What Is Dog Adoption? 
A Guide to Adopting a Canine Companion


If you have already made the decision to add a Shih Tzu to your family, then one of the things you may have already thought about is dog adoption.

There are a great many dogs in shelters across the country that are in need of good homes; not to mention the shelters need to adopt out the dogs to make room for more animals that come in daily

Tan and white Shih Tzu dogAdopting a Shih Tzu dog

Adopting a dog is an excellent way to find your pet, but there are quite a few factors that should be considered first.

So what exactly is dog adoption?

Dog adoption is when you acquire a dog from a shelter or rescue; as opposed to purchasing a dog from a pet store, breeder or other people.  Many times the cost to you is minimal, and the dog will already have received its first round of shots and be neutered or spayed.

Of course, dog adoption may not be for everyone, especially if you have very specific characteristics that you are looking for in your future pet.

However, if you want a dog that will be a good companion, and you want to help animals at the same time, adopting your pup could be an excellent option.

You just need to familiarize yourself with the process.

How Does Dog Adoption Work?

Once you've made the decision to adopt a dog, your first step will be to look for local adoption agencies or shelters in your area.

Depending on how specific your wants are for your pup, you may need to look at shelters farther away from where you are located.

Some people are willing to drive quite some distance if it means they'll get closer to the exact dog that they're looking for.

But if you're not overly picky, the odds are good that you will find a great companion animal at a shelter or rescue near you.

Depending on where you go to adopt your dog, the process may vary slightly as each individual location has its own set of rules.

For example, one place may have a set $50 fee to adopt an animal and require an interview with you first.

Another location might offer a "name your price" adoption fee as a way to build in a donation to the shelter, or perhaps because they are overloaded with animals and need to encourage people to adopt.

If you already own a dog when you go to adopt, the shelter may call your veterinarian to ask about your qualities as a dog owner to assess if you're a good candidate for dog adoption.

However, the main parts of the system are pretty similar no matter where you choose to adopt a pet.

The usual process that is followed for adopting a dog looks similar to the following, with minor variations depending on the individual shelter or rescue's rules:

Choose the Place

Depending on the type of dog you're looking for, you may begin your search with your local animal shelters.

If you're looking for a specific breed, like a Shih Tzu, then you may start by researching the nearest Shih Tzu rescues near you.

Sometimes people have a specific animal rescue that they want to support so they will consider that in their decision when they choose the place where they will adopt.

You will also want to consider the place itself,

  • Does it keep its facilities clean?
  • Do the animals seem well taken care of and healthy?

If the answer to either of these is no, then your next step should be to report that particular shelter to the proper authorities and then move on to your next option.

If you’re not sure where to begin your search; a great starting point is petfinder.com.

Choose the Pet

Once you've narrowed down your rescue shelters to your top three choices, you can start the search for your future furry friend.

To help you make your decision, there are several things to consider and a few questions you'll want to ask (more details about this in the section below, titled "Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog.")

When you've decided on a dog, the shelter will have you fill out some basic information about yourself, before you can adopt your pet.

Many places conduct an informal interview to get an idea of your character and ability to care for an animal.

Shelters might even have you return at a later date to pick up your pet so that they have time to check your references.

Some shelters have even started conducting background checks on people who are interested in adopting an animal.

The whole process can take anywhere from one hour to one week, depending on the shelter's rules.

Choose the Price

Although pet adoption is a lot more cost-effective than buying a dog from a breeder or pet store, there is usually still an adoption fee.

This fee covers a lot of important items, usually including shots, a veterinary wellness exam and neutering or spaying the dog.

The cost varies, and it can range from free to several hundred, depending on the facility, type of animal, and whether or not the shelter incorporates a donation into the fee.

Therefore, if finances are an issue, this could have a bearing on the shelter you choose.

However keep in mind that caring for a dog can be expensive, so if finances are a big concern then you may need to consider if adopting a dog is the best choice for you at this time.

Many shelters feature special pet adoption days where they let you choose your own price.

This is usually done in shelters that want to encourage pet adoption, or that need to free up space quickly in order to make room for more animals.

Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog

Small tan-colored Shih Tzu mix dog looking out from behind a cage

An important thing to remember when you are adopting a dog is that you aren't obligated to take the first dog that you see.

In fact, you may visit several shelters or rescues before finding the dog that is a good fit for you.

Just because an animal is in a shelter or adoption facility does not mean it is a match for anyone who comes in to adopt.

There are a number of factors that will influence your decision.

You'll want to consider things like your living arrangement.

For example, whether you have a house with a large backyard or a small apartment; your financial situation, which can determine if you can handle a dog with special requirements, like medicine or intense grooming needs;  and your schedule, because some dogs need more attention than others.

Take some time to think about all of these elements and then ask the following questions that pertain to your situation before adopting a dog:

  • Is the dog a good match for your house or apartment, or any other particular living arrangement?
  • How old is the dog? What is the breed or mix?
  • Does the dog get along with other dogs?
  • Is the dog good with kids?
  • Does the dog get along with cats?
  • How is the dog with strangers?
  • Does the dog remain calm in high-energy situations, or does it become anxious?
  • How much does the dog eat daily?
  • How much exercise does the dog require?
  • Does the dog have any special needs or medical conditions?
  • How long has the dog been at the shelter?
  • How did the dog end up at the shelter?
  • Is the dog up to date on all shots and heartworm prevention?
  • Has the dog been spayed or neutered, or will it be before adoption?
  • If the dog is a puppy, ask how big it is expected to get based on its breed or mix
  • How much is the adoption fee?
  • How long of a trial period does the shelter offer? (More about this in the next section)

If you have any specific concerns that are unique to your own situation, then make sure to include them in your list of questions.

