30 Questions To Ask When Adopting a Dog

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Adopting a new furry family member can be overwhelming. Who should you contact? What kind of dog do you really want?

It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

There are so many things to consider.

And many shelters and rescue groups will ask many questions of you and have requirements that you’ll need to meet.

Black and white of a rescue dog wearing an "Adopt" bandana.

Today we have a list of 30 questions to ask when adopting a dog.

Contents & Quick Navigation

First Things First: Initial Considerations

There are some matters that should be considered when you want to get a dog. These include the following:

1. Does everyone in your household want a dog? Will they help out?

It’s important that everyone be on-board with your decision to adopt a pup.

Everyone should want the dog. They should also agree upon who will perform what chores there are in taking care of him.

2. Can you afford a dog? 

As much as we love dogs, they cost a lot to take care of. There are veterinary bills; expenses for food, toys, and chews; training costs; and equipment costs for crates, collars, and leashes.

Take a look at this post we put together on our sister site about how much a labrador puppy costs. This post includes not only the initial cost of a puppy, but also ongoing expenses.

3. Do you have the time and ability to care for a dog? 

As much as you love dogs, consider whether your schedule allows time to care for him. 

Also, consider whether you’re able to meet the dog’s exercise, training, grooming, and other needs. 

4. Is your home suitable for a dog? 

Depending on what type and age you’re considering, you may need to puppy-proof your home.

You might be required by the rescue to have a fenced yard.

5. Will your other pets be able to live with a new dog? 

If you have another dog or a cat, will they be able to live in harmony with the newcomer? 

Will any other animals, such as a hamster, be safe from a new dog?

6. What type of dog do you want? 

Are you looking for a puppy, an adult, or a senior? Do you want a specific breed or mix?

7. Where will you get the dog? 

There are many shelters, rescue groups, and people who are re-homing their own dogs.

There are many great rescue groups and shelters. Some use foster homes where the dogs stay so that they can assess them and help work through any issues and train them.

Such places have certain rules they follow which will make the process easier and clearer for you. 

But there are still many questions you should ask before acquiring your new canine family member.

And it’s important to realize that not all shelters are created equal. Some have more resources than others. 

Depending on their resources, some may have more information on the dog. Because of the availability of volunteers or foster homes.

But I’ve found that the adoptable dogs needing homes are really appreciative of the care they receive after being adopted.

My rescued dogs formed a great bond with me and have been excellent companions. I love them as much as I have any dog I’ve obtained from a breeder.

If you’re adopting from a private individual, still ask the pertinent questions but be aware that they have no procedures to follow. It’s caveat emptor.

Where Can I Find a Rescue Group or Shelter?

So you’ve decided to adopt your new canine companion rather than buy him from a breeder

Congratulations! You may be aware of local shelters or rescue groups. Some of your friends may even be able to give recommendations.

Distance from you to see what dogs are available.

If you need some other resources, Petfinder and Adopt a Pet are great internet sites that can help you in your search.

You can plug in a certain breed or mix and the distance from you. 

You can also attempt to find a certain breed from breed-specific sites.

I found my golden retriever Spencer on Petfinder and my goldens Brandi and Riley on Adopt a Pet.

Ask Questions About the Dog’s Past

It’s important to discover as much as you can regarding the dog’s history. Doing so can help answer some questions you may have regarding his health and behavior.

8. What are your adoption procedures? 

Find out whether there’s a formal contract. There usually is. 

Ask about the process and cost. Inquire whether there’s a home visit to determine whether your home is an appropriate setting for your desired dog.

Ask what the rescue provides for the dog upon and after adoption, such as food, medicines, leashes/harnesses/collars, and identification.

Find out what the cost is for your new pup.

Also inquire about what’s done if the dog shows medical need or behavioral issues after adoption. And ask who you should contact.

9. Ask whether there’s any post-adoption support. 

Many rescues and shelters provide such help.

The rescue group I obtained my current Aussie mix Millie from provides such assistance, including a trainer who may be contacted for free.

10. Where was the dog obtained from by the shelter/rescue group? 

He may have been turned in by an owner, been picked up as a stray, been transferred from another organization, or been born while in rescue.

If the dog was turned in by an owner, you should ask why. The prior owner may cite behavior or medical concerns. 

Some say they’re moving or have schedule changes that don’t allow them to keep a dog.

If the prior owner has been forthright, the answers may help you understand the dog better.

If the pup was transferred from another shelter or rescue, that organization may have some insight into the dog’s health, temperament, and behavior.

If picked up as a stray, his background may be a mystery.

11. What is the dog’s age, weight, and breed or mix? 

Sometimes it’s an educated guess regarding the dog’s age and breed or mix.

12. What was the condition of the dog when the shelter or rescue group obtained him? 

His condition can help indicate what his health was at that point as well as his temperament.

They can tell you whether he had any health issues like worms or mange. Or whether he was hit by a car. Or whether he was emaciated, normal weight, or overweight.

Query whether the dog was friendly, scared, anxious, reactive, or aggressive.

13. What medical evaluations were made or treatments given? 

Inquire whether the dog you’re considering has any health issues. If so, can they be cured or will they require ongoing treatments? How much will this cost?

As for a copy of any medical records.

14. Is the dog current on vaccinations and any other normal treatments? 

It’s important to know whether the dog you’re considering adopting is current on rabies and other age-appropriate vaccinations and flea and tick products.

You don’t want them to not have the appropriate ones nor do you want to over-vaccinate.

15. Was the dog adopted out before and returned? 

It’s important to ask this in case any medical or behavioral problems have been noted.

Remember, though, that many dogs are returned through no fault of their own. 

