Adopting a Dog from the Street: Complete Guide + 9 Tips

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You may have thought of helping an abandoned furry friend on the street, but you don’t know what to do or where to start.

Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place! – Here I’ll show you everything you need to know before picking up a puppy from the street.

From my family’s experience of taking in 5 furry dogs throughout our lives, I can tell you firsthand the best tips for receiving a new friend in your life successfully.

Why pick up a dog from the street? 

Picking up a dog from a shelter might be easier since there they have food, a place to sleep and some even have their vaccinations.

However, street dogs live at the mercy of every danger. Every day that they are on the street, they try to survive in some way, by looking for food in the garbage and taking shelter from the cold and rain.

Also, in their quest for something to eat, the dogs wander through many places where cars pass by and can get seriously injured if they run into a vehicle.

If they’re lucky, they’ll find a dog pack to protect each other. Otherwise, if left alone, they must be alert to protect themselves from possible attacks from other dogs defending their territory.

As you have already seen, the life of a dog in the streets is not easy at all, they fear and mistrust everything.

Now think about it, helping a doggy that is not to blame for being abandoned by his former family and now has to live in such unhealthy conditions, wouldn’t it be a nice idea?

Adopting a dog is always an act of love, but if it’s one from the street, that love will be multiplied by his gratitude because you have offered him a new opportunity to live a better life and receive back the affection he has lost.

Why do people abandon dogs on the street? 

A study called “El nunca lo haría” (He would never do it) carried out by the Affinity Foundation in 2020 in Spain shows some causes of abandonment. Let me show you here the 6 most frequent reasons.

1. Economic issues 

The first cause was because of economic factors, moving from fifth place in 2019 to first in 2020. The events that happened during covid-19 made many people lose their jobs and no longer have the same income to support their pets.

2. Unwanted litter 

Unwanted litters came in second place, dropping to number 2 and being the number one cause in 2019.

As a pet owner or soon-to-be one, you need to think about spaying or neutering your furry friend, both males and females. If you want to know more about this, I invite you to read about the benefits of sterilization for your dog.

3. Animal behavior problems 

The third criterion is the animal’s behavioral problems. This is because when you don’t pay enough attention to your pet and you don’t comply with his feeding, playing, or toileting schedules, he will do whatever he wants, resulting in a nuisance for you.

Clearly, it is the owner’s responsibility to teach him what is right and what is not in order to avoid these extreme situations of abandonment.

4. End of the hunting season 

The fourth place is held by the end of the hunting season. In this case, in European countries such as Spain, hunting is still allowed. Some canines are trained for hunting, especially because of their highly developed sense of smell.

Once the hunt is over, these people don’t need the dog anymore because they have already made use of his skills. This is clearly wrong, dogs that support work and leisure activities such as hunting should be taken care of.

They make a physical effort for our benefit and it is an act of cruelty to treat them as a tool that once used, will be discarded.

If you want to learn more about these working canines and the care that should be taken with them, I invite you to read the Complete Guide to Working and Assistance Dogs.

5. Loss of interest in the animal 

It means that their company is no longer necessary and, therefore, there will be an emotional detachment with the pet and it will be relieved from the responsibilities that it had acquired.

To put it in simpler words, the canine takes the consequences of fulfilling a person’s whim. You should always think very well about the decision and the responsibility of maintaining and taking care of a pet.

If you’re not sure about what it means to have a pet, you can read everything you should know before getting your first pet, where I analyze in detail the factors involved in getting one.

6. Moving or relocation 

Basically, the sixth cause is when a person moves to a smaller place with no space for the dog. People choose to abandon them so they won’t have problems adapting to the new home.

You have two options if you want to have a pet and you are thinking about how to accommodate in the new place. The first one is not to have a pet if you are not willing to live in a comfortable place for you and the dog. On the other hand, you can choose a pet that can adapt to your needs (choosing the ideal size) and live anywhere you decide to move to.

Factors to consider if you want to pick up a dog from the street 

There are certain aspects that you need to know in order to prepare yourself beforehand when picking up your furry friend.

Having the necessary money 

This is one of the most important factors because having a new pet implies additional expenses. Among these expenses are food, vaccinations, and veterinary check-ups, among others.

Besides, this is the basic issue, assuming that the dog has no health problems as a result of living on the street.

In the opposite case, you must get prepared because you don’t know if the animal’s health problem must be treated immediately or if it’s not serious and you can wait a little bit while you organize your finances.

What is important is to start and finish the treatment that your canine requires so that he can be healthy and it doesn’t turn into something deadly.

Whatever the case is, remember to always have extra money, either saved or set aside in advance for the extra expenses that may arise.

Discuss in family

This is no problem if you live alone, since only you will make the decision, but if you live with your family, the matter is different.

