Adoption 101: What Is the Best Place To Adopt a Pet?

Little puppy at the shelter looks with hope. Take me, I'm the best!

Key Points

  • Adopting a dog provides many more benefits than buying, including lower costs, fewer vet bills, and a healthier dog in general.

  • When trying to find the best place to adopt a pet, search online or visit your local animal shelters and rescues.

  • Before adopting a dog, it's important to research not only the dog but also the facility or private owner you are considering.

  • There are many online resources to identify animal rescues and shelters near you, allowing you to find the best place to adopt a pet that meets your needs.

Bringing a new dog into your home is both exciting and challenging. Once you've decided to expand your family, there's a whole laundry list of things to consider before bringing the new addition home. What's the best place to adopt a dog? The answer depends on a few factors, such as whether you want to adopt online or in person and if you want to adopt from a shelter or a rescue.

As you start the process of finding the best place to adopt a dog, you need to learn the importance of dog adoption and what to consider before bringing a new canine into your home.

A Puppy or an Older Dog?

When considering adoption, decide if you want a puppy or an older dog.

If you're looking for a puppy, you might have better luck looking at a rescue center or on an online platform than a traditional shelter or the Humane Society.

If you prefer a slightly older dog, a shelter is a great option. Shelters have dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages, and breeds/mixes that need good homes.

Adopting from either a rescue center or a shelter is an excellent choice. Rescues are usually privately owned, sometimes run by volunteers, and aren't backed by government funding. Many are "no-kill" programs, which means the animals remain with the operation until they are adopted. Shelters are government-funded agencies and have more restrictions on the number of dogs they can house. For that reason, dogs may only be allowed to remain in the shelter for a few weeks before they must be euthanized to make room for newly acquired animals.

Adopted Dogs Come From Many Backgrounds

There are many reasons why a dog may be given to a rescue or a shelter. Many dogs become homeless when their owners become unable to care for them due to old age, disabilities, or finances. These dogs may have come from a loving home and just need a new home.

These facilities also rescue canines involved in dog-fighting rings. These dogs have grown up in physically demanding and abusive environments. Many shelters have behavior training to rehabilitate these mistreated animals so they are suitable as family pets.

Dogs are also surrendered due to health conditions. Shelter personnel can explain a dog's physical needs and health history to anyone seriously considering adopting the animal in question.

Every dog behaves based on how they were treated and how they were taught by their previous owners. One dog might have the advantage of very strict training by their past owner. Their kennel mate may have had no training — or even no previous owner.

It’s important to ask questions about the dog's temperament, upbringing, and health status when visiting shelters and rescues. This information is necessary to ensure they are the right dog for you and your family.

Woman visits a pet rescue to adopt a dog

Adoption Versus Buying

When you adopt a dog, you're taking in a living being who has been surrendered or found. They have already lived a bit of their life — some a very hard life.

Adopting a dog is usually less expensive than buying a dog, but the process is a bit more challenging.

On average, the price for adopting a dog ranges from $50 – $375, while buying a dog costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the breed, pedigree, and the breeder.

Some shelters, but not all, require adopters to meet certain standards/requirements to ensure a dog adopted from their facility goes to a home with the necessary accommodations to keep the animal safe, happy, and healthy.

These standards might disqualify a person who has previously put a dog up for adoption. The shelter may also require the potential adopter to have a fenced yard or house large enough for the type of dog being adopted.

This might make adopting a dog from a shelter or facility more difficult than picking out a puppy at a pet shop. Don't let the fear of such requirements stop you from calling the shelter/rescue center because not every facility has strict standards. This is why it’s recommended that you do your research about the facility from which you intend to adopt prior to even visiting it. 

When buying a dog, you're usually buying a puppy from a breeder. Dogs from breeders often have health issues due to overbreeding or inbreeding and can have temperament issues from transitioning away from their mother too soon.

Buying a dog also often means you must pay for most of the initial vet bills. This could include vaccinations, worming, and other treatments for puppies and a neuter/spay operation for older animals.

Family greets a dog in a pet rescue

Adopting Online Versus In-person

Deciding to adopt online or in person depends on your preferences. If you're looking for a specific dog breed, age, and gender, an online site or portal is probably the best option. Browse through a much larger pool of dogs and filter them to meet your preferences. Search outside your immediate area to allow you to find the perfect dog in search of the perfect forever home.

When you buy a dog online, read through their stats to learn about their health, age, temperament, and other unique qualities.

One drawback to online adoption is that you may have to travel to meet your dog. Lining up your schedule with the dog owners or facilities can be tricky – especially if you don't have a lot of free time. You also risk traveling to meet a dog who isn't a good fit for your home.

Most online sites have plenty of pictures and videos, as well as excellent communication with prospective adopters, to reduce the possibility of a wasted trip.

In-person adoption allows you to meet your new canine friend and get a feel for their personality. There are feelings of excitement and compassion when meeting a dog for the first time, running your fingers through their fur, and watching their tails wag with joy.

Supporting local shelters and rescues is a wonderful way to help support your community. These facilities are dedicated to helping dogs and other animals find loving homes and provide shelter in the meantime.

Petfinder is one of the most popular online resources for finding the right furry friend for you. This online database matches potential adopters with animals in need of homes.

Petfinder includes thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups from across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The site allows you to search by location or type of pet and filter the results by age, size, and breed.

When you create an account on Petfinder, sign up to receive alerts whenever new dogs are added that meet your criteria.

AdoptaPet is an online resource that allows you to search by location and find plenty of amazing canines who would make a great addition to your family. The site is easy to navigate and provides you with pictures of every dog that falls under your search criteria.

