This article is about respecting the different options we have available on how to get a dog or puppy and resources on how to do so responsibly. It’s about how breeders, rescues and shelters need to work together in order to help more dogs. Before you leave a comment, remember to be kind to one another.

Here’s what you’ll find in this post:

Finally, if you do decide to adopt a puppy:

Why adopt don’t shop is wrong

I personally don’t use the phrase “Adopt, Don’t Shop” even though I support pet adoption.

The saying Adopt Don’t Shop is used to promote dog adoptions vs. buying a puppy from a pet shop (puppy mill) or breeder. You’ll see it on t-shirts, bumper stickers and as a hashtag.

The reason I don’t use the phrase “Adopt Don’t Shop” is because it’s OK for a dog lover to responsibly get a dog from a breeder OR from a shelter. It’s also extremely important for good breeders and good rescue groups to work together.

Rescue groups need good breeders.

Adopting a dog is wonderful! Buying a puppy is wonderful too!

You SHOULD “shop” for the right breeder or the right rescue group or shelter. It’s important to do your research and get the dog that is right for your family.

Of course, I understand where people are coming from. They mean well.

It’s good to promote dog adoptions and “Adopt Don’t Shop” is a catchy phrase – especially if you’re standing outside a pet shop protesting puppy mills.

“Adopt, don’t shop!”

I’d even say it makes sense to use the phrase Adopt Don’t Shop in that exact scenario, if you’re protesting a puppy mill or pet shop.

I get it. We can all agree that puppy mills are terrible.

The problem is when people use the phrase Adopt Don’t Shop to represent ALL breeders.

Adopt Don’t Shop controversy

The phrase Adopt Don’t Shop could potentially alienate a huge percentage of dog owners who have happily purchased their dogs.

These are dog owners who would like to help your rescue or shelter because they love the breed or they love dogs. They are dog lovers who don’t feel guilty about buying a purebred puppy but they also want to put an end to shelter killings.

I bought a weimaraner puppy, for example, but I also support my local weimaraner rescue group. In my home, we also have an adopted Lab mix and two adopted cats. Many families have both “rescued” pets and pets from breeders.

Why I don’t use the phrase ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’

The problem is when people use the phrase – Adopt Don’t Shop – to include ALL breeders, not just irresponsible breeders or puppy mills. Some people take the phrase literally.

But buying a puppy from a breeder is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Why I don't use the phrase Adopt Don't Shop (1)

We can support breeders and shelters at the same time

Sometimes rescue volunteers forget a large percentage of dog owners are proud of buying their dogs from breeders but would ALSO love to support true no-kill shelters. It’s possible to support both responsible breeders and responsible rescues!

Maybe they’d like to volunteer, foster, donate, attend a fundraiser – or even adopt their next dog! 

They need to feel welcomed in order to do so! Not alienated because of where they got their previous dog.

You could argue, “Who cares! It’s about helping the dogs! I don’t have time to worry about a ‘Greeder’s’ hurt feelings.” But this isn’t helpful, because we need good dog owners to open their homes for dogs in need when it’s a good fit.

Do you think this phrase “Adopt, don’t shop” actually helps more dogs get adopted?

Or does the slogan perhaps harm dogs by turning away the large percentage of dog lovers who would like to foster, donate or volunteer but feel bad or embarrassed when they hear “Adopt! Don’t shop!” Or “Don’t buy when shelter pets die!”?

I’m going to end with a quote from my friend Tegan Whalan who does it all. She is a blogger, dog breeder, dog trainer AND runs a small rescue group! Read my interview with her here. She is impressive! I repeat, she is a breeder AND runs a rescue group.

She said:

“If rescues ostracize and discriminate against breeders, they are losing a valuable resource. Many breeders really like dogs, including rescue dogs, and want to help them. This help can be finances, kennel space, networking or knowledge. If rescues do not communicate in an effective and pleasant – or at least civil – way with breeders, they may be ‘burning bridges’ when it comes to the help that breeders can provide.”

Read the full interview here: How breeders and rescues can work together.

Sometimes, going to a shelter or rescue is the right choice, and sometimes it’s better to go to a breeder.

Reasons to buy a dog vs. rescue a dog

I bought a puppy from a breeder because I wanted a weimaraner for distance running (18+ miles at a time) and hunting. Because my dog did not come from a shelter, people criticized this decision.

