A major part of the dog adoption checklist is understanding that you’ll need to invest in your dog’s health (both mental and physical) and their training and education over their lifetime.

Your Ultimate Dog Adoption Checklist


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Do you have a puppy-shaped hole in your life? Inviting a dog or brand-new puppy to be part of your family is exciting, but it can also be challenging. Hence the need for this pawsome dog adoption checklist (and its fur sister, an article covering what you need for bringing home an adopted dog).

Dogs are complex pack animals, needing lots of love, companionship and exercise. They also need respect, structure and routine to feel happy and safe.

For Love Your Pet Day, PD surveyed more than 1,800 Kiwi pet owners. According to our research, 51% of pet owners have adopted their pet/s from a shelter, and 82% plan to adopt future pets.

There’s no doubting it’s a big decision, so we put together this guide to help you choose and care for your brand-new puppy. We want you reap the rewards of living long, happy lives together. 

Dog adoption checklist (because dogs are for life)

When you’re considering a dog it’s important to remember it’s a long-term commitment, much like having a baby. Dogs are for life, which is why preparing well for parenting one is invaluable. You don’t want to adopt a dog only to end up giving up your pet for adoption down the line because you’ve over committed.

A couple of initial reminders…

Your potential pup’s average lifespan

The average lifespan for a dog is around 11 years. However, some dogs can live much longer – sometimes into their mid-20’s, with smaller breeds living longer than bigger breeds. (Speaking of bigger breeds, meet the biggest dog in the world.)

Do you have all that time to give? Can a dog easily move with you through the life stages you’ll transition through during that period?

They’ll be with you through thick and thin

Your new fur-baby will probably be a part of your life during different life stages like house moves, relationship changes and/or multiple job or career progressions. This includes fluctuations in earning potential and other financial commitments that come and go.

So, let’s look at what a dog will potentially cost you.

Even though this lady cuddling an older dog wanted to adopt a brand-new puppy, this furball melted her heart instead.

The cost of adopting and owning a dog

As part of your dog adoption checklist planning, ask yourself “can I afford a dog?” If you can plan for the ongoing short and long term costs you’ll be satisfied knowing you’re giving your future adopted dog a soft landing, financially st least.

A responsible pet owner should be paying for:

  • Adoption. Registration and dog microchip fees plus initial health checks, potentially including vaccinations
  • Food and shelter. Read about pet nutrition and AAFCO pet food plus our Can Dogs Sleep Outside? article
  • Medical costs. Vet and general health care, like yearly vaccinations, flea and worm treatments and check-ups, as well as unexpected bills for injury, illness, allergies and more
  • Daycare. Doggy daycare while you work or full-time pet boarding while you travel
  • Pet insurance. Choose from our three dog insurance plans to save on the above-mentioned vet bills

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You’ll probably need lots more, like toys, bedding, grooming etc. Let’s have a closer look at some of the main once-off and ongoing costs.

Dog adoption fee

Adopting a dog can cost anything between $200 and $500. This is usually inclusive of costs of vaccinations, worming and flea treatments, microchipping, desexing and registration. Beyond that there are some rolling costs to plan for, both short and long term.

Ongoing costs

A major part of the dog adoption checklist is understanding that you’ll need to invest in your dog’s health (both mental and physical) and their training and education over their lifetime.

As part of our Love Your Pet Day research we wanted to find out the real price of new pets. So, we asked pet owners how much they spend on pets a year. We broke this up into two categories: (1) Vet and other medical care and (2) all other costs.

  • Vet bills and medical care. A third of pet owners spend between $501 and $1,000 annually on health costs, while nearly half (46%) spend up to $500.
  • Other pet care costs. 44% of pet owners spend between $1,001 and $2,500 a year on food, toys, grooming and more. This doesn’t include vet bills or other medical costs, just the other pet-related costs.

Training your dog

Of course, you can’t plan for everything but you can think of the possibilities. For example, what happens if your new dog causes a lot of damage to your apartment or yard?

Did you know a brand-new puppy takes a TON of training? Training to learn to go to the toilet outside, behave around the house, listen to commands, sleep on their own (if you prefer), and so on? Training may not cost you anything but your time and energy if you’re doing it yourself – and that’s still a serious commitment, especially in the first year or two.

There are also a lot of great training opportunities via Dogs New Zealand (read our dog registration article for more on these). Also read our How-To Guides below to give you a great idea of what’s involved in training:

Our ‘How to Stop a Dog Peeing Inside‘ vlog is also a good learning opp.