Filter the search results by age, sex, breed, color, size, and whether the dog is currently at a shelter, rescue, or private owner. AdoptaPet makes it easy to find your chosen dog and outlines the adoption process for each dog so you know exactly what to expect when initiating the process.

Cat chews on "ADOPT ME" cardboard sign

On PetSmart's website, there are hundreds of adoptable dogs from shelters and rescue organizations across the country. With the simple adoption process, browse through the available listings and then directly contact the organizations that interest you.

Search based on breed, size, age, and location. That makes it easier to find the perfect pup for your family or lifestyle.

PetSmart's comprehensive collection of adoptable dogs is a convenient way to find the next member of your pack! It's quick and easy to start searching immediately, so take your time and ensure that you find the perfect match for your home. is an online resource for helping people adopt the perfect dog for their home. As one of the leading sites for adoption, Rescueme provides all prospective adopters with a wealth of information and advice on selecting and adopting a suitable pet.

The site offers detailed profiles of each dog available for adoption, allowing potential owners to get to know their future pets before committing. Information about the dogs' personalities, behavior traits, health history, and other relevant details are also a part of each profile, enabling users to make an informed decision when selecting their pup. also provides plenty of useful tips and advice on everything from training and nutrition to bonding with your new canine friend.

Check Out the Humane Society

One of the best places to adopt a furry friend is from your local Humane Society. Humane societies offer various services and resources that make the adoption process much simpler.

When adopting from a humane society, you will often find healthy animals who have been through screening for temperament and behavior. Many humane societies also provide vaccinations, spaying or neutering, microchipping, and other medical services for low or no cost.

By making sure your pet is healthy before bringing them home, rest assured their transition into your family will be successful and stress-free for everyone involved!

Woman greets dog in animal rescue

Understand the Return Policy

Adopting a dog is an incredibly rewarding experience, offering companionship and joy to pet owners. Before taking the plunge into pet ownership, it's essential to understand the return policy of your local animal shelter or pet provider.

Many shelters offer returns within an allotted period if there is a problem with the newly adopted dog. Before adopting, be sure to ask about any fees associated with returning an animal, such as veterinary costs or spay/neuter fees. If you are unable to keep your new pup, call ahead so the pet facility can prepare for the return and find another adoptive family as soon as possible.

How to Find a Pet Rescue

The first step to finding a pet rescue is research. Read up on different types of rescues, such as animal shelters, humane societies, or breed-specific rescues. Determine which one best fits your needs and narrow your search accordingly.

Research the typical adoption fees for each adoption option to find one that fits your budget. When you've narrowed down your list of potential rescues, contact them directly for more information about their adoption process and any additional requirements they may have for adopting a dog from their facility.

Ensuring a Successful Adoption

Adopting a dog comes with a lot of responsibility and sometimes creates challenges that cause adopted dogs to be put back into facilities. With the right preparation and maintenance, you can make sure your dog's adoption process goes smoothly and seamlessly.

Set Routines: Create Balance

Creating a routine for your dog's potty breaks and meal times is key for a successful transition into your household. Creating schedules, rules, and structure establishes trust and respect between you and your dog, making sure you are both happy during the adjustment period.

A schedule keeps every member of your family on the same page and provides a sense of consistency for your canine.

This is not an instant success story. It takes some time for your dog to catch on when you are training them on their new routine. The training is complicated if the dog had a set routine for many years with a previous owner because they will need time to forget those old habits.

Being calm, compassionate, and consistent will help your dog transition smoothly.

Two cats lie in an animal rescue crate

Prepare Your Home: Comfort Items

Adding comfort items like beds, toys, and treats helps your pup quickly adjust to their new environment.

The type of bedding you provide for your canine keeps them comfortable and at peace. Choose soft, cushioned beds that offer support.

Toys make a great distraction during stressful times, such as when someone unfamiliar visits or during thunderstorms. Chew toys lying around the house may steer puppies from chewing on furniture and lessen early adoption stress.

When you first introduce a dog into your home, they may have more anxiety than normal. As a result, they may go through toys quickly. You may find yourself buying a new tennis ball or Frisbee each time you stop at the store.

Don't worry: As soon as their nerves calm down, their toy-chewing will become much more manageable.

Bonding Time: Get To Know Each Other

The introduction of a four-legged furry friend provides the opportunity for you to create a strong and loving bonding experience.

Start with simple activities like snuggling on the couch together or taking quiet, slow walks through a local park. These experiences create the perfect opportunity to learn each other's personalities and behaviors and create fantastic memories.

Bonding with your dog is unique for everyone. If you have errands you frequently run, or a hobby you regularly participate in, these can now be bonding moments with your dog.

Heather Nokes, a verified adopter from the Humane Society of Loudoun County, Virginia, advises future adopters that "it takes time for [an animal] to become acclimated in their home. They may cry at night or be shy for the first few days or even weeks. It takes patience to help them adjust to a new lifestyle, but it is so rewarding."

Dog wearing "Adopt Me" bandana

Choose Adoption Over Buying

When you adopt a dog, you're supporting facilities, shelters, rescues, and private owners that give back to the community by providing homes for dogs in need. While adopting a dog from a shelter may not be as glamorous as buying a purebred puppy, these dogs still deserve a good home.

Another mark in adoption's favor is that you could be saving the life of a dog that might otherwise be euthanized.

Now that you know about adoption resources, the search begins!

If you're looking for the best place to adopt a pet, there are plenty of options available online and in person to aid your quest to find the dog of your dreams.

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