Adopting a Dog: Everything You Need to Know
Camille Bataille
Author: Camille Bataille
Camille, a dedicated veterinary professional, has a profound commitment to providing expert care, especially for German Shepherds.
Published date: August 5, 2021
Updated date: June 24, 2022
This article was reviewed and fact checked If you have found any errors, please contact us!

Adopting a Dog: Everything You Need to Know

Adopting a Dog Everything You Need to Know

The ultimate guide to preparing your home, life, and family for your new dog 

Three dogs in a box

Bringing a dog into your home can be an exciting adventure but it can also be very stressful if you haven’t prepared properly. 

Not only do you have to stock up on all the right equipment and supplies in advance, but you also have to make sure that you are bringing home the right dog for you.

Picking the wrong dog can cause a lot of trauma for both you and the new dog. 

However, don’t start panicking. If you’re looking to minimize the stress of adopting a dog then you have come to the right place.

We are going to talk you through everything you need to know – from choosing the right breed of dog to what supplies you need to pick up, and everything in between. 

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about adopting a dog. 

Preparing to Adopt a Dog

A family adopting a dog

So, you finally decided that now is the time for you to adopt a dog? Congratulations! This is the start of a very exciting adventure for you. You will be giving an unlucky dog a fresh chance at life. 

The bad news for you is that the decision making process is not over. There are still a lot more choices heading your way. 

In this section, we are going to cover the important choices you will need to make before choosing your new canine friend. 

You may like to read more on getting a German Shepherd puppy.

Decide How to Divide The Dog-Care Responsibilities In Your Household

Dogs can’t look after themselves – they can’t pour out their own food, clean up after themselves, or take themselves for a walk.

Because dogs can’t do any of these things, the responsibility will fall on you as their owner. 

If you want to bring a dog into your home, you need to decide in advance who in your household will be responsible for which elements of the dog’s care.

This will not only improve your dog’s life but help your household to avoid a lot of arguments in the future. 

It is unfair on the dog if they are an afterthought in your day. It is important to make sure that you set aside enough time in your day to properly take care of them. 

Rescue dogs, in particular, may need more time devoted to their care. They may need someone to give them their medication or to take them out on walks to help them lose weight. 

If you establish who will be doing what job before you bring the dog into your home life it will be better for everyone. 

Establishing House Rules

Any dog trainer will tell you that dogs generally aren’t badly behaved, they are just getting mixed signals from their owners. If our dogs aren’t sure about what we want them to do, they won’t be able to do it. 

This is why it is important that you establish your house rules before you get your dog and explain to your family why you have chosen those rules. 

For example, if you decide you are not going to give your dog scraps from the table, then everyone in your house needs to agree to this. If one person does feed the dog, it will always beg. 

It can help to establish a reason for the rule. With this example, you won’t be feeding the dog from the table because it will cause them to put on weight and that will shorten their lifespan. 

By being clear about the rules and your reasoning behind them, you can help to keep the signals clear for your dog. They will know exactly what they can and can’t do in your home. 

Dog-Proof Your Home

Get rid of toxic/hazards from the home that may harm your dog

Before you bring your dog into your home, you want to prepare it and make it safe for them. 

Someone once told us that the easiest way to dog-proof a home is to remove anything a toddler could hurt themselves on. This has worked well for us for many years. 

If you are bringing a nervous dog or a puppy home then you may want to remove (or box up) anything that is on ground level. Otherwise, it will probably get chewed. 

You also need to decide if you are going to let your dog go upstairs, if not then you will need to put up a baby gate to stop them

Don’t forget to dog-proof your garden, if you have one. There are lots of different plants that can make your dog very ill. You also want to make sure that they can’t escape from your garden. 

We also recommend putting some kind of water source in your garden for your dog to drink out of. Your rescue dog may feel more comfortable drinking outside. 

Find a Vet in Your Area

The next stage of your preparation process is to find a good vet in your area. 

You will want to make sure that whichever vet you end up picking is well-rated, well staffed, and has long opening hours. 

Here are some ways to work out if the Veterinary Surgery is a good one:  

  • Check that the vet is registered with the local governing veterinary body 
  • Check their prices are reasonable 
  • Check all the vets are appropriately qualified
  • Check the reviews of the surgery 
  • Check their opening hours 
  • Talk to other people you know who own dogs 

As well as finding a vet, you will want to look into getting insurance for your dog. Vets bills give health care bills a run for their money.

