The Complete Guide to Adopting a Dog: Everything you need to know to get started

Sadly, hundreds of puppies purchased during lockdowns over the last year have now been abandoned, resold or taken to animal shelters, as a result of owners struggling to look after them. RSPCA have expressed concern over the trend, and are expecting more dogs to be brought through their doors during the course of the year. If you’ve been thinking about taking on a four-legged friend, then it’s always worth speaking to your local animal shelters or rescue centres first, before buying a puppy from a breeder, as there are currently dogs all over the UK that are waiting to be given a second chance at finding a happy, forever home. 

The benefits of owning a pet  are huge, so we can understand why anyone would want to open up their home to a loveable companion. However, owning a dog is a long-term commitment, which comes with a great deal of responsibility, so it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared. 

This quick guide will explain everything you need to know about adopting a dog, including how to make sure that you’re ready to be a dog owner; practically, emotionally and financially.

7 things to consider before you adopt a dog

1. Why do you 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 in 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, whilst 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, to see whether they still hold up.

For instance, if you’re interested in getting a dog because you want to get outside and walk more, then ask yourself whether you will still be prepared to do this in all weathers? Or, if you want to adopt a dog because you’re in need of some company, then consider whether this will still be the case post-lockdown. What about when you want to go on holiday? Who will look after the dog? How can you make sure that a busy post-lockdown 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 you afford a dog?

General dog ownership costs

Sometimes the excitement of wanting a dog can cloud key considerations, such as – can I afford one? The cost of owning a dog can vary and PDSA estimates that a dog will cost some a minimum of between £4,500 and £13,000 in 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, and 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 vets bills, should their pet become sick or injured. Pet insurance premiums can start from as little as £10 a month, but can rise depending on the age or breed of the dog. Pedigree dogs can cost more because they are 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 where you can buy it, check out our handy guide here.

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

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 approximately £135 to £250. Fees usually cover the cost of vaccinations, neutering and microchipping, and some basic training if you’re adopting a puppy.

3. What sort of dog are you 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, and would be content curling up on your lap and pottering around your home with you? 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, they will 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 will usually) 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. Blue Cross have written an insightful article; Pet rehoming myths debunked, which is worth a read if you’re having concerns about the idea of adopting.

Age

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 the 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.

Breed

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 to also 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 about different breeds – you can find this here.

Size

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, then 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, whilst others can 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 which is 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 your 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, toilet training and barking. So it’s important that everyone in the household has a good idea what to expect, and is committed to providing the dog with a loving home.

If anyone in the household has an allergy to dogs, then 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 pet(s), then 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 will 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 you 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 have so far experienced in their lives; 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 during the first few weeks or months of being with you.

Many dogs, whether they are puppies or adult dogs, will often need some basic obedience training; which could include lead training, toilet training, and/or following basic commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. This, again, can take a lot of time and effort – especially with an adult dog, as dogs are typically harder to train the older they get.

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.

6. Do you live in a flat or a house?

Your living situation will often impact what sort of dog you adopt, and even whether 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 a dog which is 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 that are prone to roaming or escaping will 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 you?

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, activities levels and living space, and then 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.

Applying to adopt a dog

If you’ve spent some time considering all of the points above, and you’ve arrived at this next stage, then hopefully you’re feeling positive about the idea of adopting a four-legged friend. While it can feel as though there’s a lot to think about before taking the leap, it’s important to do so, to make sure that firstly; welcoming a dog into your life is the right decision, and secondly; that you have a good idea about what sort of dog would be a good match for you, and vice versa.

The next stage involves applying to adopt a dog. We’ll outline this process below…

1. Narrow down a list of your nearest animal shelters, or dog rescue centres

The best way to start your search is to look online for a few animal or dog rescue centres that you can reach easily. It’s worth having a shortlist of places, as this will give you more options, and increase your chances of finding the right dog for you.

Large organisations that have shelters and rescue centres nationwide, like RSPCA, Dog’s Trust, Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and Blue Cross are often good places to start your search. CareDogs also facilitate the adoption of dogs aged 7+, so if you’re looking to adopt an older dog, then you might find this organisation to be particularly helpful. It’s also worth having a look at this list of animal shelters and rescue centres, organised by county – as this includes smaller charities and organisations too.

