribute to the problem.

What to Expect When Adopting a Dog

Even though you might really want to save a dog from a shelter or a rescue organization, you might not be a suitable candidate. It’s true that there are countless pups waiting for an owner, but it’s essential for dog shelters to thoroughly check people before they give them a dog to take home. The goal is to ensure that each dog for adoption goes to a happy, loving family that will be a good match for their personality, and not end up in the shelter again.

Most dog shelters have the same rules when it comes to the adoption process, and it looks like this:

  • Submit an application for adoption
  • Go through an interview with one of the shelter’s counselors and meet rescue dogs
  • If you pass the interview and the pooch you chose is the right fit for your family, you might need to pay a small adoption fee before bringing them home

By following this set of steps, shelters try to ensure that people who adopt dogs are not doing it on a whim and that they are capable of providing care, love and a long-term home for their would-be four-legged protégés.

However, it’s important to be aware beforehand: shelter interview questions are going to be personal and intruding for some people. Each shelter has their own particular interview procedure, but most tend to structure them like an honest conversation rather than an exam you need to pass. Once you realize that all those questions are just there to ensure your future furry family member goes to the right hands, you won’t have a problem answering them.

Here are some of the questions you can expect when it comes to the dog adoption interview:

  • What is your family situation? (how many kids are in the family and how many adults, does everyone in the household want to adopt a dog)
  • What is your housing situation? (do you live in your own home or are you renting one, what kind of property you have, are you planning to move in the near future)
  • What is your previous experience with pets and do you own any animals right now? (number of pets, history of having pets and what happened to each of them, do you know how to socialize a pet into a new family)
  • What is your work situation? (are you able to assume financial responsibility for the new pet, how long are your work hours and the commute, will you be leaving your dog alone for long hours due to work)

These are all general questions meant to determine if you’re suitable to take on the responsibility of having a dog. They might seem like a bit too much, but they are absolutely essential. Just think of it this way - when you know that moving away is the number one reason for rehoming dogs , followed by strict landlords, financial issues and lack of time due to work responsibilities, these personal questions instantly make much more sense.

The next two groups of questions are supposed to help the counselor realize if you’re the right personality match for the dog you want to adopt and vice versa:

  • What kind of lifestyle do you have? (are you an active, outdoorsy person or not, will you take the dog with you on vacations/social events/etc., are you in a relationship and how would a dog fit into that)
  • What’s your knowledge about rescue dogs? (are you prepared to train and socialize a dog, do you know that sometimes dogs end up in shelter because of abuse and neglect and never fully recover, why do you want to adopt this dog)

As I said, these questions are not an exam and being honest when answering is an absolute must. Be honest with yourself as well, and don’t agree to something you’re not sure you’d be able to go through with. The last thing anyone wants is for the adopted dog to be unhappy or experience abandonment yet again.

How to Choose a Rescue Dog

Choosing the right dog for your family can be hard. Each pooch has its own personality and quirks, so it’s essential to find a dog that will fit right in with your own character.

The biggest mistake you can make is to fall head over heels for a dog just because of their looks. Sure, those might be the cutest puppy eyes you have ever seen, but can you commit to taking care of all of its needs? Will the dog you like get on well with your other pets or kids? If you choose a dog for adoption whose activity level and personality don’t match your own, you’re bound to have some trouble.

When choosing a rescue dog from your local shelter, you should have in mind that there are some dogs that have the least chance of getting adopted. If you haven’t set your heart on a particular pup or a dog breed, please consider giving a chance to a pooch whose future is not that bright. The categories of least adoptable dogs include black dogs, senior dogs, dogs with disabilities, and, in 99% of cases, the reasons for their low adoption chances don’t mean that they wouldn’t make a perfect companion for someone.

When choosing a rescue dog from your local shelter, you should have in mind that there are some dogs that have the least chance of getting adopted. If you haven’t set your heart on a particular pup or a dog breed, please consider giving a chance to a pooch whose future is not that bright. The categories of least adoptable dogs include black dogs, senior dogs, dogs with disabilities, and, in 99% of cases, the reasons for their low adoption chances don’t mean that they wouldn’t make a perfect companion for someone.

For some people (me included), deciding which dog to take home can be something of a Sophie’s choice. When you see all those pleading eyes and so many loving puppies and dogs… It can make you feel guilty that you’re not taking all of them with you.

