The domesticated dog has long been humankind’s greatest gift to itself. An all-purpose protector, companion, and unconditional admirer, we could not have engineered a better best friend if we’d tried.  Dogs reward us every day, and this month, it’s time to reward them. October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month,” and it’s the best time to give a furry pal a forever home.

Why should you opt to adopt? We’ve got a few great reasons!

You’re saving a life.

Due to overpopulation and crowding, millions of healthy, suitable dogs are euthanized each year in shelters. The situation is particularly desperate for pit bulls. Although they are bred at an alarming rate, they are the least likely breed to be adopted from shelters. Due to widely-held prejudices and breed-specific legislation, these maligned pups are often euthanized immediately after arriving.

You’re paying less and getting more.

Breeder’s fees can climb into the thousands, especially for show-quality dogs. Adoption fees are significantly lower at shelters and rescues, and often include a spay or neuter operation, vaccinations, microchipping, and parasite treatment. This saves you quite a bit of runaround, as well as a lot of money.

You’ll get the personalized assistance you need.

Due to the frequency of returned pets, shelters have a stake in making sure your adoption is permanent. Although the vetting process can be more rigorous than that of a breeder or pet store, it ensures you end up with the pet that is best suited for your home and lifestyle.

Even if you’re committed to adopting, you may still have some concerns. Here are some tips to find the best companion for you and your family.

Keep an open mind: Sometimes the pet you want is not the pet that is best for you. Although many prospective dog owners are looking for a puppy, not everyone is prepared for the energy and extensive training a young dog needs to be happy and well-behaved. An honest assessment of your schedule, mobility constraints, and home life might lead you to a dog of a different breed or age than you’d hoped for, but a better fit will spare you and the pup a lot of stress.

Picky? Try a rescue: Many prospective dog owners are turned off by shelters because they have strict breed preferences. If you have your heart set on a pug, you might be tempted to avoid shelters and go straight to a breeder. Fortunately, there are breed-specific rescues all over the country, many of which pull dogs from shelters. Conveniently, the adoption fees are usually only slightly higher than those of shelters, and often cover the same medical and vaccination procedures.

Be patient: The adoption process is not always quick, and it may take some time to get to know your new family member. Be firm in your discipline, but forgiving – with the right training, the rewards of pet ownership far outweigh the cost. Happy adopting! – Erin Norris

Erin Norris is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She enjoys baseball season, historical biographies, and the company of her mischievous tuxedo cat.