You should always make sure that an animal shelter or rescue centre is reputable and genuine before giving them your details and agreeing to adopt. A reputable rescue centre will usually:

  • Make sure that all dogs are assessed and safe for rehoming
  • Vaccinate, neuter and microchip dogs
  • Carry out a home check, and ask you about your circumstances
  • Offer you guidance, support and advice during the application process, and even after you’ve taken your dog home

2. Submit your application

When restrictions ease, and we’re able to move around more safely again, you might want to make an appointment to visit your local rescue centres or animal shelters, where you can have a chat with staff about the possibility of adopting a dog. However, you can also register your interest online – both during lockdown, and later, when our current climate starts to improve.

Registering your interest online usually involves filling out a form, with details of who you are, where you live, what your living situation is like, how many hours a day you’ll be away from your home, and what sort of dog you’re looking for. You will also usually be asked about other pets and people living in your household, and whether they get on well with dogs.

If a rescue centre or an animal shelter feels that you could be a suitable candidate to adopt a dog, then some will get in touch with you fairly quickly to take a few more details and formally assess the suitability of your home, to get you adoption-ready. This means that if a suitable dog comes along, or they already have one that might be a good match, you’ll have had all the necessary checks, and will be able to welcome a dog into your home as soon as possible.

Other shelters and rescue centres that experience high volumes of dog adoption applications may only contact you to arrange a home visit and take things further if they feel they have a dog who could be a good match.

It’s important to be patient with all canine rehoming centres at the moment, as they’re having to do what they can to rehome as many dogs as possible, whilst adhering to government guidelines. For many centres, this means conducting virtual home visits and meetings between dogs and potential owners, and delivering dogs to new owners in a contact-free way. However, for some dogs with more complex behavioural needs, rehoming might not be possible at this time, as they will need to meet potential owners face to face first, when restrictions ease.

3. Prepare for a home visit

Outside of lockdown, home visits will usually consist of a person from a rescue centre or animal shelter, visiting your home to check that it would be suitable for a dog to live in. They will generally be looking at the size and security of your property, including a garden if you have one. They will also check the cleanliness and hygiene levels of your home, and make sure you don’t have anything in your home that could be particularly hazardous to a dog. Your assessor might ask you where the dog will spend most of its time in your home, and will then pay closer attention to those areas.

Some organisations might ask to see written documentation from your landlord (if you have one) to prove that you are allowed to have a dog in the property.

During lockdown, many home checks are being conducted using video calling facilities. This might sound a little daunting, but the organisation arranging the home check will always talk you through what to expect, what they’d like you to show them, and in what order.

It’s important to remember that home checks aren’t designed to catch you out, or to pick holes in your home. They are simply put in place to make sure that each dog that leaves an animal shelter or rescue centre, is heading into a safe and caring environment that will cater to their needs.

4. Work with shelter/rescue centre staff to find a dog that is right for you

If your home visit or check goes well, then an animal shelter or rescue centre will try to match you up with a suitable dog. All dogs who get brought to these centres usually undergo an assessment, where staff can learn more about their behaviour and needs. Many dogs spend a great deal of time in these centres before they are adopted, so staff often get to know them well, and will be honest with you about whether or not a dog would be a good match for you. It’s important not to take this personally, as sometimes, it might be something as simple as a dog needing someone to be home with them for most of the day because of their complex needs – something which can be tricky for a lot of people, due to other commitments.

Some shelters and rescue centres might want you to meet a dog on several different occasions, to make sure that the dog feels comfortable with you, and vice versa, before the agreement is made that you will take him or her home. In which case, you will have to wait until lockdown restrictions ease to do this. Some dogs are considered suitable for a virtual meet and greet, prior to adoption, with the dog being delivered to adopters in a contact-free way if all goes well.

Whether you meet a dog in person or online, the shelter or rescue centre should always talk you through everything that you can expect from a dog in terms of behaviour, size, activity levels, dietary requirements, and so on, before any adoption agreement is made. You should also ask the centre to confirm that the dog has been vaccinated, neutered and microchipped, and provide you with proof of this.

