How to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter – PROCESS

Did you know that millions of dogs are euthanized annually in the United States?

This sobering statistic is one of the many reasons why adopting a dog from a shelter should be at the top of your list when considering adding a furry friend to your family.

In this post, we’ll break down everything and learn how to adopt a dog from a shelter, from what to expect during the process to how to find the perfect pup for your home.

Why Adopt From a Shelter?

When you choose to adopt, you'll give a needy dog a loving home
When you choose to adopt, you help to decrease the demand for puppies, which lowers instances of puppy mills and irresponsible breeding.

Adopting a pet from a shelter is a great way to find a furry friend while giving back to your community.

Not only do shelters have a variety of different animals to choose from, but they also provide a safe and loving environment for pets that have been abandoned or abused.

When you adopt from a shelter, you’re not only providing a home for an animal in need but also helping to reduce the number of animals euthanized annually.

In addition, adoption fees are often cheaper than purchasing an animal from a breeder or pet store, and many shelters offer discounts for seniors, students, and military families.

Read our related article, How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter? for more information on fees and other expenses!

How to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter

So, how does dog adoption work?

Adopting a dog from a shelter is a process that requires patience and research.

Find a Shelter

The first step is to find a reputable shelter that houses the type of dog you are interested in adopting.

Once you have found a few potential shelters, you should visit each and meet with the staff so you can ask questions and get more information about their adoption process.

Fill Out an Application

After meeting with the team, you must fill out an application that will include questions about your home, lifestyle, and dog experience.

Have a Home Visit

Once you have submitted your application, it will be reviewed by the shelter staff. If everything looks good, you will be contacted for a home visit or a meeting.

If a home visit is required, it’s an opportunity for the shelter staff to see how well you will be able to provide for your potential new dog.

Join the Waiting List

If everything goes well, you will be placed on the waiting list for adoption.

Depending on the shelter, there may be a long waiting list or no waiting list at all.

However, once you’re at the top of the list, you’ll be able to adopt your new best friend!

If you’re not sure what questions to ask the animal shelter, watch the following video for some tips:

Read More: How Long Does it Take a Rescue Dog to Adjust? See what might affect the adjustment period and how you can help.

Tips for Successfully Adopting

Choose a dog that fits your lifestyle
Make sure you choose the right breed and personality for your lifestyle. This can prevent a surrender if you discover the dog isn’t a good fit after adoption.

Below are some tips to help you successfully adopt a dog from a shelter.

Choose the Right Breed for You

Not all breeds are alike, and selecting one that fits well into your lifestyle is essential.

If you’re active, for instance, you might want a breed that enjoys running and playing.

Alternatively, if you live in a smaller space, you might want to consider a toy or miniature breed.

Visit the Shelter in Person

Get to know the staff and tour the facility to get a feel for the environment.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet some adoptable dogs and see which ones might be a good fit for you.

Be Prepared to Commit

Adopting a dog is a big responsibility, and you’ll need to be ready to provide food, shelter, love, and care for your new pet.

Dogs typically live 10-15 years, so make sure you’re prepared for the long haul before committing.

By following these tips, you can set yourself up for success and ensure that you and your new dog are happy and healthy for years to come.

Read More: How Do I Get My Dog Back From the Shelter? If your lost dog is at the shelter, here’s how to bring it home!

What to Expect When You Adopt

Ensure you have the budget and care available for a new dog.
Be prepared financially, emotionally, and physically to take care of the new dog in your life.

Once your application to adopt a dog is approved, you’ll likely be asked to meet with the dog you are interested in adopting.

This is your chance to see how well you click with the dog and whether they seem like a good fit for your home.

If everything goes well, you will be able to take your new furry friend home that day!

Finally, remember that adopting a dog is a big responsibility. Dogs need exercise, proper nutrition, and plenty of love and attention.

But if you are prepared to provide all that (and more!), adopting from a shelter is an enriching experience.

Read More: Can You Get a Free Dog at a Shelter? Shelter dogs aren’t free, but here’s what the fees pay for!

The Benefits of Adoption

Adopting a dog from a shelter has many benefits.

  • You’re giving a home to a dog in need. Shelters are often overcrowded, and every adoption helps to make room for another dog.
  • Adopting from a shelter is usually cheaper than buying from a breeder.
  • Dogs in shelters have often been spayed or neutered and received vaccinations so you can be sure that your new dog will be up-to-date on all of its shots.
  • When you adopt from a shelter, you have the opportunity to choose the perfect dog for your family.

Adopting from a shelter is a great way to find your new best friend.

For more on vet care and shelter dogs, read this article: Do Animal Shelters Give Free Shots?


Adopting from a shelter is the way to go if you’re considering adding a furry friend to your family.

Not only are you saving a life, but you’re also getting a fantastic animal that needs a loving home.

We hope this article has helped show you how easy the adoption process is and how rewarding it can be to adopt from a shelter.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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