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How to Get a Dog From Craigslist [2021]

How to adopt a dog through Craigslist

This post is about how to get a dog through Craigslist. Most of these tips will also apply if you’re adopting a dog directly from the previous owner, regardless of whether or not you found him through Craigslist.

When looking for a dog to adopt on Craigslist, you pull up your nearest city first. Then, look in the “community” section and under that, look for the “pets” sub-category.

Dogs being re-homed on Craigslist

If you are interested in a young or middle-aged large dog such as a Lab, lab mix, shepherd mix or pitbull, you might be able to find one in need of a new home on Craiglist.

Depending on where you live, some of the dogs listed for re-homing on Craigslist are listed by their current owners. Most of these people had good intentions but for whatever reason they need to find their dog a new home.

Usually they state the reason is they do not have enough time for the dog or they are moving or they are not providing the dog with enough exercise.

But … know that on Craigslist you will also have to weed through a lot of posts about purebred puppies (avoid those). And there are also a lot of listings for cats, kittens and small animals which you can scroll on by unless you are looking for one of those animals.

Shelters and rescues listing dogs on Craigslist

Sometimes rescue groups and shelters will list some of their dogs for adoption on Craigslist. This is to get more exposure to the animals. In this case, the listing will direct you to their website to fill out their usual application.

Adopt a dog from Craigslist

Puppy scams on Craigslist

There are people listing purebred puppies or trendy mixed breed puppies on Craigslist, which I recommend you avoid at all costs. For example, French bulldogs, mini goldendoodles and mini Australian shepherds, to name a few. The price might be anywhere from $600 to $5,000+.

On the other hand, if someone’s dog had an accidental litter and they’re trying to re-home the puppies, then that is a little different.

For example, if someone has Lab/pitbull mix puppies, this is not a “trendy” mix. Most of us don’t want to encourage these accidental breedings, but they happens and the puppies need homes. The price will probably be reasonable, more like $50 to $300.

Also, when someone uses the term “rescued” or “rescue” it’s probably best to keep on scrolling. There is a high demand for “rescued” puppies and anyone can post a purebred, 8-week old puppy or designer breed and call it a “rescue.”

Trendy breed scams on Craigslist

There are also people “flipping” trendy dogs on Craigslist. Meaning, they will sell a popular breed such as a French bulldog or a mini goldendoodle to anyone willing to pay $5,000.

Be leery when they say something like, “Do your research on the price of this breed before contacting us.”

Or if the first thing they tell you is, “I’m asking $3,500.”

They’re just trying to get your money immediately and do not care about the dog, if they even have a dog at all.

Good breeders have no reason to list their puppies on Craigslist.

A good breeder has no reason to post their puppies on Craigslist because they have a long wait list and more inquiries than they need. They almost always have a waiting list. They will not have immediate puppies available for the first person willing to pay.

Responsible, good breeders can charge a lot of money for their dogs. As they should. But, a good breeder who really cares about the dog will start out by asking you about your lifestyle, why you want a dog, why you are a good fit for this breed, etc.

Pay in cash only and never pay until you meet the dog

Use common sense and trust your gut. This goes without saying, but never send someone from Craigslist a check or give out your credit card info. Don’t pay through PayPal either.

Instead, meet them in person with another family member or friend and pay in Cash only, and only after you have met the dog in person. Never send someone money before you meet the dog.

Is it really OK to get a dog from Craigslist?

Now that I’ve scared you away from Craigslist, I do want to say it is possible to find a nice mixed breed dog. You just need to know what to avoid.

There are pros and cons to searching for a dog on Craigslist.

How about I list some of the benefits now! Here you go:

1. A private adoption through Craigslist is generally easier than going through a rescue group.

There is a high demand for rescue dogs through shelters and rescue groups and therefore most can afford to be very selective about who can adopt. For example, they might require you to have a fenced yard, show proof of income or agree never to use a chain or slip collar.

The adoption process is often long and complicated with home visits and reference checks. Usually, there are others ahead of you on the list for a specific dog.

On the other hand, when you adopt a dog directly from the current owner, it’s usually much simpler.

There will not be a formal adoption process with a “home visit” or references. While it’s possible the dog’s current owner might ask to see your home, most will not. Some might also ask for references to help them know the dog is going to a good home but most will not.

You can have a phone conversation (or email or text) about the dog, the dog’s needs and whether or not you are a good fit for one another. Then you can schedule a good time to meet in person. This is what I did when I got my Lab mix Ace and it was a very positive experience for me.