Everyone’s opinion is important since it must be clear that this is a shared responsibility. Taking care of the pet as well as interacting with it should be done as a group because in this way the animal will recognize you all as its new herd.

If only one person assumes the responsibility, it could cause behavioral problems for the canine because it won’t recognize the other members of the family as his pack.

And this ultimately creates problems within the family that can be avoided by sharing responsibility. In addition, shared responsibility helps to strengthen the bond between your family and your furry friend.

Dog behavior 

No one knows what kind of situations that dog had to face before, to develop a behavior that has been very marked in his personality, this can be very scary or aggressive. Some do not show this trait so evidently, but they are always cautious with people who approach them.

So taking this into account, be careful when you are going to hold him so that he does not run away or bite you. This behavior will become less present over time as the relationship between canine and people grows thanks to the care and love you give them.

A new responsibility 

A new member of the family will arrive and not only for you to give him love and company, but it is also your duty as owners to cover all his needs, to accustom him to a routine, to take care of his physical and mental wellbeing.

Having a pet is not a joke or a whim, it is a friend for life that will make you happy and will be loyal to you, and you will repay him by taking care of his health and giving him lots of love.

Is it female or male? 

In both females and males, health problems associated with their reproductive system must be identified. We need to check if the female is spayed or the male is neutered.

First, this is one of the first details you need to pay attention to when picking up your puppy from the street. You can do a quick check to be sure if the animal has already been operated on or not.

In the case of females, you can look for scars in the abdomen area or, for example, in Colombia, some dogs that have been sterilized but are still in the street, have an ink mark on their ears, similar to a tattoo.

For males you only have to check if he has testicles or not, if he still has them it means that he has not undergone the procedure.

This is a quick way to know the initial condition of the canine, but you need to take him to the vet for a body check-up so that he/she can determine what is the animal’s condition in terms of reproductive health.

So what is this for? As I already mentioned, the second most common cause of abandonment is unwanted litters, so bringing in more puppies that may not have a secure home is not the best decision.

Better to pick up an abandoned puppy from the street for there are plenty of them looking for a home. By performing the procedure so that it doesn’t have offspring, you will greatly improve its welfare.

On the other hand, the procedure is beneficial because, in the case of females, it helps prevent ovarian cancer and in the case of males, it prevents the formation of a testicular tumor, among other diseases for both sexes.

What stage of life is the dog in? 

The age of the dog you have picked up will always be uncertain, so just get a general idea of the age range the dog is likely to be in.

The age of the dog is a factor that doesn’t really matter. However, we do need to be aware of it because it will give us an idea of the lifestyle the animal has to lead from now on.

Dog’s needs are different at each stage of life, therefore we need to know, for example, if the dog seems to be at an advanced age. There are a number of diseases that only manifest in old age.

Some of these could be cataracts (which appear at about 8 years of age and older, if they are not congenital), bone problems, and heart problems such as mitral valve disease, since it is a degenerative condition.

And how can we know this? One method is to observe if the canine has gray hair, which is a sign that he is a senior dog. Another way is that when you take him to the veterinarian, there, through the state of his teeth, they can give you more precise information about his approximate age.

After knowing this, try to give him a lifestyle appropriate to his age and also take care of him to prevent or minimize the impact of diseases if the canine is already a senior.

Necessary implements 

Picking up a dog from the street can sometimes be anticipated or a sudden decision made just at the moment of picking up the animal. In both cases, you must have some items of daily use for the pet.

With these implements, the canine will be able to have a place to eat, go for a walk in a safe way or not to escape and a space to rest. These items are:

  • Food bowl
  • Cup for drinking
  • A collar
  • A bed
  • Dog soap (if you are going to bathe your dog at home).

If your decision was made just at that moment, try to get the implements as soon as possible so that the dog gets used to them from the beginning.

Time and availability 

When adopting a pet, you need to pay attention to him and have enough time for him to learn basic behavioral aspects and get him used to a routine.

However, all canines are different, but street dogs are even more so. This is because they have already adapted certain behaviors and habits during their time on the street.

When taking him to your home, the animal will feel disoriented and strange as he is in a new environment. As you don’t know his behavior and habits, you must be especially patient and have all the disposition to teach him how to behave at home.

The canine may have gone through bad experiences such as mistreatment, so being in a new environment to the one he used to frequent in the street will make him defensive. Don’t put pressure on him from the beginning because the dog can take it as a threat and two things can happen.

First, he will want to leave your house, he will spend his time next to the door, scratching it and sometimes howling non-stop. And the second is that it behaves aggressively as a defense mechanism and bites you.

You have to give the canine time to adapt to his new life and start developing behaviors other than survival. It depends on the dog’s personality, he will get used to it faster or on the contrary, it will take more time as long as he feels that he is already in a familiar and safe environment.