Many people who have been hit by unexpected vets’ bills have had to resort to Crowdfunding to keep themselves from bankruptcy. 

Some vets will also offer a membership program that will give you discounts on products and procedures that your insurance won’t cover.  

 Do Some Research On Dog Training

The final thing that we will touch on in this section is finding a dog trainer. 

This is something that you should consider doing whether you are adopting a dog or a puppy. When you adopt a dog, you will have to accept that it hasn’t had a perfect life before joining you.

Therefore, the dog might not be fully trained, even if it is a few years old. 

But, dog training is not just about teaching your dog new tricks, it is also an opportunity for you and your dog to bond.

During your training sessions, you can become more comfortable with your dog’s behavior and your dog can learn to trust you and see you as a member of its pack. 

When looking for a dog trainer, you should go through a similar process as you did when you were looking for a vet. 

You should make sure that the trainer has good qualifications and reviews. You should also talk to the people you know who have dogs and ask them for trainer recommendations. 

Dog Supplies You Will Need

Dog Supplies You Will Need

The next stage of your preparation will be to gather the equipment and supplies you need to keep your dog happy and healthy. 

You do not need to buy all of these supplies new. There are many people who are selling or giving away dog supplies they no longer need. This is a great option if you’re looking to save money. 

In this section, we will cover the individual items that you will need to get hold of, as well as explaining why they are so important for you to get for your dog. 

Crate or Kennel

When you have a new dog, they can get nervous when they are left alone. When they get nervous they can damage things around your home and hurt themselves. 

It is therefore important that you create a safe space that is just for them in their first couple of weeks with you. A crate or a kennel can be the perfect solution. 

These slightly smaller spaces can make the dog feel more secure and this will help them to calm down. 

Even when they are past these first stages of nervousness, a safe can be useful during storms and when the 4th of July fireworks start going off. 

Dog-specific Bedding

You will want to pad out this crate or kennel with some bedding. 

We suggest you get the dog their own bedding for a few reasons. 

Firstly, some dogs can get very possessive of their possessions and don’t like to share. 

Secondly, having bedding that smells like them will make them feel more comfortable in their cage. 

Thirdly, if you ever travel with your dog, taking their bedding will help them to relax in a new place. 

Just keep an eye on your own pillows, as some dogs like to hoard them in their little dens. 

Food and Water Bowls

We mentioned briefly in the section above that some dogs prefer drinking water from outside. However, we do recommend getting them a water bowl as well. 

This means that they can drink if they get thirsty during the day while you are out, or during the night. 

You might think food bowls are an obvious thing to mention. But it might be worth considering getting a non-traditional food bowl. Some dogs can make themselves sick by eating too quickly.

You can prevent this by getting a puzzle bowl – this slows the feeding frenzy down and helps them to breathe properly while eating. 

Dog Food and Treats

Treats will be essential while you are first training your dog. 

Many of us are quick to tell our dogs off but are slow to praise. This can upset our dogs and make them feel inadequate. 

Instead, make sure you are praising your dog for the good things that they do – even if it is just sitting calmly when they’re stressed.

Sometimes you can reward them with a treat, sometimes with a big fuss and lots of praise. 

When buying food for your dog, make sure that it is right for their breed and their age range.

Collar and Leash

It is a legal requirement (in most states) for a dog to wear a collar in public. 

That being said, everyone benefits when you put your dog on a leash – you do, your dog does, and the people around you do too. 

You are able to keep your dog under control and reassure your dog. Your dog will feel safer when it is connected to you through the lead.

And everyone else will be reassured to see that your dog is on a lady – many people are scared of dogs. 

There are also many nervous dogs that don’t like to be approached by other dogs (especially when they are off the lead). 

Grooming Supplies

The grooming supplies that you will need will entirely depend on the type of dog you will be getting. 

While you will need anti-flea and tick drops, no matter the breed of your dog. And we recommend getting a brush for every breed. Not all breeds need a huge amount of grooming. 

If you are not interested in spending a lot of your time (and money) keeping your dog well groomed then you should bear that in mind when you are picking the breed of your dog. 

Puddy Pads and Dog Waste Bags

What’s the worst (and possibly only bad thing about having a dog)? Having to clean up their poop

When you are first bringing your dog home, even if they aren’t a puppy, you might want to put some training pads down. Nervous dogs, particularly rescue dogs, are prone to accidents. 

