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How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Dog? Process Explained

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

family adopting dog

If you’ve decided that it’s the right time to bring a dog into your family, adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue is absolutely the best thing to do! There are so many dogs that are in desperate need of a loving home, and you could be that loving home.

But how long does it actually take before you can bring your amazing new dog home? There is not one solid answer because it ultimately depends on the animal shelter or rescue group. The adoption process could potentially happen in a few hours, a few weeks, or a few months.

Here, we look at what to expect and the different factors that can make the adoption process a quick or a slow one.

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What Happens When a Dog Is Brought Into a Shelter or Rescue?

Once a dog is brought into an animal shelter or rescue group, they are typically examined and treated for any health issues. They are bathed and groomed, evaluated to determine if there are behavioral problems, vaccinated, and neutered or spayed if they are still intact. The adoption fee that you pay goes toward all the care and surgical procedures for your dog.

Many dogs are not adoptable immediately; some need extensive medical care, and others have serious behavioral problems that need to be worked on, which typically occurs in volunteer foster homes.

Some dogs are ideal candidates for adoption and won’t wait long for their forever home, while others might languish in a shelter for years.

dog in shelter
Image Credit: marcinm111, Shutterstock

How Does the Adoption Process Work?

Shelters and rescues use their websites and social media to get the word out about dogs that need a foster or forever home. Unsurprisingly, popular dogs tend to get snatched up quickly.

The first thing that happens is filling in an online form, which includes information about your home, the space you have, the hours when you won’t be home, your experience with dogs, etc. This is where you put your hat in the ring for a dog that you have your eye on or just to share what kind of dog you’re looking for.

This helps the group or shelter determine if you’ll be a good dog owner and if so, which one of their dogs will be the right one for you. This often means that if a specific dog caught your eye online, there’s a good chance that they have already been adopted.

The group will usually keep your file active for about 3 to 6 months and get in touch when they find a dog that seems like a good fit. The wait for the right dog could happen overnight or in months, but this also depends on how specific you are on your application about the dog’s age or breed. The pickier your list, the longer the wait will likely be.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Rescue Dog?

After you are matched with a dog, the adoption process begins, which can be either quick or take several weeks (or more).

In many cases, it will start with a phone interview, during which the rescue staff will ask for more information than what they pulled from your application form.

Following this, the rescue will do a home visit to ensure that the information that you provided is correct and check that it’s a suitable place for the dog.

Additionally, you’ll be required to visit the dog in the foster home (if that’s where the dog is), which can also determine if you and the dog are a good fit. Some rescues might ask you to bring your current pets with you.

These last two steps could be done in reverse order (visiting the dog and then the home visit). Once everyone is happy, the adoption fee needs to be paid, and you can bring your new dog home.

woman adopting a dog from shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

What About Shelters?

The process of adopting a dog at an animal shelter or larger organization like the ASPCA or Humane Society doesn’t typically take as long as rescue groups.

The process can just take a day or two or even just a few hours. In most cases, you locate the dog that you’re interested in (at the shelter or online, since some of these dogs are in foster care), fill in an application form, get interviewed, meet the dog, and then take them home.

While this process might sound appealing because it’s faster and more straightforward, it isn’t always the best way, as you haven’t had enough time with the dog to see if they are right for you. It might help to visit the dog on more than one occasion. Most of these organizations can put the dog on hold for you while you get to know each other.

It’s also helpful to speak to the staff and volunteers who have been looking after the dog, as they can give you more insight into the dog’s temperament.

Why Does the Adoption Process Take So Long?

Many of the dogs in rescue groups and shelters have been through trauma and come from difficult situations. These dogs need someone with the patience and experience of working with troubled dogs.

These groups don’t want to place a dog in a home with someone who isn’t prepared for an animal with behavioral issues. The last thing that they want is a failed adoption, which will only add to the dog’s trauma.

Therefore, they are usually quite thorough with the entire process. This way, they can ensure that they’ve found a suitable adopter for one of their dogs.

What to Expect When You Bring Your Dog Home

This process depends on the dog and what kind of background they are coming from. The dog will most likely start off disoriented. Some dogs will adapt quite quickly, though, particularly if they are coming from a shelter. Entering a cozy home with delicious food and people who love them will make these dogs feel immediately at home.

But most dogs might need around 6 to 8 weeks before they have fully adjusted to their new home. This period of time could be shorter or longer, depending on the dog and what their previous life was like.

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Preparing for Your New Dog

You must be prepared for your new dog before you bring them home. This is another reason that a fast adoption isn’t always a good idea.

Ensure that you have everything in place for a dog. Start by preparing a safe space for the dog, which includes a cozy dog bed and a few toys. The shelter or rescue might send your dog home with something that they are attached to or have been sleeping with already (like a blanket), which can add comfort for your dog.

The rescue will also send along some of the food that your dog has been eating. If you want to switch your new dog to a different brand, you will need to slowly transition them to the new food. Start by adding just a small amount of new food to the old, and gradually increase the new-to-old-food ratio over the next several weeks.

Keep in mind that your dog might be quite stressed being in a new home, so spend time with them. Speak calmly, and gently stroke your dog to start forming a bond. You should try to keep your home as quiet as possible until your dog has adjusted.

Keep visits from friends and other family members to a bare minimum. In the early stages, your dog should only be spending time with family members who live under the same roof.

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While there isn’t a simple answer to how long the adoption process takes, you should now at least have a better idea of what to expect. The speed of adoption depends on where you’re looking and the availability of the dog that will fit in with your family the best.

Be sure to have everything in place ahead of time, including bowls, food, leash, and bed. Try to be patient and understanding throughout this process. For example, if you live in a condo, an adoption agency will likely be reluctant to allow you to adopt a Husky as opposed to a smaller, less-energetic dog that won’t need constant access to a backyard.

As long as you are open to the possibilities, your patience will be rewarded with a lovely dog that will be an integral member of the family for years to come.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

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