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The Ultimate Guide to Adopting a Dog

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Author: Team Perfect Pet

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As a nation of dog lovers, many of us already know how rewarding it is to welcome a new furry friend to the family. However, if you want to adopt a dog for the first time, you should consider a few things first. Fret not, though; we will cover all this and more in our comprehensive dog adoption guide! 

Should I get a dog?

While you may love the idea of adopting a dog, it is a good idea to first evaluate your lifestyle before rushing ahead to the adoption centre or breeder. 

Consider your current lifestyle, will you have time to be there for your furry friend and, importantly, take them for the recommended amount of walks, ensuring that they get the required daily exercise? For this reason, it is beneficial to research dog breed guides, although we will also tackle this in more detail shortly in our guide.

While you may love the idea of adopting a dog, it is a good idea to first evaluate your lifestyle before rushing ahead to the adoption centre or breeder. 

Remember, as a proud pet parent, you will be responsible for caring for your dog for their entire lifespan. It’s a big decision. 

How to get a dog?

If you have decided to adopt a dog, you may be weighing up the options of getting a rescue dog or even considering going directly to a breeder. 

If you get a dog from a reputable licensed breeder, you are more likely to know the dog’s breed and genetic makeup. This means that you are more likely to know what you are getting and, therefore, will know the breed characteristics. However, make sure you are aware of ‘Petfishing’. 

Of course, if you were to adopt a dog, countless rescue dogs are eagerly waiting to be adopted up and down the country from established, reputable rehoming centres. The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes is a great place to start, as they will list your nearest dog rehoming shelter. 

If you are adopting a rescue dog, then it is highly likely that your furry friend would have been first examined and treated by a vet to ensure they are in overall good health.

Furthermore, your rescue dog should also already be microchipped, and nurtured, with any applicable vaccinations often having already been taken care of. 

Where can I adopt a puppy?

You can adopt a puppy from a rehoming shelter. However, always do your research before going to a breeder, as they must be licensed in England. 

If you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder, then consider Lucy’s Law, which, in short, stipulates that licensed breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth. 

Rehoming centres such as The Dog’s Trust may also be able to help, along with our own guides to adopting and buying

How soon can I adopt a puppy?

It is widely accepted by veterinarians and breeders alike that a puppy can be placed in a new home from 8 weeks of age. Young pups still require maternal contact and nourishment up to 8 weeks of age. Ideally, this timeframe also allows them to develop vital social skills slowly with other pups in the litter. 

Don’t forget to consider puppy insurance, which you can get with Perfect Pet Insurance for puppies from 4 weeks old.

Where to adopt a dog? 

Rehoming centres are located all over the UK, with many pooches waiting for their forever home! You can find reputable rescues here, where you can search by location. You can also download a list of Association of Dogs and Cats Homes members. 

How much does it cost to adopt a dog? 

If you are rehoming a dog from a registered charity such as The Dog’s Trust, then at present, it will cost you £225 in England, Wales and Scotland and £212.50 in Northern Ireland. 

The cost to adopt a dog from the RSPCA seems to vary slightly depending on the rehoming centre. However, dogs over the age of 6 months appear to cost from £150 up to £200 depending on the centre. It is worth noting that puppies (6-months and under) cost £250 based on the latest data.

Don’t forget that adopting a dog from a shelter will mean that your pooch is microchipped, spayed or neutered and fully vaccinated, which are costs you do not need to shell out for. 

Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS

A companion animal vet who has always had a passion for writing and client communication. Since she graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2009, she has gained a wealth of experience in first-opinion small animal practice in both clinical and managerial roles

Which dog breed should I get?

When getting a rescue dog, it is worth having an idea of the dog you would prefer before you start looking. It can be very easy to get emotionally swayed into something unsuitable if you haven’t already given it some thought.

The dog’s size can be the main deciding factor for many people. Large and giant breeds like Great Danes, Rottweilers or Irish Wolfhounds may not be suitable for everyone! House and garden size may dictate this, but also previous dog-owning experience and personal preference.

Are you and your family very active? If you like going for jogs and long walks or want to keep busy with dog agility classes, an energetic working breed like a Springer Spaniel, working Cocker Spaniel, Border Collie, or Hungarian Visla might fit in.

Finances should play a part in your decision-making process, too. Large and giant breeds require much greater amounts of food and medication than small breeds. This will have a bigger impact on your monthly outgoings. 

Also, some breeds are more likely to suffer from health complaints than others. Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are much more likely to need veterinary treatment than other dogs, which can be costly. Even pet insurance premiums can be higher on these breeds due to the likelihood that they will need to make claims.

Other factors may include how much grooming you want (as something like a Staffordshire bull terrier will require very little compared to an Old English Sheepdog or Newfoundland) and whether you strongly prefer a pedigree dog over a crossbreed.

How to help a rescue dog settle in?

You can take many practical steps to help your rescue pup settle into their new home. Below our top tips provided by practising vet Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS.

Set up their own bed in the house

All dogs need their own safe space that they can retreat to. This could be a crate if you plan on crate training or a cosy bed or basket. Whatever you choose, it’s important that when your dog is in this area, they are not disturbed. It should be their refuge for peace and quiet, especially if they feel overwhelmed. 

Make sure that small children don’t invade this personal space and that you know how to introduce a puppy to children.  When your dog is here, they should be left to sleep without being disturbed. 

Use calming and appeasing pheromones

The dog appeasing pheromone is something that female dogs produce when feeding their pups. This helps to make the puppies feel secure and calm. Some products can replicate this effect in adult dogs, which you should consider using to help your rescue settle in. These are available as plug-in diffusers, sprays, or impregnated collars.

