Top 11 Questions to Ask When Adopting a Dog

Questions to Ask When Adopting a Dog

Rescuing a dog is exciting but it can also be quite intimidating. Whether you’re looking at your local shelter or using a private rescue organization, there can be many dogs to choose from or meet with.

Although you might be tempted to pick the first cute face you see, it’s essential to make an informed choice. Your goal is to provide this dog with a forever home, so know exactly what you’re getting into. So where do you get started? There are many questions to ask when adopting a dog who will become a new family member. In this article, we have put together a list of questions and topics that will help you choose the rescue dog that’s the best fit for both you and your lifestyle.

Do You Meet the Requirements to Adopt a Dog?

Do You Meet the Requirements to Adopt a Dog?

Whether you're getting your canine companion from an animal shelter or a private rescue group, you can usually count on both organizations to have a unique set of requirements that potential adopters need to meet before they can bring home a dog. (If they don't, consider it a big red flag.) Depending on the animal rescue organization you go through, this could be anything from filling out a simple questionnaire to scheduling a home visit and providing a list of references. 

It can be tempting to lie on your pet adoption application, especially when you have your eye on a specific pup. But doing so could result in a dog going to a home that isn’t a good match for them. For the sake of the dog’s well-being, you should always be as open and honest as possible on your adoption questionnaire.

Learning About The Dog’s History

Finding out the history of your new potential pup will help you understand what needs they may have. You could discover their favorite games and treats to help ease them into your home. You could also discover things they’re not so keen on that you will need to avoid. 

Here are a few questions to ask about a rescue dog's history:

  • How long have they been at the rehoming center?
  • Have they been rehomed more than once?
  • Have they shown any fear towards anything?
  • What are their favorite games?
  • Is there anything else from their history worth mentioning?

    These questions should give you a basic overview of their history. Just keep in mind that a rehoming center or animal shelter staff may not know a dog’s full history, depending on how they came into their care or what their previous owner shared. 

    Finding Out About The Dog’s Health

    Finding out about your new dog’s health is a must for any potential adopter. Knowing that your new pal has existing medical issues, or is likely to develop them, will help you to prepare and avoid nasty surprises. The ongoing cost of medication and medical care is also worth considering.

    Some health related questions you may want to ask: 

    • Are they on any medication?
    • Have they had any surgeries? 
    • Do they have any joint issues?
    • Do they have any dietary requirements?

      It’s a good idea to do some research into their breed, as sometimes their physical features mean they’re more likely to develop specific health problems.

      Expenses and Other Adoption Fees

      While adopting a dog is generally less expensive than getting one from a breeder, that doesn’t mean your furry friend will come free of charge. Most organizations have adoption fees that help cover the medical expenses of the pet, as well as food and other necessities while the dog waits for his or her forever home. These fees can range from $50 to $600 for dogs, depending on factors such as the dog’s age, breed and health. 

      If that seems like a high price for a shelter pup, just know that you’re probably getting the better end of the deal. The Animal Humane Society estimates that pet adoption fees only cover 39 percent of the total cost of care for the animal, with the remaining 61 percent being covered by private donations and fundraising events. Plus, these fees usually cover expenses that the prospective adopter would otherwise have to pay for themselves, such as spay and neutering, vaccinations, flea treatments, microchipping and more.

      Specific Questions and Topics to Ask About Before Adopting

      Specific Questions and Topics to Ask About Before Adopting

      1. Where did the dog come from?

      Dogs end up in shelters and rescues for many different reasons, but each dog’s specific story can provide valuable insight into the challenges you might face. For example, a dog picked up as a stray might have no obedience training whereas a dog surrendered by their owner might already have great manners. Ask for the dog’s detailed history. How long have they been at the shelter or rescue? Why was this dog surrendered? Were they rescued from an abusive situation? There are no right or wrong answers. It’s all dependent on your experience with dogs and the time and effort you’re prepared to give.

      2. How many homes has this dog already had?

      Unfortunately, some dogs have a history of being rehomed. If it’s based on behavior issues, you need to be sure you can handle them. However, sometimes dogs go through multiple homes through no fault of their own. For example, an overly energetic dog might be too much for some families but just right for you. Whatever the reason, a dog who has been through several foster homes might need more patience and longer to adjust.

      3. What is the dog’s health status?

      It’s important to know what level of veterinary care your new pet has received from the shelter or rescue. For example, are the dog’s vaccinations up to date and has the dog been spayed or neutered? Ask for copies of the records. You want to know what kind of care you will need to initially provide. But think long-term too. Ask if there are any known health conditions. That will increase the cost of care and may impact the activities the dog can participate in. But of course, your new rescue will repay you tenfold in love.

