Adopt, foster, or purchase: the process of finding a dog


It just takes the right amount of love to change a dog’s life. Photo by Madeus Frandina

With around 471 million pet dogs worldwide and many more in shelters, the ways to obtain a dog are numerous. This begs the question: which way is best?


Dog’s. They bring joy into many people’s lives, and the impact they have ranges from life-saving feats to something as simple as providing comfort in times of need. With all the love surrounding our canine friends and family members, there are still a lot of options on which way to provide the best home for a dog.

This conversation can be summed up into three main categories: adopting, fostering, or purchasing (from a breeder). This article will explore all three options, what each entails, and how best to support the dog one decide to nurture. Without further ado, here is the process of finding a dog.



Perhaps the most common way of finding a dog, the process of dog adoption involves taking a dog that has either been rescued, abandoned, or put in a position where it has been taken into a shelter, and providing it a permanent home. 

According to The Zebra, “Every year, 6.5 million dogs, cats, and other former pets are abandoned or lost and enter shelters. But of all these animals, only 3.2 million are adopted and many see shelters again after less than a year of finding a new home.”

In addition to the millions of dogs in shelters, around 670,000 dogs are euthanized (put down) a year. Under the best of conditions euthanasia drugs cause the dog to lose consciousness within as little as three to five seconds, providing a humane death. However, there are more sinister techniques out there. Considered to be “cruel torture devices that have no place in society” by Kellye Pinkleton, Director of Public Policy for Companion Animals, gas chambers are still in use at some shelters today. 

Adopting provides a home for a dog that may otherwise have nowhere to go.

While change is needed to eradicate these systems, another thing stands out: by adopting a dog, humans are saving it from the inevitable fate of being put down, may it be through a humane or inhumane process.

So, with the amount of dogs needing support, how can someone actually put pen to paper and adopt?

The adoption process in Colorado (as provided by is listed as follows, with there being slight variations depending on the area one lives in and the shelter one goes to.


  • Find a dog that seems like a good fit—either online or during an in-person visit to the shelter—and fill out an adoption application.
  • An adoption counselor will review paperwork and arrange a meeting with the dog. This can take place immediately (if visiting the shelter) or in a few days (if the dog was found online).
  • If the meeting goes well, the shelter will contact the owner’s veterinarian and landlord (if applicable). It’s okay if this might be a first pet and the adopter doesn’t have a veterinarian yet; the rescue can recommend some.
  • Once the adopter’s lease and vet are verified, the adoption counselor will talk about the ins and outs of dog ownership. The adopter will likely receive the dog’s medical records and any other extras (informative packets, complimentary bags of food) at this point.
  • Pay the adoption fee and take the newfound pet home!


Freshman Levi Luek shares the impact that taking care of a dog has had on his life, stating “She’s just there whenever I need her. I can go and play with her if I need cheering up.” Luek also praises adopting animals, sharing “it teaches you how to take care of other things in your household, like if you ever become a parent you can learn stuff from taking care of animals.”

All in all, adopting is a very easy (and effective) way to save a dog in need. While the pooch an individual decides to take home may not be purebred, they will have just as much love for the new owner as any other pet.



Fostering is another great way to save a dog in need, even if students can’t provide a permanent home. (Photo provided by World Animal Foundation).

A slightly different process than adopting, the main goal of fostering is to provide a safe, loving home for a pet in need, up until the point where a permanent home is found. While the fosters aren’t obliged to keep the dog, they still may file an adoption application at the end of their foster term.

Fostering is a great opportunity for many people, as it doesn’t require a permanent commitment that may not be possible due to outside factors. However, it still allows for an owner and pet to make a connection, and creates opportunities for adoption and a permanent home.

Along with other benefits, fostering keeps many dogs out of shelters, protecting them from euthanasia and providing them with the attention, resources, and adequate nurture that may have not been provided in shelters. Fosters are also given adequate resources to support their pet, easing any stress placed on them.

The process for fostering a dog, according to Petfinder, is listed below.


  • Check (along with other websites) to find shelters and rescue groups near one’s residence
  • Contact the organization about their foster needs and for a foster application.
  • Evaluate applications carefully
  • Complete application process
  • Bring home the foster dog


Fostering a pet, it seems, is a viable alternative to adopting, especially depending on the situation. While students may not be able to provide a permanent home, they can still support a dog in need.


Purchase (from a breeder):

Purchasing from a breeder is a viable alternative to adopting and fostering.

Purchasing a dog from a breeder is a lot different from both adopting and fostering. When purchasing a dog, one will be providing a (hopefully) permanent home for a dog that has never had another owner, save for the breeder, and will most likely be in companion with the owner for the rest of its life. This dog is also often purebred, an attractive quality for some potential owners.

There are some advantages to purchasing a dog: the pet will not have any past trauma from abusive or negligent owners and will be easier to train. In addition, the owner will know the pets history (both genetic and emotional), be able to make an immediate connection with the dog, and have freedom to choose the breed and age.

For people who have allergies, securing a hypoallergenic dog is almost impossible without going directly to a breeder. Meanwhile, adopted or fostered dogs who have previously had owners and experienced time in shelters may have behaviors such as skittishness or lack of house-training due to the situations they were in, making them harder to work with.

However, there is a dark side to purchasing a dog, and that is puppy mills. Puppy mills are “inhumane high-volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers,” according to the Humane Society of the United States. Basically, puppy mills breed massive amounts of dogs unethically to make a profit. 

These puppy mills are often legal, as long as they meet basic requirements such as providing food and water, so the main way to stop them is to get to know the breeder. This includes making sure the dog was ethically bred, as well as being informed about the breeder before purchasing from their practices. 

The process for purchasing a dog from a breeder is included below, provided by the American Kennel Club.


  • Meet the Breeder. 
  • Ask questions. 
  • See the pup’s parents. 
  • Get a full medical history. 
  • Be patient. 
  • Check out our Breeder of Merit and Bred with H.E.A.R.T Programs (along with other reliable programs).


While dogs purchased from a breeder won’t love their owner any more than their fellow canines, they may be the best fit for some and their situations. Student can take this into account when they seek out a pet.