Dog-proof your home

Make sure any irreplaceable possessions or ornaments are moved out of reach of a waggy tail! Install stair gates if you want to keep your pet downstairs or in a certain part of the house, and make sure your garden is securely fenced to prevent escape attempts. Ensure all food items and cleaning products are hidden away from inquisitive noses. Your dog will settle in faster and bond with you quicker if you aren’t stressed about them getting up to mischief! 

If you are adopting a puppy, then make sure you know how to puppy proof your home. You will thank us later! 

Establish a routine

You get your dog into a daily routine as soon as possible. It will help them to feel secure quicker if they know what to expect from their day. Feeding times should be consistent (if your dog was previously neglected, they may have issues around food), as well as regular walks and predictable bedtimes.

Register with a vet

Register your new dog with a vet as soon as possible. This will make it easier if you need emergency care during the settling-in period, but you should also take your new pet for a check-over shortly after their arrival. You can also use this appointment to discuss preventative treatments like anti-parasite products and vaccinations.

Of course, if you have dog insurance with Perfect Pet, you can also access free expert advice on demand with Vet Assist. 

Manage your expectations

While welcoming a new dog into your home should be an exciting time, you should try and keep your enthusiasm under control. A rescue dog might feel anxious and overwhelmed by lots of fuss. Try speaking to them in low, soothing tones rather than high-pitched baby voices or squeals. 

Your dog will settle in quicker if you allow them to come to you alone. Similarly, avoid having many visitors over during the first couple of weeks. While you are keen to show off your new pup, a busy house with many people coming and going can be overwhelming.

There could also be a few teething problems while you are learning to understand your pet’s personality, their training requirements and any behavioural issues they might have. Not getting frustrated with your new pet during this period is essential. Instead, seek help from the rescue centre, a qualified behaviourist or your vet to help them settle in quickly.

How to introduce a new dog to your dog?

If you already have a dog at home, carefully managing your newly adopted pup’s introduction is important.

It is best to stage the first meeting somewhere neutral. Rather than heading straight into the house with your rescue dog, take them out together somewhere with lots of space. You could arrange for a family member or friend to bring your other dog out to meet you in a field or open park. This will make things much less intense.

Allow the dogs to greet each other in their own time; don’t force anything. If they interact well, praise and reward them. Carefully watch them for negative body language signs, separating them if this occurs.

Once both your dogs are home, you should keep them separate. During supervised introductions, remove any food bowls, treats or toys so that there are no sources of conflict. You should have a lead on both dogs during meetings at this early stage to give you some control if needed. Remember to always praise and reward both of your dogs for good behaviour. It can take a few weeks for your rescue dog to settle into their new home fully.

If you have adopted a rescue dog, then sometimes the rescue centre can help you with an initial introduction before you even take your new dog home, which may help you decide whether the rescue dog might be a suitable match for your existing pet.

Introducing a dog to a cat

First, you should set your home up to maximise your chances of success. Try and create a ‘cat safe zone’. Stair gates are a good way of sectioning off the house and can create areas where the new rescue dog is not allowed (e.g. upstairs). Try to make sure that your cat can easily access their food and water bowls and their litter tray, providing extras in different locations in the house if needed. Escape routes or places to hide from the dog are important, too.

Have your cat safely shut in a room out of sight when bringing your new rescued dog home. The last thing you want is for either of them to have a negative experience, so any first greetings must be carefully staged.

They should continue to be kept separately, to begin with, but you could swap blankets between the animals so that they get used to each other’s scent. After a couple of weeks, some of the initial excitement of their new home should be wearing off, and your rescue dog might be calm enough to meet your cat in a controlled fashion.

These introductions are best made with your dog on a lead for control, ideally with a baby/stair gate in between as a physical barrier. Ensure your dog will come to you when you call them away from the cat. Praise and reward this behaviour. Once you are confident in your dog’s training (which could take several weeks, depending on their interest in the cat), you can start introductions without the lead, keeping the barrier between them. 

When they are both comfortable with this, you can consider removing this barrier, but only if the dog is truly calm and under control. Always ensure the cat has an escape route and be ready to remove your dog if he becomes over-excited.

It is recommended that all interactions between cats and dogs be supervised, so put the barrier in place again if you go out. 

Your cat and dog may never be best friends, but they need to be able to live with each other safely and happily. Speak to a qualified pet behaviourist if you are struggling.

How to introduce a dog to a baby?

Introducing a dog to a baby should be a gradual process requiring careful forward planning and supervision. 

Before introducing your dog to a baby, first ensure that your pooch has basic obedience training and that they can respond promptly to basic commands such as “sit”, and “stay”.

While you will likely have your hands full with a baby, it’s important that you try to continue to maintain your dog’s daily routine, which includes feeding and daily exercise schedules. A well-exercised and mentally stimulated dog is less likely to feel anxious and stressed. 

For the first introduction, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a lead, which can be attached to a dog collar or harness. Allow your dog to approach the baby at their own pace while rewarding calm and good behaviour. 

Finally, remember to ensure that any interaction with your dog and baby is always supervised, no matter how familiar they may be with each other. 


While we have explored every aspect of adopting a dog in this guide, from initial considerations to introducing your pup to their forever home, never forget that adopting a dog is a lifelong commitment. 

We hope that the practical advice outlined in this guide will help you to navigate the adoption process, and open your door to a world of joy, love, and loyal companionship as a proud pet parent. 

The journey of dog adoption is filled with heartwarming moments, and equally challenges along the way too. Never feel though that you have to rush to adopt a dog, and take your time to consider your options and your current lifestyle before making the commitment. 

With the information in this guide, you should now be well-prepared to decide if you are ready to embark on the journey to adoption, 

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