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How to Find the Best Dog for Adoption Near You 

Contributing to the wellbeing of an animal in need is a great gift.  Before you rescue your next dog, follow these easy tips to find the best dog for adoption near you:

  • Think about the reason you are adopting a dog and what you expect the dog to contribute to your life. 
  • Educate yourself with pre-adoption classes and by reading the adoption requirements of nearby rescue organizations.
  • Consider fostering a dog for a local shelter or  go to adoption events around your community to see adoptable dogs in your area.
  • Make sure that your potential pet meets your children and other household pets before you finalize an adoption. 

When you find your new best friend, they will thank you for bringing them a new life and a loving future.     

Why Are You Adopting a Dog?

First, think about what you want out of the experience of owning a dog before you consider adopting or rescuing a dog.  Having a pet will bring a lot of joy to your life, and will require a good amount of responsibility. Knowing your motivation for having an animal companion is the first step to deciding what breed of dog is right for you.  

Your dog will become a huge part of your daily life.  If you’re adopting a dog for the first time, identify your top reasons for wanting to adopt a dog.  This will help you think about what kinds of traits you want in a dog. 

For example, when I was considering adopting a dog, I wanted companionship, a running partner, and a long-term wellness activity partner.  I wanted a young potty-trained dog, not a puppy. These desires became the parameters when I searched for a dog for adoption in Maryland and the surrounding Washington, D.C. and Virginia areas. 

Breeder or Rescue?

You will have to decide if you are going to be adopting or buying a dog from a breeder. This really depends on your financial situation, the breed of dog you want, and your preference for pure breed dogs vs. mixed-breed dogs.

Rescue animals may have special needs or behavior traits that you will need to care for. You can work with the animal rescue group to find the right fit for you.  Talk to the volunteers and staff about the demeanor of any dog you might consider adopting. 

Essential Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog

Here are a few of the top questions to ask when you are adopting a dog:

  • Is this dog good with children?
  • Is this dog Ok with other dogs? What about cats or other animals?
  • Have you seen this dog play off leash?
  • Have you seen this dog display signs of aggression or signs of dominance?
  • Does this dog have any health concerns?
  • Is any evidence the dog has been house or leash trained?

Asking these types of questions will give you insight into the dog as a “whole package” and will allow you to make the right choice for your companion.  

Asha Rescue Dog Digging in the Yard and getting Mud on her Nose

The bottom line… Every dog will need training.

Determine What Type of Dog You Want and Can Manage 

Second, consider what you expect from the breed of dog you would like to adopt. 

If you’re looking for an emotional support or therapy dog- you need a dog with the right demeanor and lots of training to meet those expectations.  If you are an active person, like I am, you want to look for a dog that matches your level of activity.  

When you adopt a young dog or a breed with a lot of energy, you will need to commit the time to training and exercising your dog according to their needs. 

For example, when I adopted Asha they told me she only likes to “do her business” on her walks and won’t be likely to go in our small back yard (She uses that for sunbathing). So I take her for 4 walks a day!

If you live a more sedentary lifestyle, a dog that needs 4 walks a day is likely not a good candidate to be your best friend unless you’re really looking to change your fitness goals. 

When you identify what type of dog suits your lifestyle and schedule, then you can move on to the important steps below to find your perfect companion. 

5 Tips to Help You Find the Best Dog for Adoption Near You: 

1. Take an Educational Class Before You Adopt a Dog

Local rescue groups and dog training academies have advice and information for potential adopters.  Look for dog training facilities and non-profit organizations to see what resources are available for new adopters. 

Always read the requirements for adoption listed on the website of any rescue group you are considering.  They will cover the basics such as: fees, home visits, spay/neuter status, and immunizations.

In my area, a local non-profit- Your Dog’s Friend in Rockville, Maryland offers free workshops for potential dog adopters.  I’ve taken several of their free classes without your dog as well as 3 paid training classes with my dog, Asha.  She really loves coming to “puppy school” at Your Dog’s Friend. 

2. Practice Your Dog Owner Skills by Dog-Sitting

While you decide if owning a dog is right for you, consider offering to pet sit for one of your friends who owns a dog.  Your friend will appreciate your help and you will be able to give pet ownership a test run.  

You can also sign up for Rover.com and get paid to pet sit as a side hustle while you decide what type of dog is right for you.

