If you’re thinking about welcoming a furry new friend into your home, then you might have already considered adopting a dog. According to government statistics, an estimated 250,000 animals go to rescue centres in the UK every year, which is almost 700 animals a day!

Giving a new, loving home to a dog that didn’t have the best start in life can be incredibly rewarding – but it can also come with challenges, so it’s important to do as much research before submitting your adoption application.

Below, we’ve pulled together a list of seven questions to ask.

1. Why do I want to adopt a dog?

Why do I want to adopt a dog

The first and most important thing that you can do before deciding whether to adopt a dog is to identify your reasons for doing so. This will help you to decide whether you want to own a dog for the right reasons.

Some people want to bring a dog into their life because they’re lonely and looking for companionship, they want to lead a more active lifestyle, or because they’re looking for a sense of purpose.

However, while these reasons are all perfectly valid, it’s also important to consider the bigger picture, and to weigh up your reasons for wanting to adopt against some of the more unfavourable aspects of dog ownership. This will help you to get a clear understanding of whether your reasons still hold up.

For instance, if you’re interested in getting a dog because you want to get outside and walk more, ask yourself whether you’ll still be prepared to do this in all weather. Or, if you want to adopt a dog because you’re in need of some company, consider whether adopting a dog is the best way to find companionship.

What about when you want to go on holiday? Who will look after the dog? And how can you make sure that a busy schedule fits around your new friend?

These questions can be tough to have to think about and answer, but they’re also realistic, and will hopefully help you to avoid a situation where you have to look to rehome your dog further down the line, as this can be distressing for both of you.

There are also certain reasons for wanting to own a dog that should never become a reason for actually doing so. These include things like wanting to have one because you’re bored and are in need of some entertainment, think it’s trendy, or so your dog can act solely as a guard dog for your home (in this situation, it’s better to invest in an alarm system).

2. Can I afford a dog?

Can I afford a dog

General dog ownership costs

Sometimes the excitement of wanting a dog can cloud key considerations, such as whether or not we can afford one.

The cost of owning a dog can vary, but Household Pets estimates that a dog will cost someone a minimum of between £18,286 and £39,071 over their lifetime – but potentially more if they require ongoing care for any disabilities or medical conditions.

However, setting any additional needs a dog may have aside, there are basic things that you’ll always need to buy them, such as food, a bed, a lead and collar (or a harness), toys, a car restraint, food and water bowls, and monthly worming tablets and flea treatments.

Pet insurance

Every dog owner should also consider getting pet insurance to help them cover the cost of any vet bills, should their pet become sick or injured.

Pet insurance premiums can start from as little as £75 a month, but can rise depending on the age or breed of the dog. Pedigree dogs can cost more because they’re at greater risk of suffering specific health problems related to their breed. For example, dachshunds have longer spines and so can be more prone to back problems, while Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds are more prone to heart disease.

Pet insurance premiums can also rise as your dog gets older, as the risk of them having a range of different medical conditions increases. To find out more about pet insurance, including the different types and when you’ll be covered, check out our handy guide here.

And if you’re looking to buy insurance for your pet, you can use our tool to compare pet insurance quotes from up to 15 leading providers in the UK.

Or, to find out more about the overall cost of owning a dog, you might want to have a read of this guide from Household Pets.

Dog adoption costs

As well as the day-to-day costs of owning a dog, you should also be aware of adoption fees.

Animal shelters and rescue centres will usually ask for a one-off adoption fee, which can range from around £175 to £250 – or £320 for a pair of dogs. Fees usually cover the cost of vaccinations, neutering, and microchipping, as well as some basic training if you’re adopting a puppy.

3. What sort of dog am I looking for?

What sort of dog am I looking for

Before deciding to adopt a dog, it can help to think about what sort of dog would be most suitable for your lifestyle and current circumstances. Things to consider include:

Personality type

Would you like a dog with bundles of energy who needs lots of walks and play? Or maybe you’d prefer an older dog who needs to adopt a slower, more chilled-out way of life.

Considering what sort of personality or temperament you’d like your dog to have can help to make sure that you’re a good match for one another, and can go on to form a strong bond.

It’s also important to remember that if you’re adopting a dog from an animal shelter, the dogs there will have come from a huge range of different backgrounds, and some dogs will have suffered abuse and neglect, which is now reflected in their behaviour.

Shelter staff can sometimes give you some insight into why a dog might behave the way that they do based on knowledge of its life before arriving at the shelter. However, sometimes very little is known about a dog’s background, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared for some unpredictable behaviour.

Shelter staff should (and usually will) carry out an assessment of a dog to make sure that they are safe to enter your home. This also helps them to learn more about their needs and advise you on how best to manage and care for the dog.

Some people worry about adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue centre and tend to make certain assumptions, for example, that all dogs currently living in rescue centres are always broken, unstable, or untrainable. But this is not necessarily the case.

In fact, Blue Cross has written an insightful article; Pet rehoming myths debunked, which is worth a read if you’re having concerns about the idea of adopting.


Age is definitely a key consideration when looking to adopt a dog, as animal shelters regularly care for dogs who are just a few months old, right up to dogs who are living out their last few years or months.

The age of the dog you adopt can determine how much training they’ll need (if it’s a puppy, it might require a lot more), and how long they’re likely to be around.

Sometimes older dogs make great companions for people who are worried about making a 15-20 year commitment to an animal. And owners can gain a great deal of satisfaction from helping a dog make the most of its final years.


Personality can often be closely linked to a dog’s breed type, so it can also help to do your homework and know which breeds might be most or least suitable for you.

While knowing about a dog’s breed won’t tell you everything about how you can expect it to behave, it can help to give you an indication of the sort of behaviour and needs a dog is likely to have. For instance, whether a dog is prone to separation anxiety, has a strong guarding instinct, or needs a huge amount of play and walking.