During this process, avoid reprimanding him too hard, and try to give him affection, praise, and even rewards, which is known as positive reinforcement. This will help the canine feel more confident and associate what he learns with actions that will have a positive effect on him.

Medical care for dogs 

The most important thing is to complete all the medical treatments for the dog.

These basic cares are bathing, grooming (depending on the physical condition of the canine), application of the necessary vaccinations and, finally, a treatment to get rid of parasites in its digestive system.


This is one of the first things to do once the dog is at home. This will help him relax because you will remove all the dirt that makes him feel uncomfortable.

Besides, the accumulation of dirt creates crusts on the dog’s skin making him feel itchy. He resorts to desperate scratching to alleviate his discomfort and ends up further irritating the skin because of the dirt accumulated on his paws and nails.

You have two options for this process. The first one consists of taking him to a veterinary groomer if you have the money and don’t feel confident in bathing him yourself.

You can bathe him yourself at home if you don’t have enough money to take him to a dog groomer. It may sound a little complex, but it is not as difficult as you think, we show you below.


This factor depends on the physical condition in which you picked up your canine. Some dogs, because of their breed, will grow a lot of fur, reaching a long hair that will tangle a lot. Others have short hair and only require brushing to remove the shedding fur.

It can be complemented with the bath in case you take it to a veterinary grooming salon, in which the hygiene of the canine is done together, the bath and the grooming salon.

In case you do not have much money, you just send it to the groomer, since it is a single service, this will be more economical. In addition, it is recommended that the hairdresser’s shop should be in a specialized place, because if it is your first time, you do not have experience in cutting hair and you do not have the necessary equipment.

If it is the case that you have previous experience in grooming a canine and you have the necessary items, you can save costs by doing it yourself. Remember to be careful, because the dog is in a new environment and the noise of the machine can make him nervous and he will act defensively towards you.

Recommendations: It would be best to cut the hair short so that it can grow evenly. In addition, before trimming, check that the dog’s skin has no serious wounds so you can warn them not to run the machine too hard on those areas.


It’s crucial that the dog has his complete vaccination schedule to help strengthen his immune system and be able to withstand any disease.

For this process, you must take the dog to a medical check-up to assess his health condition. To learn more about this, I invite you to read the canine vaccination schedule: the complete guide.

In some cases, the dog’s immune system is very weak as a result of living in the street and thus, poor nutrition. The veterinarian will determine at what time the vaccines should be administered once the dog has a healthy diet that helps to strengthen his immune system.

This will prevent the vaccination to have the opposite effect of protecting and end up putting the dog’s life in danger by introducing a virus when his immune system is in bad condition. Remember that the vaccination process is annual.


This is another of the most important steps to be taken to prevent health problems such as parasites from advancing and causing greater damage.

In this case, the dog can have both external and internal parasites. The external ones are fleas and ticks, being these the most common. On the other hand, the internal ones are worms and roundworms.

Each one causes damage in its own way, on the side of the external one,s they are in charge of irritating and creating infections in the dermis. While internal worms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and a very evident symptom when they relieve themselves is that the feces have worms, among other conditions.

Whether the canine is suffering from one or both, you know the importance of doing the deworming process as soon as possible to alleviate and recover the mood and health of the furry one. Consult your veterinarian for the recommended method to deworm your canine, ideally with a broad spectrum to attack more parasites.

9 tips for picking up a dog from the street 

Now I’ll show you in detail the 9 tips to succeed in the process of picking up and taking home your new friend.

1. Recognize the area and the canine 

It’s important that you identify the places the dog frequents to get an idea of where he will be when you pick him up. This applies to people who made the decision in advance and know already which dog to take with them.

On the other hand, if you are one of those who make decisions on the spot, try to get the dog’s attention, call him to come to you and offer him food. But how do I give him food? Well… for that, I have this second tip for you.

2. Build trust with the dog 

You need to first establish a small bond so that the dog doesn’t see you as a threat. And how do you do that? There are two ways to proceed with the dog and that depends on when you have made the decision.

Also, keep in mind that food will be the key during this whole process. So get some food ready before you approach the canine.

To give him food, first put it in the palm of your hand and slowly bring it to the canine. This way, the dog will know that you are not tricking him and he won’t be able to bite a finger. Once he smells that it is food, he will take it without problems and you will continue feeding him until he gets used to it.

Now let’s see how to act in each case to gain the canine’s trust.

Taking the decision in advance 

Knowing which dog you will take with you can make a difference because you can visit him frequently before the day you take him home.

Accompany these visits with some food and if the canine allows it, give him some petting as well. This will help the dog not to feel bad intentions from you and to be able to act calm with you by his side.

The number of days you are going to visit him will depend on you while you get the necessary implements. However, an option could be 2 to 3 days before, visiting him several times on the same day to increase the dog’s trust level.

You’ll notice that the dog already trusts you when it recognizes you by your scent and goes to where you are.

