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Dogs are complex creatures, and caring for them isn’t always easy. Asking the right questions is the only way to ensure that you make the right choice when adopting a dog. As a result, you won’t find yourself tearing your hair out when unexpected behaviors appear later down the road.

Adopting a dog can be one of the most uniquely rewarding things a person can do. Being in the company of a loving owner and a safe, nurturing and stable home are absolutely crucial for the well-being of any dog. But how can you make sure the dog you adopt is the best fit for you?

Whether you are adopting a dog from a shelter or directly from the owner, information is everything. There are some basic but very important questions to ask. Doing so will allow you to make the best decision possible for you and your future dog.

Below are some of the most important questions that you should ask before adopting a dog. Keep in mind there are no right or wrong answers. However, certain facts may be deal-breakers for you or your family.

Q: How did the dog end up in the shelter? How long has it been there?

This is probably the first question you’ll want to ask when adopting a dog from a shelter. The context of why a dog ended up at a shelter can provide a some very valuable insight. Ideally, you will begin to form a basic picture about the dog’s needs, temperament, behaviour, and more.

For example, a dog who was rescued from an abusive environment will have some very specific triggers, and care requirements. These may be very different for a dog that was given to the shelter by a previous owner who was no longer able to care for it for financial reasons.

Similarly, understanding how long the dog has been at the shelter can give some basic insight into how easy (or difficult) it will be to integrate the dog into a new environment.

Q: Has this dog previously been adopted? If so, why did the owner return it?

It is very important to know if the dog has previously been adopted and returned. If so, the reasons why can hint at what you may experience if you were to adopt this dog yourself.

What are some reasons that a previously adopted dog was returned to a shelter? Maybe the previous owner was no longer able to care for the dog for practical or financial reasons. On the other hand, it may be that the previous owner had children after adopting the dog. They may have then discovered that their seemingly well-tempered dog became violently aggressive around their young children.

Q: What previous medical procedures or care has this dog received?

It is very important to ensure that the dog you are considering for adoption has had all of the basic essential medical care. This would include being vaccinated, receiving heartworm testing, de-worming, and being spayed or neutered. Always make sure you receive the veterinary records of all of these procedures.

It is also important to know if the dog has previously had any sickness or injuries. Even if they are currently healthy, some conditions can cause recurring or life long issues. When it comes to your dog’s health, you don’t want any surprises.

Q: How does this dog interact with other dogs, other animals, or small children?

Information about a dog’s history of socialization is essential in making sure that there are no surprises down the road.

Don’t assume that just because a dog gets along well with some dogs, it will get along with all dogs. It can be useful to dig a little bit deeper. Ask how this dog gets along with dogs of all different breeds, sizes and temperaments.

Similarly, it is important to know how the dog reacts around small children. This is important to know even if you don’t have (and don’t plan on having) any children yourself. Consider that you may encounter a small child while out for a walk with your dog. Will it lunge towards the child or become agitated? It’s best to know in advance how your dog may react in this situation so you can prepare.

Q: How extensively (if at all) has the dog been trained?

Just like the other questions you’ll find here, this one is crucial. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to know if the dog has been potty trained. In addition, find out if it understands basic commands like sit, stay, etc.

When it comes to training dogs, consistency is everything. For this reason, you’ll want to know exactly which specific commands the dog is used to. For example, a particular dog may respond to the command “off”, but not “down”. Trying to use the wrong command will confuse the dog, and impede its training.

This is also a good time to ask about how well the dog walks on a leash. Most shelters will actually give you an opportunity to take the dog for a walk before you make your final decision. Be cautious of any shelter that won’t allow you to do this.

Q: If things don’t work out with my family, can the dog be brought back to this shelter?

As a prospective new dog owner, the thought of having to return our dog to the shelter is likely not a happy one. That said, this is an important question to ask nonetheless. Sometimes no matter much information we gather, something unforeseeable happens. Unfortunately when it comes to shelter animals, things don’t always work out.

In summary:

These are some of the basic questions you’ll want to ask when considering adopting a dog, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is very important to do thorough research before deciding to adopt any animal, and dogs are certainly no exception.

Most shelters and animal rescues will be forthcoming with information about their animals, and they have a vested interest in making sure that their animals are being adopted by prepared owners. The last thing a shelter wants is to have one of their dogs be adopted, only to return a short time later.

By asking the right questions, you can ensure that you make an educated and informed choice, and that you are your furry friend can enjoy each others company in health and happiness for years to come!


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