It is the answers to these questions that will help you decide if the dog you have selected is the right one for you or if you need to continue with your search.

What If It Doesn’t Work Out?

Sometimes, after bringing your new doggy pal home, you might start to have second thoughts.

This happens, and many shelters understand that a match may not always work out as planned, so a lot of them have policies in place to handle these situations.

For example, you may realize that you really don't have the necessary time to devote to a puppy; maybe you should have opted for an older dog.

Sometimes a financial hardship arises that makes it impossible to properly care for a dog, or your new dog might not get along well with a pet that you already own.

No matter what the reason, if things just aren't working out, you have a few options.

Many shelters offer a trial period of anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months that allows you to see how your new addition will adapt to your household.

If things don't work out, or you change your mind, you can return the dog to the shelter within the specified timeframe.

If the trial period has ended, you may or may not be able to return the dog, depending on the shelter's available space.

If you can't return it to the same shelter, the people at the facility might be able to help you locate another shelter that is willing to take your dog for adoption.

There are also people who foster dogs who may be willing to take in your dog while you try to find a suitable owner.

Perhaps you know of a trusted friend or family member that would be willing to take your dog.

You can also reach out to your local vets and dog groomers to let them know that you are trying to find a good home for your dog.

These places can have inside knowledge of people looking for a dog that would be loving and responsible doggy parents.

What About the Dogs That Don’t Get Adopted?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of dogs out there that do not have homes and therefore end up in shelters.

The reality is there are more dogs than there are people who are looking for a dog so the result is quite a large number of dogs that do not get adopted.

In these cases, there are some people who will foster dogs in their own homes while the shelter looks for permanent homes.

Some dogs might end up in a no-kill shelter or animal sanctuary permanently.

Others, unfortunately, and it’s a large number, are euthanized.

This is why it is so important to spay and neuter pets; to help keep the population from growing so rapidly.

Why Are There So Many Dogs in Shelters?

The main reason there are so many dogs in shelters is overpopulation.

Factors that contribute to this issue are irresponsible breeding; failing to have dogs spayed or neutered, and things like puppy mills and “designer” breeders who are only looking to make money.

People that acquire a dog and fail to spay or neuter their pet can end up with a litter of unwanted puppies that now have no homes.

Breeders that go for quantity and end up with a handful of dogs that didn’t sell don’t keep the dogs for themselves.

All of these animals end up in shelters.

When an animal is unwanted, it is either turned into a shelter or abandoned on the streets; ultimately ending up being injured, hurt or also in a shelter.

Dogs can also end up in shelters when they get lost if they are not properly tagged or chipped.

There are a lot of reasons why dogs end up in shelters, but the main issue that leads to the overload of animals in these facilities is neglecting to have them spayed or neutered.

Things You Shouldn’t Do When Adopting a Dog

Once you’re ready to adopt your dog, there are just a few things to keep in mind as you go through the process.

Adopting a dog should be a fun and exciting moment, and to keep the experience as pleasant as possible, it’s important to know the things you shouldn’t do, just as much as the things you should do.

So, when you go to adopt your new furry pal, avoid doing the following things:

  • Don't base your decision solely on breed.

The shelter might not even have the breed you are looking for, and many dogs in shelters are not purebred.

Instead, meet the individual dogs before you make your decision; you might find your perfect pet is one that you never even considered.

  • Don’t rush the adjustment period

Yes, this is a change for you; but it’s an even bigger change for the dog.

Give you and your new pup at least a month together before you decide if it isn't going to work.

Often, during the first week, your new pup is still figuring out how things work, how you react to things, and getting the lay of the land.

This is not the time to make rash decisions.

  • Don’t adopt a puppy if you work long hours or travel a lot.

This was something that was already touched on earlier, but it bears repeating.

As cute and cuddly as a little puppy may seem, it’s a lot of work and demands a lot of your attention.

If you are going to be away from home often; it just isn’t fair to bring a puppy into that environment.  You would be better off adopting an older dog.

  • Don’t skip the follow-up vet visit

Your adopted pup probably came with her first round of shots, heartworm prevention (if age appropriate) and a veterinary wellness exam.

But you should still do your due diligence and have your vet check out your new addition soon after the adoption.

  • Don’t let your dog roam free right away

When you bring your new pup home; as you are getting to know him it’s important to keep him safe.

Therefore, while you are away provide him a safe, size-appropriate crate, to ensure that he doesn’t get into anything that can harm him.

It will probably help him to feel more secure as well.

  • Don’t adopt a dog just for the heck of it

This sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people adopt a dog before thinking it through.

It’s important to make sure you are really ready to handle a new pet physically, emotionally and financially, before even starting the adoption process.

We hope this article has given you some helpful insight into dog adoption.

If you are considering adopting a dog, then you will definitely want to check out our blog for our series of posts on Shih Tzu adoption.

Adopting a pet can be an incredible moment and a great way to bring a loving companion into your home, but it is a decision that should not be made lightly.

If adopting a dog isn't something you're ready to commit to, an alternative that may be right up your ally is fostering a dog instead.  How fostering a dog works is a little more involved but can be as rewarding as adopting one.

When you’re ready to adopt, check out our other articles for helpful resources and tips, and you’ll be on your way to finding your new Shih Tzu buddy!

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