But I have made the choice never to judge anyone by how he or she wants to obtain a dog – the process is a personal choice.

“Rescuing” is not the only humane way to get a dog

Pretty much any dog or cat can be considered a “rescue” these days. I know one man who “rescued” his purebred puppy from a pet shop for $500. He sincerely believes his dog is a “rescue.”

I know more than one person who adopted a second dog just so he could call it a “rescue” and fit in better with his local dog community. People can be verbally hostile to the owners of dogs from pet shops or breeders.

This is unfortunate.

But the trendy way (and some would say the only acceptable way) to get a dog right now is to “rescue” that dog.

I used to consider my mutt Ace a rescue.

I don’t call him a rescue anymore.

I did not rescue Ace from a pound or an abusive home. I did not rescue him from the streets of Fargo-Moorhead or some rundown farm.

I just wanted a cool dog, and some lady in Ada, Minn., happened to have a free, housebroken black lab mix.

Three of my four animals are “hand-me-down” pets. This is a more appropriate term to describe how I acquired my mutt Ace as well as my cats – Beamer and Scout. 

Beamer’s first family dropped him off at the humane society when he was a year old. They probably couldn’t handle his odd food obsessions! Scout came from an “accidental” litter. No surprise I ended up with one of the free kittens – the last one to go 🙂

I don’t consider any of these three to be rescues, really. Beamer was the only one to spend some time in a shelter, but his life was never in danger. It was a no-kill shelter, and he was never in the pound like some of my foster animals were.

This rescuing concept is out of control, and it’s not necessarily helping the animals (although it seems to be helping the humans).

There is something unexplainable about adopting a dog that someone else doesn’t want – it’s something I’m definitely drawn to. But I have to be conscious of what I’m doing. It’s too easy for me to get caught up in the emotions of animal adoption.

Reasons to buy a puppy from a breeder

The main draw to buying a puppy is to help raise that pup correctly from the beginning. Unfortunately, the opposite can also happen. I think we all know plenty of people who have helped screw that puppy up from the very beginning. But that’s for another post …

Some puppies are kept in wire cages for the first six weeks of their lives. Some are isolated in sterile environments. Some are never handled. Some are never separated from their moms. I wouldn’t want to buy any of those puppies.

On the other hand, some puppies are allowed to explore their environments naturally. They are allowed to play in the grass, wrestle, learn to be away from Mom, to interact with all kinds of beings. This is the kind of puppy I would be interested in buying.

I would like to use all my knowledge on dog training, dog behavior and dog nutrition to raise a puppy from the start in the way I perceive as correct.

I would love to begin socializing my puppy from early on, taking her everywhere and training her immediately. Imagine the possibilities!

But can’t I just adopt a puppy from a shelter and get the same benefits?

Well, no.

I would like to know that my puppy has no known health risks. I would like to meet her parents and view how well tempered, socialized, trained and groomed they are. I would like to meet my puppy’s grandparents.

I would like to know that my puppy’s parents were raised on the highest quality dog food, not over-vaccinated and never covered in toxic products like Frontline.

None of the above would guarantee a perfect dog, but I do believe it would increase my odds.

Notice I’m not advocating buying a pet shop puppy or buying from the nearest breeder just to get a purebred dog. I know plenty of people who have done this and ended up with perfectly average and acceptable dogs.

It worked for them. It would not work for me.

But seeking out the top breeder of a specific breed and waiting for a pup from a future litter, playing a role in the entire process – yes, I can see the appeal to that. It’s what I did with my weimaraner Remy.

Buying a purebred dog for specific work

People sometimes buy purebred dogs for the sake of performing specific tasks. It’s sometimes too great of a risk for these trainers to use rescue dogs when the job at hand is some serious work like service for a handicapped person, livestock guarding, search and rescue or protection.

These dogs are sometimes selected carefully from breeders of working-line dogs. A true working dog is very different from an average companion dog. Not better. Just different.

I’m not saying a shelter dog can’t make a good working dog – he can. And I’m not saying every dog bred for work will actually be able to perform well – he won’t.

What about breed-specific rescues?

Breed-specific rescues are wonderful organizations. There is probably a rescue out there for every dog breed. This is the first place I’d look if I wanted a specific breed (I don’t).

However, if I wanted a rare breed such as a greater Swiss mountain dog, I may be put on a waiting list for several months or years before a dog comes up that needs a home. Most people aren’t going to wait around that long for an imaginary dog that may or may not be a good fit. And if they want a specific breed, the other option is to find a breeder.

