The 7-step guide to adopting a dog


There are so many dogs out there that are patiently waiting to be welcomed into a loving new home.

Australia may be a pet loving nation, but as the numbers show, not all pets are on the receiving end of the love. The RSPCA received 127,146 animals in the 2018–2019 financial year and 33,863 of them were dogs.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, adopting one can change its world, and yours too. Welcoming a dog that’s alone and discarded into your home isn’t just a rewarding experience, itʼs easy too! .

Hereʼs our 7-step guide to help you through the adoption process.

1. Find a breed that suits your lifestyle

Most of us view dogs as four-legged fun furry companions, but did you know dogs are grouped by breed? These are pure breed, cross breed, and mixed breed.

The Australian National Kennel Council Ltd is the administrative body for pure bred canine issues in Australia. They divide breeds into seven categories: Toys, Terriers, Gundogs, Hounds, Working Dogs, Utility and Non-Sporting. Under each category on their website they list the breeds and provide detailed information on each including characteristics and temperament.

Although not always the case, it’s highly likely that when you adopt a rescue dog, it’ll be a mixed breed. This can be wonderful because while it’s not guaranteed, mixed breed dogs can often have a moderate temperament and (thanks to genetic diversity) they may avoid some of the health problems pure bred dogs suffer from. But if you're inclined towards a specific breed, there are a number of breed-specific shelters.

Before you visit an animal shelter, do your research and find a few breeds that'll suit your lifestyle and home. The Australian Kelpie for example, tends to be energetic and needs lots of exercise and stimulation. They're a great fit for a farm or a home on acreage, but they're less likely to suit a young professional couple living in the city.

Another thing to consider is space. The popular Labrador Retriever may make an ideal family dog but if you donʼt have a big yard for it to run around in, you may want to consider a smaller dog.

The RSCPA ʻFind a Friendʼ system can help you choose a breed that’s suited to your lifestyle and home.

2. Get to know their history

Owning a dog is a big commitment, with some breeds known to live up to 20 years or more.3 Breed characteristics give general traits, but every dog is unique so itʼs important to learn about the individual personality of your potential new family member. Questions to ask include:

  • Under what circumstance did the dog join the shelter?
  • How long has the dog been in the shelter?
  • Whatʼs their medical history?
  • Does the dog have any behavioural issues or concerns?
  • What impact will the dog’s age have on their preferences and temperament?
  • What's the dog like with strangers, kids, other dogs and animals?

3. Look at your finances

The RSPCA estimates that the first year of owning a dog will cost between $2,350 and $5,220 a year and $910 per year thereafter, although this can vary depending on several factors including breed and size of the dog.

One of the first costs in dog ownership is the adoption fee which will likely include desexing and microchipping services, vaccinations and vet checks. The fee will vary depending on the shelter.

4. Complete the paper work

If your new dog is older than 12 weeks of age, it must have a microchip inserted under the skin before it’s sold or given to you. A dog with a microchip will be listed on the animal register in the relevant state. Once you take ownership of your new dog, you’ll need to fill out a ‘change of owner details’ form to update the state register..

You’ll also need to register your dog with your local council. The registration fees vary and you may be eligible for a lower fee if your animal is desexed or if you’re a pensioner.

Completing the paper work doesn't necessarily mean you can take your dog home straight away. The RSPCA for example, implements a 24 hour cooling period to avoid decisions made out of impulse.

5. Pet-proof your home

First time dog owners will need to set up an area where their dog will be spending most of their time. If your dog isnʼt toilet trained, you may want to consider a space that is easy to clean, such as a room that is tiled. You should also make sure it is free from valuable or fragile objects.

Other measures you may want to put in place can include:

  • Baby gates to limit access to rooms that hold expensive items or furniture
  • Adequate fencing
  • Covers for electrical outlets
  • Covers for your lounges
  • Containers for electrical cords
  • Shelving units to store items away from reach

6. Welcome the new addition to the family

The first few days in a new home can cause stress and anxiety your new dog as they adjust to their new surroundings. Set a routine you can follow as a family to help with this adjustment. Schedule in play, exercise and feeding time so your new pet will know what to expect.

7. Pet insurance

Youʼve just welcomed a new member to your family, so naturally, you’ll want to be able to give them the best care in case of injury or illness. Unexpected vet fees can leave you out-of-pocket by thousands of dollars and cause financial stress. If you think you won’t have the money to pay for these vet bills, it may be a good idea to look at buying pet insurance. You can usually apply for pet insurance once your dog is eight weeks of age. There are so many policies around so it’s important to do your research to find one that suits your needs. If you’d like to look at your options, Choosi can help you compare policies from a range of trusted Australian pet insurance brands.

Posted: 04 Oct 2016


Search blog


Signup to our newsletter


Receive articles, news & tips as soon as they are published. We'll send occasional updates on the latest product offers, competitions and more!
By subscribing you consent to us contacting you and agree to our Privacy Policy

Related articles

Choosing the right pet for your lifestyle
28 Feb 2014

Choosing the right pet for your lifestyle

Buying a new pet is an important decision and one that represents a long term commitment, so here's what you need to know about the process.

Read More
Things to know before buying a new pet
29 Jan 2014

Things to know before buying a new pet

Buying a new pet is an important decision and one that represents a long term commitment, so here's what you need to know about the process.

Read More
Choosing the right pet food for your dog or cat
14 Jan 2014

Choosing the right pet food for your dog or cat

Before you take your new pet home, make sure you're up to speed on their dietary requirements with these useful guidelines and quick tips.

Read More

Ready to compare?