Are you thinking about getting a dog? Are you considering adoption instead of buying from a pet store or breeder? You are making the right choice. Animal shelters are filled with loving dogs that just need their forever home. Adopting your next pet is easier than you think, especially if you have never adopted before. This article will provide easy-to-understand instructions on how to adopt a rescue dog .

                Before turning towards an animal shelter, there are several things to do in preparation for bringing your new best friend home. First, make sure all members of your family agree on adopting a particular dog and also be aware of who will take full responsibility for caring for the (especially if there are children involved). If you are adopting a dog, it is also important to be aware of your financial situation. When thinking about the cost of having a dog, be sure to include expenses such as food, toys, training classes and routine medical care in your budget.

                Luckily, many pet stores offer coupons for new adopters. Also remember that if you adopt during puppy months (6-12) there may be discounts on spay/neuter surgeries at local veterinary clinics . Making the decision to adopt is the first step towards taking responsibility for another animal’s life – consider it an investment in the lifetime happiness of both yourself and your future pet. Now let’s move on to finding your new best friend

                Ready? Great! There are several resources you can use to find a dog that’s right for your family. Shelters often have very good websites that allow you search the databases of adoptable animals by breed, age and size. The Humane Society website even has a tool where shelter staff recommend a breed based on your personal preferences . If you don’t see what you want in your local area, remember that many rescue dogs come from other states or even other countries!

                If there is an animal shelter near you*, chances are they have an active web presence with information about available pets. Petfinder  is another excellent resource for finding a particular kind of pet; simply type in the desired breed and it will bring up all available rescues within 100 miles of your zip code. It is always a good idea to visit the shelter in-person if possible, since you will get a better sense of the dog’s personality that way.

*Note – not every shelter has their animals listed on Petfinder so do not fret.   Check with local rescues or shelters for any available dogs in your area!

                Once you’ve found several potential matches, it is time to schedule an appointment at the shelter or rescue group to meet some dogs. Many organizations offer “meet and greets” where you can visit with multiple pets and choose one based on personality fit rather than breed criteria . This may be preferable if you are looking for a unique-looking mixed breed or have very specific needs for your new pet.

                Keep in mind that many dogs (especially those in rescue) may initially be timid or skittish when meeting people for the first time, so approach with caution and let them come to you . If you are interested in the dog after spending some time with him/her , it is appropriate to ask about any adoption fees associated with the animal (also see below for more information on costs).

                     A beautiful Beagle mix pup  ( via Flickr )

                You now have a good idea of what to expect from a shelter/rescue visit! While this article has provided ample resources for beginning your search, it is always best to also speak with a shelter staff member . They will be able to provide you with specific information about an animal’s behavior, history and any known medical issues. No amount of online research can replace the expertise of a trained professional – remember that these people want what is best for their shelter pets!

                Now that you have found your perfect match, it’s time to take them home! There are a few things to consider before bringing a new dog into your family. First, you’ll need supplies such as a collar and leash, crate, food dishes and toys. You may also want to discuss necessary training class s or private sessions with an expert so your new furry friend can live up to its fullest potential . It is important to schedule routine veterinary visits as well as spay/neuter surgery to save your new pet on future medical costs. *

*Note – not every rescue group will require pets be spayed or neutered before adoption, but if this is important to you do ask during the initial meeting with them! Many animal shelters are affiliated with local rescue groups (or may even consist of multiple rescues under one umbrella). Be sure to check out their websites for information about fostering, volunteer work and donation needs. Remember that your part in shelter/rescue pet adoption is just as important as the organization itself! Rescues can always use help with fundraising, outreach events and promotion . Once you’ve decided which lucky dog you’ll bring home, it’s time for some fun!!                   

A dog of any breed can make a wonderful addition to your family if you are ready for the responsibility. Remember that they need love, care and attention just like any other pet!