Adopting a dog in Korea was overwhelming at first, and I didn’t know how I would handle it. Even though I’d prepared so much, I still felt woefully ignorant. But now that it’s been a few months, I can tell you that it’s been totally fine. And Fun! Navigating the Korean-speaking pet world has been an adventure, and here are some things I think everyone should know before welcoming home a furever friend.
Where to find a dog in Korea
Although speaking Korean is infinitely useful when you live here, it’s not totally necessary for finding your doggo. There are English-speaking rescues to be found on Facebook, often run by military volunteers. If you can read Korean, there’s the app Paw In Hand which lists dogs in shelters around the nation. And there’s also a popular Naver cafe called Gangsamo (강사모 in Korean, which is short for 강아지를 사랑하는 모임, or “Dog Lover’s Gathering”) with even more dog listings and care tips.
Difficult, but not impossible to find, as pets are becoming more and
more popular in Korea. If you don’t speak Korean there are English-speaking
realtors who can help you, especially if you live in a more foreigner-heavy
area. If you have the finances for a higher deposit, it’ll help.
Finding a good animal hospital (동물병원)
Don’t be afraid to shop around. Many vets are capable of basic
communication in English, but if you don’t feel comfortable with the way they
handle your baby, there’s likely another animal hospital nearby you can check
out. The pet-focused Facebook groups often have tons of recommendations.
The tariffs on pet stuff are just as significant as on human goods, so
if you’re hoping to buy brands that you’re familiar with from back home, be
prepared to pay more. However, in my experience, vet visits are cheaper! You’ll
want to prepare about 250,000 won for the initial visit — for my dog, Cosmo,
this covered a general checkup, blood work, microchipping, and vaccinations. He
was already neutered, but anecdotally I’ve seen estimates range between 150,000
to 300,000 won. On a monthly basis, I probably average around 75,000 won for
his basic costs.
A whole new vocabulary
I’ve been here nearly four years and I use Korean on a daily basis.
However, pet Korean is definitely different and has expanded my lexicon
significantly. You’ll need to learn words like 사료 (kibble), 목줄 (leash), 심장사상충 (heartworm), and 배변봉투 (poop bag). Those
are the very, very basic ones I have to use regularly. Every time I go to the
vet I’m kind of blown away by how little I know. Luckily, my vet speaks English
so I’m not missing out on important information.
My dog walker was recommended by a friend. But he found her initially on the app Miso, which has a dog walking service — and English customer support! I also looked into Dogmate, which allows walkers to introduce themselves almost like a dating app, so you can get to know them before you even bring them to your house. Cosmo’s great at home alone so I don’t use doggy daycare (애견유치원) but there are many in Seoul that offer workday supervision.
Most vets will trim your dog’s nails for you if you ask them to, but when ol’ doggo gets really down and dirty, there’s the doggy salon (애견미용실)! If you have a breed that doesn’t shed, their hair will eventually need to be trimmed and there are plenty of dog groomers to be found. If you search on Naver you can often find reviews — the really good ones will have an Instagram or Naver blog where they post regular updates of the haircuts they’ve done for clients. I personally like Anco Shop and I’ve seen Getstyle on YouTube where you can watch them work! Plus, who doesn’t love scrolling a page full of cute dogs?
The official stuff
Getting your dog microchipped is pretty much mandatory in Seoul. Vets may check if your dog is microchipped when you first go in. It’s an easy process and cost me about 30,000 won (though prices may vary). Then your dog gets a cool doggy ID card, much like yours! And like your ID card, if you move, you have to get it updated.
Where to get your dog food, treats, bed, and other goodies
Short answer: Coupang. Long answer: I use Coupang for everything. They
have kibble and snacks both foreign and domestic, clothes, grooming supplies,
beds — literally everything. If I think of something Cosmo might need,
Coupang’s got it.
But there are also so many stores dedicated to cute and useful dog
things. If you look for high-rise buildings with dogs being walked outside,
there’s bound to be a pet supply store (애견용품)
I also want to give a shout out to Totemo, whose minimalist dog clothes are exactly my style (and therefore Cosmo’s style). As a bonus, when you make a purchase, they donate a shirt to rescue dogs too!
Getting extra with your dog
I have an Instagram for Cosmo, no shame. As a result, I’ve been getting a lot of dog-targeted ads, including ones for pet photographers! I like Verb Studio, who offers packages for what I think are great prices and was very accommodating even when my Korean was faltering. If you want to be in the photo with your dog, Glamour Shots does absolutely WILD photoshoots with your furry family member. I have not sprung for one of those yet . . . but maybe for Cosmo’s birthday?