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The Complete Guide to Adopting Your First Dog

Itís 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. Donít worry, this article will help you learn to adopt a dog like a pro. Letís jump in and decide if itís the right time for you to adopt a dog.

Decide If Itís the Right Time for You to Adopt a Dog

You really want to adopt a dog, so youíre definitely ready for the commitment ó right? Hold tight. Adding a dog to your family is a big responsibility, so how do you know itís 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 youíve 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 memberís health and wellness needs? If youíre not at a place in your life where you could support a child, youíre probably also not ready for a dog.

Maybe itís 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 isnít 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 youíve determined itís definitely the right time for you adopt a dog, then youíve probably got a lot more questions like, ďHow much does it cost to adopt a dog?Ē and, ďWhat is the adoption process like?Ē Weíll walk you through the complete process of adopting your dog next.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

Cost of Adopting From a Dog Breeder

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 donít 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, weíll cover how to find a responsible breeder.

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, itís 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

Weíve all heard horror stories of pet owners finding out their fur baby needs an expensive surgery or medication. Theyíre 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? Letís look at your options. If you havenít made up your mind already; you essentially have two adoption choices to make: adopting from a shelter or finding a responsible breeder. Hereís how to do it:

How to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter

Assuming youíve found the shelter, humane society, or other rescue organization you want to adopt your pup from ó 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 youíre 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 youíre ready to adopt your pet!
  4. Shelter staff will walk you through the adoption process of paying the adoption fee, getting copies of the petís 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 ďshelterĒ interchangeably throughout this article, itís 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 arenít mandatory and itís hard to know if youíre 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 dogís lifetime health, and questions you to ensure youíre 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 youíre already looking at their cute litter of puppies. But donít get ahead of yourself. Itís 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, youíve done some research and now you know the adoption process and how to adopt your dog. Good luck!

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