How To Adopt a Dog: Step-by-Step Guide

Wondering how to adopt a dog? Can you adopt a dog for free? We’ll cover all about places to adopt a dog adopting dogs from shelters, adopt a dog rescue and animal rescues, pet adoption centers, or pet adoption websites and services and what you need for bringing your dog home!

How To Adopt a Dog: All Your Questions Answered fuzzy puppy sitting on cement steps looking into the camera

You’ve been searching dog adoption near me and have seen a ton of cute puppy pictures from the adopt a dog website.

You can’t wait to get to an animal shelter and adopt a dog.

But, slow your roll. 

Before you go any further, you need to understand everything that goes into how to adopt a dog so you don’t find yourself returning it to the shelter or rehoming a dog after just a few short weeks.


Let’s start with some common questions about pet adoption.

Why you should adopt a dog instead of buying…

You may be wondering why you can’t just skip the whole dog adoption thing and a dog from a breeder or pet shop. You should adopt a dog instead of buying because:

  1. You’re saving a life.
  2. Shelters and rescue centers are filled and often turn pets away or have to euthanize pets.
  3. Shelter animals are amazing companions with grateful hearts.
  4. You can save time and money (shelters sometimes waive fees for special times/circumstances).
  5. You help fight cruelty and suffering for animals.


Is it cheaper to adopt a dog?

Adopting a dog can be much cheaper than buying a dog. Shelters often charge minimum pricing that just covers shots and other care. Animal shelter prices can range from $25 to a couple of hundred dollars. However, if you purchase a dog from a breeder or a pet shop, it can easily run from $250 (on the cheaper end) into a few thousand (depending on the breed).

So, don’t make adopt a dog cheap or cost to adopt a dog your main goal! 

Is it free to adopt a dog?

Can you adopt a dog for free? When you adopt a dog from an animal shelter, there will probably be fees associated with it that covers application processing. Sometimes, rescues and shelters waive fees during special periods or during full shelter times.

How much does it cost to adopt a pet?

Fees will vary between shelters, but you can call (or visit the website) and find out the adoption fees before visiting the adoption centers. Pet adoptions fees vary between free (during special times) to $25 all the way to a couple of hundred dollars. 

What is a reasonable adoption fee for a dog?

Adoption fees vary greatly between animal shelters and also for location, so it is difficult to present a reasonable adoption fee. However, many shelters charge around $100 (some charge more, some less) to cover the expenses associated with the dog while in the shelter.

Why is adopting a pet so expensive?

Some people often wonder, Why are adoption fees so high? In comparison to buying a pet from a pet store or breeder, the adoption fees pale in comparison. The adoption fees often cover initial veterinarian visits and other expenses involved with rescued pets like transportation fees, staffing, food, and general care.

How long does adopting a dog take?

Adopting a dog can take anywhere from a couple of hours up to a couple of weeks, depending on the type of rescue, adoption requirements, and staffing. So, when you’re looking to adopt a dog, don’t rush things!


Before you head out to adopt a dog today, check out this list:


What do I need when I adopt a dog?

What do I need to know before adopting a dog or looking for an adopt a dog shelter?

  1. Educate yourself on why it’s so important to adopt and not shop.
  2. Understand the pet adoption process.
  3. Learn about the rescue dog adjustment period.
  4. Understand the costs involved in owning a pet or adding an additional dog to the family.
  5. Make a plan for your home—Where will the dog sleep? Who will walk the new dog? Where will you feed your new puppy? What needs to be puppy proofed?
  6. Research and visit reputable shelters in the area. Bring the entire family and meet multiple dogs. (Don’t overlook senior dogs!)
  7. Don’t rush the decision (no matter how cute that puppy is!). Give it a few days to think about it.
  8. If you have another dog at home, be sure to bring it to the animal shelter to meet the new dog. If you’re still not sure how they will be together, ask the shelter for a trial period where you take the dog home for a weekend.
  9. Get the proper dog supplies before bringing the dog home. (CHECKLIST BELOW)
  10. Be patient with your dog, especially for the first three months, and allow time for the adjustment period.


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What should you buy for a dog? [Checklist]

Now that we’ve discussed how to adopt a dog, let’s take a look at what should you buy for a dog that you’re bringing home from a shelter. 

Here are the dog necessities:

What to bring with you when adopting a dog?

What dog supplies should you bring with you to the shelter when adopting a dog?


  • Collar
  • Dog Leash

You will not be able to leave the shelter with your new puppy if don’t have a collar or leash. If you don’t have one, you will probably have to buy one from the shelter. 

If you are comfortable, just buy the items beforehand and take them with you on adoption day. That way, you are sure to get the type, style, and color that you want.

If you have questions about size and fit, the shelter employees or volunteers will be able to answer your questions and even help you fitting the collar to your new dog.


You may also want to bring:


Enjoy your new dog! 

What other questions do you have about how to adopt a dog?