Dog Adoption Checklist

Inviting a dog or brand-new puppy to be part of your family is exciting, but it can also be challenging. There’s no doubt it’s a big decision, so we’ve put together this guide to help you choose and care for your brand-new dog.

When you’re considering a dog it’s important to remember it’s a long-term commitment, much like having a baby. Dogs are for life, which is why preparing for parenting one is essential. You don’t want to adopt a dog only to end up giving it up for adoption down the line because you’ve over committed.

How long do dogs live for?

The average lifespan for a dog is around 11 years. However, some dogs can live much longer – sometimes into their mid-20’s, with smaller breeds living longer than bigger breeds.

How must does it cost to own a dog?

As part of your dog adoption checklist planning, ask yourself, “Can I afford a dog?” If you can plan for the ongoing short- and long-term costs you’ll be satisfied knowing you’re giving your future adopted dog a soft landing, financially at least.

A responsible pet owner should be paying for:

  • Adoption: registration and dog microchip fees plus initial health checks, potentially including vaccinations
  • Food and shelter
  • Medical costs: vet and general health care, like yearly vaccinations, flea and worm treatments and check-ups, as well as unexpected bills for injury, illness, allergies and more
  • Daycare: doggy daycare while you work or full-time pet boarding while you travel
  • Pet insurance

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You’ll probably need lots more, like toys, bedding, grooming etc. Here are some of the main once-off and ongoing costs.

Dog adoption fee

Adopting a dog can cost anything between $200 and $500. This is usually inclusive of costs of vaccinations, worming and flea treatments, microchipping, desexing and registration. Beyond that there are some rolling costs to plan for, both short and long term.

Ongoing costs

A major part of the dog adoption checklist is understanding that you’ll need to invest in your dog’s health (both mental and physical) and their training and education over their lifetime.

Vet bills and medical care: a third of pet owners spend between $501 and $1000 annually on health costs, while nearly half (46%) spend up to $500.

Other pet care costs: 44% of pet owners spend between $1001 and $2500 a year on food, toys, grooming and more. This doesn’t include vet bills or other medical costs, just the other pet-related costs.

Training your dog

Of course, you can’t plan for everything but you can think of the possibilities. For example, what happens if your new dog causes a lot of damage to your apartment or yard?

New puppies require a lot of training, including learning to go to the toilet outside, how to behave around the house, listen to commands, and sleep on their own (if you prefer), and so on. If you DIY, training can cost you nothing but your time and energy – but that’s still a serious commitment, especially initially.

‘Adopt a dog’ checklist

As part of ticking off your dog adoption checklist, ask yourself some questions:

  • Why do you want a dog or puppy?
  • What are your needs and expectations?
  • Will a dog satisfy those needs and expectations?
  • How much work are you willing to put in?
  • What is your plan B if it doesn’t work out?
  • What happens if you need to move, travel, or face unexpected challenges?

Dogs aren’t a short-term commitment. Ask yourself if you’re prepared to be a loving and responsible dog parent for the entirety of your pet’s life.

What do you not want in a dog?

As well as the qualities you want in your dog, ask yourself what you don’t want. This will help you rule out different breeds and more.

Here are additional steps for your dog decision process:

1. Get the right match

Consider taking a dog temperament test or speaking with a qualified trainer to see which family dog is your perfect match.

2. Get to know your dog

Find out as much as you can about the dog before you adopt. See whether it’s possible to visit it multiple times, and spend some time with it. This way you can get an insight into what your future relationship with the dog might look like.

Remember to buy ethically

If you decide to buy a dog, approach a registered breeder, or a reputable dog adoption centre. This will help you avoid losing your money to a scam, or purchasing from an unethical puppy mill.

How to adopt the right dog

Many would-be dog parents have soft spots for particular breeds because they’re fashionable or look a certain way. However, many trainers warn against choosing a pet based solely on looks or emotion.

Instead, make your choice based on how your lifestyle and personality will match your potential new dog’s energy and temperament.

1. Living space

Certain breeds need space to run and burn off energy and are not suitable for apartments or small inner-city homes. However, you shouldn’t discount adopting a family dog just because you live in a small apartment, just research small dog breeds that match the size and location of your home.

2. Exercise requirements

A hyperactive, adolescent dog is not a good choice for an older person or someone who works full-time and lives alone.

3. Behaviour and training

A fearful, traumatised dog is not a good choice for a family with young children and/or lots of other pets. Then again, all dogs require training and socialisation while getting used to a new home.

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About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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