Don’t get me wrong, adopting an animal is one of the greatest things a dog lover can do. It’s just not for everyone, and I’m OK with that.

Most people decide to have their own children rather than adopt or foster a homeless child. I don’t hear anyone complaining about that.

It’s socially acceptable in the U.S. to criticize each other about how we obtain our animals. I think that is too bad.

How shelters failed when I adopted my first dog

The story of how I adopted my first dog exposes a common flaw in the U.S. shelter/rescue system – a lack of communication.

To get more dogs adopted, one of the most important factors is to quickly and politely respond to adopters’ questions. Too often, those questions are ignored.

So here’s my dog adoption story:

I adopted my dog Ace in 2007. I was open to the breed of dog I would get, but I knew I wanted to adopt a dog vs. go to a breeder. It was important to me to help a dog in need.

At that time, I had no idea that some shelters will reject adopters who don’t have a fenced yard. I also didn’t know working full time is sometimes a red flag.

Still, the process of trying to adopt a dog was not a negative experience for me. I remember thinking the whole process seemed odd, but I gave the adoption organizations the benefit of the doubt.

I was your average 20-something who worked full time, rented an apartment, had grown up with dogs and was finally ready to adopt.

I didn’t have an “in” with any of the adoption groups like I do today. I was not a volunteer, and I was not involved in the local dog community yet because I didn’t have a dog.

Looking for the right dog or puppy to adopt

I was very responsible about choosing the right dog. I knew exactly what I could and could not handle.

I didn’t care about breed, size or gender, but my future dog had to be cat friendly, potty trained, kennel trained, quiet, low to medium energy and still able to go running.

In order to find the right dog for my lifestyle, I started out by visiting the dogs at my local humane society (after I had stalked them online for months). This was a small shelter that could hold up to about 15 dogs.

The worker there allowed me to take a couple of the dogs out of their cages and into an outdoor play area. This was nice, however she seemed busy and irritated that I was asking questions, and she did not know if the dogs were potty trained or cat friendly.

See my post: Questions to ask before adopting a dog.

I was especially interested in two six-month-old black Lab mixes and was told they were probably not potty trained.

I then asked about a quiet husky mix but was told huskies can’t go to homes with cats.

OK, no big deal.

I decided none of the dogs at that shelter were a good match. This didn’t bother me, because I knew there were literally thousands of others out there.

Waiting to hear back

So the next thing I did was call a local rescue group, which seemed to be the only rescue in my area at that time.

Since the rescue did not have an actual shelter (the dogs were in foster homes), I couldn’t go to a facility to meet them. I called the number on the web site because there was no email address listed.

I never got a call back.

OK. Moving on.

Next, I emailed a couple of humane societies from nearby towns. By “nearby,” I mean one was 100 miles away and the other was 200 miles away, but it wouldn’t be a big deal to drive out to them for the right dog. I lived in North Dakota.

The first shelter never responded.

Thanks to gmail’s archives, I am able to look up the message I sent back in 2007.

In it, I innocently explain that I live 200 miles away and would like to get some information about the dogs before making the drive. I told them I lived in an apartment and had a cat. I also said I planned to take the dog running for an hour every day.

No response.

Onto the next.

This humane society did email me back, and when I asked about a certain husky mix, they actually gave me the phone number to the dog’s previous owner and told me to talk to her if I wanted information.

I was uncomfortable calling this person, but since the shelter encouraged me to do so, I did. I wanted to get as much info about the dog before driving 100 miles to the shelter.

I will never forget that heartbreaking experience of this dog’s former owner – a complete stranger to me – crying on the phone about how her landlord only allowed two dogs and she had been forced to choose which of her three to give up.

“If you could please find it in your heart to adopt Hallie …” she said, crying.

The next day, I got a nasty email from the shelter director asking how dare I call the dog’s previous owner?

This surprised me, obviously, but I still didn’t hold it against anyone! I just figured it was a miscommunication, and I actually even apologized.

Since “Hallie” did not sound like a good fit for me, I asked the shelter if they could please email me if they happened to come across a dog that might be a better fit.

Again, I never heard anything back.

And I still did not place judgment on any of these groups! This goes to show that adopters are generally pretty forgiving and understanding, but come on!