Whilst having a good awareness of which dog breeds might suit you best, it can be helpful to remain open to other options and remember that dog shelters will have plenty of mixed breed dogs too, with varying temperaments and characteristics.

If you need more help and guidance on working out which sort of dog breed might be best for you, then it’s worth having a chat with your local vet or veterinary nurse. Blue Cross also has a helpful guide, which will help you to get a better understanding of different breeds.


When thinking about which size of dog would be ideal for you, it’s useful to take into account factors like the size of your home/garden and your own level of strength.

For example, if you have any injuries/disabilities or aren’t too steady on your feet, then having a very large, boisterous dog, which could have the potential to pull you over, probably won’t be ideal.

Or if you have a house with a large garden, you might decide that you want to maximise that opportunity by getting a dog with lots of energy, as you’ll have plenty of space for them to run around.

Coat type

Another thing that’s worth taking note of is a dog’s coat type. For example, dogs with longer fur will typically need more grooming and maintenance to prevent their fur from becoming matted and unmanageable.

Some dogs can also shed carrier bags full of hair, while others shed very little and may require less frequent grooming.

It can be helpful to spend some time thinking about how much time and effort you’re prepared to put into looking after your dog’s fur. If the answer is not much, then you’d probably be more suited to a dog with shorter fur, that requires less attention.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have put together a useful page that’s packed with info that might help you decide how to work out what sort of dog might be right for you – you can find this here.

4. Is everyone in my household comfortable with the idea of adopting a dog?

Is everyone in my household comfortable with the idea of adopting a dog

Getting a dog is usually only a good idea if everyone in your household is happy and willing to interact with and help care for the dog.

Dogs come with muddy paws and lots of fur which can shed, and rescue dogs might come with the addition of other behaviours like chewing, barking, and the need for toilet training. So it’s important that everyone in the household has a good idea of what to expect, and is committed to providing the dog with a loving home.

If anyone in the household has an allergy to dogs, it’s usually not a good idea to bring a dog into your home, as this could lead to the dog having to be rehomed again if things don’t work out.

If you already have a pet(s), you’ll also need to think about whether they’ll be able to live comfortably alongside a new dog. It can be a big adjustment for an existing dog, cat, or other pet, to accept that they’ll now be sharing their home and their owner with another animal. So it’s wise to be honest with yourself about whether you think this will be okay.

5. Will I have enough time for a dog – both now and in the future?

Will I have enough time for a dog – both now and in the future

Any dog, whether bought from a breeder or adopted from a shelter, will need lots of time and attention.

However, a dog adopted from a shelter might have more complex needs as a result of difficult events that they’ve experienced; whether that’s abuse, neglect, being abandoned, or simply having to be parted from their former family. This means that they’ll need a lot of time, patience, and reassurance; especially in the first few weeks or months with you.

Many dogs, whether they are puppies or adults, will often need some basic obedience training. This could include lead training, toilet training, and/or following basic commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Again, this can take a lot of time and effort – especially with an adult dog, as dogs typically become more difficult to train with age.

The majority of dogs also need a fair amount of physical activity, which they’ll usually get through walks and play. Most dogs will want to go out whether it’s raining, sunny, or -3 degrees outside, so it’s important to ask yourself whether this is something that you’ll be okay with and to be honest with yourself about the answer.

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6. Would my living situation be suitable for a dog?

Would my living situation be suitable for a dog

Your living situation will often impact what sort of dog you adopt, and even whether you eventually decide to adopt one at all. Questions to ask yourself in relation to your living situation could include…

  • Do I have an outdoor space? If not, then what will my plan be for making sure that my dog gets regular toilet breaks and a chance to stretch their legs?

    In this situation, it can also help to consider the energy levels of the dog you might adopt. For example, a dog with lots of energy generally won’t be suited to a home without an outdoor space.

  • What size of dog will best suit my living space? For example, a bigger dog or one that’s always on the go will generally be better suited to a larger house, rather than a small flat.

  • Will my landlord allow me to have a dog? If yes, it’s always best to make sure that you have this in writing, to avoid any misunderstandings and give you peace of mind. Many shelters or rescue centres will also ask you for proof of this.

  • Do I have a secure garden? Certain dogs are prone to roaming or escaping. So they’ll need to have a secure outdoor space where there’s no chance they could get out.

  • Is there any chance that I could have to move in the next few years? If so, will the dog be able to come with me? A dog is a long-term commitment so it’s important to think ahead and consider how your circumstances could change in future, and what this could mean for your dog.

Any shelter or dog adoption agency will always ask you about (and want to see) your living space before they agree to match you up with a suitable dog.

They might also make recommendations on the type of dog they think would best suit you based on your living arrangements. It’s worth noting that some animal shelters or dog rescue centres will favour adoption applications from individuals or families who have a garden.

7. Is a dog the right choice of pet for me?

Is a dog the right choice of pet for me

Many people who want a pet will naturally think of a dog because they’re known for being loving, loyal companions. However, a dog won’t always be the right choice of pet for everyone.

PDSA has a helpful quiz, which will ask you questions about things like your finances, free time, activity levels, and living space. Then, it’ll offer you suggestions about which pets may or may not be most suitable for you.

So if you’d be open to considering which other animals might be suitable for you to welcome into your home, then it’s worth giving it a go.

Final thoughts…

Adopting a dog can not only provide you with a loyal companion but also give you the fulfilment of knowing that you helped to change their life for the better.

That said, taking on a pet is a huge responsibility and rescue dogs may have complex needs that require a large amount of time and attention – so it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared and have done plenty of research.

If you do decide that you want to adopt a furry pal, and you’re wondering where to start, then you might like to read our follow-up article; How to adopt a dog.