2. It’s usually less expensive to adopt a dog through Craigslist vs. a rescue group.

Most people listing a dog on Craigslist will ask for a “re-homing fee” because they believe it will help ensure the dog will go to a good home.

From what I have seen, these fees vary from $50 to $400 but it’s usually no more than $250. And the fees are certainly negotiable, if there is a fee at all.

When I adopted my Lab mix Ace, his previous owner did not ask for any money at all. She just wanted the dog to go to a good home and she knew she would be saving money in the longterm by re-homing him.

Often, the dog will come with items such as a dog kennel, dog bed, bowls, food, treats, a leash, collar and toys because the previous owner will have no use for these items anymore.

How to get a dog through Craigslist

3. Dogs listed on Craigslist are often vaccinated and spayed/neutered.

This is not always the case, but usually the dog will have had vaccinations (at least at some point). The dog might also be spayed or neutered already.

You should ask for written records. It’s good to have the health history on the dog, anyway.

4. You can learn a lot about a dog before adopting.

Before I adopted my dog Ace, I had a chance to ask his current owner all kinds of questions, and she was happy to answer.

  • Does he do OK with cats?
  • How much exercise does he need?
  • How does he do in a kennel?
  • Has he had any accidents?
  • Would he make a good running buddy?
  • How does he do with other dogs?
  • Can he be left alone?

Prior to talking with Ace’s previous owner, I had met a lot of other dogs at a shelter. None of those dogs had been “the one” for me because the shelter workers could never answer my questions.

Sometimes they just didn’t respond to my emails. And when I went to the actual shelter, they acted pressed for time and couldn’t stop to talk with me. Sometimes, they just didn’t know enough about the dogs to say whether they would do well with other animals, etc.

This is not a jab at shelters. It’s just that when you adopt a dog directly from the previous owner, that person can tell you all you need to know about the dog. This is a definite benefit!

5. Dogs listed on Craigslist are often trained and well socialized.

There’s usually nothing majorly wrong with these dogs. They might have a lot of pent-up energy and need some obedience training, but isn’t that the case with most dogs?

Many of these dogs have had at least some basic training. By that, I mean they are at least housebroken and know the basics like sit and stay.

Many have lived with other dogs or cats or children and have at least been walked on a leash before. Some of them are already crate/kennel trained, used to riding in a car, etc.

6. You’re preventing a dog from entering the shelter system.

Just because a dog is listed on Craigslist doesn’t mean he could end up in a shelter or rescue group, but some of these dogs will.

Obviously, if you adopt a dog through Craigslist, it is a win for everyone – the dog, the dog’s owner, the shelters and the rescue groups.

Cons to adopting a dog from Craigslist

Alright, now let’s get to a couple of the cons when you try to adopt a dog through Craigslist. I already mentioned some of the common scams and types of listings to avoid.

Here are some of the other cons:

How to get a dog from Craigslist

1. Some people are difficult to deal with.

No matter how you obtain a dog, there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with some difficult people.

They might ask dozens of questions (which is probably good). Or accuse you of not being a good dog owner because you use a crate or don’t use a crate or because you feed or don’t feed a certain type of food.

They might ask to see your home or to speak with references. They might decide you’re not “good enough” for the dog. Remember, it is their choice.

Try to keep in mind all of this is usually because they want the very best for the dog. It’s usually nothing personal. Just try to be happy they are making an effort to find the dog a good home.

If the person just seems a little too weird about who can have the dog, just move on and consider one of the thousands of other dogs waiting for homes.

2. The previous owner may not be able to take the dog back if it doesn’t work out.

Shelters and rescue groups will usually take the dog back if it doesn’t work out. They usually offer a two-week “trial period” to make sure the dog is a good fit.

This may or may not be the case with the dog’s previous owner. Some people will be able to take dogs back. Others truly can’t.

You should definitely ask this question before committing to the dog, and do everything you can to make sure the dog is a good fit before you bring the dog home.

3. The previous owner may want to stay in touch.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the dog’s previous owner wants to stay in touch, but you’ll want to establish some boundaries.

How often will the previous owner expect text updates? Are you OK with that? How often will she want to visit, if at all? Are you OK with that?

Are you OK giving her your address? Would you like her to call you before just showing up? Or maybe you would rather not keep in touch at all. That’s OK, too, because this will be your dog.

When I adopted my dog Ace from his previous owner, I never spoke with her again after that day. I wish I would’ve emailed her to tell her everything was going well but I didn’t. She never reached out to me either.