Taking the decision suddenly 

If you decided to pick him up right when you see him, you should approach him with food and try to have a considerable amount so you don’t lose his attention.

As you feed him, try to touch him on his head gently until you can give him a good petting. Keep this up until the canine does not want to leave your side and instead stays with you waiting for more food.

If the dog stays there either for the food or for you to pet him for a while longer, his trust is already assured.

3. It’s time to hold him 

The time for you to hold the canine and have him secured has come. As I mentioned before, this factor will also depend on whether you were already prepared or if it was a spontaneous thing. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to act in each case.

Acting with preparation 

Clearly, the day you go to pick up your furry friend, you can bring the collar with you to make it easier to go home.

As the canine has already seen you several times and knows you pet him and give him food, he won’t hesitate to approach you. To keep him distracted while you put the collar on, give him food, but use a cup or a bag so that you can have both hands free.

As soon as the dog concentrates on eating, put the collar (preferably a breast or vest collar so as not to overwhelm him with a choke collar) on the floor behind the front paws. Then you pet him with one hand and with the other you will put the paw in the hole of the collar and so on with the other. Once the paws are in the hole, pull up the collar and fasten it.

Acting improvised 

As you don’t have a collar to hold it, you can resort to two options. The first is to get a long rope and tie it gently around the neck and chest.

The second option is to carry the dog in your arms. This depends a lot on how he reacts to you picking him up by his sides. If the furry one does not cry or growl, you can pick him up, but if it is the opposite, it is better to let him loose and keep him more distracted with the food.

Also, in this case, the dog should be of a medium to small size, so that it is not difficult for you and it is a weight that you can bear.

And that’s it, you will have secured the canine in both cases. Then comes the trip home, but I’ll tell you about that in the next tip.

4. Let’s go home 

As I mentioned before, food is very important because it helps to keep the animal’s attention on you.

In cases where the animal is on the floor with or without a collar, you should start walking slowly while offering him food. This is so that the canine with the collar walks without having to be pulled too hard.

If the dog doesn’t have a leash to secure him, keep him walking next to you while feeding him. This will make him follow you because he expects you to give him more.

Now, if you get to lift him up, hold the dog tightly so he doesn’t suddenly get scared and want to get off and then run away.

Remember to add some praises and caresses so that the dog continues to feel comfortable. In case you put him on transport, if it is a small or medium size dog, try to lift him up and caress him all the time so he doesn’t get tense. If it is a big dog, guide him with food and help him up, then you will also pet him there to calm it down.

5. Arriving at the new home 

Once you and your new friend arrive at your destination, there are a few things you should do. The place should be clear to prevent the dog from getting hurt or breaking something unintentionally.

On the other hand, if you’re not prepared, you can leave him in a corner while you pick up anything fragile in the place where he will be at that moment.

This step is done to set up the space so that the furry one can begin to explore and identify his new home. He will want to sniff everything within reach and may even want to run around the area.

Since all canines are different, some will be very active in roaming around, while others will simply sit still. Don’t let this worry you, let the canine start exploring on its own when it feels comfortable.

6. Give him a good meal 

Although you haven’t stopped feeding the dog from the time you approached him until you got home, it’s not a big deal to give him more food, because what you’ve given him is minimal compared to the daily ration he always needs to eat.

Serve him a little more than a cup of concentrate and if you can’t get a kilo or so at that moment, give him a considerable amount of other food like bread.

Also, try to use the food cup so he knows from the start where he will eat. If you don’t have one yet, put the food in a bag or a wide container.

Don’t forget to give him some water to hydrate him, you don’t know since when he hasn’t had at least a little bit to drink. Remember to put both cups apart to avoid mess, so put them in each corner of the room where he is eating.

Once the canine eats everything or as much as he wants, let him rest quietly for at least 1 to 2 hours: our next tip is about hygiene.

7. Now let’s give him a bath 

If you picked him up between morning and afternoon, you can bathe him or send him for a bath that same day. But if you arrived at night, it is better to leave it for the next day to avoid sudden changes in the canine’s temperature.

If you can afford it, take him to a veterinary salon; if not, you can do it yourself. Also, if you don’t know how to bathe him, I invite you to read the complete guide to bathing your dog at home for the first time, where I explain in detail everything you need and how to do it.

8. Adapting to the new home 

Don’t be too demanding when giving orders to your dog, because it’s a new place where he doesn’t know anything and he will feel strange. Remember to be patient, don’t scold him too hard, and treat him in the best way so that he feels comfortable and calm in his new space.

9. Teaching habits 

Teaching your furry friend some habits from the beginning is crucial so he can get used to his new routine.

This consists of walking him 2 to 3 times a day to do his needs, among other activities. And to learn more about all the basic habits you should teach your newcomer, I invite you to read What are the first habits you should teach your dog?