It’s important that you feel comfortable and confident about your decision, and feel that you’ve had enough opportunities to ask any questions you might have. If you’re ever in any doubt about anything, always be sure to ask, and to make sure you’ve gathered as much information as possible about the dog you’re adopting. This will help you to build a clearer picture about what behaviours to anticipate.

The animal shelter or rescue centre will usually be there to offer you ongoing support in the first few days, weeks, or months of your dog coming to live with you. If you’re concerned about your dog’s behaviour during this time, or have any questions about things you could do to help settle them in, then it’s worth getting in touch – as they may be able to help.

Bringing your dog home

Preparing your home

Congratulations! You’ve decided to adopt a furry friend, and are now thinking about getting your home ready for their arrival. So what do you need to prepare?

Before you bring your dog home, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have:

Dog food (+ food and water bowls). It’s best to ask the rescue centre or shelter for advice on what sort of dog food to feed your dog, so that he or she doesn’t end up with an upset stomach. If you plan to change your dog’s food, then you should always do this slowly.

A dog collar, lead, and maybe a harness. You won’t be able to take your dog out for a walk without these things, so it’s best to have them ready from the get go. Some rescue centres advise that dog owners purchase a proper-fitting harness for their new companion, as it’s much harder for them to slip out of these, if they become spooked when out on a walk.

• An ID tag. It is a legal requirement (under the Control of Dogs Order 1992) for any dog in a public place to wear a collar with the name and address of the owner on it, so they can be contacted in the event that the dog goes missing. You don’t have to include your telephone number, but it’s advisable that you do, so that anyone who finds your dog can reach you quickly. You can get metal ID tags – which clip onto your dog’s collar or harness – at a lot of large pet shops like Pets at Home.

A dog bed. This should be placed in an area of your home where your dog can retreat to for some space if he or she needs it. A dog’s bed should be a space where they feel safe and comfortable, and can rest without being interfered with. It’s a good idea to place the bed somewhere you will be happy for it to stay for the foreseeable future. For instance, placing the bed in your bedroom might seem like a nice idea, but will you be okay with them sleeping in the same room as you long-term? Dogs are creatures of routine and habit, and you trying to convince them to be parted from you at night further down the line, could prove challenging.

Toys. Some dogs will like to play more than others, and you might even discover that your dog doesn’t play with toys at all. But it’s a good idea to give them the option of having something to play with should they want to. If you’re in doubt about what to get, then consider getting a small selection – perhaps a ball, a soft toy, and a rubber-type toy. If you already know that your dog is a chewer, then be careful not to buy them anything they could rip to bits and swallow. There are plenty of tougher dog toys out there (which are usually made of strong rope, rubber or plastic), which are designed for dogs with chewing habits, and are more likely to remain intact.

A car harness, restraint or crate. If you’re a driver, then it’s important that you purchase something to keep your dog safe and secure when travelling in the car, so that they don’t go flying if you have to stop suddenly, or are involved in an accident. This can be crucial for your own safety too, not just theirs.

If your dog will sit in one of the car seats, then you can secure them to the seat using a harness or a restraint. Or, if you intend for them to travel in the boot, then you could consider securing a strong, good quality crate in your boot space. If you plan to collect your dog from a shelter or rescue centre, then you will need to make sure that you have one of these options in place, prior to collection. 

The first day home

Depending on what you agree with the animal shelter or rescue centre that you are adopting your furry companion from (and on government guidelines at that time), you might either be collecting your dog, or having your dog delivered to you by centre staff. In both scenarios, staff will aim to make the transition as smooth as possible for both of you.

When your dog first arrives at your home, it’s likely that they will feel confused or overwhelmed. Their whole world has changed yet again, and they will need some time to adjust, and to understand that they can trust you. If you live with other people, then it’s a good idea to introduce them to their new family member slowly, rather than all at once, so that the dog doesn’t become overwhelmed.

