Adopting a dog can be a complicated process. To make sure you’re choosing the right pet for you and your family, there are some questions you’ll want to ask when adopting a dog. These questions are for you, your family, and the shelter staff. Keep this list handy as you make your dog-adoption decision.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Do I have the means, the space, the time, and the ability to care for a new pet?
Go through your day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Can your life and your home accommodate a new family member? Is it safe to walk a dog in your neighborhood? Is there a dog park nearby to help your new pet get socialized? Can you afford the day to day costs of pet ownership like food and supplements? Can you afford an unexpected expense like an illness or accident? If there’s any doubt about these questions, you might not be ready to parent a pet.
2. Am I prepared to train a new pet?
Even the most docile and well behaved animals will have to learn a few rules in their new home. And it’s not likely that your new dog will be wholly well behaved and docile. Training requires repetition and patience.
Choose a training style, communicate it with your family, and stick with it. Expressing anger and frustration will only frighten a new pet. Calm consistency is what’s needed.
3. Is my whole family on the same page with regard to rules, limits, training, and caregiving responsibilities?
If kids or spouses will have different roles in caregiving, make the roles clear from the get go. Consider making a game of it. Write up a contract of pet duties, and have the whole family sign it.
Agree on household rules like whether people food is allowed, or whether or not doggie is allowed on the couch.
Questions to Ask the Shelter
4. Do you know anything about the dog’s history?
Shelters will often have some idea of where a dog was or what their life was like before they landed in the shelter. Those details may help to inform your decision. If there’s no history, but you like the dog, don’t fret. Getting to know the dog one-on-one in a couple visits will be enough.
5. May I spend any one-on-one time with the dog?
Most shelters will allow prospective adopters to go on walks with dogs they like, or have a romp outdoors in a fenced in area. If this isn’t offered, request it. Try little games that might give you a sense of the dog’s personality. For example, carefully offer toys, and then carefully remove them, to see how the dog reacts. Try to teach the dog a very simple trick to connect with them. The better you know one another before heading home, the better off everyone will be.
6. Do you have a medical history for the dog?
Every shelter should do an intake exam on all dogs. Any known health issues should be disclosed. If the animal has a long term or progressive illness, do your research. You don’t want to take on more than you can handle. Simple issues like bordatella (kennel cough) can go away quickly once the dog is removed from the shelter environment.
7. Is s/he already spayed or neutered?
Many shelters offer spay/neuter services. Inquire about their pricing and services. If they don’t offer the procedures, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
8. Do you know a good veterinarian?
Find a veterinarian before you adopt, and make an appointment as close to the date of adoption as possible. The best way to find a vet you’ll love is through word of mouth -- ask the shelter, family, and friends for a recommendation.
Some Final Considerations
9. Am I sure I’ve chosen the right animal for me and my family?
Have you visited several times? Are you sure you’re adopting because you really click with your chosen animal, and not because you’re in a hurry for some reason? Does the dog’s energy level match what you’ll be able to offer?
10. Is my physical space safe and ready for a pet?
Be sure to move all your breakables out of harm’s way and pick up any objects or toys that won’t belong to your new dog. It’s better to set them up for success, especially at first. Keep an eye on loose curtain pulls and electrical cords.
More on Pet Adoption
How to Foster a Cat
Transitioning Your Pet from Shelter to Happy Home
Which Dog Breed is Best for You?