You can put these pads down everywhere at first, before removing most of them and leaving just a few by the door. This will help to teach them that they will need to go to the toilet outside

Don’t forget to stock up on biodegradable poop bags for when you and your dog start going on walks together.  

Dog-Friendly Cleaning Products

Dogs can’t handle being exposed to the same chemicals as we can. Realistically, we shouldn’t be exposing ourselves to some of the chemicals in our cleaning products. 

Before you bring your dog home, make sure to stock up on dog-friendly cleaning products. 

If you need some help picking out the right types of products your vet, shelter, or local pet store will be more than happy to offer you some advice on the subject. 

Here is a list of the most dangerous chemicals to dogs: 

  • Chlorine
  • Ammonia
  • Isopropyl  alcohol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phenols
  • Benzalkonium Chloride
  • Phthalates
  • Perchloroethylene 
  • Triclosan
  • Butoxyethanol
  • Sodium Hydroxide

Dog Toys

Finally, we have reached the fun part. Buying toys for a new dog is one of our favorite activities. 

For some rescue dogs out there, these will be the first toys they have ever owned. Many dogs bond with a toy quickly when they arrive at a new home, and stay best friends with them for years. 

If you know what type of breed you are getting, you might want to theme their toys.

For example, if you are getting a Jack Russell you could get them a rabbit (that is what they were bred to hunt) or get a Labrador, a large fish-shaped toy. 

How to Choose The Right Dog To Adopt

Men playing with their pet dogs

The next stage in the adoption process is to find the right dog for you. 

This isn’t always a quick process, but it is worth putting in the time and effort to get it right the first time.

Making the wrong choice can be traumatic for everyone involved and can make it more difficult for the dog to get rehomed in the long run. 

In this section, you will find advice on choosing the right dog for you and your household. We will talk about choosing the breed, age, and sex of your dog.

Research/Decide On The Breed

Choosing the right breed of dog for you can be difficult. Mostly because there are so many amazing breeds of dogs that it can be hard to narrow things down. 

Here are some things to consider when picking a breed of dog: 

  • Their size 
  • How much exercise do they need 
  • Can they live with children 
  • Do they need a lot of grooming 
  • Can they be left on their own
  • Are they easy to train 

If you are looking to adopt a rescue dog then you might want to focus on narrowing down types of dogs that aren’t right for you.

This will make it easier for you to go to the kennel with an open mind and leave with a dog you love. 

Should You Get A Puppy Or A Grown-Up Dog

Most people want to get a puppy. They like the idea of watching the dog grow up and puppies are some of the most adorable creatures on earth.

For some people, getting a puppy is the right choice, but not for everyone. 

While it can be nice to see your kids interacting with a puppy – kids and young dogs can be a recipe for disaster.

Introducing a puppy into your house will be like introducing a hyperactive toddler with sharp teeth into your life. 

Puppies aren’t right for every household. But there are many lovely older dogs looking for a forever home in shelters across the country.

Some of these dogs have lost their owners and need someone to look after them. These types of dogs can make a great addition to a young family. 

Read more: Are German Shepherds safe with babies?

A Male Or A Female Dog

This is a highly debated topic and it is worth noting that not all experts agree on one answer. 

Female dogs tend to be more independent. Many people believe that they are more timid but most of the time this isn’t true, they are just better at reading situations than male dogs.

Female dogs like to have time on their own, which can work well for you if you don’t work from home. 

They also tend to be less rough around children, as they see them as their responsibility to look after rather than playmates. Female dogs also mature more quickly than male dogs and are easier to train. 

Male dogs on the other hand tend to be very affectionate and like to be with their owners constantly. They see children as their playmates and can sometimes get too boisterous.

They are slower to mature and can be much more difficult to train – depending on the breed. 

There are exceptions of course in both genders. Not all dogs are the same. 

Do Your Research

If you are looking to adopt a dog then you should spend some time learning about how dogs deal with trauma. And be prepared for the dog not to act in the way you expected it to. 

When some dogs reach a shelter they are very traumatized and have never experienced real love.

While it can be a rewarding experience to help a dog rehabilitate, you will need to accept that the dog might need a lot of your time and attention. 

Adopting A Dog Steps

A mother filling up the adoption papers

If you have followed our advice closely, you will have now done most of the preparation you need to do before adopting a dog. 

Now, it is time to find the dog you want to adopt, go through the adoption application process, and get your pooch settled in their new home. 

We have broken this whole process down into six easy steps. By the time you have finished working your way through this list, you will have a happy four legged friend living peacefully in your home. 

