Practical steps for dog adoption in NYC
April 6, 2018 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I am in NYC and would like to adopt a dog three or four months from now. What are the concrete steps I need to take between now and then to prepare for this?

I'm in NYC. I have never owned a dog before, although I have dogsat for several friends' dogs over the years. I am looking to adopt an adult dog from a shelter, and my criteria are basically "small enough to carry when necessary, large enough to not accidentally crush underfoot, not insanely neurotic." I am aware of the reasons why owning a dog in NYC is harder than in other places and I am committed to doing right by whatever dog I adopt.

Here are some things I assume or have heard I need to do before I walk into a shelter and say "dog please":

1. Save up some money - not just for the adoption fees but for an emergency fund and any equipment purchases I will need to make. Around how much money should this be?
2. Talk to my landlord (this building is pet friendly and I'm on good terms with him so this shouldn't be a hurdle)
3. Figure out which shelters to check out (suggestions?) and what their requirements are. What is typical for this? Do I need to contact them ahead of time and get on some kind of list? Will I need to have selected a vet beforehand? Will I need letters of recommendation? A letter from my landlord? Anything else?
4. Find a dog walker - I am away from home from 9am to 6pm most days and my preference would be to only use a walker when I have to work late, if feasible. I will share this info with the shelter(s) when I visit.
5. Buy... stuff? A leash, a bed, some food and bowls, toys, what else... or should some of that stuff wait until I have the dog in hand?
6. After adoption, I think I should probably take a dog training class (they say it's more about training the human than the dog) - should I start looking now? Any recommendations?
7. What am I forgetting??

I am aware of my relative ignorance and I want to do this right, so lay it on me!
posted by showbiz_liz to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I forgot to add: my experienced dog owner friend has offered to come with me to check out potential dogs when the time comes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2018

A CRATE as an addition to a bed, it took me a while to accept what felt like a cruel dog prison, but dogs really do like having their own little den as an option. Crate size will depend on dog size though so you can't really do it beforehand unless you get a tremendous one.

I can recommend a dog walker but idk where in the city you are located, which would also affect my vet recommendation. That said, expecting any dog to not toilet from 9am to 6pm can be asking a lot of it; it's also a long time for the dog to have to entertain itself, and dog boredom often leads to dog problems (chewing objects, chewing paws, frequent barking, etc). You should also think about your own energy level when you get home from work; your dog will be excited and ready to play, and may be unwilling to settle down at what you feel is the right bedtime.

As for money to have on hand for medical emergencies, it's hard to judge bc it could be anything from a simple injury to the sudden development of a chronic condition. But actual emergency pet care (something scary happens at 3am that needs immediate attention) is pretty expensive.

(This is very specific and may never become an issue for you, BUT: in my experience, wrt pet illnesses, it is far more helpful (although more expensive) to get medications specially compounded into liquid form that can be squirted into their mouths with a syringe rather than coaxing them to choke down a tablet. A lot of non-chain pharmacies in the city will do this.)

You should think about free feeding vs specific feeding times, but that will also depend on the individual dog and what it's used to in the past and its temperament, which the shelter should be able to tell you in decent detail.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:33 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I can recommend a dog walker but idk where in the city you are located, which would also affect my vet recommendation.

Brooklyn, border of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:39 AM on April 6, 2018

9am to 6pm is too long to leave a dog alone. You need to budget for a dog walker or doggy day care every day, not just when you're working late.

I'd hold off on buying too much stuff until you have a specific dog picked out as a lot of it can vary by the size of the dog.

I'd research local vets now and have one picked out as some shelters may want that information. Some vets have their own care plans where you pay a set amount every month to cover regular treatments like worming and flea treatments, that's worth looking into in addition to looking at pet insurance costs.

I highly recommend retired greyhounds. They are larger dogs, but actually really low key in terms of their exercise requirements, and actually great dogs for in apartments. There are plenty greyhound specific rescues and rehoming organisations that can provide tons of information. I think with a retired greyhound you know what you're getting a bit more clearly than with a random shelter dog. (I am biased, I have a retired racer myself!)
posted by maybeandroid at 9:39 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’d familiarize yourself with common breed restrictions in other leases, in addition to your current lease, assuming you expect to move at some point. With smaller dogs, it’s less of an issue, but worth being aware of.

In addition to the expected itens, I’d consider acquiring a camera to keep an eye and an ear on the pup, as a fellow apartment dwellers who prefers to stay on good terms with my neighbors. A lot of the “stuff,” including that, may be better to pick up once you have a pup and get to know their needs.

