Why Should You Adopt A Dog? Top Reasons to Adopt

By Janelle Leeson

Woman teaching dog fun trick
Gabi Bucataru / Stocksy
Adding a dog to the family is a rewarding experience that brings love, companionship, exercise, and fun. Sure, it’s also a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But before writing off a pup as too much work or too costly, consider all the benefits of having a canine companion. Better yet, before putting a deposit on a puppy from the breeder, be sure to consider the benefits of adopting a puppy, adult, or senior dog from the shelter.

Why is adopting a dog a good thing?

Millions of wonderful dogs are waiting for their forever homes at shelters and rescue organizations across the country. In fact, many shelters, like the San Diego Humane Society, are at capacity.

“By opening your home to an animal through adoption, you help create space in the shelter for other animals in need,” says Nina Thompson, Director of Public Relations at the San Diego Humane Society. Of course, while making room for a dog in need, you’ll also be providing your chosen pup with a second chance at life.

Many shelter dogs have faced adversity or abandonment at no fault of their own. According to Shelter Animals Count (SAC), 3.6 million dogs and puppies enter shelters annually in the United States, but only 1.5 million find homes. This means that almost two million dogs are still waiting for a loving family — each year.

The top reasons to adopt a dog

No matter where you are in your adoption journey, it’s a safe bet that you have several compelling reasons for contemplating adopting a shelter dog. To help you make an informed decision, we’re sharing our top 10 reasons why choosing to adopt a dog from a rescue, shelter, or foster organization can be a great fit.

1. You’re saving a life.

Shelters are sanctuaries for animals year-round, Thompson says. In the spring, shelters are flooded with vulnerable puppies, summer brings an influx of strays, and the holidays come with an increase in pets who have slipped out the door. When more dogs come to the shelter than there are adopters, shelters are faced with making hard decisions.

It’s quite distressing how many dogs are euthanized a year, says Susan Nilson, an accredited cat and dog training and behaviorist specialist at the Cat and Dog House. The statistics she’s pointing to: 390,000 dogs are euthanized annually. That’s a 25 percent increase since 2021, according to Shelter Animals Count, a national database that tracks pet outcomes at American shelters. Fortunately, we can all help get dogs into their forever homes by adopting, fostering, or volunteering.

2. You help break the cycle of pet overpopulation.

Pet overpopulation is a serious issue in the U.S., primarily caused by factors like overbreeding and abandonment. Spaying or neutering your dog is an effective way to prevent overpopulation and microchipping your pet can help keep them out of shelters and returned safely to home. Adopting a rescue dog helps reduce overbreeding by decreasing the demand for purebred or designer dogs.

3. You help reduce animal cruelty.

When you choose to adopt a dog, you become part of the solution to combat animal cruelty. Your decision to adopt directly contributes to a reduction in the demand for puppies from backyard or unethical breeders. These breeders often prioritize profit over the well-being of animals, subjecting dogs to neglect and abuse to cut costs.

Consider the shocking case of 111 Doodles rescued from a backyard breeder in California. Puppies were piled in small crates and living in filth, some so badly matted they couldn’t see. “They were left to fight for food and water and, in some instances, killed each other,” reports one rescuer in the story covered by The Wildest. By adopting, you help prevent dogs from enduring such environments and help shut down unethical breeding operations.

4. Adopting is often less expensive than buying from a breeder.

Adopting a pet comes with adoption fees ranging from $50 to $350, which help to cover the cost of caring for the animals and running the shelter. However, many shelters and rescues offer low-cost events throughout the year, and pets are typically sent home vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and microchipped. Additionally, many shelters and rescues offer low-cost or free training programs and other resources to help new pet parents get started off on the right foot.

Purchasing a dog from a breeder can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 on average, not including essential medical care.

4. You can find a dog who is perfect for you.

Opting to adopt a dog from a shelter based on their personality and temperament increases the likelihood of bringing home the ideal companion. As dog behaviorist Nilson emphasizes, “Mismatched temperaments can lead to future issues and conflicts.”

When adopting from a shelter, you’ll have the pleasure of meeting a variety of adoptable dogs, spanning purebreds, mixed breeds, puppies, adults, and seniors. Many of them have received special care from foster families or shelter volunteers who can provide valuable insights into each dog’s behavior and needs, so you can find the perfect dog to join your family.

5. You can choose a dog who requires less training.

Because shelters have a wide range of dogs to choose from, pups with all different levels of training are available. Some rescue dogs may have experienced trauma and need additional care and patience, while others are well-trained and prepared for their new homes. For instance, puppies may be housetrained by their foster parents or volunteers, and adult dogs may have excellent socialization skills and manners, with basic training already established.

6. Your dog may have fewer health issues.

Purebred dogs frequently come with a bundle of health concerns, including but not limited to cancer, hip dysplasia, heart defects, and even a handful of neurological issues. On the flip side, mixed-breed dogs tend to dodge many of these hereditary health hurdles. Rescues and shelters also provide their animals with veterinary care to ensure that your new dog comes to you with a clean bill of health.

7. You’re giving a second chance to a deserving animal.

Every dog deserves a loving home that’s safe and secure. Unfortunately, many dogs are abandoned at shelters for reasons beyond their control, such as an older dog who begins developing age-related health conditions. In fact, The MSPCA-Angell reports the most common reason for surrendering a dog is lack of time, followed closely by financial constraints. Whatever the reason, adopting a shelter dog provides them with a new opportunity for a happy and fulfilling life.