How I finally found a dog to adopt

The last thing I did was go back to the local rescue group’s site (the one that never called me back). I browsed through its dogs again. This time, they had what was called a “courtesy” listing.

A black Lab mix named Junior was listed as a “courtesy” which meant his current owner still had him but was trying to re-home him. The rescue was allowing her to advertise the dog on its site, and her personal phone number was listed as a contact.

“Junior’s” description said he was cat friendly, dog friendly, very mellow, potty trained, kennel trained, 1 year old and neutered.


I actually wasn’t that interested in a “boring” black Lab mix, but whatever. He sounded like a good match.

Thank God I made that call because I ended up with the world’s best dog.

“Junior’s” owner at the time answered all of my questions patiently and in great detail. She was the first person to really do so.

I remember I asked if “Junior” would like to go running, and she said, “He would love that!”

I asked about everything, whether he was quiet in his kennel, how he was with other dogs, how much energy he had.

When I jokingly said all Labs are high energy (just to test her response), she told me, “No, he’s not like that at all.”

So, about two weeks later I made the 60-mile drive to the small farming town of Ada, Minn., and met my future dog, now known as Ace.

When shelters fail to communicate with adopters

Looking back, I now realize all those adoption groups missed the mark.

I did find the perfect dog, but my “perfect” dog happened to be from the only person who took the time to answer my questions.

Had any of the adoption organizations taken the same amount of time to help me, I guarantee you I would’ve found my “perfect” dog from them as I was plenty eager to get a dog.

I don’t know what the problem was. Maybe they didn’t like that I lived in an apartment. Maybe all the volunteers were too busy to get back to me. Or maybe I needed to be more patient, to call five or six times instead of one or two.

In my case, it worked out fine and I was still able to help a dog in need. But how many others would end up going to a breeder, a classified ad or the local pet shop?

I believe most people truly want to adopt a dog, but it needs to be easier for them to do so.

When it’s too difficult to adopt from a shelter, people are going to turn to places like Craigslist.

Why it’s OK to re-home dogs on Craigslist

Sometimes it’s challenging to get a dog from a shelter, rescue or a good breeder. They might not have the dog for you, they might have adoption requirements you can’t meet (like having a fenced yard) or the timing might not be right.

I occasionally foster dogs and cats that are up for adoption with local rescue groups. To foster an animal means to provide it with a loving home until it gets adopted. I usually post my foster animals on Craigslist as a way to get more attention to them.

Is it a good idea to post rescue dogs and cats on Craigslist?

I’ve never actually asked the rescue groups if it’s OK to use Craigslist to promote their animals. I figured I’d hear soon enough if this was a big no-no. Well, a few weeks ago one of the rescues asked me to remove my foster cat from Craigslist. So I did.

I understand where the rescue is coming from. It is only looking out for the best interest of the animals.

I just can’t agree with its decision never to use Craigslist.

446 impounded cats were killed in the three local pounds I lived near during 2010, according to the pound stats reported by Adopt-A-Pet. Forty-two impounded dogs were also euthanized.

Craigslist is an easy and free way to match these homeless cats and dogs with potential homes. People are searching Craigslist for animals anyway. The rescues should take advantage of this.

Craigslist is a good place to post dogs for adoption

American eskimo dog

I see Craigslist for what it is – another tool people are using to find animals for adoption.

  • People search Craigslist.
  • They search PetFinder.
  • They check Facebook.

And if they are aware of the actual rescue site, they might check that.

Perfectly acceptable and loving dog owners use Craigslist all the time to look for animals to adopt.

I search the local pet section on Craigslist at least once per week.

Rescues should want to be where people are already looking.

It shouldn’t matter if someone finds the rescue’s website through a Google search, a Craigslist search or a blog. What matters is that people are finding the rescue’s site somehow!

There are a lot of local dogs and cats that have been up for adoption with the local shelters in my area for well over a year! The more people who see these animals, the better!

Why can Craigslist be a bad place to post dogs for adoption?

There is a slight risk that the wrong type of person could use Craiglist to search for free animals. “Free to good home” dogs and cats could easily be obtained for research, dog fighting, baiting, etc.

I don’t know how often this actually happens. There is no real way of knowing, and I’m going to assume this is extremely rare.

But this is the reason why rescues have strict adoption policies in place. It’s why rescues have extensive adoption applications and interviews. It’s why they check references, do home visits and charge adoption fees.

