Pet Adoption: Lifetime Commitment

In this post:

  1. Things to consider before adopting a dog or a cat
  2. What should you do if your adoption is not working out

Getting a dog should be a life long commitment. Your dog should be your pet and companion for the rest of their life! Grey faces and low energy are no excuse to send them away. They will love you through all of life’s ups and downs, and all they ask in return is that you do the same. Outlined in this post are what you should consider before committing to adopting a dog or cat from a shelter and caring for it.

How long will my dog live?

While this question may seem cold, it is such an important thing to consider before getting a dog or a cat. When you take responsibility for an animal, you are committing to care for them for the rest of their lives. Depending on the age of the dog you adopt, this can be anywhere from 10 – 13 years or longer.

The unfortunate truth is that shelters are full of dogs who grew out of being puppies and whose owners no longer want to or have the ability to care for them. Adorable, small puppies will grow into adorable, larger dogs and you need to be willing to care for them through it all. Getting a puppy on impulse can be a huge mistake, a person must be able to provide the care and be able to plan ahead for life changes, such as expanding families and moves. Make sure the dog you get can accompany you on all of life’s adventures.

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How long will the dog take to adjust to their new home?

Taking any dog, but especially a shelter dog, into a new environment may be a bit of a shock for the dog at first. As a result, they may initially appear overly shy or anxious in their new surroundings. Dogs can be a lot like humans, they adjust to change in different ways. A lot of dogs may need just some time to ease in and get used to their new surroundings. Be patient and give them the space they need. Soon enough, they’ll be happily adjusted and ready to play!

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The 3-3-3 Rule: This rule is designed to help owners know what to expect when they first bring a pet home.

  • The first 3 days: Everything is new to your dog and they are overwhelmed. They might be timid, shy, and stressed.
  • The first 3 weeks: Your pet should be settling into their new home. This is where their true personality is going to come out as well as any naughty behaviors.
  • After 3 months: Your pet should be secure and comfortable in your home and you both have created a bond based on mutual love.


It is important to not give up on your new pet in those early days and weeks. Give them a chance to come out of their shells and show you their wonderful selves. 

What if my dog gets old and sick?

Shelters also have many old dogs who have medical issues or just not enough energy. That fact that your dog getting older should not be a reason to surrender them to a shelter. There are plenty of organizations that can help with your dog’s medical expenses. Speak to your vet or staff at an animal shelter, and they will gladly help to connect you with these resources.  speaking with vets and animal shelters can help you get in contact with these resources.

What should you do if your adoption is not working out:

When situations arise where there are behavioral problems or something that you need help with, the best scenario is to reach out to the shelter where you adopted the pet from. They will definitely have resources for you to take advantage of and will gladly offer you advice. A lot of people feel a sense of guilt, as though they failed in some way if they bring a dog back. People who work in shelters and care for dogs have the complete opposite idea of those kinds of situations. They have a lot of resources, and very much want you to want to reach out to them first to see if they can solve those problems.

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That is what they’re there for, to be problem solvers. They have teams, departments, and individuals with really great expertise that can actually help you in so many different slews of problems that come up, behaviorally, or potty training or anything.

If all of those avenues aren’t working and it’s still not a good fit, you have options of surrender to the shelters. Please reach out to the shelter where you adopted your dog or cat from first. They will understand and direct you in what you should do. This gives them the opportunity to try again and make sure they find a family this is the right fit for the dog.

Special thanks to:


Seattle Humane: Saving Lives, Completing Families

Seattle Humane promotes the human-animal bond by saving and serving pets in need, regardless of age, ability, circumstance, or geography. Seattle Humane is Puget Sound’s leader in animal adoption, education, and welfare. Their top priority is to connect animals in need of rescue with the people who will love them. Through their outreach, advocacy, and services we strive to ensure that animal companionship is accessible to all.

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions