Adopting a new rescue dog into your home is exciting and scary at the same time. Unless you know what questions to ask when adopting a dog, you will know very little about the dog’s background, where they came from, whether they are healthy, or whether they have any behavior problems. The unknowns can be especially concerning if you have children.
As a potential adopter, asking the right questions to the shelter or rescue staff will help you find out as much as possible about the rescue dogs you are interested in adopting.
It’s also important to mention that no matter how many questions you ask and get answers to, every situation is different. So a dog may act one way in a shelter, or foster home and completely different in your home environment.
📖 Read the 3-3-3 rule
I have put together a list of questions to ask the shelter or rescue staff when adopting a dog. Think of it as a set of dog adoption interview questions for the dog. You don’t need to ask ALL of these questions, but having this list to reference will help you feel comfortable in knowing you are adopting your perfect dog!
Keep in mind the rescue organization or animal shelter staff won’t always know everything about the dog either. And it’s impossible to fully assess shelter dogs, as they aren’t living in a home environment where they can become comfortable enough to show their true personality.
This is what I love about being a foster home for dogs, we get the opportunity to get to know the dog before they are adopted, allowing us to inform the adopters of all of the dog’s personality traits.
General Questions to Ask When Adopting a Dog
Knowing the dog’s history and circumstances of the dog’s arrival at the shelter or rescue provides context. Was the dog surrendered by previous owners or found as a stray? Understanding the dog’s life before arriving at the shelter helps paint a more comprehensive picture.
Inquire if the dog has been adopted previously and returned. If so, find out the reasons for any previous returns or re-adoptions. This information can reveal potential challenges or specific needs the dog may have.
Don’t ever feel pressured into adopting a particular dog, you have the right to say no and wait to find your perfect match. Remember, this dog will be part of your family for the next 10, 15, or more years.
- How did the dog end up in the shelter or rescue?
- How long has the dog been in the shelter or foster home?
- Why was the dog surrendered?
- Is there any history of abuse or neglect?
- How would you describe the dog’s personality?
- Where do they sleep at night? In a crate, dog bed?
- Have they been to a groomer before? How did it go?
- Do they allow you to trim their nails, clean their ears, and bath them?
- Are there any special needs this dog requires?
- What are the adoption fees for this dog?
- Will it be possible for my current dog to meet the adoptable dogs before adopting?
- Do you have a foster-to-adopt program?
Before bringing a dog into your home, it’s essential to know about its health and medical history. Inquire about any known medical conditions, chronic conditions, and the dog’s vaccination history.
Understanding the spaying/neutering status and any recent illnesses or treatments will give you insights into the dog’s overall well-being.
- Has the dog had a general wellness exam by a veterinarian? When? Did they find any health issues or concerns?
- Do you provide any health guarantees or support in case of medical issues shortly after adoption?
- Is the dog neutered/spayed?
- Are they current on all vaccines? Rabies – Distemper/Parvo – Bordatella. If you adopt the dog, make sure to get copies of all vet records.
- Are they current on heartworm and flea/tick preventative?
- Have they had a Snap 4 DX test? (A 4Dx snap test is a blood test that is run by a vet. While not required, it provides valuable information. The test is a screening process for six vector-borne diseases: Heartworm, Lyme, Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia ewingi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma platys.)
- Is the dog microchipped, and how can I update the contact information if needed?
- Do they have any allergies? To food or environmental?
- Check the eyes and ears for yourself. Are the eyes clear of discharge, are the inside of the ears clean?
- Have they had any dental problems?
- What type of food do they eat? Find out the brand and exact variant so you can either feed the same food or slowly transition to a higher quality food.
Energy Level Questions
- How much exercise does this dog need?
- How would you describe the dog’s energy level?
- How many times a day do they need to be walked, and for how long?
- Do they know how to relax and lay down when you are ready to stop playing?
- What types of activities or exercises does the dog enjoy? (fetch, swimming, frisbee, walking, running)
- Would they be a good dog for going on hikes or running?
📖 READ Dog temperament testing
Ask the shelter or rescue group about the dog’s behavior in the shelter environment. How does the dog interact with staff and other animals? Are there any observed behaviors such as anxiety or aggression? Additionally, inquire about the dog’s past behavior and temperament, including any history of fear, anxiety, or aggression, and how the dog responds to different stimuli.
Understanding the dog’s socialization experiences is crucial. Ask about interactions with adults, children, and other animals, as well as exposure to different environments. Also, inquire about the dog’s preferences or dislikes, including favorite activities or toys, and any specific triggers or fears.
- Has the dog undergone any behavioral assessments or training while at the shelter?
- Are there any known behavioral issues we should be aware of?
- Does the dog have any resource guarding issues with food, toys, or anything else?
- Are they independent or dependent? Are they anxious or shy?
- Do they show any signs of separation anxiety?
- Do they bark excessively when left alone?
- How long can they be left home alone?
- Do they have any fears? (thunderstorms, loud noises, men)
- Do they chew things such as kids’ toys, furniture, or shoes?
- Do they like to play with other dogs?
- Would this dog prefer to be the only dog in the house or with other dogs?
- Are they dog-friendly around other dogs? How do they act when they meet new dogs? On leash and off leash.
- Ask to see them interact with another dog.
- Have you ever taken them to a dog park? How did it go?
- If you have a cat, have they been around a cat before? How do they act around cats?
- Is there anything that brings out fear or aggression in them? (Bikers, strangers, men, etc.)
- How do they act around strangers? Are they scared, shy, aggressive, or friendly when meeting new people?
- Is the dog child-friendly? Have they been around kids? How old were the kids? How does the dog act around them?
- Has the dog ever nipped, bitten or attacked anyone?
- Do you consider them a vocal dog? What makes the dog bark? Do they bark when left alone, at the doorbell, at people/dogs on walks?
- How are they in the car? Are they calm, overly excited or scared of the car?
- Can the dog jump fences? Do they need a high-fenced secure yard?
Find out about the dog’s training history. What basic commands does the dog know? Are there any ongoing training needs or challenges? It’s also helpful to ask about housebreaking and crate training history to ensure a smooth transition into your home.
- Potty Training: Is the dog potty-trained? Don’t assume that an adult dog is already potty-trained. Do they have any signals to ask to go outside? How often do they need to go outside?
- Do they have any known behavioral issues?
- Has the dog had any formal training for behavior, obedience, hunting, agility, etc.?
- What commands do they know? Ask for specific words or hand signals used, this will help you understand how to interact with the dog if you adopt them.
- How do they walk on a leash? Do they walk with a flat collar, harness, prong collar, or any other tools?
- Do they pull or lunge at other dogs, people, cars, or bikes?
- Can I take them for a short walk? If you have another dog, ask if you can walk the two dogs together.
- Does the dog have a good recall? Do they respond to their name when called?
- What type of training tools have been used on them? Martingale collar, E-collar, prong collar, etc.
- Is the dog food motivated? If not, what does motivate the dog?
- What type of discipline works with them? A firm no, a leash correction, redirection, time-out?
- Crate Training: Is the dog crate trained?
- How do they act in a crate? Calm, anxious, bark?
- If not crate trained, does the dog have free roam of the house when alone? If so, what do they do? Any mischievous behavior?
Future Support and Follow-Up
Ask about post-adoption support or resources available. Inquire if there are plans for follow-up communication or check-ins after adoption. Having ongoing support can be beneficial as you navigate the initial stages of welcoming your new dog.
No one ever intends to have issues after adoption day. But it’s a good idea to be prepared just in case things don’t work out as you planned. These questions will help make sure you get the support you need.
- Do you offer any guidance or resources for helping the dog transition to a new home?
- Are there training classes or behavior resources available for adopted dogs?
- Can you recommend local trainers or behaviorists if needed?
- Do you have an online community or support group for adopters?
- What steps should I take if the dog shows signs of illness or distress after bringing them home?
- What if the dog ends up not being the right fit?
- How can I contact the shelter if I have questions or concerns after adopting the dog?
- What is the process if, for any reason, I need to return the dog to the shelter?
- Are there any conditions or fees associated with returning an adopted dog?
Adopting the Perfect Dog
After getting all of your dog adoption interview questions answered by the adoption center and you think you’ve found a good fit, it’s time to take a step back and analyze.
Adopting a dog is a very emotional decision. Taking the emotion out of the decision is almost impossible, so do the best you can and assess if this is the perfect dog for you and your family.
Are you adopting them because you feel sorry for the dog, or because they are so darn cute you can’t help yourself? Or is the dog’s personality and temperament the right fit?
Make sure that all family members agree that this is the kind of dog that will fit into the family dynamic.
Honestly, no dog is perfect. But by asking all of these questions, you can be prepared and hopefully find a dog that is a perfect match for you and your family.
Did I miss any important questions? I am always looking for input and opinions, if you have a question that you feel should be added, please comment below.
📖 Visit our Adoption Page for all the information you will need when adopting your new dog!