All of these steps are in place to help separate the good homes from the bad.

Bad people are out there. They are on Craigslist, but they are everywhere else, too.

I choose to believe there are more good people using Craigslist than bad.

Most people love animals.

How to properly post a dog on Craigslist

I have used Craigslist for the past few years to post animals for adoption.

The key to posting on Craigslist is to do it properly.

Post sparingly.

If you post too often, you will be flagged as spam and your account and/or your IP address will be banned from Craigslist.

So don’t post an animal more than once a month or maybe even every six weeks. When you write your second post, change up the copy so it’s different than your first. Or create a second Craigslist account with a different email address.

Work within the rules.

Craigslist has strict policies for animal postings.

No animal “sales” are allowed on Craigslist.

“Re-homing” an animal is OK, along with a small adoption fee.

My Craigslist posts say something simple like this:

Purebred American Eskimo dog in Fargo needs a new home. 9 years old. Very sweet and laid back. Up to date on shots. Neutered. Kennel trained. Housebroken. Doesn’t do well with kids, but OK with other pets. He is my foster dog. Email for more info.

That’s it.

Then I include two or three closeup, really cute photos.

Notice I do not mention the name of the rescue or any fees. Doing either could get the post flagged for removal.

I don’t even put my name or email in the posting. Instead, I just use the automated email that Craigslist gives me, which will funnel the emails to my gmail inbox. I usually get one response or so per week, so nothing out of control.

Usually the emails are from people who ask which rescue organization the animal is with and what the adoption policy is.

I answer all the questions I can and direct anyone who’s interested to the rescue’s website where the adoption process is explained in detail. This weeds out the majority of the bad people because animal abusers are not going to deal with rescues.

Unfortunately there are much easier ways to obtain free dogs and cats for dog fighting or research. I wish that wasn’t the case.

Be careful if you are re-homing a dog on Craigslist.

I realize that no matter what, life gets in the way and good people have to find new homes for their pets.

I have never had to re-home an animal, so I can only try to imagine how hard that would be.

If I were in that situation, I would try to face reality sooner rather than later. I know it can take many weeks to find a good home for a dog. I wouldn’t want to wait until the last minute because I would be forced to make desperate choices. My dog deserves better.

If I knew I had to find my dog Remy a new home, I would do my best to accept this early on and begin planning. Craigslist would be an appropriate tool for doing so.

Smart people will use Craigslist properly.

Unfortunately there are a lot of unintelligent people out there who try to re-home their dogs on Craigslist by letting them go to pretty much anyone.

Those of us who care about dogs are smart about the process and make sure to interview the potential adopters. Meet the entire family. Check references. Make arrangements to visit their home.

Giving a dog away for free

I wouldn’t necessarily charge a re-homing fee for my dog. Whether or not someone is able or willing to shell out $50 for a dog would not make or break the deal for me. If you want to give your dog away at no cost, one thing you could do is list the dog for a $100 adoption fee. Then, when you find the right person, you could give them the dog at no cost.

I know what you’re thinking. A re-homing fee will weed out the psychos looking for a free dog.

Well, I got my black lab mix for free. I’m not a psycho. Ace and I were very happy and he lived a long life of 12 years.

Speaking of black dogs …

Does it take longer for black dogs to get adopted?

Black dogs might have a harder time getting adopted simply because of their color. This logic mostly applies to big, black dogs. And also black cats

But lately as I think about my old black dog, I wonder if this “black dog syndrome” really exists.

Are black dogs truly harder to place into homes? Or is “black dog syndrome” another animal sheltering myth? Is it a way for us rescue volunteers to put the blame on the public?

“It’s not our fault he hasn’t been adopted yet,” a shelter volunteer might say. “No one wants a big, black dog.”

Shelters and rescues are not doing black dogs any good by spreading these negative messages.

People want to hear positive messages. Something like, “Did you know our rescue saved 100 black dogs from the pound last year? We have 20 black beauties waiting to be adopted today.”

Positive energy goes a long way.

The problem with “black dog syndrome” is not whether it exists – it very well might. The problem is how shelter and rescue workers don’t even question it.

There are no professional statistics to back up “black dog syndrome.” (If you have some, show me.) Black dog syndrome is nothing more than an urban legend.

Questioning “black dog syndrome”

Do people really seek out lighter-colored dogs? Spotted dogs? Is the American dream to own a golden retriever or a golden lab?