Before you head down to the shelter to adopt, take a realistic look at how you’ll cope with a brand-new puppy in your life. Are you ready to make it work? Hopefully this dog adoption checklist will help you decide and plan.

This brand-new puppy found a loving home after their human parents diligently checked off all the items on the Dog Adoption Checklist.

What do you want in an adopted dog?

As part of ticking off your dog adoption checklist, ask yourself some questions. Be brutally honest with the answers:

  • Why do you want a dog or brand-new puppy?
  • What are your needs and expectations?
  • Will a dog satisfy those needs and expectations?
  • How much work are you willing to put in?
  • What is your plan B if it doesn’t work out?
  • Life can throw curveballs. What happens if you need to move, travel, or face unexpected challenges?
  • Dogs aren’t a short-term commitment. They’re a lifelong buddy. Ask yourself if you’re prepared to be a loving and responsible dog parent for the entirety of your pet’s life.

If you’ve been completely honest with yourself and you know you’re ready to commit to being a dog parent, then keep reading. If not, then maybe you’re not ready (or you’re better suited to a different pet). And that’s okay! Better to know now than later.

A dog adoption checklist comes in handy at dog shelters.

What don’t you want in a dog?

As well as the qualities you want, ask yourself what you don’t want in a dog as another key step on the dog adoption checklist. This will help you rule out different breeds and more.

Here are additional steps for your dog decision process:

Get the right match

Consider taking a dog temperament test or speaking with a qualified trainer to see which family dog is your perfect match. The New Zealand Veterinary Association also has a great list of tips on choosing the right dog to join your family.  

Get to know your puppy

Find out as much as you can about the dog before you adopt. See whether it’s possible to visit multiple times and spend time with your potential life companion. That way you can get an insight into what your future companionship might look like. Bonus: if you decide to adopt this doggie, you’ll have laid the groundwork.

If you decide to buy, do it ethically

If you decide to buy a dog instead, approach an ethical breeder so you don’t contribute to the success of puppy mills in New Zealand. You also don’t want to be scammed (read more about puppy scams) and end up with no sign of the brand-new puppy you were promised.

Watch this vlog for Dr Cath’s tips on finding an ethical dog breeder in New Zealand:

Choosing the right dog with a adoption checklist

Many would-be dog parents have soft spot for particular breeds because they’re fashionable or look a certain way (fierce or fluffy and cute). However, many trainers warn against choosing a pet based solely on looks or emotion.

They instead recommend you make your choice based on how your lifestyle and personality will match your potential new dog’s energy and temperament.

  • Living space. For example, certain breeds need space to run and burn off energy and won’t be suitable for apartments. But wait – you shouldn’t discount adopting a family dog just because you live in a small apartment. Research small dog breeds that can be ideal for apartment living and you’ll see there are plenty.
  • Behaviour and training. A fearful, traumatised dog is probably not a good choice for a family with young children and/or lots of other pets. Then again, any dog will require training and socialisation while getting used to their second chance in life. If you do adopt a traumatised dog, find out about getting a pet behaviourist to help them adapt.
Read more on choosing the perfect family pet as your first or next family dog. 
This adorable Dachshund has just found a forever home!

Your dog adoption checklist‘s additional info

If you’re a new pet parent, check out these blog posts to learn a lot of what you need to know:

  1. How to Make Your Own Pet First Aid Kit
  2. 7 Pet Parenting Mistakes to Avoid
  3. Separation Anxiety in Pets: How to Help Them
  4. Puppy Health Care Milestones – the 1st Year
  5. Pet Vaccinations and Schedules in NZ
  6. 7 Reasons to Compare Puppy Insurance Quotes Early On
  7. Top Tips to Keep Your Fur Kid Safe in Summer
  8. Dog DNA Tests in NZ: What You Need to Know
  9. All About Diabetes in Dogs and Cats
  10. Cancer In Dogs: Why Breed, Age and Gender Matter

Is pet insurance on your dog adoption radar?

Getting a best friend forever means loving and protecting them. Just as our pooches give us their unconditional love, we give them ours, and for pets that includes taking care of any health needs that arise.

A great way to do this for your brand new puppy is by having a pet insurance plan so you don’t have to store away huge sums of money if they need to go to veterinary clinic and for non-routine vet visits. Pet plans cover so many health needs, including tests, prescription medicine and surgery. Also, if you opt for the Deluxe plan from PD Insurance your family dog gets dental cover too.

Sign up today for award-winning puppy insurance or dog insurance – click below and you’re on your way!

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