Start paying attention to the litter (especially chicken bones, ugh) hotspots around your apartment, in order to start mapping walking routes.

Consider that shelters typically have a pretty limited cross-section of dogs (lots of pittie mixes, which doesn’t sound like the size you want) and rescue groups often pull the more “desirable” breeds quickly. Start familiarizing yourself with rescue groups; maybe go to an event near you.
posted by mosst at 9:41 AM on April 6, 2018

So much of this is going to depend on the dog and where you get it from.

Definitely have some money saved up, but it's hard to say how much because adoption fees will vary by organization, and medical costs will vary by breed. Definitely talk to your landlord, and maybe get something in writing from him so you have it ready to go to show to the shelter or rescue. Scout the vets in your area, and maybe find a couple of acceptable options. You'll want to take the dog in within a few days of adopting it, but some organizations will give you coupons for a free visit to certain vets -- if that matches up with a vet on your list, you win!

You probably don't want to buy much in the way of equipment because you'll need to buy stuff sized appropriately for your dog. Our Humane Society has a pet store built into it, so we got a few basics there while we were waiting for the paperwork to get finished.

Different rescues will have different requirements of you, so while it might be good to have any or all of the stuff you list ready to go, you may not end up needing it. The smaller, pickier rescues will be more annoying to work with, but will (probably) do a better job of finding a dog that matches your personality and lifestyle.

9 - 6 is too long to leave a small dog alone (their bladders are not that big). Bigger dogs can hold it longer -- our 65 lb shepherd pit mix often refuses to pee in the morning after 9+ hours inside overnight.

Good luck! Dogs are a lot of work, but so awesome!
posted by natabat at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2018

Following with interest as this is definitely in our near term plans also.

From talking with some friends who adopted a dog through them last year, Sean Casey Animal Rescue, which I had previously thought of as having a fairly good reputation is no longer on the list of spots were considering.

There are a fair number of rescue orgs in NYC that don't have physical locations and use fosters because they cant afford the type of space it would take to house all their animals in one location - this is probably better for the dogs but definitely makes it harder to "shop " for a prospective adoption. I think this is probably a fairly big driver of the number of rescue/adoption events around town, which also seem like a good way to both get a feel for the organizations putting them on and meet/see a bunch of dogs. We went to a mass adoption event in Prospect Park and it was worthwhile (though we did not end up coming home with a four legged friend).

It seems like the next event is in Union Square May 20 and then another in Prospect Park in August
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2018

To clarify my comment - there are adoption events all the time, the link I provided was for a city sponsored mass adoption event called Adoptapalooza which attracts a large number of organizations all trying to place dogs in homes.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:50 AM on April 6, 2018

Oh good suggestion on the camera, we had one that worked over WiFi and there was an app so I could check it on my phone to make sure the dog was okay alone. When we first got our dog it was very useful for reassuring us that he wasn't barking or being destructive or too distressed while we were out.
posted by maybeandroid at 9:55 AM on April 6, 2018

Assuming you already follow a lot of the organizations on Instagram or Facebook? They often post their pups there and provide information on how to adopt (Exceptional_Hubris is right in that a lot of them don't have a physical space like a typical "pound" or shelter, and most dogs are with fosters).

I currently follow Social Tees, Foster Dogs NYC, and my favorite, BadAss Brooklyn.
posted by something_witty at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another adoption fair is Broadway Barks in July. I have pictures of my first dog (before she was my dog!) with Bernadette Peters and Tovah Feldshuh!

My small, seven-pound dog came through one of the breed specific rescues in NYC. I'd had a mix of that particular breed growing up and I loved the temperament and size. My adopted dog was a senior dog who had been rescued by a local vet.

It was a rigorous process, but it was worth it. There was an application, 2-3 references that they actually called, a home visit by a volunteer. They asked a ton of questions about my hours, how much I would be home with the dog, etc. All this before actually meeting a dog. I'm a homebody, and in this case this was a plus. The adoption fee varied for puppies and seniors.

I highly recommend getting a sweet senior instead of a puppy for your first dog. Seniors are amazing and you will learn so much from each other.

Oh! You will also need tons of poop bags (they come in rolls -- I like the Earth Balance brand) and a closed carrier for the subway. Fun fact: Dogs are allowed on Metro North, so you can take your dog for fun adventures!
posted by mochapickle at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

We got our dog from Eve’s Sanctuary, which adopts out of New York but brought the dogs in from the Midwest. Most of the rescues around here work this way. There are a lot of places in the US that still have a huge problem with strays, the rescues pull them from shelters and bring them up to the northeast to adopt them out.