8. It’s good for your health.

Having a pet is good for your health, both physically and mentally. Research shows that pets can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and stress levels. They can also help reduce loneliness and depression. Pets can also be beneficial for children, helping them to develop empathy and responsibility.

9. You’ll get an instant snuggle buddy.

In exchange for your care, dogs provide endless affection and companionship. So, when it’s time to unwind and catch up on your favorite shows or movies on Netflix, they’re right there with you. If you’re looking for a cuddly companion for relaxing on the sofa, dogs are the ideal sidekick.

10. You’ll have a lifelong friend.

“When you adopt a rescue dog, you open your heart and home to a loving companion while also making a positive impact on the broader issue of pet homelessness,” Nilson says.

What does “adopt don’t shop” mean?

“Adopt don’t shop” is a campaign slogan urging people to choose adopting shelter and rescue pets over purchasing from pet stores or breeders. The core message is that opting for adoption means giving homeless pets a second chance at life rather than bringing another puppy or kitten into an overpopulated world. Adoption also reduces the demand for puppy mills and other unethical breeding practices.

Why should I adopt a dog instead of buying one from a breeder or pet store?

If you’re looking for more reasons to adopt a pet rather than purchasing one, exploring the issue of puppy mills and backyard breeders provides valuable insights.

Why are puppy mills bad?

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that prioritize profit over animal welfare. Dogs in puppy mills are often kept in cramped and dirty living areas or cages, and they may have limited access to food, water, or veterinary care.

Buying a puppy from a puppy mill or backyard breeder not only supports a cruel and inhumane industry but contributes to pet overpopulation. You’re also at risk of getting a puppy with health and behavioral problems. The Humane Society estimates that there are over 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., producing approximately 1.2 million puppies a year.

It’s important to note that puppy mills are legal in most states, including breeding dogs in unfit conditions, taking puppies away from their mom prematurely, and trucking them across state lines to be sold in pet stores. That said, states such as New York, have taken action to shut puppy mills down.

What is problematic about dog breeding?

“If people really knew the misery behind the majority of breeding and ‘designer dogs,’ they would think twice before participating in such a brutal industry,” says Ana Bustilloz, director of communications and marketing at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA). That might sound harsh, but even the creator of the beloved Labradoodle says creating the designer dog was the worst mistake of his life.

Neither Bustilloz nor Wally Conron — the Labradoodles’ creator — are blind to the horrible conditions of backyard breeding programs. They also point to the higher likelihood of medical and behavioral conditions in designer dogs and the overall effect breeding programs have on pet overpopulation.

Why do people buy dogs from breeders?

When purchasing from a reputable breeder, pet parents often seek specific breeds, pedigrees, or particular traits in their dogs. If you’re seeking a particular breed of dog, consider a breed-specific rescue.

What else should you consider when adopting a dog?

It’s encouraging to note that 85 percent of people are considering adopting their next pet. This is particularly good news because adoption rates saw a 26 percent decline in 2020 and haven’t fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, only about half of those who express this intention actually follow through, often citing strict adoption requirements, poor communication with the shelter, or misconceptions about adoption being cost-free.

If you’re considering adopting a pet, keep in mind that shelters are at full capacity and with a limited budget for staffing. Despite these challenges, they work hard to not only place pets in homes but to place them in the right homes. Keep the following in mind before making the decision.

  • Make sure you are ready for a lifelong commitment.
  • Evaluate your lifestyle and specific needs.
  • Research the responsibilities and costs associated with pet care.

Once you have decided that you are ready to adopt a dog, visit your local shelters and rescue organizations. The staff can help you find a dog who is a good fit for your lifestyle and needs.


Is adopting a dog cheaper than buying from a breeder?

Adopting a pet isn’t free. However, adopting a dog is typically less expensive than buying a dog from a breeder. In addition to lower adoption costs, rescue pets are often sent home with essential vaccinations, spayed or neutered, and microchipped. Shelters and rescues may also provide additional medical and behavioral support.

What happens if a dog doesn’t get adopted?

Shelters have a limited amount of space and resources, so they may euthanize dogs who don’t get adopted within a certain period of time. 390,000 dogs are euthanized annually.

But in 2022, 57 percent  of shelters in the U.S. were identified as “no-kill” shelters, which means they do not euthanize animals unless they are terminally ill or considered a danger to public safety. At no-kill shelters, dogs who don’t get adopted may stay for months or even years until they find a home. If no-kill shelters run out of room, they will not be able to take in additional animals in need.

Where can I adopt a dog?

When you’re ready to adopt a shelter dog, you can visit Adopt A Pet to find available dogs in your area. You can also go directly to your local shelter or rescue organization’s website — most shelters and rescues share adoption profiles on their websites, so you can browse through the dogs available for adoption and learn more about their personalities and any special needs.

Janelle Leeson is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Inside Your Dog’s Mind, Inside Your Cat’s Mind, and Paw Print, as well online at Insider Reviews, NBC Select, Shop Today, PetMD, and Daily Paws. She has two adventure cats, a flock of urban chickens, and a soon-to-be-husband who doesn’t mind housing the occasional foster cat — or five.

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