What To Do and Not To Do When Adopting a Dog

Mr. Rogers said that in times of trouble, his mother would have him look to the helpers. If something good has come from our strange days, it’s how many people have responded to the call and offered to foster a dog from a shelter.

Thankfully many of these open-minded fostering pet parents are transitioning to permanent pet parents. And adopting a dog has become the new norm when it comes to dog ownership. It’s almost becoming politically incorrect to buy a dog.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is perfectly acceptable – and sometimes necessary - to purchase a dog from a reputable breeder, but that’s another article.

But just because we are in strange new times, the reasons for adopting a pet have not changed.

What To Do and Not To Do When Adopting a Dog

Please, please, please don’t act impulsively. I’m getting quite few calls these days from friends and relations of clients to discuss adopting a dog. And, again, I think that’s great. But first I make sure to discuss the commitment. I go into this in great detail on my blog: Are You Ready for a New Dog? 

Adopting a dog that needs a home is very gratifying and nothing brings on a case of the warm and fuzzies like a furry buddy.

But adopting a dog can be challenging. And you should be prepared to jump through a few hoops.

Some rescue organizations can intentionally or not make potential adopters feel as though they are not fit to own a dog. Too often they put potential adopters through the ringer simply because they can. While I understand and agree that everyone should be interviewed to make sure that home and lifestyle are a good fit for everyone, I do believe some organizations can take this a bit too far.

I had a client last year that lost her dog and set out to adopt a puppy from a rescue organization in our town. Having known them for years, I can incontrovertibly state that this family could not have been better qualified to be dog owners. But the rescue organization decided against letting them adopt the puppy because the interviewer felt the owner was too enthusiastic in wanting the dog. They went so far as to question the woman’s mental health.


In the end, the organization did what the organization wanted and what they are entitled to do. But what a shame. My client was offended and will never work with that organization in any capacity, to their detriment. The puppy missed out on a terrific placement. Nobody wins.

The mission of every rescue organization should be to place dogs in safe, responsible, and loving homes.

So if you are thinking of adopting a dog – and you’ve done the requisite preparation, https://www.caninemaster.com/blog/are-you-ready-for-a-new-dog,  here are a few of my basic recommendations of things you should know and for which to be prepared.

1. The rescue organization will want to interview you to make sure that the dog is the “right” fit for your family.

Some can get personal and feel invasive. Be prepared for questions such as: do you have a fenced in yard? Do you have children or other pets in the house? Are you financially secure enough to afford a new pet? Do you work and how much are you home? Are you active? What are your plans for the dog? Will you be taking your dog to training classes? Will you be taking the dog to work with you? Are you a loud or active family?

These are all very normal questions for the rescue organization to ask.

It is also common for the rescue organization to want to do a home visit and to see where the dog will be housed.

2. Is there an adoption fee and how much is it?

This is a question that the rescue should tell you up front before you even see the dog.

I recently adopted a dog and the breeder who owned her mentioned that she wanted an adoption fee of $1,000 after we had the dog living with us for a week. This felt like worse than a bait and switch as there was never a mention of a fee much less one so astronomically high. $1,000 for a fee is completely out of bounds as adoption fees typically run about $200 to $300 at most. As rescue organizations incur costs for spaying, neutering, and vaccinating, it is perfectly reasonable to impose an adoption fee.

But doing so after the new pet parent has had the dog for a period of time and some bonding has occurred is not only unreasonable, it’s emotional extortion.

3. Many dogs that end up in shelters have been neglected, isolated, and under-socialized.

There can be behavioral issues with these dogs that you need to be made aware of. Bringing an experienced person or dog trainer to meet and assess the dog can be instrumental in making the right decision of whether or not to adopt.

4. Any person, organization, or agency placing a dog should agree to a honeymoon or test period after the initial adoption takes place.

It can take a few weeks for the dog to show his true colors. Often it is in the first three weeks of living in a new home that behavioral issues will begin to exhibit themselves. If something serious such as aggression or destructive separation anxiety shows up, it may be necessary to do some soul searching. No relationship is without its share of bumps but it is best for you and the dog to be honest about how much work you can invest. If the dog turns out to no longer be the right dog for you, you should have the option to return the dog safely to the organization. After all, you wouldn’t marry a partner the very first time you meet him or her (regardless of what you saw on Netflix). It’s really important that this new home is “right” for both the dog and the owner.

5. So this brings me to my final point. Having an adoption contract filled out and signed by both parties is a very important.

I wish I had followed my own advice on this. The contract should have both parties’ names and addresses as well as copies of the dog’s vet records. It should also list and describe any health concerns or behavioral issues. It should also explain if the dog has ever bitten a person or has gotten into any dog fights.

It is common for such an agreement to have a release & indemnification/no liability clause in it. While this is common, I am not sure how enforceable it really is (consult a lawyer).

Occasionally these contracts also have language that the organization has first right of refusal, i.e. if you want or need to rehome the dog in the future, they have the first option to take it back. I consider this an incredibly responsible clause that I hope catches on.

Adopting the best dog for you and your family is something that should be very well thought out. Finding the right dog is like finding the right relationship in life. And once you’ve made that decision, the process of adopting shouldn’t be the barrier.

All I want is for you to have the best relationship you can with your dog. It will likely start here. Reach out to me if you have any questions.

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