Your Guide to Adopting a Shelter Puppy

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:49:16 PM ET
Black and white puppy looking over a wall

Adopting a new furry family member is exciting. Adopting a shelter puppy is doubly exciting, because not only are you introducing a cute little creature into your life, but you’re saving a life as well. The key to making the adoption process smooth is to be prepared and patient. Your new little guy or girl is going to need some training. Your house is going to need some puppy-proofing. And you may lose a favorite pair of shoes or two. But in the end, it’s well worth it because you’ve gained the best friend you never knew you needed.

Getting Ready for Your Puppy

Before you even think about bringing home a puppy, make sure you’re prepared. Unless you live alone, find out if everyone else in your family is on board with the new pet. Determine who is going to feed it, walk it and clean up its messes during the potty training phase. You’ll also want to do some research on what kind of dog you want. All puppies are adorable, but does the breed’s personality match your lifestyle? Just keep in mind that many puppies in shelters are mixed breeds, so you may not find the exact breed you want. It’s also a good idea to make sure your house is ready by cleaning up things your puppy may chew and buying supplies, like toys, food and water dishes, a bed, a crate if you plan to use it, a leash, puppy food, a collar and anything else your new family member will need.

Finding the Right Shelter

Next it’s time to begin your search, both for the right puppy and the right shelter. A quick Google search of shelters in your area can give you an idea of where to start. Your local municipality may run a shelter, and there may be rescue groups in your area that do the same. Many shelters list pictures and information about their current animals online, so you can also check out some websites and see if there’s a puppy you like in your area. Websites like also allow to search for shelter puppies nearby. You’ll also want to check on any requirements the shelter may have for adopting out a pet. Some may require you to have a fence in your backyard, while others may want a reference from your vet’s office. If you rent your home, you may be required to get permission from your landlord.

Your Visit to the Shelter

Once you’ve chosen a shelter or spotted a puppy online you like, it’s time to pay the little girl or guy a visit. This gives you an opportunity to meet the puppy that interests you and see what other dogs are available for adoption. Many shelters have a room or fenced-in area outside where you can spend some quality time playing with a puppy and getting to know him or her. This allows you to see if the two of you are a good fit. During this time, you can also ask the shelter staff about the puppy’s background. Where did it come from? What kind of medical treatments has it had? How big do they think it will get? Again, remember that most shelter animals are strays with no known background, so any information is helpful.

Bringing Home Your Puppy

Once you’ve decided the puppy is a good fit, it’s time to take your new family member home. The shelter will most likely have you fill out paperwork and pay a fee. You may also have to wait for a staff member to come check out your home in some cases. Some shelters even send you home with a few goodies, like food, treats and toys. Once you get home with the puppy, let him or her explore the new digs. Remember the pup has gone through a lot during those first few weeks of life, so the transition to yet another new place can be overwhelming. It may take a few days or even weeks for the two of you to become best friends.


Your First Few Weeks With Your Puppy

During those first few weeks with your puppy, be on your toes to keep your new pet — and your home — safe. You’ll need to take the puppy to the vet for wellness checkup and to receive any necessary vaccinations. If your puppy is old enough, you may consider having it spayed or neutered right away. You may also want to consider having your new pet microchipped in the event it goes missing. At home, try to keep things calm and quiet for the first few days as your dog is adjusting to its new life. You’ll need to start training right away too. This includes housebreaking, and if you plan to use a crate, crate training. After a few weeks, you and your new puppy will know each other’s personalities a little better, and he or she will settle in for a long life of love and happiness.