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The Complete Guide to Adopting Your First Dog

Monday, February 26th

The Complete Guide to Adopting Your First Dog

It's time to expand your family and add a furry face to the group! But there are so many questions to be answered first. What kind of dog should you get? Are you going to adopt a rescue or find a breeder? What is the process like and how much does it cost? Is it the right time to grow your family by adopting your first dog?

Adopting a dog is a challenge, but a rewarding one. This is a fun time for your family, and one that should be celebrated. Don't worry, this article will help you learn to adopt a dog like a pro. Let's jump in and decide if it's the right time for you to adopt a dog.

Decide If It's the Right Time for You to Adopt a Dog

You really want to adopt a dog, so you're definitely ready for the commitment - right? Hold tight. Adding a dog to your family is a big responsibility, so how do you know it's the right time for you?

Why Do You Want To Adopt a Dog?

First, consider why you want to adopt a dog. It it because you've always wanted a specific breed, or because your kids really want a pet? Maybe you just want to rescue a special needs dog in need. These are all valid reasons, but will they hold up when faced with the responsibilities of adopting and owning a dog for years to come? The important part is considering your decision, and if adopting a dog is right for you at this time.

Can You Adopt a Dog Right Now?

Consider your lifestyle. Do you have really young children? Are you often working long days and into the evenings without a break to come home? Do you travel often? Do you have the financial resources to care for a dog and any unexpected costs that might come up? Have you researched pet insurance companies to prepare to cover your new family member's health and wellness needs? If you're not at a place in your life where you could support a child, you're probably also not ready for a dog.

Maybe it's just not the right time for you to become a pet owner. However, there are alternatives to help fill your need for a dog in your life if a full commitment isn't possible.

  • Donate or volunteer at a rescue or shelter
  • Foster animals up for adoption
  • Consider a different breed
  • Look into owning a different animal, like a cat or other small pet, that better fits your lifestyle

If you've determined it's definitely the right time for you adopt a dog, then you've probably got a lot more questions like, "How much does it cost to adopt a dog?" and, "What is the adoption process like?" We'll walk you through the complete process of adopting your dog next.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

The cost to adopt a dog depends greatly on whether you choose to adopt from a shelter or buy from a breeder. When you choose a responsible breeder, the cost of the dog also depends on the breed. Buying from a breeder can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500, but don't try to cut costs by choosing a cheaper breeder.

Responsible breeders have a lot of expenses to cover and a good breeder deserves some compensation for their time as well. Although you should avoid any breeder who is obviously looking to make a profit on pups, we'll cover how to find a responsible breeder.

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Cost of Adopting From a Shelter

The cost of adopting a dog from a shelter is much lower than that of a breeder, depending on the breed and age of the dog. Most shelters require an adoption fee of anywhere from $25 to $200 and a licensing fee of usually $10, but adoption fees vary depending on many factors. Keep in mind that when you buy a dog from a breeder, the dog is essentially all you get, but adopting a dog from a shelter means a lot of the financial responsibilities that come with caring for a puppy are already taken care of. Here is a list of items usually covered under the shelter adoption fee:

  • Spay and neuter
  • Full veterinary exam
  • Vaccinations
  • Heartworm test
  • Intestinal dewormer
  • Flea and tick treatment
  • Some may also receive blood work, x-rays, or dental work
  • Some may receive a microchip
  • Sometimes extras are included like I.D. tags, collar/leash, and food

Some shelters have special days where some, if not all, adoption fees are waived. Find shelters in your area to learn more.

Post-Adoption Costs

You should be aware of the costs of owning a dog after the adoption process. Within the first few weeks after bringing your dog home, it's recommended to get them in for a wellness visit with your vet. You might also choose to hire a trainer, the cost of which can vary greatly depending on where you go.

Routine Expenses of Dog Ownership

Of course there will also be regular care expenses like: food, toys, a bed, and grooming. But keep in mind that most dog owners also do annual vet check-ups, vaccinations, and pay for pet insurance in case of an emergency.

Emergency Expenses

We've all heard horror stories of pet owners finding out their fur baby needs an expensive surgery or medication. They're forced to face the decision between losing their pet or paying thousands of dollars for treatment.

Pet insurance can certainly help make that decision easier by making procedures and medication more affordable. It also often helps lessen the cost of regular veterinary visits and care. But the cost of pet insurance is still a monthly expense to consider and can range from $15 to $75 or more a month.

What Is the Adoption Process? Adopting From a Shelter vs. Breeder

Are you ready to find your dog? Let's look at your options. If you haven't made up your mind already; you essentially have two adoption choices to make: adopting from a shelter or finding a responsible breeder. Here's how to do it:

How to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter

Assuming you've found the shelter, humane society, or other rescue organization you want to adopt your pup from - the adoption process is simple.

