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Questions To Ask When Adopting A Dog: A Complete Guide

Knowing the right questions to ask before adopting a dog or puppy can make all the difference in having a long happy future with your pet

Having volunteered at many shelters and rescues over the years, the one thing I see too often is that people are too quick to adopt without getting all the information they can about the dog.

They get caught up in what a dog looks or breeds and do not think about the important parts of dog ownership like training, energy level, medical history or a breeds specific traits.

I hope this guide will help you dig deeper to make sure adopting a puppy or dog results in you finding a life-long “furever” friend for your family to love and enjoy.

The more questions you ask about the dog you are considering the better the chance of you finding a perfect fit!

Even more important – the questions below can help decrease the chance that you will need to return the dog to the shelter or rescue since you will know all the important things about them.

The one great thing about adopting a puppy or dog from a rescue as opposed to a shelter is that many of the dogs in their care are in foster homes. This means you can get a better understanding of how a dog is in a home environment.

The questions below are all recommended and can give you a lot of insight into the dog you are considering adopting, but you may not be able to get the answers to all of them.

Do not let that scare you off though – it is normal for a rescue group or shelter to not have a full history of the dogs in their care. Some come in as strays, some may be owner surrenders who offered no information – there are many reasons the history of a dog may be unknown.

None of this makes them less adoptable!

45 Questions To Ask When Adopting A Dog

Below are all the questions you can ask before adopting a new dog – next to each question you will see either a S, R or S/R which signifies whether a question should be asked to a shelter or rescue or both.

General Questions

  1. How long has the dog been with your rescue or shelter? (S/R)
  2. Has he/she been adopted out and returned or would this be their first adoption? (S/R)
  3. If they have been returned what was the reason? (S/R)
  4. How did the dog wind up in your rescue or shelter? Were they a stray, surrender etc.? Do you know the previous owner? (S/R)
  5. What kind of condition was the dog in when you received them? (S/R)
  6. How long has your rescue been helping dogs? (R)
  7. What is your policy if the dog is not a good match for our family after we bring them home? (S/R)
  8. If I take my dog to the vet after adopting him/her and find there is a severe illness, does your rescue assist us in any way? (S/R)
  9. Is there any signs of physical – or mental abuse I should know about? (S/R)

Please note that rescues are only funded by donations. While some rescues might actually help with vet bills if they adopt out an unknowingly ill dog – many are not in the financial state to assist. While I recommend asking this question – please do not expect them to help!

We have a full guide to getting assistance with vet bills if this is a concern at any time.

Health Questions

Asking about the health of the dog is important! You do now want to take a dog home and be surprised about any medical issues that arise. These are some basic questions to help you understand the health of the dog.

  1. Has the dog been spayed/neutered? If not, will you take care of it before we adopt? (S/R)
  2. Has a heartworm test been done – and if negative have preventatives been given? (S/R)
  3. If positive for heartworm has treatment been started or completed? (S/R)
  4. Are all vaccinations up to date including Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, Bordatello? (S/R)
  5. Can I get copies of the medical records to date if I adopt the dog? (S/R)
  6. Is the dog microchipped? If not, will they be before adoption? (S/R)
  7. When was the dogs’ last full physical exam? Did this include a full dental exam? (S/R)
  8. Are you aware of any medical issues that I should be aware of? (S/R)
  9. Is there any special requirements for grooming or bathing? (S/R)
  10. Does the dog require any specific foods? (S/R)

Make sure you do your own due diligence as well! Do not be afraid to ask to see the dog and do a full review of the animals. Check the eyes, ears and nose to make sure all are clear and clean from discharge. Look inside their mouth and make sure the teeth are clean and gums look good. (Older dogs may have not so pretty teeth, but you want to be sure there is no bleeding or extreme tarter build up.)

pdf of questions to ask when adopting a dog

Free PDF Download

If you are enjoying this post and find it useful, well guess what – you can get a PDF of it! This PDF has all the questions listed here that you can print and take with you.

Enter your email and you will receive an email with a link to download and print at home.

Behavioral Questions

These questions will give you insight into whether the dog has any behavioral issues that may affect your decision to adopt. Please understand that a shelter may have less answers about a pet than a rescue since it is very hard to assess a dog in a shelter environment.