I don’t think so.

The KC Dog Blog did a nice job questioning this very issue of “black dog syndrome.” It asks: Could it be that it seems like shelters are full of black dogs because there are so many of them in the first place?

We do know, for example, that the Labrador is the most popular breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club. It has been the most popular breed for years. Not only that, but black is the most common color for Labs because black is a dominant gene for the breed.

It’s safe to say the black lab is the most popular dog in the United States.

People are obtaining their black labs somewhere. Perhaps rescues and shelters need to work harder to compete with breeders, pet shops and people re-homing their dogs. There is definitely a demand for black labs. We need to step up our game.

How to help black dogs get adopted

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume black dogs are harder to get adopted. If that is the case, then it’s just a reason for rescues and shelters to try harder.

That means making it easier for people to adopt by getting these big, black dogs out into public every day of the week, lowering adoption fees and offering adoptions during convenient hours. Getting rid of the “home visit” would also make adopting more appealing.

Rescues should offer reduced adoption fees on any long-term animals, regardless of color.

They should offer adoption specials on black animals for at least a month each year.

They could also create a fun photo contest with judges to see who can get the best pictures of the black dogs up for adoption. That could be a lot of fun!

A costume contest for black dogs could also make an entertaining fundraiser.

Obstacles for big, black dogs

There are certain points I just can’t argue.

Black dogs are definitely harder to photograph.

This is not an excuse, though. It just means shelters need to make sure to get better photos of the black dogs. It’s not that hard to get a good pic of a black dog outside with good lighting. I do this every day.

Another factor is that black pets have a distinguished look even if they have just a hint of gray. They look old. Few people want to adopt old dogs. 

It certainly does seem like black dogs and cats are overlooked. I’ve known many black dogs locally that waited years to get adopted. There are also black cats in our local shelters that have been waiting for homes just as long.

Nearly every shelter, pound or rescue worker I talk to will back up “black dog syndrome” based on her experience that black dogs do get adopted last.

Some shelters will even kill black animals as quickly as they legally are allowed because they “know they won’t be adopted.” Why waste money on a dog that will sit in the shelter for months? It’s better to “euthanize” and open up space for “more adoptable” animals.

That’s just as bad as killing a healthy dog (of any color) based solely on her breed.

Reasons to adopt a black dog

My best advice when adopting a dog is to choose a dog based on his personality and temperament, not his appearance. My dog Ace was the ideal dog for me, whether he was black, tan or spotted didn’t matter.

When someone goes through a dog rescue group or animal shelter to adopt a dog, she already has a “perfect” dog in mind before she even meets the dogs.

This makes it much easier for that person to overlook all the big, black mutts, and walk right towards the beagle or the first “golden retriever mix” that catches her eye. (Tip: If you want to get a dog adopted faster, call it a “golden retriever mix.”)

Nothing’s wrong with black dogs, anyway …

Black dogs are sweet…

Black dogs are pretty …

They have personality …

There are dozens of black dogs in our regional shelters and rescue organizations. If you’re interested in adopting a dog or puppy, I hope you’ll consider a black dog!

Now that we’ve covered more than you need to know on adoption, here are some resources for you if you decide to adopt a dog or puppy!

How to adopt a puppy

If you decided you want to adopt a puppy, congratulations! There are many puppies available through rescue groups and shelters throughout the country. The best thing to do is do a google search for rescue groups, animal shelters and humane societies in your area and visit their websites to see what kinds of puppies are currently available.

Depending on where you live, there may be a high demand for rescue puppies. By that, I mean the puppies typically get adopted almost immediately.

If that is the case in your area, you should fill out an adoption application with a couple of rescues/shelters so you are approved to adopt ahead of time. This process often takes 2-3 weeks, depending on the rescue group. That way, once the right puppy is available, you will already be in the system and ready to adopt. That is the hard part, waiting!

In the meantime, it’s a great idea to attend the rescue or shelter’s adoption events so you can meet some of the puppies or dogs and also to get to know the rescue volunteers and their process.

Once you’ve been approved to adopt through that particular group, then you can typically take a dog or puppy home the day of the adoption event.

What do you have to pay to adopt a puppy?

The cost to adopt a puppy depends so much on where you go to get the puppy. A shelter or humane society funded by local government typically charges less than an independent rescue group. However each facility is different. 