It may be that someone just didn’t take the time to train or exercise them appropriately. 

Or that they didn’t realize how much responsibility is involved in taking care of a dog. Or for many other reasons.

My rescued golden retriever Riley was returned to the rescue group I adopted him from. 

He had some resource guarding. Riley was about six months old at the time and prior owners didn’t work with that issue. And they didn’t train him or give him enough exercise.

Riley’s a great dog who just needed some training and to have his exercise needs met.

After I adopted him, I worked with his issues. I also took him on long walks and trained him.

We played ball. I even took him to a doggie daycare. 

And he became the happy, well-behaved dog he was meant to be.

16. Does the dog have a microchip? 

If he does, get the information so that you can register him in your name.

17. Was the dog spayed or neutered? 

If so, ask when and by whom. Also, obtain any documentation.

18. Was the dog in a foster home?

If he was, ask for information regarding his behavior and what he knows regarding commands. 

Find out if the foster home observed any behavioral issues. Also, find out the dog’s routine (when he was fed, what he played with and when, how much and what type of exercise he had).

Riley was in a foster home before I adopted him. They helped introduce him to a crate and started working with his resource guarding. 

The foster home also met his exercise needs.

So, when I adopted him, he was well on the way to being the great golden he became.

19. How is the dog with handling? 

Find out if his collar/harness can be handled and whether a leash can be attached. 

Also  ask whether he can be petted and whether he can be groomed, bathed, and nails clipped.

20. Is the dog house trained? Does he mark? 

A shelter sometimes won’t know these things because of the nature of him being confined to a kennel run. 

But sometimes a dog who’s been house trained will go to the far end of the run if he can’t reach the outside. And if the kennel run has a door to the outside, some dogs will try to potty outside.

But remember that a house trained dog may have accidents in a kennel because of stress.

If the dog’s been in a foster home for a length of time, they might know whether he’s been house trained in the past . Or they may even house train him while he’s in foster care.

21. What are the dog’s exercise needs? 

Does he have high, medium, or low energy needs? How many walks or runs a day does he need? 

Does he play? Ask how long these activities occur.

Remember, depending on the amount of time staff members or volunteers have, they may or may not know the answers to these questions.

But, for a healthy dog, they’ll be able to give you guidelines depending on the dog’s age and breed or mix.

22. Is the dog trained to use a crate? 

If he’s in a shelter, the staff may not know this information first-hand unless he was in a foster home.

Sometimes, a prior owner will have provided this information.

23. What obedience commands does he know? 

If he’s been in a foster home, they may have this information.

Some shelters too have programs in which they teach the dog some commands.

How does he walk on a leash?

Also, find out what training equipment was used on him such as a collar, harness,. leash, or long-line.

Find out too what type of training he received. Was positive reinforcement used in which the dog was rewarded for performing certain behaviors?

24. What motivates the dog? 

Is he motivated by food? This may sound like a weird question, but some aren’t moved by food.

Admittedly, most are. Or they are if the right food is used–like a high-value treat like chicken or cheese. Or Happy Howie’s meat roll.

Does the dog play with toys as a reward? Is petting or praise reinforcing to him?

25. Does he have any known behavioral issues? 

Find out if he’s confident or shy. 

Question whether he’s reactive or aggressive to anything. This includes people, dogs, cats, other animals, bikes, cars, joggers, etc.

Does he bark excessively? If the dog’s not in a foster home, the shelter may not know the answer to this.

In that environment, he may bark more or less than he would in a home.

Does he guard resources like food, toys, people, or space?

Do they know of any fear issues?

Does he have separation anxiety?

Remember: he may behave differently in a kennel setting than he would in a home. And even if he’s in a foster home, he may behave differently in your home.

26. Does the dog get along with men, women, children, dogs, and cats? 

Most shelters and rescue groups want to make his placement “furever.” 

They want to make sure that your home is the right setting to meet his needs and your expectations.

The shelter or rescue may be able to tell you whether the dog gets along with certain animals or people. For example, some dogs shouldn’t be placed with children, cats, or other dogs.

Many require that all household members meet and want your potential canine family member. 

Also, each animal’s an individual, and may get along with some people or animals but not others.

Also ask that your current dog meet the new dog prior to adoption to determine whether they will probably get along. 

So ask for all to meet the prospective dog and ask for guidance from the rescue group or shelter regarding whether they believe it’s a good fit.

27. Is there a requirement that you have a fence?

Some groups require this. Others may require it for only some dogs. 

Depending on the group, a hard fence may be acceptable whereas an electric, invisible fence may not be acceptable.

28. What food, treats, and other edibles has he been given? 

Also find out the amounts and when.

29. Will you have any post-adoption responsibilities?

Some rescues might want you to bring your pup to some of their events. Though this is rarely required.

30. Will the shelter or rescue take the dog back if the adoption doesn’t work out? 

Of course, this is a last resort as you go into the adoption with high hopes that your new dog will be your best buddy.

But even when everything is done correctly, the dog may not be the proper fit for your home.

It’s important to know what will become of the dog. After all, he has feelings and needs. And he deserves the best life too.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a dog is one of life’s most exciting and rewarding adventures. 

Both you as well as the shelter want this to be a life-long commitment: a “furever” placement.

By asking the right questions, it’s much more likely that there will be a great fit.

Have you adopted a dog? What were the rescue’s or shelter’s requirements? What questions did you ask? Was the adoption successful?

Please tell us in comments section below.

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What To Ask Before You Adopt A Dog - 30 Questions - black dog wearing an "Adopt" bandana

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30 Questions To Ask When Adopting a Dog was last modified: May 14th, 2021 by Debbie



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