Where (and How) To Get a Dog: 12 Options Explained



So many things to think about when you’re considering welcoming a dog into your family. If you’re still on the fence, this article “Are You Ready for a New Puppy? 16 Questions to Find Out” will help get you off it. Even though the word puppy is in the title, the questions relate to dogs of all ages.

You’re ready, now it’s time to figure out where to get your dog. I have listed 12 options for you to explore, with some being more compassionate choices than others.

  • Shelter or county animal control facility
  • Rescue group
  • Ads in the paper/FB
  • Petfinder
  • Your veterinarian
  • Breeder
  • Internet
  • Pet shop
  • Pet supply store
  • Rescue groups in foreign countries
  • Strays
  • Dog fairs, walks and fun days

1. Shelter or county animal control facility

Approximately four million animals are killed each year in shelters across the U.S., so that alone is a good enough reason to rescue. Unfortunately shelter animals still get a bad rap, with too many people assuming all animals dumped in facilities are there because they are “bad.” There are countless reasons why an animal ends up at a shelter –

  • Death of the owner and there is no one willing or able to take the pet in
  • Confiscated from an abusive situation
  • Victim of foreclosure
  • Loss of income and the guardian can no longer afford to provide for their animal

and so on…

Of course there are dogs surrendered due to behavioral issues, but you will find it is always (okay maybe 99.9% of the time) due to a lack of training by the owner. He or she had no idea how to satisfy the needs of their dog, and did nothing to get advice or guidance.

Some facilities will adopt out unfixed dogs with a deposit, to be returned upon proof of spaying/neutering. Others will have the animal fixed before allowing them to go to their new home. Adoption fees and eligibility requirements vary by shelter, so if you don’t meet the criteria for adoption by one, try another. Long time volunteers are often good people to talk to if you have a question about a particular dog. They tend to spend a lot more time with the animals than staff members do, so they are better placed to tell you about temperament, energy level, and general nature of the dog.

There are so many incredible animals waiting for loving homes, it’s worth a trip.

2. Rescue group

Rescue groups are true lifesavers, often taking in animals who were on death row in shelters and giving them a chance. Some take in any dog that needs a home, others may specialize in seniors or specific breeds. They are almost always foster based, with a network of foster families/individuals who care for the animals in their homes until a permanent one can be found.

A reputable group will have each animal examined by a vet to make sure he/she is healthy, treat any conditions/illnesses, then have each animal fixed before allowing them to be adopted. Since the animals are in foster homes, you will get a good sense of how they behave in a home environment, including how they interact with people, children, and other pets. In many cases they are also trained.

3. Ads in the paper/at work/Facebook offering “free to a good home”

There are ads everywhere listing dogs for sale or free to a good home. These are people that have either put two animals together to breed for profit, or just irresponsible pet owners that allowed their unfixed pets to wander, and are now looking for a way to get rid of the babies. Although the possibility of getting a pet for free may be tempting, the only thing this will accomplish is showing these people that irresponsibility pays…literally!

4. Petfinder

Petfinder is an online resource with listings for various animals available for adoption.

Where and How To Get a Dog 12 Options Explained

5. Your veterinarian

Veterinarians and/or their staff often know of pets available for adoption, and some practices have bulletin boards with notices of dogs needing to be rehomed. Some even care for them at their clinic until a new family can be found.

6. Breeder

If you insist on buying a purebred animal from a breeder (even though many pure breeds are in shelters and foster homes), please be very careful who you buy from. While there are many legitimate breeders who do a wonderful job of ensuring their dogs and pups are healthy and well cared for, more and more unscrupulous “money makers” are around.

They put two dogs together and call themselves a breeder. Sometimes it’s just a “regular” person who’s out to make some money, other times it is on a larger scale known as a puppy mill. Dogs are confined in horrific conditions with barely any food and no veterinary care, while the puppies are sold on to an unsuspecting public.

Do extensive research to make sure the breeder is legitimate, licensed and known. When you find one you’re interested in call them, ask if you can visit to see the facilities and the animals. Anyone who says no is not legitimate, so I beg you not to do business with them.

7. Internet

Many animals sold on the internet come from puppy mills, and other questionable sources. Please steer clear of buying your dog online.

8. Pet shop

Another “source” to avoid, pet shops are stocked with dogs who come from puppy mills. It doesn’t matter how cute that puppy is in the window and how much you want to save his or her life, it’s important to think of the bigger picture.

You may want to help that one, but he will quickly be replaced by another puppy bred in horrific conditions. The only way to shut these “factories” down is by stopping the demand. No demand, no money being made, no more supply.