In addition to the group we used, Waggytail Rescue, Badass Brooklyn and Social Tees are rescues I’d happily adopt from. But the shelters are great too!

If you must leave your dog alone for nine hours a day, please don’t keep him shut up in a crate the whole time. (I think crating is overrated but some people are extremely religiously into pushing them).

Also, tiny dogs are a blast! You’ll step on him once and never do it again ;)
posted by cakelite at 10:19 AM on April 6, 2018

You may have difficulty finding any small dogs besides chihuahuas at the NYACC, though that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Those dogs are in actual peril of their lives, so it's definitely worth checking them out first. Just be aware that the breed "selection" may be limited.

I can recommend Brooklyn Badass Animal Rescue (I've been a supporter since they were one dog named Fred). One thing they offer that not all rescues do is a Facebook group for ongoing support of adopters. This can be really helpful when you're trying to figure out how to manage separation anxiety, dealing with a stressful health situation, or just want to show off how dang cute your pup is. They also have recommendations for trainers, etc. They are an all-foster organization, so they do an adoption event approximately monthly. Something I don't think I've seen mentioned above is that you should be prepared for a home visit, where a volunteer will come check out your place to help you correct any conditions that would make it unsuitable for a canine presence.

I agree with everyone who says 9-6 is definitely too much for a smaller dog. You'll have to have a walker or try training a smaller dog on pee pads, which is...well, it's not like having a litter box for a cat. This is really the big hurdle for having a dog in NYC for single people, in my opinion, as it adds significant expense.

As a general statement--I've never heard of this being an issue for BBAR--while you should be thoughtful in selecting a source for your dog (some rescues are really not together, and it's not great for the dogs), you should also be aware that rescue is a HIGHLY EMOTIONALLY-CHARGED field and people can decide that so-and-so is evil at the drop of a hat. Read critically, is all I'm saying.
posted by praemunire at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2018

Get a vet lined up now, sometimes its a prerequisite for adoption.

If you're able, save up a few PTO days (and try to work some half days). When we got our dog, it was pretty helpful to acclimate him slowly to the new routine and schedule. He's pretty smart, and knows the difference between weekdays and weekends, and gets real confused if someone stays home sick. Some dogs like routine, ours does, yours might be fine and more flexible.

There are some smaller dogs that are bred as working dogs that have become very popular lately (around here it's Blue Heeler/Australian cattle dogs, and they're miserable in cities unless you've got the wherewithall to run them hard for an hour or two a day). Even if a dog is a mix, I wouldn't get anything that was a higher-energy working dog. In this respect, the more mutt-ish, the better. This ties into how much you'll need to walk them too. Our dog needed a couple runs a day when he was a puppy, but these days he's slowing down and is totally okay with a short walk each morning or evening (we have a fenced yard he hangs out in sometimes though). Some dogs are higher energy, some are not. Some dogs are totally content to just hang out.

Crate training is a godsend, even if you're like us and keep the door off the crate. Teaching a dog a phrase like 'load up' to go to their bed or a crate is the best trick you could teach them. Our dog doesn't do it when people come over, he'll freak out and greet them and stuff, but then if he's being a bother after the dust has settled, he'll load up, and stay on his bed. It calms them down, and is much easier to deal with. It gives them a little den space to have, and generally makes life easier for them.

Get a better vacuum than you already have, or if you have a real nice one, get it serviced.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2018

Wait to buy food til you get the dog - you'll want to start them off on the same food they're getting at the shelter to minimize the odds of stomach upset (to switch to a different food, start mixing in the new one very gradually over time).

Budget-wise, definitely plan for a daily dog walker for a lunchtime/afternoon walk (start with one as the dog is acclimating to minimize accidents/destruction; you can always scale back if you find out that your dog is big enough to not need one -- my dog, also a 65ish lb shepherd mix, doesn't like taking lunchtime walks, so is alone about 9-6 with no issues).

My dog's standard vet costs run about $1,000/year in Manhattan (some years are less expensive, but the years when you need to do all the vaccines or the dog gets kennel cough or something will likely run that much). His one emergency, life-saving surgery was about $7,000 all told. If those figures seem insurmountable, look into pet insurance to see how much that can offset vet costs.

N'thing that a crate is a good idea. It's also helpful to have when your dog is freaking out about work being done in your apartment or decides they hate people in hats or whatever.