So if they cannot answer your questions about the potential pet – do not get frustrated, they may really just not be able to give you a great answer!

  1. Will the dog be good with children? If so what ages are recommended? (S/R)
  2. Has there been any reactivity issues with men, women or children? (S/R)
  3. Have you noticed issues with barking or jumping? (S/R)
  4. Is the dog cat – or small animal friendly? (S/R)
  5. Has the dog been in social gatherings with other dogs? Can I take him safely to dog parks or on walks with other dogs? (S/R)
  6. Is there any signs of fear aggression? If so, what are the triggers? (S/R)
  7. Is there any issues with chewing or destructive behavior? (S/R)
  8. Has the dog been left alone for long periods of time? If so, has there been any sign of separation anxiety? Is barking an issue for example? (R)
  9. Have you noticed any signs of resource guarding of people, toys, food etc.? (S/R)
  10. Is there any bite history? (S/R)
  11. Has he been tested in the car to see how he does? Does he get car sick or anxious or is the ride an enjoyable experience? (R)
  12. Has the dog been around children in the home or elsewhere? How was the reaction? (R)
  13. Is the dog a love-bug type or prefers to be a loner? (S/R)
  14. Where has the dog been sleeping at night? Crate, people bed, dog bed etc. (R)
  15. Has the dog had any accidents in the home during their foster experience? (R)

If you have other pets or children, it is important to be sure the dog has been cat (or small animal) and kid tested. Even a shelter will do testing to make sure a dog is a good fit for a home with kids or other pets.

I would highly recommend a “meet-n-greet” with the rescue or shelter if you have other dogs in the home. Bring your dog to the shelter or foster home and let them meet to see if they could potentially get along.

Dog Training Questions

Knowing whether a dog has been trained or has some basic level skills can be a great selling point for adoption. These questions will help you understand the level of training a dog may have – or not had and what motivates them to have a more positive behavior.

  1. Is the dog used to walking on a leash? Do they pull? Is there a leash style you recommend? (S/R)
  2. Is there any leash behaviors I should be aware of? Fearful of things, barks at bicyclists etc.? (S/R)
  3. Has the dog had any formal training either before being with you or during their time with your organization? If so, was it basic training or something for behavioral issues or other type? (S/R)
  4. If they have had training do you know what kind it was? Force-free, shock collar etc. (S/R)
  5. Does the dog know any special commands like sit, stay or any other tricks? (S/R)
  6. Will the dog stay in a crate for any length of time? Does he enjoy the crate or is he destructive. (R)
  7. Is the dog trained to go potty outside? How often do they go and how do they let you know. (R)

Dog Personality Questions

Personality plays a big part in how well a dog can acclimate to your family. These are some of the more important questions to ask to ensure you get the best match possible for your unique family.

  1. Does he/sho have any quirks or unique personality traits I should know about? (S/R)
  2. What is their energy level? High energy, low energy, total couch potato etc. (S/R)
  3. Tell me about some of their favorite things to do. Chasing a ball, going for walks, swimming etc. (R)
  4. Will they snuggle up at night when it is “quiet time” or will they continue to be active? (R)

Think about the things your family loves to do together. If you love to camp together – ask about that! If you are an avid hiker or sportsman – be sure to ask if the dog you are considering is up for that challenge with you.

Questions To Ask Before Adopting A Puppy

Many of the questions above may not apply to puppies. They may be too young to really understand their personality and have had no real training yet.

But definitely ask about the medical history!

Puppies need special vaccinations and should have an initial vet visit done – so it would be important to make sure that is all completed.

Ask About An Overnight Stay Or Foster Opportunity!

Adopting from a shelter can be a little scary since there are more unknowns than when adopting from a rescue.

If there is a dog you are really interested in and they are in a shelter, you can ask if they have any overnight or foster programs you could take advantage of. This would allow you the opportunity to bring the dog home for a certain period of time to see first-hand if the dog is a good fit for your family.

You can than look at whether they can be left alone, whether the energy level is good for your family and get a feel for their food and behavior habits.

If you are local shelter does not offer anything like this, then you can ask a local rescue group in your area if they will help you. Sometimes they can do what is called “pull a dog” and take them into their rescue and then you can foster the dog. There are some downsides to this since now the rescue is responsible for the dog and if you do not want to keep the dog they have to find a home for. But, it is another option to consider.

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