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Adopting an Adult Dog

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 06, 2021

An adult dog may not be a young pup anymore, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make an endearing companion with spunk and curiosity who can be trained to make a great transition into your home.

What to Know Before You Adopt an Adult Dog

First, determine whether your household can accommodate an adult dog. That means making sure that neither you nor anyone you live with is allergic to dog hair. You also need to consider the time and energy you’ll need to devote to your new adult dog daily, like housetraining them if needed, cleaning up any messes, playing in the yard, and going on walks. This is also a good time to consider house rules and confirm responsibilities, like feeding and walking, with others in your home.

Next, identify what kind of dog will be the best fit for your household. Some high-energy breeds need a big yard to run around in, while others are much calmer and are generally happy inside the house. Also, some dogs tend to get along better with children than others, so if you have kids, that’s another factor to consider.

You may need to check with a shelter to see if the type or size of dog you want is available. Often, you may have to wait a few weeks until new adoptees become available. Check with the staff regularly.

When you’re ready to head to the shelter to pick up your new four-legged companion, remember: an adult dog at a shelter likely had a previous owner who — for any number of reasons — couldn’t care for them anymore. That doesn’t mean an adult dog won’t be as affectionate, healthy, and well-behaved as any other dog. If you spot an adult dog you might like to adopt, ask the shelter’s staff about their age, health, history, and behavioral needs.

Adopting an adult dog is much more affordable than buying a puppy. Most adoption fees are between $9 and $300, and your new pet will likely be vaccinated, fixed, and microchipped.

Preparing your home. If you have other animals, you’ll want to slowly introduce your new adult dog to them. It may take time for them to grow comfortable with each other. 

You’ll also need supplies for your adult dog’s first night in their new home, including: 

  • Collar
  • Leash
  • Dog bed
  • Food and water bowls
  • Dog crate or gate
  • Toys

Establishing house rules. Now’s the time to establish the house rules. Start implementing them as soon as you’re back from the shelter.

Show the dog where the food bowl is. Introduce them to the new dog bed and toys as well as their new family members. If it’s still morning, take the dog out for a walk. If the dog leaps up on the sofa or enters a room you’d rather they stay out of, gently discourage them and shift the focus to something else.

Establishing the house rules on day one will make the new surroundings less confusing for your dog, giving them the consistent routine, structure, and early housetraining they need to adjust.

Crate training. Putting your adult dog in a crate may seem like something for puppy-training only, but it can be a safe place for them to go when they’re overwhelmed. A crate is a great place for your dog to sleep and serves as a den for them when they want to relax. 

Diet and treats. Depending on your dog’s age and weight, your vet can help you determine a proper feeding regimen for them. An older, more senior dog may require a special diet. Dogs are considered seniors when they’re around six years old.

Training Adult Dogs

Most shelters typically do a behavioral evaluation of new pets. This information will help you understand any concerns there may be regarding your new pet, offering insight on how to train your dog.

After bringing your adult dog home, you’ll want to give them enough time to feel comfortable around you and your family in your home.

Your new pet may need time to open up and be comfortable around other family members as well as other pets. This will depend on your adult dog’s history. Letting your pets meet in a neutral location, typically outside, can ease some possible tension. 

Beginning a firm, consistent routine will set your adult dog up for success. Feed them at regular times, take them outside often, and give them plenty of time to sniff and relieve themselves. The more you bond with your adult dog, the better you’ll be at knowing when they need to go out. 

Watch out for behavior that might indicate your dog will run away. Some dogs may have the instinct to run away and return to their former home, even if they came from a shelter. Keep an eye on your adult dog and make sure they’re not left alone outside or in any room where the door to the yard’s left open.

Patience and love will help your new adult dog successfully transition to their new home with you.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club: “How to Help an Adult Dog Adjust to a New Home,” “How to Potty Train an Older Dog.”

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Pet Health Insurance: “Adopting a Rescue Dog: The Ins and Outs and What to Expect.”

American Veterinary Medical Association: “Senior Pet Care FAQ.”

The Humane Society for Greater Savannah: “Top 5 Reasons to Adopt.”

The Humane Society of the United States: “Adopting From an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group,” “Bringing Your New Dog Home.”

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