Adopting a dog requires a lot of cost, time, and space.
Adopt a dog at any age as long as they are at least eight weeks old.
There are different motivations to consider for adopting a dog.
There is a 3-3-3 rule to keep in mind when bringing a dog home for the first time.
Adopting a dog is a big decision for your entire family and it can be a great experience, but many things should be taken into consideration before making that choice. A dog is a lot of responsibility and is stressful if you are not prepared.
There are a lot of options when it comes to adopting a dog. There are also many places to adopt from. It comes down to what exactly you’re looking for, what best fits your lifestyle, and why you want a dog.
Should You Adopt a Dog?
Providing a home for a dog is a great thing but not every dog is appropriate for every household, and not every person is right for just any dog. If you are an animal lover you are already on the right track. First, there are important things you need to consider.
The initial cost of adopting a dog depends on several factors. The cost is anywhere from 50 dollars to 500 dollars. The fees vary by state or region, type of facility, age, and breed of dog if it is purebred. The cost also depends on what services are provided before adoption.
In early 2023 the fees at the Animal Care Center of NYC for dogs and puppies six months and under were $250. For seven months and over expect to pay $75. For small dogs under 20 pounds and seven months and over around $150. The services included along with the adoption are:
Spaying or neutering your new pet
Initial wellness vaccinations
Certificate for a free exam at participating veterinarian practice
Collar for cats and dogs
After the initial cost, there is the cost of food, bowls, waterers, a bed, treats, toys, a crate for traveling, a collar/harness, a leash, vaccination updates, and other unexpected medical costs.
Depending on the breed of dog, you must consider how much room they need -- not only now, but when they grow to maturity. Consider how big the dog gets, how much room their bed takes up, and if you need space for their crate when they’re left by themselves.
Outdoor space should be a consideration as well. Do you have a backyard to run around in? If not, is there a dog park nearby? Can you get there by walking or do you need to transport them?
A dog needs exercise, so you have to take them out for walks -- preferably 30 minutes, twice a day. Give them enough time to sniff around their environment while you stroll, do their business, and get the physical activity that they need.
They want bonding time with you as well. Make time to play with them, teach them new commands and tricks, and socialize them with other dogs.
If you’re getting a long-haired dog, they need to be groomed more often than a short-haired one. Take them to a professional groomer which incurs another cost as well as time.
Think about long-term time commitment too. A dog sometimes lives for 15 years or more depending on the breed, so it is not just a short-term visit to your home.
Even after considering all of these aspects, whether you should adopt a dog depends on why you are thinking about doing so.
Reasons for Adopting a Dog
There are many reasons you may be considering adopting a dog. From a simple desire to a necessity, each person’s motivation is unique. Before you adopt one, take time to do some introspection. Examine your reasons for considering this decision before taking that leap.
To Teach Kids Responsibility
This is a common reason parents get a dog. However, as most pet-owning parents know, this typically backfires and the parents end up doing most -- if not all -- of the work. Children, especially at a young age, do not grasp the important responsibility that is required when taking care of another living being.
Before taking the steps of adopting a dog, start your children off with something smaller. In school, students are given a bag of flour to take care of as if it were a baby. They must carry it around with them at all times being careful not to tear the bag or leave it unattended. Consider something like this for your child.
Another way to introduce them to the responsibility of taking care of a living thing is to give them a plant to watch over. See if they remember to water it, give it plenty of sunshine, and maybe even prune it if needed. A dead plant is much less devastating than a neglected animal.
For Help with Anxiety and Depression
If the dog is properly trained and does not have anxiety issues, they can calm a person during times of high anxiety or boost the mood of someone prone to depression.
A specially trained service dog is appropriate for someone diagnosed with PTSD, depression, or several other physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Just owning a dog boosts your mood even if you’re not diagnosed with a disability.
As a Companion
Dogs are great companions. They are loyal, eager to please their owners, and love attention. If you are retired or work from home, you may be missing some social interaction in your everyday life. A dog fills the void that you feel.
Not only does the dog give you a sense of companionship, but they assist you with interacting with other humans. You meet other people on walks and other dog owners if you go to a dog park. This then potentially leads to doggie playdates where relationships build between your dogs as well as you and the other owners.
This is not necessarily referring to an “attack dog” but at least the feeling of security that a dog provides. If you are single and go on walks or jogs in secluded areas, a dog provides a sense that you are not alone and safer from danger.
This is true for your home as well. If you are home alone a lot, you may not feel completely safe -- especially at night. A dog’s senses are much more heightened than a human's. They are aroused easily by noises, even waking them from sleep. An intruder has second thoughts when they know a dog is around.
Rebecca Smithers is a freelance consumer journalist. She was previously a consumer affairs correspondent for The Guardian. She reported on the best deterrents for burglars and information from 12 former burglars found that “Burglars are most likely to be put off breaking into homes by CCTV cameras and barking dogs, according to a panel of former criminals.”