But, even though it might seem unfair, you just can’t give a good home to all of them. The best thing you can do is try to help out as much as you can, whether it’s volunteering your time, donating or spreading the word about adoptable dogs and shelters who take them in.

Preparing Your Home for a Rescue Dog

Before you welcome a new fur baby to your home, you’ll need to prepare all the basics. Apart from food, toys, and other supplies, you need to dog-proof your home. This means you need to check for any points in your home that the dog could use to escape and prepare a safe zone or area where the pooch can relax and get used to their new surroundings.

Big changes can often be stressful for dogs, so it’s important to have patience and try to help your new dog adapt. The shelter counselor will give you all the information about your adopted dog, including some tips on how to make the transition easier for them.
The most important thing is to try to contain your excitement. Chances are that the pooch in question won’t feel comfortable right away, so you need to take it slow. Don’t overwhelm them with cuddles and force interaction. Let your new furball dictate the pace.

Find out more about learning how to properly recognize your pup’s emotions here: How To Understand Dog Body Language.

Depending on the dog you chose to adopt, the preparations can vary. If you will be getting a dog with special needs, you will need to prepare appropriate supplies, and the same goes for puppies and elderly dogs.

If you’re adopting a puppy or a senior dog, make sure to check out these guides: 12 Must-Have Puppy Supplies and 6 Supplies for Senior Pets.

Petcube Rescue Program

Here at Petcube, we’re committed to helping animal rescuers. We teamed up with various shelters and rescue organizations to help their animals find forever homes, and support their amazing efforts to save pets in need.

Through the Petcube Rescue Program, shelters can easily help pet parents to find a dog or a cat for their family, and give more adoptable pets a chance to connect with their future families.

By installing the Petcube app, you can search for dogs up for adoption near you, and watch and play with pets directly from your smartphone. But, before you start checking out local dog shelters on the app, just a fair warning: you might end up spending hours gushing over adorable rescues.

Final Thoughts

All dogs in the world are loyal and loving, regardless of whether they’re from a shelter or a breeder. There is no doubt there.

If you decide on adopting a dog, you will be saving a life. You might be the last chance at happiness for a shelter dog. And, if we’re being completely honest, there is nothing quite like the bond rescue dogs make with their families. They simply know that their human is the one who gave them a second chance and they never forget it.

Zara rescued dog This is Zara. Her name means "flower". This is how she managed to "blossom" after having been rescued after car accident.

If you are thinking about adopting a dog, I hope this guide helped you. Arm yourself with information on dog adoptions and go save a life!

FAQ

Q: Do you have to pay to adopt a pet? How much does it cost to adopt a puppy from a shelter?
A: Every dog shelter has their own policy and practices, and the same goes for adoption fees. Most shelters finance part of their veterinary and food costs through small adoption fees, but there are some shelters that might be able to offer a dog for adoption for free.

Q: What should I look for when adopting a dog?
A: Always make sure that the dog you’re adopting is the right fit for you and your family. That includes their personality, health, age and attitude toward other pets and children. If you have a household with multiple pets or small kids, you need to make sure the dog you’re adopting can be socialized.

Q: How do I know if a rescue group is legitimate?
A: Unfortunately, not all rescue groups are the real deal. There have been reports of puppy mills posing as rescue groups and trying to sell their dogs and turn a profit on them. To avoid getting mixed up in these scams, always do research before deciding on a shelter. If there are no facilities to visit (there are rescue groups that use foster families), make sure to check for any of these red flags:

  • The majority of dogs are puppies and purebreds Their interviews are nonexistent or too lax
  • They are eager to give their dogs to anyone who asks without vetting them first
  • Their “adoption fees” are too expensive as they’re looking to profit, usually $500 or more

Q: Are shelter dogs housebroken?
A: Some are, some are not. If you’re adopting a puppy, chances are they haven’t had the chance to learn how to behave in a home yet. For older dogs, there is a higher probability they already have manners and know how to walk on a leash, go potty outside and recognize basic commands. However, some shelter dogs have ended up there because their previous owners have been unwilling or unable to housetrain them, so they will need training if you adopt them. Either way, shelter counselors will provide you all the information about the dog you want to adopt (including if they are housebroken) before you make the final decision.