How Do You Adopt a Shelter Puppy?

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If you’ve ever walked by a puppy display where they’re giving away puppies or setting up paid adoptions, then you know how hard it is to keep on walking. Those cute little furry faces and those crazy antics are hard to resist on any day. Throw in a mountain of extra stress — you know, like a global pandemic — and it’s almost impossible not to take a new fur baby home. 

Adopting a new furry family member is exciting, and it just makes you feel good. Adopting a shelter puppy is even better. Not only are you introducing a cute little creature into your life, but you’re saving that cute little life as well. That’s an extra dose of feel-good when life seems so precarious — but that doesn’t mean you should rush in without a little planning.

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 when you gain the new best friend you never knew you needed. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Get Ready for Your New Puppy in Advance 

Before you even think about bringing home a puppy, make sure you’re prepared. Unless you live alone, make sure everyone else in your family is on board with getting a new pet, especially a puppy, which is like having another child. Determine who is going to feed the puppy, walk it and clean up its messes during the potty training phase. 

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Be sure to do some research to figure out what kind of dog you want. All puppies are adorable, but does the breed’s personality — and future size — match your lifestyle? Keep in mind that many puppies in shelters are mixed breeds, so you probably won’t find a purebred puppy, and you may not find the exact mix you want either. Be prepared to be flexible, but don’t choose a dog that is likely to have breed characteristics you won’t like.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your house is ready by cleaning up things your puppy may chew on and buying supplies like toys, food and water dishes, a bed, a crate, a leash, puppy food, a collar and anything else your new family member will need.

Work with a Respected Shelter

Next, it’s time to begin your search for the right puppy but also for 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 you can probably find various rescue groups in your area that do the same. Many shelters list photos and information about their current animals online, so be sure to check their websites in advance to look for any puppies you might want to meet. 

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Websites like also allow you to search for shelter puppies nearby. Often, websites provide information about the requirements the shelter has for adopting out a pet. Some may require you to have a fence around your backyard, for example, while others may want a reference from your vet’s office. If you rent your home, you may be required to get written permission from your landlord. The shelters don’t want to arrange adoptions that are doomed to fail.

Visit the Shelter for the Critical First Meeting 

Once you’ve chosen a shelter and spotted a puppy online you want to meet, it’s time to pay the little girl or guy a visit. This gives you an opportunity to meet and play with the puppy that interests you as well as meet other dogs that 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 get a sense of whether the two of you are a good fit. If other people live with you, be sure to bring them along for this important meeting.

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During this time, you can also ask the shelter staff about the puppy’s background and normal behavior. Where did it come from? What kind of medical treatments has it had? How large do they think the puppy will get? Again, remember that most shelter animals are strays with little known background, so any information is helpful. If anyone in your family is uncomfortable, don’t force a particular puppy on them. If you do, it probably won’t end well.

Take Home Your Puppy

Once you’ve decided on a puppy you think will be a good fit, it’s time to take your new family member home. The shelter will most likely require you to fill out paperwork and pay a fee, which covers spaying or neutering charges, vaccines and other care. You may also have to wait for a staff member to come check out your home, depending on the shelter. 

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Some shelters 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 a new place can be overwhelming. It may take a few days or even weeks for the puppy to feel at home and for the two of you to become best friends.

Take Extra Care in the 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 a wellness checkup and to receive any necessary vaccinations that weren’t already administered. If your puppy wasn’t old enough for spaying or neutering at the shelter, you want to plan for this surgery in the future. 

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You may also want to consider having your new pet microchipped in case a mishap occurs and you can’t find your pup right away. At home, try to keep things calm and quiet for the first few days while your new family member adjusts to their new life, but don’t wait to start training, particularly potty training and crate training if you plan to use a crate. After a few weeks, you and your new puppy will know each other’s personalities a little better, and you can both settle in for a long life of love and happiness.