There’s no point in waiting around any longer, let’s jump right into this. 

Find A Dog  You Want To Adopt

Now that you have done your research into the breed, age, and sex of the dog you would like to adopt, it’s time to go and find them. 

There are a few different places that you can acquire a dog from. 

A Shelter

If you are looking to give an unlucky dog a new home and a second chance at life then you should visit your local shelter

Unfortunately, it will be full of dogs looking for new homes. 

The people at the shelter will be able to talk to you about each dog and their histories. They will be able to introduce you to some dogs that they think will suit your needs. 

Most shelters will give the dogs away for free, and just ask for a small donation to cover the costs of neutering and vaccinating all their dogs. 


If you want a very specific type of breed then you may have to buy online from a breeder. 

If you are looking for a German Shepard, for example, then it is best to get in touch with the American Kennel Club. They will be able to point you in the direction of reputable German Shepherd breeders. 

Buying a purebred dog can be very expensive. With many puppies costing over $5000 at the moment – after the Pandemic puppy buying boom. 

Many good breeders will not overcharge for their puppies. If you see someone charging ridiculous amounts avoid them. Never pay for your dog up front. 

From An Individual Who Can’t Look After Their Dog Anymore

You may be looking to adopt a dog because someone in your life is no longer able to take care of their pet. 

If this is the case then you won’t have to take part in the adoption process, but you will need to make sure the dog is chipped and completely vaccinated.

Make sure that their chip is now registered to your address. 

Complete a Rehoming Application Form

If you are looking to adopt a dog from a shelter then you will need to apply to adopt it. 

This application is normally a simple process and it purely exists to protect the dogs from people who might harm them. 

You will be asked questions about the people and animals who are currently living in your home. As well as, being asked how much time you spend at home every day and how big your home is. 

Your answers to these questions will let the shelter know if you and the dog are right for each other. 

Ge To Know The Dog You Like Before Adopting

We recommend that you spend time with your dog before you adopt them. 

If you are buying from a breeder, go and see the puppy in person. Check that it is well and get to know its personality. 

If you are adopting from a shelter, you will most likely be allowed to sit with the dog in their cage and take them out for walks. 

You should do both of these things for two reasons. 

Firstly, it will allow you to see if you and the dog are a good fit for each other. 

Secondly, it will make moving into your home a less traumatic experience for the dog. 

Prepare To Get Visits From Adoption Support Volunteers 

When your application is approved, the shelter will send some volunteers to your home to check that it is suitable for your dog. 

However, you have read this article and have acted on all our advice. Therefore, you have already prepared your home and made it dog safe. So, you will pass this assessment with flying colors. 

If the volunteers see any issues they will inform you and will most likely be able to tell you how to fix them. 

Collect The Dog

Now, it is time for possibly the most exciting step of all – collecting your pooch and bringing them home for the first time. 

This will be an emotional experience for you and your dog. Make sure that you have treats ready in the car.

You should have someone drive you to the shelter or breeder’s home so that you can concentrate on comforting the dog as you drive back. 

Once they are back, give them a tour of the home and show them their cage. Try to give them their dinner slightly early that day. Most dogs relax a lot after their first meal. 

Be Patient And Allow Time For Your New Dog To Settle In

As you can imagine, moving to a new home is an overwhelming experience for any dog. And it is particularly scary for dogs with a difficult past.

The best thing you can do for your dog in these first few days is to be patient with them. 

As dogs have a very strong sense of smell, moving to a new place can be particularly overwhelming. Especially, if they have come from a shelter that was full of dogs to a home where they are the only dog. 

Don’t force your dog into anything. Leave their crate open when you are in the house. Then they can choose to explore at their own pace. Some dogs will be very shy and some dogs will be ready for the adventure. 

It can take some dogs a few months to get used to their new surroundings. 

Make sure that you praise your dog a lot and give them a lot of affection. This will make it clear to them that you are inviting them to join your pack.

Once they feel like part of the pack they will feel a lot more comfortable. 


Man enjoying the company of his adopted dog

Adopting a dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience. 

It can also be a fairly stress-free experience if you prepare properly. This article will help you to do that. It will allow you to remove a lot of unnecessary drama from the experience by making decisions in advance. 

By properly researching breeds and rescue dogs before you adopt them, you will have a better idea of how to care for them and keep them safe. 

We wish you the best of luck when adopting your new dog!

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

See latest posts