In the top ten deterrents for burglars, dogs were listed as number two. Since burglars want to get in and out as quickly as possible, a barking dog alerting the homeowner or neighbor is a major problem in achieving their goal. When faced with two options, they choose the home without the dog.
What’s the Best Age To Adopt a Dog?
A dog’s age is an important factor when considering adoption. There are dogs of all ages that need good homes, but dogs have different needs at their various stages of development.
When adopting a puppy, you must first be sure that they are old enough to be separated from their mother. This is important to their development, but also to abide by the law.
Author Rebecca F. Wisch compiled a table of state laws that was published by Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal & Historical Center regarding the minimum ages when selling puppies. Wisch's report showed that “Approximately twenty-seven states, as well as D.C., have laws or administrative regulations that state how old a puppy must be before it is offered for sale or adopted out to an owner. Of those states with laws, all but three (D.C., Virginia, and Wisconsin) require that a puppy be at least eight weeks old before being offered for sale.”
During those first eight weeks, a puppy forms a special bond with their mother and littermates and learns important socialization skills that stay with them for the rest of their lives. This process should never be interrupted or cut short.
A puppy also requires a lot of training such as potty training, crate training, socialization with humans and other dogs or animals, and leash training in addition to regular commands of sit, stay, and heel. Puppies require a lot of patience and repetition of teaching tools.
Adopting a senior dog has serious considerations as well. Many dogs develop bone and joint issues as they get older that require special diets or supplements to alleviate pain. As with humans, tastes change when dogs get older. They don’t always like regular dog food, but there are senior foods that are more palatable and easier to chew. They may also lose functionality in other senses like their hearing and sight.
You must also consider that a senior dog has much less of their lifespan left. You need to be emotionally and financially prepared for their end-of-life care. There are more products to make them more comfortable, more frequent visits to the vet, and more costs. Be prepared for their demeanor to change as well as possibly becoming more irritable.
Taking all of these issues into consideration, the ideal age for adopting a dog depends entirely on your particular lifestyle, availability, and limitations. You must be able to have or make the time needed for training and dealing with a new dog, no matter what age.
Where Should You Adopt a Dog?
Local news programs and papers often advertise dogs available for adoption and you usually find ads for individuals selling or giving away dogs or puppies. Be cautious when responding to ads from individuals because they may not provide all the information about the animal. They could tell you that the puppy is fully vaccinated when it isn’t. Ask to see tags and paperwork that verifies their statements.
If you want a purebred dog, search for local dog breeders, but always do your research. Some people claim to have purebred animals, but they may not be legitimate. There are also puppy mills that sell dogs for a profit without consideration for their -- or the mother's -- wellbeing. Ask your local vet for recommendations on some reputable dog breeders in your area.
The Human Society of the United States recommends adopting your dog from a local shelter. “Pets adopted from shelters and rescue groups,” they say, “typically cost less than pets purchased or even acquired for free. Once you add in the cost of vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, microchip, dewormer and other 'extras' included in your adoption fee, you'll probably be surprised with the level of medical and behavioral care your new pet has received.”
Adopting from a local shelter also supports your local community and prevents the possible euthanasia of homeless animals.
The drawback of getting your dog from a shelter is that you do not likely know the dog’s history. If the dog was abused or experienced any kind of trauma, it is difficult to get them to trust you and they may have anxiety issues to overcome. That is not to say it is an impossible task.
If you are having difficulty finding exactly the dog you want, petfinder.com is a great resource. It is powered by the pet food and supply company Purina and their adoption connections are only non-profit organizations. After entering your location on their website, choose how far you are willing to travel to get the dog. In the state of New Jersey, for example, there are over 151,000 dogs available for fostering or adoption.
To narrow down your search, choose among several categories including breed, age, size, gender, coat length, color, care and behavior (house-trained or special needs), and whether they are good with kids, other dogs, or cats.
Have you heard of the “3-3-3" rule? It refers to the three days, three weeks, and three months after you bring your new dog home. Every dog varies when it comes to the adjustment period in a new environment, so this rule is just an approximation of how long it takes on average.
In a 2022 article, Newsweek SEO Reporter Soo Kim writes about the adjustment period for adopted dogs. The first three days they are decompressing, feeling overwhelmed, scared, unsure, and testing the boundaries. They may not eat much and even hide under furniture.
After three weeks, they start feeling more comfortable, learning routines, and figuring out their environment. You may see behavior issues appear at this time. At three months, they feel comfortable, are finally able to build trust, and have a sense of security.
To ease their transition, get them a calming dog bed. This makes them feel more secure in an unfamiliar place, comforting and holding them as they sink into the soft lining. If they want to burrow and hide, a Calming Cuddle Blanket completes that cave-like feeling that they want.
Adopting a dog is like bringing in another member of the family. There is a lot of adjustment for both you and the dog.
You have read about many of the things to consider as well as resources to find the perfect pooch. They are a great benefit to you and your family, but they are also a lot to manage.
Are you ready to give a dog their forever home? Adopting a new dog makes you stressed or blessed. You make the choice.