When it comes to gaining your dog’s trust, patience and consistency is key. They might not appear warm and loving to start with, perhaps because they’re trying to suss everything out, are finding it difficult to cope with the change, or aren’t sure yet whether they can trust you yet. Some rescue dogs have also been shown such little love and warmth in their lives, that the idea of it might be somewhat alien. However, if you help to get them into a routine, where they get fed at regular times and have somewhere warm and safe to sleep, then they should hopefully start to feel more relaxed, and begin to bond with you.

It’s best not to smother dogs with affection to start with, as again, this can be overwhelming. Often the kindest thing to do, is to let them come to you when they’re ready, and if you do stroke them, aim to stroke them under their chin, rather than on top of their head – as this can feel less threatening.

It’s best not to walk your dog too soon, and to let them get used to your home environment first. Being forced to adapt to new indoor surroundings can be overwhelming enough, without forcing them to have to get used to a lot of new outdoor surroundings too.

Settling in - common issues that you might encounter during the first few days or weeks

As you and your dog settle into your new life together, there are a few things that it’s worth paying attention to – especially in the first few weeks or months. These include:

  • Sleeping a lot. Your dog might sleep a lot in the first few weeks of being with you, because they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the change to their environment. It can be their way of coping. However, if you’re concerned about your dog’s motivation and activity levels, then always seek advice from a vet.

  • Disinterest in food. If a dog is feeling anxious, and unsure, then it might not feel like eating much to start with. However, it’s important to keep putting food out for them at regular times, so they can become familiar with their meal times. It’s also a good idea to get them checked out by a vet to make sure that the lack of eating isn’t to do with anything medical. If it’s not a medical, there are a few things that you can do offer your dog some gentle encouragement at meal times. Have a read of this advice from Battersea Canine Welfare Trainer, Nathalie Ingham.

  • Separation anxiety. Your dog might have been abandoned in the past, or might still be pining for their former family, or for shelter or rescue staff who were kind to them. Then as they start to trust you, they might feel worried every time you leave them to go out or go to bed. When this happens they might bark or whine, or become destructive, simply because they feel stressed and want you to come back. For tips and advice on how to tackle this issue, check out this guidance from Dog’s Trust.

  • Poor recall. It’s not uncommon for dogs adopted from animal shelters or rescue centres to have little or no recall. Have a read of this guide from Dog’s Trust to find out how to train your dog to come back to you when called.

  • Lack of general training. You will usually be able to gauge fairly quickly how much training a dog has been given in their former home. Shelters and rescue centres do often practice some basic training with dogs (although this is more common with puppies), however, it’s likely that they will need some level of training when they arrive to live with you. You might feel confident working on this by yourself, or you could consider taking a few dog training classes. Dogs Trust usually offer Dog Schools across the UK – however, due to social distancing, classes have now gone virtual. You can find out more here.

  • Being destructive. Some dogs might chew and scratch things when they’re left alone, and feel bored, anxious or stressed. This is something that can be managed with some time and patience. Have a read of this guide from Blue Cross to learn more.

Tips on how to get your rescue dog to trust you

Trust isn’t something that’s built overnight, especially if your dog has complex issues, however, there are several things that you can do to help develop the bond between you. These include:

  • Being consistent. Your dog will slowly start to see that you’re reliable and won’t let them down if you keep to a routine of regular feeding, walking, sleeping, and so on. After having such a turbulent time, some dogs will need a stable, loving environment, and as time goes on they should start to trust you for providing that.
  • Feeding them. Dogs tend to have a lot of love and respect for the person (or people) who feeds them. If they aren’t particularly food oriented, then giving them their daily food will usually be enough, but if they are, then you can also offer them tasty treats regularly, and gradually, they should start to trust you. It’s important that others in your household also take the time to do the same.
  • Walking them. The majority of dogs love their daily walk, and will quickly become a fan of the person or people that they associate with their favourite time of day.
  • Playing with them. Not all dogs like to play, but the ones that do will learn to see you as a source of fun and enjoyment if you spend time throwing their ball for them, or playing tug of war. Dogs play in different ways, so it might take a bit of time to work out what your dog likes to do, but once you’ve cracked it, try to play regularly, as this will really strengthen the bond between you.
  • Giving them space. It’s important that you don’t crowd or smother your dog, as this can make them feel claustrophobic, which won’t foster trust. When you’re getting to know one another try to give them some space, and let them come to you when they feel ready.
  • Not leaving them alone for too long. Your dog will often trust you a lot faster if you don’t leave them alone for prolonged periods of time. Try not to leave them for any longer than four hours at a time. Otherwise they might become very anxious, as they’ll wonder whether you’re coming back.
  • Doing some basic training. Dogs are intelligent creatures that tend to respond well to obedience training. As you train together, and praise your dog for their progress, they’ll start to associate you with a positive feedback loop, and will also become better at reading your tone of voice and body language. If you’re looking for somewhere to start then check out this factsheet on basic training from Dog’s Trust.