      4. What breed or mix of breeds is the dog?

      If you’re looking for a specific breed, there are many rescues that specialize in purebred dogs. However, mixed breeds can be wonderful companions too. Either way, knowing the breed or likely mix of breeds can help you predict the dog’s personality and better meet their needs. A Border Collie is going to be smart but will also need to be kept active and mentally engaged. A Chihuahua might not be the best choice for your new fetch partner. If you know what to expect, such as energy level and exercise needs, you can make a better assessment of suitability.

      Also Read - 10 Dog Park Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow

      5. What is the dog’s personality type?

      Although breed traits can tell you a lot, every dog is unique. The right dog for you may be very different than for someone else.

      Ask the shelter or rescue staff what they’ve learned about a particular dog’s likes and dislikes, traits and quirks. For example, are they happiest with a ball in their mouth? Are they food motivated? Do they like alone time or are they a social butterfly? Be aware, if a dog has been in a foster home, more will be known about their temperament than if they have been housed in a shelter.

      6. Is the dog potty trained?

      All dogs can have accidents when they first move to a new home. But if a dog isn’t housetrained, you need to be prepared for the time and effort required to teach this basic skill. Don’t assume a dog is potty trained just because they’re an adult. Some older dogs were simply never taught proper toilet behavior. With the right potty training approach, even a senior dog can be potty trained.

      7. Does this dog get along well with children or strangers?

      If a dog has been properly socialized, they will usually be comfortable around people of any age or appearance. But many rescue dogs missed out on critical socialization as puppies and therefore feel frightened or anxious around children or strangers. If you have children in your life, a dog with these issues is likely not the right choice. But if you have the expertise and time to work with the dog, you can turn an anxious dog into one who is comfortable around anybody.

      8. Does this dog get along with other dogs or other pets?

      Again, missing out on socialization can mean a dog isn’t friendly with other animals. This might not be an issue if you live in the country. But if you’ll be walking your new dog in a neighborhood with other dogs, it’s important your dog isn’t reactive or stressed. Are you prepared to put in the effort to counter condition and desensitize your dog to other dogs? And if you have other pets at home, will your new dog fit in? Is the dog comfortable with cats, for example?

      Read up on dog body language: People misread canine body language all the time, especially in chaotic environments like animal shelters. Taking the time to learn about dog body language will help you understand what the dog is trying to communicate, which in turn will make it easier for you to get an accurate read on them.

      9. Does the dog have basic good manners?

      It’s unlikely you’ll rescue an obedience superstar, but dogs in rescues and shelters can vary from fully trained to no training at all. Ask the rescue or shelter staff what behaviors the dog understands, such as sit or stay. Find out the specific verbal cues and hand signals the dog already knows so you can use them at home for a smoother transition. Also ask how well the dog walks on leash. Loose leash walking is tricky for most dogs, so you want to know how much training you’ll need to do. See if you can take the dog for a few walks before you make your decision.

      10. Does the dog have any behavior problems?

      Always be sure to ask about problem behaviors and patterns. This could be as simple as jumping on people or as serious as resource guarding. Also ask the adoption counselor or shelter volunteer if there are any indications the dog might have separation anxiety. Most importantly, ask if the dog has a bite history. Pretty much any problem behavior can be improved with training and effort, but some will never go away entirely. You may not want the extra responsibility of a dog with issues.

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

      Although the goal is finding the dog a forever home, shelter dogs unfortunately do not always work out. You might find many dogs require more training than you had anticipated or perhaps the new dog doesn’t get along with your current dog. Reputable rescue groups and organizations should take the dog back at any time for any reason. If not, and you have any reservations, then this might not be the right rescue opportunity for you. Keep in mind there are different types of rescues and shelters.


      You’ve asked the shelter staff all the right questions and are now getting excited about the prospect of bringing your furry friend home. But have you stopped to ask yourself whether you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of owning a shelter pet?

      Remember, these questions aren’t designed for finding the perfect rescue dog. They’re for finding the perfect dog for you. For example, a dog with behavior issues can become a loving companion if you have the experience and time to turn that dog’s life around. Or maybe your new dog sport partner is that ball of energy somebody else couldn’t care for.

      The point is to learn all you can about a potential rescue dog during the adoption process so you can ensure they fit into your life for the rest of their life. Preparing to adopt a dog can feel a little overwhelming. From figuring out which size pooch is right for you, to resisting the urge to adopt ALL of them. When choosing your new companion, it’s important to get as much information as you can. We hope these questions will help make sure your new pal is the perfect fit.