Finally, a vote against social tees, my family has fostered for them and the staff/volunteers lied about the dogs' temperaments pretty consistently (the rescue we adopted our dog from also did this with our dog, who has an awful temperament*, but they're defunct now). Definitely bring your own trainer or very dog-savvy friend when you go to meet dogs. I've been impressed with Muddy Paws' openness about dogs' issues/needs on social media and know someone who adopted a wonderful dog through them, so they might be a good choice.

*I still love him very much, but what the rescue org did in recommending him to us was hugely irresponsible and could have been dangerous. He was recommended as an easy family dog, but he was a resource guarder who was very reactive with other dogs at first, which could have been very dangerous with kids around.
posted by snaw at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2018

Foster a dog first! It lets you help a needy dog out of death row while testing out if having a dog is right for you. Start following a few rescue groups on instagram and if you see a dog that looks like it fits your lifestyle then reach out to foster. I personally follow @pupstarzrescue and am getting my first foster dog tomorrow morning :) There are lots of nyc rescue groups.

I live in crown heights and use The Dog Walking Network as a dog walker for my permanent pup and the people there are lovely.

Get pet insurance. I thought it was a racket, but then my dog ate a tennis ball and $4k later I am SO THANKFUL for HealthyPaws pet insurance.
posted by KMoney at 7:20 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm in Atlanta, not NYC, but a few of the shelters around here let you foster a dog for the weekend. If shelters or rescues in NYC offer a similar program, it can be a great way to "test drive" dog ownership and find a dog that suits your lifestyle.

Even if the dog you adopt is already house trained, he or she may have a few accidents at the beginning, while you both adjust to a new routine. Having some Nature's Miracle ready to clean up after those moments was very helpful.
posted by capsizing at 8:05 PM on April 6, 2018

I live in Crown Heights and adopted through Badass. They bring up dogs from high-kill shelters in the South. They're amazing and low-drama, as is the Facebook group mentioned above, but the adoption fee is hefty ($450 IIRC). IMO it was worth it to me. They know their animals' temperaments better than if you adopted through ACC, and tbh, they have a selection that's not ONLY pitties and chihuahuas. (Nothing against either, I ended up with a sweet little pit mix from Badass!)

The process is pretty easy. You can go hang out with the foster dogs at their monthly adoption events (usually in Park Slope or Wburg), but they won't let you just take one home -- you have to be pre-approved (requires filling out an application and a home visit, though mine was via Skype FWIW, the whole thing takes a few weeks). Once you do THAT, you can show up at an adoption event and take home a pupper. They'll steer you towards dogs they think will fit your needs and lifestyle. If you write on your application that the dog will be at home alone 9am-6pm, they will ask that you commit to hiring a walker mid-day. Whether you actually do this or not is up to you and your dog's temperament, but be aware that you may have to say one thing and do another. They do ask for references, but they just email your refs with a list of questions, no letters necessary. IIRC there are just a couple of checkboxes that ask if your landlord is cool with pets.

I researched pet products (bowls, poop bags, crate, crate liner, toys, leash, collar, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) beforehand but waited to buy anything until after I brought a dog home. All this stuff can be at your house in 2 days with Chewy and Amazon, so you really only need a few days' worth of food and maybe a toy or two when you bring the critter home (Badass pups come with their leash and collar). She'll eat and drink out of tupperware and sleep on some old towels just fine for a couple of days, and doubled up grocery bags will suffice to scoop the poop until your 900-count Amazon Basics poop bag order shows up. It's useful to do this all over a long weekend or a week off work though, because it's hard to leave a brand new pup at home without a crate, and you're both going to be a little bit out of sorts. Seconding the Nature's Miracle rec!

I didn't have a vet lined up beforehand, but I made an appointment at the Crown Heights Animal Hospital for just a normal vet visit a few days after I adopted her. Pretty painless. I did buy a few sessions with one of the Badass-recommended trainers (whom I loved), and they were worth every penny in starting our relationship off on the right foot.

I'd say I spent about $1300 on all this together, including the adoption fee, trainer, vet visit (including 6 months' worth of preventative meds), and supplies.

Yes to pet insurance! I haven't used mine yet, so no recs, but the peace of mind is really great.

The other thing I'd consider is if you want to send the munchkin to daycare. It sounds...silly, but my trainer recommended I send my dog once a week to a) socialize her with other dogs, and b) tire her out for a couple of days. I don't always manage to do it, but I try to.

I'm happy to discuss the specific trainer and daycare I use, and dogwalking services I've looked into, over MeMail (that FB group mentioned has been very valuable for this!).
posted by Ragini at 10:32 PM on April 9, 2018

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