So you’ve been spending hours on pet adoption and rescue sites, clicking through images of adorable pups that pull on your human heartstrings—and you’re ready to make your home their forever one. To help prepare you for the adoption process, we asked Sarah Brasky, founder of Foster Dogs NYC and The Dog Matchmaker, to share her insights on what you may not know about rescuing a dog.
1. Senior doesn’t necessarily mean old
Sure puppies are fluffy and adorable, but don’t discount a dog simply because he or she is a so-called senior. “A Yorkshire Terrier might be labeled as senior by a shelter if he is over seven years, but Yorkies — and other small breeds — can live 15 plus years,” says Brasky. “Seven is simply middle-aged!” Plus, with an adult dog, you’ll already have a sense of their disposition before you bring them home. “You can determine if the dog is considered ‘child-friendly,’ ‘dog-friendly, ‘leash-reactive, etc.,” says Brasky. And, of course, you get to bypass the whole potty-training, teething, not-sleeping-through-the-night phase that’s par for the course with puppies.
2. You may pay a premium for puppies
Standard adoption fees at municipal shelters come in around $100 and cover spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, de-worming, and microchip and registration for your new pup. But if you want a puppy, the price could go up. For example, at Animal Care and Control in San Francisco the adoption fee for puppies (six months and under) is $175, compared to $135 for adult dogs. You may also have to spend extra on mandatory puppy training classes, as is the case at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where the fee for dogs under five months is $550 (which includes the classes).
3. Long-terms costs can add up
Even when you adopt, being a pet parent doesn’t come cheap, so make sure you’ve taken a hard look at your budget and bottom-line. “Owning a dog can cost you over $3,000 in the first year, and over $23,000 for the dog's entire life,” says Brasky. That includes what you’ll pay in regular veterinary care, along with food, grooming and supplies. If you work outside of the home or travel often, you’ll also want to take into account the cost of a dog-walker or daycare and boarding. (Investing in insurance right off the bat can help fray costs!)
4. There could be a vetting process—for you
Although municipal shelters allow for same-day adoptions, private rescue groups often have a more extensive application process. Some require on-site home checks or video tours, says Brasky. The rescue group will want to meet anyone who lives with you and see that your home has been (or will be) doggy-proofed. Brasky’s advice for making your space as safe as possible: “Keep medicines and chemicals away from the dog's reach (think baby-proof cabinets or on a high shelf), keep a water bowl accessible to the dog throughout the day, choose a spot where the dog will sleep at night, secure electrical cords, and invest in a lidded trash bin.”
5. Fostering is a great first step
While some rescue groups offer—or even require—foster-to-adopt situations to make sure the dog is a good fit, Brasky encourages potential adopters to consider fostering first. (You’ll keep the dog until the rescue finds a permanent home for them.) “With each new foster dog, you’re learning new insider-tips and tricks and will be able to help innumerable dogs,” says Brasky. Regardless of whether you decide to adopt now or foster first, bringing a canine companion into your home — and life — is always a little bit unpredictable, but any challenges you may encounter along the way pale in comparison to the unconditional love the pup will give you.
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