Alternatives to adopting a dog

Whilst adopting a dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience that’ll provide you with a loyal companion for many years, we also understand that there are plenty of us that (as much as we’d like to) aren’t in a position to become a dog owner. However, the good news is that there are plenty of ways that you can still enjoy the company of a furry friend, without making a long-term commitment…

Dog fostering

If you cannot commit to becoming a dog’s owner for the rest of its life, but would still like to look after a dog in the short-term (from a few days to a few months), then you could consider becoming a foster parent for a four-legged friend. In a nutshell, this involves a dog living with you while it awaits it’s forever home with it’s adoptive family. The costs associated with looking after the dog (food, vets bills etc) will usually be covered by the animal shelter or rescue centre.

Fostering can be immensely fulfilling, but can also present many of the same challenges as adopting. Sometimes, animals who have been rescued from abuse or neglect may have behavioural issues. However, the shelter responsible for the dog will be able to give you tips and advice on how to best look after them.

Many people who decide to foster a dog will form strong bonds with them, which can make saying goodbye difficult. However, it can be incredibly rewarding to know that you have given a dog a safe, loving home at a time they needed it most.

If you want to find out more about dog fostering, and how to apply, then it’s worth getting in touch with charities like Dog’s Trust or RSPCA. You might also want to consider contacting some smaller, independent animal shelters and/or dog rescue centres near you to find out whether they have any fostering opportunities available.

Borrow a dog

If you fancy some canine company every now and then, but don’t want to (or can’t) commit to a dog moving in with you, then you could consider borrowing a dog from a willing friend, neighbour or family member for a few hours, a day – or even a weekend.

Or, if you don’t know anyone who owns a dog, you could find people who are willing to share their dog through websites like Borrow My Doggy; it’s free to set up a profile, but you will need to become a premium member to swap messages with the dog owners. Borrow My Doggy allows you to borrow someone else’s dog for cuddles, walks and play, for an agreed amount of time. Once you become a premium member, you’ll be covered by Borrow My Doggy’s insurance policy, which means that if a dog becomes injured or unwell in your care, Borrow My Doggy will cover vet fees up to a certain amount.

Dog walking

Another option, if you just fancy hanging out with a furry friend every now and then, is to do some dog walking in your spare time. Again, you might have a friend or family member who would love you to take their dog out for an extra walk every now and again – or you, if not, you could meet dog owners through sites like Tailster* (this is a free website, where you can get paid to walk dogs, and will be covered by Tailster’s insurance policy), or Borrow My Doggy (which, as mentioned above, is free to set up, but will cost you to swap messages with dog owners).

Final thoughts…

If you love animals, have been contemplating getting a dog, and want to make a real difference to a life, then choosing to adopt a dog could be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. With so many dogs waiting for their forever home in animal shelters and rescue centres, it’s always a good idea to check these first, before purchasing a dog straight from a breeder. Many dogs in animal shelters and rescue centres haven’t had the start to life that they would have hoped for, but by providing them with a safe and loving home, you could help to turn that around, and give them a second chance at finding happiness.

However, becoming a dog owner is a huge commitment, and is never something that should be entered into lightly. It’s important to always do your homework, ask questions and request to meet a dog as many times as you feel you need to, until you’re content and comfortable about the idea of bringing them home.

Have you adopted a dog? Or are you thinking of adopting one? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Join the conversation on the community forum, or leave a comment below.

Links with an * by them are affiliate links which help Rest Less stay free to use as they can result in a payment or benefit to us. You can read more on how we make money here.

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