3. Go to Pet Stores or Local Businesses with Dog Adoption Events

Just about every weekend you can find adoptable dogs in your community.  There are several key places you want to look and a few hidden opportunities you might not think of.  

The county animal shelter is a good place to start your search.  There are many adoptable pets in shelters that need a good home, especially after a large storm or disaster.  Check your local animal shelter’s website for more information about how to adopt a dog or pet from your local shelter. 

You can find pet adoption events in your area by visiting the PetSmart or PetCo websites for national adoption event weekends. Or look for local pet stores, small businesses, and other organizations that are hosting pet adoption events.  In my area, many of the local dog-friendly breweries will host pet adoption events every few months.  

4. Find the Top Pet Adoption Organizations Near You

RescueShelter.com provides a thorough listing of pet rescue and adoption organizations by state. 

For example, this is the list of rescue organizations with dogs for adoption in Maryland:  http://dog.rescueshelter.com/Maryland.  I had a great experience when I rescued Asha three years ago from an organization on this list, K-9 Lifesavers.

Having so many options can seem overwhelming.  To refine your search, look at the reviews of each organization you are interested in and their adoption requirements. 

If there are “hard pass” items on the adoption requirements (for example- the fee is higher than you want to pay), keep searching the list until you find an organization that matches your parameters for adoption.

Don’t forget that some dog rescue groups work regionally, so you might be able to easily find dogs from other counties or nearby cities.  In the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area you can adopt a dog from a number of shelters and rescue organizations across the D.C. Metro region.   I’ve even heard of people following a dog from one shelter to another in order to adopt a specific breed they love. 

Find the Right Organization- Then Look for the Right Dog

Once you’ve narrowed down the options for where to adopt a dog, it’s time to look at adoptable dogs. Look at the list of adoptable dogs on the agency’s website. Match the traits of the individual dogs to your list of breeds and parameters you already identified based on your lifestyle and preferences.

When you find a dog you are interested in, email the shelter or rescue agency directly to set up an appointment to see the dog. You could also attend one of the agency’s upcoming adoption events and request that the dog you are interested in adopting be brought to the event. 

5. Look Into Requirements to Foster a Dog

Aren’t sure if your lifestyle will support the wellbeing of a dog? Consider fostering to see how owning a dog will influence your lifestyle.  There are many dogs who need short term homes while they wait to be adopted, you can change the lives of many animals by being a foster family.  

Each adoption agency and shelter have their own requirements for fostering dogs.  Use the same link above- RescueShelter.com to look up dog adoption organizations near you.  Identify the closest organization to you and look at their requirements for fostering a dog.  

Sometimes fostering a dog will lead to adoption.  Once you sign up to foster with a local rescue agency, ask if it is possible to adopt your foster dog or not. 

6. Schedule a Meet and Greet with Other Pets or Children

Once you have chosen the dog you would like to adopt, schedule time to introduce your other dogs to your potential new family member.  This will allow you to judge the temperament of the new dog with your existing pack members.

If you have children, bring your children to a second meeting with the dog you would like to adopt.  There are many dogs to adopt in every community, don’t be discouraged if the one you like is not good with children or gets adopted before you can complete this step.  It’s very important to have a dog who fits your family and is available when you are ready to bring them home. 

Are You Ready to Adopt? 

Adopting, fostering, or rescuing a dog is a great way to improve community and pet wellness at the same time.  When you decide to share your life with a dog, you are committing to taking care of their health and well-being for many years. 

Once you’ve brought your new best friend home, check out Rover.com for pet sitting, doggy day-care and now cat sitting as well. Use this affiliate link to get a $10 off coupon when you sign up!

Asha’s Adoption Story: 

The three fat puppies and Asha before they were all adopted from K-9 Lifesavers.

Asha “Puppy Girl” was found under a porch in Georgia with 5 puppies at approximately 1 or 1.5 years old.  Only 3 of the puppies survived the rescue and were brought to Stafford, Virginia with their mom. The mixed color litter of lab puppies were adopted quickly, leaving Asha to attend her first pet event months after the rescue in August 2016.  Asha was kissing a friend when I arrived and I unleashed her from a table to go for what was the first of many walks.

-Wendie V

Share your dog adoption story below. 🐶 We love the pups!