Dogs are great. Can’t everyone have one? I want one now! Well, adopting a dog isn’t quite as simple as pressing ‘purchase’. But why is this? What is the process for adoption? What do you have to keep in mind? And why is it so hard to adopt a dog?

Adoption vs Purchasing

Where a dog comes from is important. More and more dogs are being born and raised by illegal breeders, and we cannot condone this practice. Legal breeders vary in their level of care, but are still producing more dogs when there are already too many unwanted dogs out there.

Instead, you may want to consider a dog from a rehoming shelter. Some well-known examples in the UK include the Dog’s Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the RSPCA and the Blue Cross. There may be local shelters in your area too and equivalent international charities, such as the ASPCA,

These shelters work tirelessly to rescue abused, mistreated and abandoned dogs, or take in strays. They then adopt them into loving homes. Many are non-profit charities that rely on people donating to keep operating. We know the temptation can be to get a new puppy that has no previous history from a breeder, but the dogs in shelters are often in desperate need of a loving home.

Please consider visiting a shelter before looking for (legal!) private breeders. The rest of this article will detail how adoption from shelters like these work.

Is a Dog Right For You?

“Of course! I love dogs!” Put your credit card away! Adopting a dog is a huge step to make and shouldn’t be trivialised. Far too many people buy dogs without doing any research, leading them to making poor decisions. This is why it probably shouldn’t be an easy process.

Sometimes it is easy to forget what exactly a dog is. A dog is a living, breathing animal that you have to care for up to 16 years (or more if you are lucky!). It will be 100% reliant on you for food, water, companionship, shelter, veterinary care and more. All of this takes time, money and effort. Can you give a dog this? Here’s what you should think about before you get out your wallet.

Consider first why you want a dog

There are a myriad of reasons and plenty are valid, but ask yourself if your particular reasons are enough. During the pandemic, many people have adopted dogs because they want companionship or are lonely. This is great and dogs are a huge lifeline for many people, but is it fair to use a dog just to make you happy? That’s a question you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Others might want a dog for working reasons or for shows or classes. Again, we won’t deny that dogs can enjoy these things, but can you justify owning a dog purely for these reasons? If you can justify that your reason will be a good one for your future dog then it’s probably a good reason.

If you are now fairly certain you want a dog next ask can you own a dog? 

Remember what a dog requires. Can you afford a dog? Adopting a dog from a shelter often carries an upfront cost, and food and medical bills can reach hundreds or even thousands per month. And the older your dog gets the more expensive they will likely be. If times get tough can you be sure you can afford to care for your dog?

Here are a few other questions you might want to ask before committing;

  • Is your life right for a dog?
  • Do you have a big home with plenty of space?
  • Is there access to the outdoors?
  • Are you away from busy roads?
  • Do you have children that might struggle to adjust?
  • Are you at work for long periods of the day?
  • Do you like to take regular holidays abroad?
  • Do you have family members who are afraid of dogs?

There are so so many factors to consider before you get a dog. Of course, no family will be perfect, but will your home environment make it difficult to raise a dog? A dog will change your life – are you okay with this?

What kind of dog do you want? 

Big or small? Short- or long-haired? Energetic or docile? For work or for the family? What age? Even what gender? Every dog breed is unique and you should research this thoroughly. Some breeds don’t fit with certain lifestyles. Some breeds carry a lot of health problems and aren’t suitable if you are on a budget. 

The Process of Adopting

Now is the time to get even more in-depth. Most adoption centres will have individual dogs up on their websites so you can get to know them. Consider if the personality is a good match for you and your family. Words can say a lot but the best thing you can do is go visit your new potential pet at the shelter (COVID permitting). Don’t discount the dogs that are older, ill or just not perfect – they may have the biggest heart. 

Most shelters have a complicated adoption process

This may seem restrictive, but they are designed to ensure dogs get matched with the perfect family to avoid the heartbreak of people handing back dogs a few months later if it doesn’t work out. The forms you fill in will detail every aspect of your life, asking many of the same questions we asked above. The shelters use these to determine which dog would be best suited for your lifestyle. Some may even ask to visit your home (or view a socially-distanced video) to check the environment is safe for a dog.

Unfortunately, this process means the dog you had your eye on may not be suitable for you

You may face being rejected multiple times. Do not be disheartened or take this personally. Remember that the shelters are trying to do what is best for their dogs. It is better to have the temporary upset of being rejected by a shelter than having to distress a dog by handing them back. Ask the shelter for feedback, make changes if you can and keep trying!

If you get the green light from the shelter you can continue with the adoption process. Here is when you can spend the time visiting and taking your chosen dog out for walks. You can’t get to know a dog in one afternoon, so spending time with them before adopting them formally is important. Late stages may involve the dog visiting your home to see what they think.


Success! You have found the perfect dog for you and your family. You’ve been on plenty of walks with them and they seem to love you. The shelter has given you the go ahead to adopt.

Adoption is usually as simple as signing some documents and taking your new friend home with you. As mentioned above, most shelters are not-for-profit and require a set fee for adoption. This is to cover the costs of feeding and caring for the dog while they were at the shelter. It also often covers microchipping, vaccination, flea treatment and even things like collars and bowls.

It is usually a few hundred pounds – we would ask that you donate more if you can. Dogs today can sell for thousands of pounds, but shelters try to keep adoption fees low. Anything extra you can give will go a long way to helping other dogs in need. 

Of course, remember to prepare your home before your new friend comes back for good. Make sure you have all the food, toys, bedding and everything else they need, get insurance sorted, and register them with your local vet.

Most shelters like to keep in touch with their adopted dogs to see how they are doing. Keeping in contact with the shelter allows you to get advice if you need it, particularly for dogs with specific needs. And the staff will surely love to see how happy your dog is now in their new home. 

Final Thoughts

Too often in today’s world, we look for the quick and easy way to do things. When you are dealing with something as precious as a dog’s life, we urge you to be patient and take your time. Ensure you can look after a dog, start the adoption process with a shelter, be prepared to be disappointed a few times, but wait for that perfect dog to come along and make your family whole.

Doing the right thing and adopting a dog from a shelter that really needs you is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It’s hard to adopt a dog but the best things in life are never easy. 

Further Reading

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