You can expect to pay $80 to $150 to adopt a puppy from a “pound” or shelter. You should plan to pay more, ranging from $150 on up to $600+ if you go through a rescue group. If you’re not sure, check the specific group’s website for adoption fees. The adoption fee is often higher for a puppy vs. an adult dog due to the higher demand for puppies.

If you adopt a puppy from Craigslist, it depends on what the individual rehoming the puppy wants to charge. On average, the adoption fee is typically $100 to $300.

How to adopt a puppy for free

It’s hard to find a free puppy to adopt unless you adopt a puppy or dog through a friend or family member who needs to re-home their dog for whatever reason. I did this with my 1-year-old dog, Ace. His original owner just needed to find him a new home, and she was not interested in making any money. 

Occasionally, there are people who list free puppies on Craigslist or in the newspaper classifieds. More often, though, it’s adult dogs that are listed for free or a small fee. 

Of course, you want to be careful about adopting a “free” puppy or dog. Ask a lot of questions to learn about the puppy’s background. Is she sick? What is her personality? Has she ever bitten anyone? Why is this person giving away puppies for free?

Health concerns with puppies – parvo, mange, etc.

If you buy a puppy through a good breeder, you should not have to worry about diseases or parasites such as parvo, kennel cough, intestinal worms, fleas or mange. The puppies will have had a round or two of vaccinations, they will live in sanitary conditions and they will be de-wormed. 

Puppies from a breeder often come with a health guarantee against issues such as hip dysplasia, and the parents and grandparents are (hopefully) screened for common hereditary issues in that particular breed.

Likewise, when you adopt a puppy through MOST shelters or rescues, they will provide the puppy with medical care and if there are any issues they should disclose this information to you, the adopter.

On the other hand, certain municipal animal shelters are managed on very little funding, overrun with stray animals and understaffed. It’s very possible to adopt a very, very sick puppy from a shelter or “pound.” 

You would hope the shelter would disclose any health issues with adopters, but the reality is they do not always do so. The staff may not even be aware of the puppy’s illness and the puppy may not have received any type of evaluation or medical care at all. This is a risk you take when adopting a puppy from a shelter.

Common health issues in puppies include:

Parvo in puppies. Parvo is a serious, deadly virus that can strike dogs and puppies that have not been vaccinated against it. Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. Puppies should be vaccinated against parvo at about 6 weeks of age. Do not adopt a parvo puppy if you have other dogs that have not been vaccinated. Learn more about parvo here.

Dog kennel cough. The official name for “kennel cough” is bordetella, and it is caused by bacteria. A lot of people use the term “kennel cough” loosely to describe any respiratory illness in dogs caused by either bacteria or viruses. When a puppy lives in a damp, crowded environment such as a shelter, her risk for this type of infection increases.

Mange in puppies. Mange is a contagious skin disease found in dogs or puppies. It is caused by a certain kind of mite that will burrow through the skin causing itchiness, irritation and often hair loss for the dog. It is treatable but highly contagious to both people and dogs. Learn more about mange here. If you decide to adopt a puppy that has mange, know that it is contagious but very treatable.

No matter where you adopt your puppy, it’s always a good idea to take him to a vet within the first couple of days, even if the puppy appears healthy. That will help your puppy get off to a great start!

What age to get a puppy

It’s best to adopt a puppy around 7.5 to 9 weeks old so the puppy has time to socialize with her mom and littermates. Most breeders, rescue groups and shelters will send puppies home with their new families when the puppies are around this age.

Behavioral issues are less likely to develop if the puppy has had this important 7-9 weeks with her “dog family.” Of course, it’s important to start proper puppy training and socialization with any puppy you adopt, regardless of age.

If something happened to the puppy’s mother – perhaps the litter was found abandoned or the mother died – then it makes sense to adopt the puppy younger than 7 weeks. Just be prepared for potential socialization issues. It’s always a great idea to work with a professional trainer or sign up for puppy training classes with any new puppy, regardless of its age or background.

Here is some information on how to train your puppy.

Now … I’d love to hear from you!

In the comments, let me know how you feel about the phrase “Adopt Don’t Shop” and if you’ve ever adopted a dog or puppy. How was the process for you? This is an emotional topic so please be kind to one another when discussing this issue.

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Related posts:

How are TRUE no-kill shelters saving more dogs?

How much money do dog breeders make?

5 things I wish rescue groups would never do

When a dog rescue volunteer buys a puppy from a breeder