Be sure you can have a dog; if you have a landlord you will need his or her permission. Make sure everyone in the family is prepared and in agreement to get a dog. Most shelters do not allow dogs to be surprise gifts because people tend to bond better with dogs they select for themselves, or they not appreciate getting a dog at all.
If you do not have a fully fenced yard, or a dog run, you might be turned down for adoption, especially of a larger dog. Most shelters do not allow dogs to be kept on chains in the backyard as studies have indicated that such dogs are more likely to be aggressive, some cities have by-laws against it. Allowing the dog to roam is not being a responsible owner, and puts the dog at risk of being hit by a car.
Do breed research, as this will help you avoid coming home with a dog that is totally unsuited for your lifestyle. Make mental notes of your lifestyle; consider how much time you have for a dog, as well as other issues such as children, other pets, and work. Smart dogs need owners who have lots of time to spend with the dog or are prone to becoming destructive. Dogs that do not shed require daily grooming to prevent their hair from becoming matted and need regular hair cuts. Dog breeds that were bred to hunt, are more likely to chew kids toys, and may be nippy as well.
Most animal shelters have websites where you can research their policies and to see the animals for adoption; however many animal shelters do not update their websites regularly so pictures do not represent the dogs that the shelter has up for adoption at that time, it is best to visit their facility.
Be aware that most animal shelters get new dogs in on a weekly basis.
When you arrive at the animal shelter introduce yourself to the staff saying that you are interested in adopting a dog, and tell them what you are looking for, they may point you in the right direction or suggest a few good dogs for you. From there it is up to you to select a dog that appeals to you. You can usually take prospective dogs for a walk.
The shelter may have additional information about the dog available on request.
Once you have decided on a dog you usually ask to fill out an adoption questionnaire to adopt that dog. If you do not find a dog you like some shelters will allow you to fill out a “pet request form” where they will try to call you if other dogs come into their care, however you should check on your own as well.
If you are not sure on your choice you can ask the shelter to hold the dog for 24 hours to think it over.
Adopting a new dog should never be a rushed decision or a whim. It requires thought and planning to make sure you get the right dog, and that you are the right home for the dog you get.