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Old Dog, New Home: What to Know When Adopting an Adult Dog

An adult dog that's up for adoption

So, have you decided to add a fur-ever friend to your home? While puppies can be adorable, they can also be a bit of a challenge. If you haven’t already, you should consider adopting an adult doggo. You would be surprised at all the advantages. And if you’re worried–have no fears, we’re here to help. Here is what you need to know about bringing an adult dog home.

Know the Costs of Adopting

For the new doggy pawrent, it might seem that bringing an adult dog home isn’t too expensive. And while it might be cheaper than adopting a purebred puppy, there is still a bit of money involved. You can expect to spend money on the following:

So you might want to do a little window shopping before you decide and make sure that you can cover all of the new costs.

Advantages to Adopting an Adult Dog

The biggest advantage of adopting an adult dog is you will have a good idea of their characteristics. You won’t be able to see everything, but most of their traits will be pretty apparent. 

Here are some things that you will know about your adult dog before you adopt:

      • They are already full-grown, so no surprises when it comes to size.
      • You can see what their personality is like.
      • Most are potty trained.
      • Most have been socialized.
      • Most have some sort of training and are better on lead.
      • They are done with all the puppy hyperactivity–puppies require a lot more work.
      • No puppy-related vet visits.

While you might not be able to enjoy that cute puppy phase, you also won’t have many of the problems that come with a puppy straight from the breeder.

The Drawbacks of Adopting an Adult Dog

Adult dogs can come with their own problems. Many did not have a happy home life before they ended up at a shelter, so they might have a few bad habits. Just talk to the people at the facility and they will be helpful. They know the dogs, and they can share what they know about their habits and personalities.

Many shelter dogs have separation anxiety, so be prepared to work with your doggo when you bring them home. Mild cases of separation anxiety can be easily overcome, but in extreme cases, you might need the help of your vet and/or a reputable trainer.

And just like people, it will take your doggo a while to adjust. Spend as much time with them as you can when you first bring them home and be as patient and loving as possible.

How to Prepare Your Home for An Adopted Dog

An adopted dog in its new home

Before you bring your furry pal home, make sure that you are ready for them. You don’t need everything, but it is easier if you have done most of the following:

With a little planning and preparation, you will have everything you need and your home will be prepped for that furry addition when you bring them home.

Bring the Right Dog Home

Now that you are prepared, it’s time to find your doggo. Do your best to figure out what you are looking for in a dog:

      • Are they good with kids?
      • Would you prefer larger or smaller?
      • Is there a breed (most shelter dogs are a mix, but many have characteristics of a specific breed) that you would prefer?
      • Long, medium or short hair?
      • Active or couch potato?

If you go online, you will find that most shelters have photos and descriptions of their dogs, and you can get a good idea of what is available. Talking to the staff at your shelter is a great idea because they work with the dogs daily and have a good idea of what they are like.

You might want to look into fostering the dog first. This will give you a chance to spend some quality time with the dog. At the very least, take the dog for a couple of walks and have a play session with them, and if you already have a dog at home, set up a play date with them and see if they do well together.

Take Your New Dog to Visit the Vet

Before you make the jump, make sure that you have a veterinarian lined up. Many shelters work with specific vets and you might be able to get a discount for your initial visit. You can talk to the vet about:

  • Vaccinations
  • Meds
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Special needs

You will find that your vet is a wonderful resource.

Bonding with Your Adopted Dog

A woman bonding with her adopted dog with a hug

If your schedule allows, spend as much time as you can with your furry family member initially. They might be shy and timid, but they will quickly warm up to you as you give them treats, pet or brush them, take them for walks, or just sit next to them as you watch the telly. They need to feel comfortable and confident in their new forever home.

Create a Daily Routine

Once home, try your best to create a regular routine. Coming home to a new family is a major change, and it might take your furry pal a little while to adjust. It will be helpful if you follow a schedule–your doggo will know when they are being fed and when to expect walks or playtime!

Potty Training

With older dogs, this shouldn’t be necessary, but being adopted is a major change in their life, and they might have accidents. Take them out first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. At first, you will probably want to take them out more frequently during the day than you will after they adapt. And don’t worry about a few accidents–they will adjust quickly to their new home and schedule.

Three Days, Three Weeks, and Three Months

According to Patricia McConnel, “Three really is a magic number! Repeating ‘three days, three weeks, three months!’ is a wonderful way to remind yourself that most dogs are in shock the first three days in a new home, need three weeks to begin to show you their true personalities, and three months to begin to understand the family rules.” [1]

Be patient with the new addition to your family–you both need time to adjust to each other. And before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine life without your new furry buddy.

Many Happy Years to Come!

A happy dog tat is enjoying the outdoors with its owner

Adding a four-footed friend to your home is a major step, and it will go much smoother if you prepare before you adopt. While it might seem like a lot of work, you will reap many rewards. In addition to the companionship and the satisfaction that you get from giving a deserving dog a forever home, studies have shown that dog owners live longer. [2] So while you are giving a good home to a wonderful dog, your dog is giving back to you, helping you to live a longer, happier life.


[1] Let’s Talk: Three Things to Remember When Bringing a New Dog into Your Home

[2] Do Dog Owners Live Longer?