A shelter, sometimes called humane society or the pound, is an easy place to adopt a pet with a simple adoption process. You can often see pictures and descriptions of their available animals online and then visit the facility to meet the dogs. But dogs in shelters can be adopted quickly, so if you find one you really want to meet, be sure to get in there as soon as you're able. Here is a quick example of the adoption process through a shelter:

  1. Find a shelter and look through their available dogs.
  2. Visit the shelter and meet the dog, or multiple.
  3. If you decide this is the right dog for you, then you're ready to adopt your pet!
  4. Shelter staff will walk you through the adoption process of paying the adoption fee, getting copies of the pet's records, and licensing the dog.
  5. You can take your pet home!

The adoption process through a rescue organization can be a bit different. Although we use the name "shelter" interchangeably throughout this article, it's still important to understand the difference in adopting from a rescue rather than a shelter. Most rescue organizations are run by volunteers, so the process might be a little more involved for you.

The main difference with the adoption process from a rescue organization is the application. Most rescue volunteers will want to ensure that you are a fit for the dog just as much as they want to ensure the dog is the perfect fit for you. Before adopting your rescue dog, you might be asked to fill out an application and schedule a home visit before signing the adoption papers and officially taking your dog home. But this can be beneficial to both you and the dog to take somewhat of a trial run before committing. Everyone is happier when you put in the work and time to ensure a good fit before taking a dog home.

How to Adopt a Dog from a Responsible Breeder

Pet stores tend to be the least responsible place to find your new dog, as many of their puppies are born in puppy mills which are known to be cruel to animals. Dogs from pet stores often end up with an illness or congenital defect.

Some federal and state laws exist to protect animals from cruelty by breeders, but inspections aren't mandatory and it's hard to know if you're getting a dog from a responsible and humane breeder or not. Here are some tips on how to find a good breeder:

  • Find a breeder within driving distance so you can visit the home or facility and see for yourself whether or not the parent dogs are healthy, socialized, and well cared for.
  • Look for a breeder with a lot of experience, who values health, temperament, and socialization.
  • Ask for recommendations from people with healthy and happy dogs.
  • Get advice from a veterinarian or local training clubs and kennel clubs.
  • Avoid anyone who breeds more than two breeds or who specializes in size, color, etc.
  • Find a breeder that encourages visiting your dog and its parents before adoption day.
  • Avoid breeders who ask for cash or a credit card. Also avoid anyone obviously looking to make a profit, their priorities should be more about covering expenses.
  • When you visit, look for signs of dirty conditions or frightened, unhealthy, or antisocial dogs.
  • Make sure the breeder you choose: screens pups for genetic problems and shows you paperwork, takes time to answer your questions and educate you, offers advice for the dog's lifetime health, and questions you to ensure you're ready to adopt one of their pups.

Finding a responsible breeder can be hard work, and it might be tempting to fall for the first one you come across, especially if you're already looking at their cute litter of puppies. But don't get ahead of yourself. It's imperative to find and support responsible breeders.

Adopting a dog is such a fun time for a family, but dog ownership takes a lot of work! Luckily, you've done some research and now you know the adoption process and how to adopt your dog. Good luck!

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Pet Insurance Company FAQ

Generally speaking, all ages are welcome when it comes to providing your pet with pet insurance. As the pet gets older rates may be more expensive than if you would have gotten coverage at a younger age. Please keep in mind some companies have age restrictions for when they can accept a dog or cat into their insurance plan. Typical restrictions are around 12+ years of age.
No one can forecast when your dog or cat is going to digest something they shouldn't have or have an accident related injury. Luckily, pet insurance helps to protect the pet owner against unexpected veterinary bills that can reach into the $1,000s.
It is recommended to get pet insurance before winter or summer seasons. During those seasons, there are more dangerous elements that are exposing your pet to potential illness and accidents. As far as age goes for the puppy, insurance companies recommend getting your pet insurance when your new best friend arrives home.
Typically, insurance companies only insure cats and dogs. But some companies will insure dogs, horses, other large animals, cats, other small animals, rodents, reptiles, and birds.
Depending on the company, a pet insurance claim can be sent via several different methods. Methods can include email, fax, or regular mail. When completing a claim make sure to include all of your paid vet bill invoices, and any other required documents. When the claim is processed it will either be accepted with a reimbursement, more information needed (i.e. incomplete claim form), or denial (i.e. due to non-coverable services)
Of course, your pet insurance travels with you, wherever you go. Some insurance companies may have restrictions when it comes to international travel. Make sure to check with your pet insurance company if you plan on taking your furry friend across the border.
It depends greatly on which company and plan you decide to go with. Most pet insurance companies cover accidents and illnesses after a waiting period. If the illness is a preexisting condition, you're likely not to receive any coverage. It's important you understand the fine print of any plan you may decide to go with.
In general, veterinarians do not handle pet insurance claims. Veterinarians and the owner make choices for the pet's medical care and overall health. If the care is covered by the insurance, the insurance company will reimburse the owner a percentage of the bill (depending on the chosen insurance plan's coverage) after the care and service has been performed.

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