The good news is, some countries/states are cracking down on the sale of animals in pet shops, some cities even going so far as to pass laws allowing only rescued animals available for adoption. How encouraging is that!

where and how to get a dog

9. Pet supply store

It’s wonderful to see many of the big pet supply retailers like PetSmart and Pet Supermarket working closely with shelters and rescue groups to help save animals’ lives. Some stores have permanent cages with animals available for adoption, while others have adoption events on a regular or semi-regular basis. Buying your supplies in the store at the same time, is a great way to support businesses who do their part to help reduce animal homelessness.

10. Rescue groups in foreign countries

Having spent a few months in Spain and seeing how desperate the situation is, adopting a dog from there or other countries with a high level of homelessness and suffering is another great option. If you’re interested in rescuing a dog from a foreign country, Facebook is the best place to start, as there are many groups posting photos on a daily basis of animals needing homes.

You may ask why you should adopt a dog from overseas, when there are so many animals in need of homes where you live. A valid argument to be sure, and if that’s how you feel, by all means adopt locally.

I mention this as an option because in some countries the suffering is so horrific, the only chance many of these animals have is to be taken in by a local rescue and re-homed outside the country. Having said that, sadly it happens that many people adopt this way and for whatever reason surrender the dog to a local shelter. This puts an added strain on an already over crowded shelter system. Please deal only with groups that have foster homes in place should this type of situation arise.

I also know some shelters make it extremely difficult for deserving people to adopt (yes I know many of them personally), so they (unknowingly) turn to backyard breeders. This is a better option.

11. Strays

If you live in a country with lots of strays, or have a few you spot around the neighborhood, taking a dog off the street is an easy option. Having said that, you need to make sure the dog really is a stray, so have the vet check for a microchip. If there isn’t one and you’re interested in keeping him, a thorough exam is important. Also be alert to possible behavior issues that may arise.

12. Dog fairs, walks and fun days

Many events, whether animal focused or not, have rescue groups with animals available for adoption, or at least an information table about their group. Adopting from them means opening up space for them to save more lives.



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  1. Ruth Epstein

    In our house it is only rescue and am loving that some of the pet stores are working with shelters to help find the pets homes. No breeder will get a dime from me. Great post

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Good for you, I feel the same way! Nothing makes me crazier than all the people I speak to who just went to a breeder for a dog. Okay one thing makes me crazier – a few of my neighbours have recently gotten puppies, from breeders, and have no clue what they’re doing. When I mentioned to one I didn’t realise she was a dog lover she replied “I’m not, I want the company.” She’s an idiot along with many others I live near. They’re all really lovely people, they just don’t have a clue. Yesterday one of my neighbour’s told me he’s getting a puppy and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I asked why he didn’t go to a shelter, told him he can find a dog that doesn’t shed, and yes they have plenty of puppies. He ran out of arguments and looked pretty uncomfortable. Good, that was my plan!! I asked who’s going to train the dog he replied – he teaches people to care for multi million pound (as in currency) machines, how hard can it be to train a dog. Another idiot ruining a poor dogs’ life. Don’t worry, I keep an eye on everyone.

  2. Cathy Armato

    Great, great post Hindy! I love that you’ve covered all the biggest options for adopting a pet. You’re so right when you say that shelter volunteers and staff get to know the pets in their care very well. They can provide great insight about the pet who has stolen your heart! So many pets in shelters have simply gotten lost and the foolish owner neglected to microchip them – that is always a heartbreaking thing when a pet is found in the streets & brought to the shelter but has no tags (or outdated tags) and no microchip. Even if a pet has some behavioral issues, the shelter will often place that pet in foster and we foster parents will work with the animal to try and correct whatever issue they have – as long as it’s minor, and not aggression! Those cases need extra care by a professional. Many rescues are breed specific, so if your heart is set on a specific breed, search for a rescue in your state, or closely neighboring states and you might find the pup of your dreams! Adoption is always a great first option if you will consider it! If you must use a breeder, please do some research to ensure they are reputable! Don’t fall for fancy ads in dog magazines or online.
    Love & Biscuits
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks Cathy! I know in the shelter I used to volunteer at in Florida, there were some incredible volunteers who were there regularly. They were the best ones to ask about a specific dog, definitely not the staff. The dogs are lucky if they end up at a shelter that will put an unknown dog in a foster home. Too many will help them for just a few days, if that, maybe put them up for adoption but too often kill them. I hope this helps people see how many options there are.

  3. Beth

    This is a great overview of the options people have to find their next dog. The ones I have came from different sources, but the ones in my future will be from a rescue or shelter. Most of the dogs I’ve loved came into my life as puppies, but the last one was adopted as an adult. I think my puppy days are behind me.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thank you Beth. I have to admit, it upsets me so much every time I speak to someone who went to a “breeder.” There are so many incredible dogs waiting for homes, and I should say “dying” for homes, it breaks my heart. To be honest I think shelters and rescues, I guess all of us really, could do a better job of educating people about how incredible rescues can be. I think too many people have a negative image that they’re all badly behaved and damaged.


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