Can you adopt a dog from a rescue at age 18 or 21?

Welcoming a furry friend into your life through adoption is an exciting and heartwarming decision. Dogs, with their boundless affection and loyal companionship, have the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. However, amidst the joy of selecting the perfect pup, questions often arise about the legal age required to adopt a dog. Can you adopt a dog from a rescue at age 18 or 21? Is it 18, marking the milestone of adulthood in many places, or 21, signifying a more mature age? This seemingly simple question opens up quite the discussion. It’s important that no matter your age you think of the responsibility, commitment, and welfare of our four-legged friends. In this blog, we’ll explore the following topics:

  • The legal age to adopt a dog is 18, but sometimes 21
  • The Journey to Responsible Dog Ownership
  • Learning from Experience: Expert Insights on the Ideal Age for Dog Adoption
  • Looking Beyond Age: Other Factors That Influence Dog Adoption Eligibility
young woman with a Bernese mountain dog

The legal age to adopt a dog is 18, but sometimes 21

The legal age to adopt a dog can vary. Age often depends

on the jurisdiction and the specific policies of the animal shelter or rescue organization. In many places, the minimum age to adopt a dog is typically 18 years old. This is because 18 is considered the age of legal adulthood in many countries and regions.

However, some shelters or organizations might have a higher age requirement, such as 21 years old. This might be in order to ensure that the adopter has reached a certain level of maturity, stability, and responsibility to provide proper care for a dog.

It’s important to note that age is just one factor that shelters consider when determining whether someone is a suitable adopter. They often also consider factors like living situations, financial stability, and the ability to provide appropriate care for the dog. If you’re interested in adopting a dog, it’s a good idea to check with your local shelters or rescue organizations to find out their specific adoption requirements.

The Journey to Responsible Dog Ownership

When it comes to embracing the joys and responsibilities of getting a new pet, age plays a significant role. The decision to adopt a furry companion requires a commitment that extends far beyond providing food and shelter. Whether you’re 18 or 21, the age at which you choose to bring a dog into your life can influence various aspects of your ability to provide the care, attention, and stability a dog needs. Let’s delve into how age intersects with the path to responsible dog ownership. 

young woman with many dogs in a shelter

Maturity and Lifestyle Considerations

Age often correlates with levels of maturity and personal responsibility. Whether you are 18 or 21, many individuals are still navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood. While enthusiasm for a new dog might be high, it’s important to consider a few things. Such as educational pursuits, career ambitions, and changing living arrangements can introduce uncertainties into the equation. The first step is to make sure you have the time and ability to adopt a dog.

At 18 and 21, many people have roommates or live at home with family members. It’s important to make sure that adopting a dog is a good fit for where you are right now with the other goals you have. Be sure to talk to your adoption counselor about the temperament and needs of the dog you are considering for adoption. It’s important to know that they would be comfortable with other people living in a house as well.

Financial Preparedness

Responsible dog ownership entails financial responsibilities beyond the initial adoption fee. Dogs require regular veterinary care, vaccinations, grooming, and high-quality nutrition. The financial obligations can be substantial, and age can impact one’s ability to meet these needs consistently. Older adopters might have a more established financial foundation. This may allow them to provide greater reassurance that they can afford the long-term costs associated with pet care. A new best friend that is a cute furry love bug is amazing and honestly the best thing. Understand what your expenses are and budget accordingly.

When you are 18 or 21, you may have student loans, credit card debt, or just not be making a lot of money yet. If you are still eating Ramen Noodles and are late with your doctor bills, it might not be a great idea to add the expense of dog food and vet bills. You can always consider fostering dogs and this way you still get to help out and the financial burden is not carried by you. At 18 and 21 you don’t want to be putting expenses don’t credit cards for your new animal. 

Here is a great post with a checklist of some things you are going to need before you bring your dog home.

Emotional Readiness

Caring for a dog goes beyond just meeting physical needs. Dogs thrive on emotional bonds and companionship. Younger individuals might be more impulsive in their decision-making, whereas those in their early twenties could potentially offer a more patient and emotionally supportive environment for a new furry family member. This emotional maturity plays a pivotal role in creating a lasting and fulfilling human-canine relationship.

Adopting a dog is a selfless act. Some rescue animals may have behavioral issues so you want to make sure if you do adopt that it’s a good match for your emotional ls state. I know as an 18 and 21-year-old, I was very selfish and out late at night with friends, traveling on weekends, and could barely handle my own behavior issues, let alone a dog! That’s not to say a companion animal, like a dog, would not be beneficial to a young person. It’s just important to understand and consider all aspects of your life before going through the adoption process for a rescue pup.

Questions to ask the adoption team before adopting a dog

1 – What is the adoption application process look like?

It’s good to understand the timeline till you get the dog, if you have to pay a fee, if you have to return the dog for vet visits, etc.

2 – Is a house visit required?

Some rescues require that you allow them to visit your home to ensure it’s a good fit for you and the dog.

3 – What vaccinations and/or vet care has the dog received to date?

If the dog has had all their puppy shots, this could save you some money. Or if the dog has an illness, you need to consider the time and money it may cost you. It’s an incredible thing to take on an older or ill dog that needs love and support from a giving person.

4 – What does the adoption contract look like?

You will want to understand what papers you will need to sign. Many shelters require personal information such as your photo ID, references, and current address

You can find additional questions to ask here.

mama and pups

Questions to ask yourself before adopting a dog

1 – Would your lifestyle be better suited for an adult dog or a new puppy?

An older dog might need a quieter environment and less training. A puppy requires 24/7 attention in the beginning. Be sure to speak with the adoption counselors to understand the demeanor of the dog you are thinking about adopting. Be sure to check out some fun and loving dog breeds in his post.

2 – Would you adopt a dog today?!

Many rescues and adoption centers work on a first-served basis. Potential adopters who want a dog can come in on the same day, fill out adoption paperwork, and take the dog home that same day! If you go into a shelter and fall in love, be sure you are ready to take a dog home. Would not want anyone to miss out on their best furry friend!

3 – Know where your nearest pet stores are or of course you can get familiar with the many pet websites out there for you to check out.

You will want to make sure you have dog food, a water bowl, and maybe a few fun toys for your new best friend upon their arrival to their new home

4 – Think about what your day-to-day looks like and how a new dog fits into your schedule. 

Small animals are good for apartments but larger dogs need exercise and space. Some adoptable dogs may have anxiety and won’t do well if they work out of the house for 12 hours a day and are left alone. 

5 – Do you currently have other pets?

If you currently have a dog, make sure your dog meets your new dog before you adopt to ensure everyone gets along. Some adoption centers will allow dog-to-dog introductions. You may have a cat or a guinea pigs. Whatever other animals you may have, be sure everyone will get along.

6 – Research the rescue group you are considering.

Not all shelters and rescues are created equally. Check their references, Facebook groups, Google their name, etc. 


Most rescues will allow you to adopt at the age of 18. While age is a significant factor in the decision to adopt a dog, it’s important to remember that individual circumstances vary widely. Responsible dog ownership is characterized by a holistic approach that considers not only age but also factors like personal readiness, financial stability, emotional preparedness, and lifestyle dynamics. Whether you’re 18, 21, or beyond, the journey to becoming a loving and responsible dog owner is marked by thoughtful consideration and a commitment to providing the best possible life for your new four-legged friend. The most important thing to