4. The owner could change her mind at the last minute.

I’ve never had to give up a dog, so I don’t know how emotional and difficult it is. I can’t imagine how hard it would be.

So, keep in mind that it’s possible for the owner to back out at the last minute and decide to keep the dog after all.

This could happen even after you’ve talked about the dog over the phone and even after you’ve met the dog. If this is the case, try to be understanding, move on and consider one of the many other dogs in need of a home.

There’s also that chance that the person could decide they want the dog back several days or weeks after you have adopted the dog. I’m not sure how that would work legally, but it’s not something I would be excited to deal with.

When you adopt through a shelter or get a dog through a breeder, you will not have this problem.

How to get a dog through Craigslist

OK, now that we got the pros and cons of adopting a dog through Craigslist out of the way, here are some tips to make the process go smoothly.

Just a reminder, I would avoid all purebred puppies listed on Craigslist, at least trendy purebreds or trendy designer mixes such as goldendoodles.

What you can potentially find on Craigslist is a nice young or middle-aged Lab, shepherd mix, pitbull or other various mixed breeds.

1. Ask tons of questions about the dog before agreeing to meet.

Ideally, you should get most of your questions answered ahead of time. Know your “deal breakers” so you can ask these and get them out of the way.

For example, does the dog absolutely have to get along with cats? Can you deal with potty training? Separation anxiety? Etc.

I recommend an actual phone conversation vs. text or email. Yes, I know this is hard for you young people but it will give you a much better feeling for the situation.

2. Bring the whole family to meet the dog, if you can.

Everyone in your family should go along for the initial meeting. Bring your existing dog along too, if possible. (Probably should leave your cat at home though!)

Just make sure to give the other party a heads up if you’re bringing other dogs. Keep your dog in the car at first or have one person stay back with your dog. Here are my tips for doing slow dog to dog intros.

If you live alone, ask a friend to go along. This is a safety precaution.

How to adopt a dog through Craigslist

Another benefit to bringing a friend along is it’s good to get an unbiased opinion about the new dog. Bring a friend who will give honest feedback. (Not the friend who will convince you to adopt any and every dog!) You want to find the right dog.

3. Meet the dog. Then wait a few hours before committing.

It’s a good idea to give yourself a full day or at least an hour or two to think about the dog after you’ve met. I realize this is not always possible if you had to drive a long ways to meet the dog or if you’re concerned someone else will adopt it if you don’t take the dog immediately.

I just mean you don’t want to rush your decision, so if you can even go get a coffee and talk with your family for 45 mins before committing, that is usually a good idea. Adopting a dog is a huge decision and commitment.

I know it’s hard not to take the dog home right away, especially if you feel a sense of urgency about getting the dog to a better place.

When I went to meet my dog Ace for the first time, I asked his owner if I could take him for a walk. She was comfortable with this, so my husband and I walked Ace for about 20 minutes.

This gave us some time to get to know Ace and talk about our decision without the current owner around. This won’t always be an option, but it was helpful for us to interact with Ace for a bit on our own.

4. Take dog-to-dog intros very slowly.

If you do bring your other dog along, be very careful about introducing the two dogs. Most people rush dog-to-dog intros and it sets the dogs up for a scuffle.

You want to avoid introductions in the house, especially in doorways. Also, avoid head-on, nose-to-nose meetings.

Instead, always do introductions outside, ideally in a “neutral” area. Take them for a short walk side by side. Don’t have them meet walking head on. Instead, have one dog already walking and just start strolling behind with the other by a good 20 feet. Then try to walk parallel, with 10 feet between.

Only move closer and have the dogs interact if they are both starting to calm down. Look for relaxed body posture, sniffing the ground, loosely wagging tails and casual glances. Those are all good signs.

Dogs that are jumping on their hind legs, choking themselves, panting heavily and pulling towards each other are way too excited to have an appropriate greeting.

5. Pay with cash when you buy a dog on Craigslist.

This is just the most obvious way to avoid a check or credit card scam.

And obviously, never send money before meeting the dog!

OK, what do the rest of you think? Have you ever adopted a dog through Craigslist?

Let me know in the comments!

My favorite dog training tools:

  1. Wellness treats.
    Wellness Well Bites are treats almost all dogs are willing to work for and focus on!
  2. Treat bag.
    Carry your treats in a convenient treat pouch around your waist so you’re always ready to reward your dog for heeling, coming when called or paying attention to you.
  3. Gentle Leader.
    A Gentle Leader helps a lot of dogs learn not to pull on the leash.

Additional Resources:

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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