53 Questions You MUST Ask the Shelter BEFORE Adopting a Dog

Whether you are adopting from the humane society or a local rescue group, it’s so important to find out as much as possible about the dog you want to adopt.

That is why I have put together a list of questions you should be asking the humane society or rescue group about the dog you want to adopt. Think of it as a set of dog adoption interview questions.

The amount of information that you can get will vary. A dog that is in a shelter situation may not be able to be fully assessed since it is not in a home environment.

This is what I love about being a foster home for dogs, we get the opportunity to really get to know the dog before he gets adopted, allowing us to inform the adopters of all of the dogs’ personality traits.

Consider the fact that it can take several weeks for a dog to feel comfortable in its environment (read about the 3-3-3 rule), and when in a shelter, a dog may never feel comfortable.

Questions You MUST Ask When Adopting a New Dog

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.

Below is the complete list, but make sure to download our free Adoption Questionnaire PDF so you can print it and bring it with you when you meet the dogs you are interested in.

Dog Adoption Interview Questions

  1. How did the dog come to be in the shelter or foster home?
  2. How long has the dog been in the shelter or foster home?
  3. Why was he surrendered?
  4. Where does he sleep at night? In his crate, dog bed?
  5. Has he been to a groomer before? How did it go?
  6. Does he allow you to trim his nails, clean his ears, give him a bath?

Health Questions

  1. Has the dog had a general wellness exam by a veterinary? When? Does he have any known medical issues?
  2. Is the dog neutered/spayed?
  3. Is he current on all vaccines? Rabies – Distemper/Parvo – Bordatella. If you adopt him, make sure to get copies of all vet records available.
  4. Is he current on heartworm and flea/tick preventative?
  5. Has he 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.)
  6. Does he have a Microchip?
  7. Does he have any allergies?
  8. Check the eyes and ears for yourself. Are the eyes clear of discharge, are the inside of the ears clean?

Potty Training Questions

  1. Is the dog potty-trained? Don’t assume that an adult dog is already potty-trained.
    Does he have any signals to ask to go outside?
  2. How often does he go outside?

Recommending Just for You: How to Potty Train a Puppy Fast & Easy

Energy Level Questions

  1. How much exercise does this dog need?
  2. What is his typical energy level like?
  3. How many times a day does he need to be walked, and for how long?
  4. Does he relax and lay down when you are ready to stop playing?
  5. What are his favorite activities? (Playing fetch, swimming, frisbee, walking, running)
  6. Would he be a good dog for going on hikes or running?

Crate Training Questions

  1. Is the dog crate trained?
  2. If not crate trained, do you leave him loose when you’re not home? If so, how does he do? Any mischievous behavior?
  3. How does he act in a crate? Calm, anxious, bark?
  4. How do you think he does when left alone?

Recommending Just for You: Why Should I Crate Train My Dog? and How to Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy in 3 Easy Steps

Behavior Questions

  1. Does the dog have any resource guarding issues with food, toys, or anything else?
  2. Is he independent or dependent? Is he unsure or shy?
  3. Does he show any signs of separation anxiety?
  4. Does he bark excessively when left alone?
  5. How long can he be left home alone?
  6. Does he have any fears? (Thunderstorms, loud noises)
  7. Does he chew things such as kids toys, furniture or shoes?
  8. Does he like to play with other dogs?
  9. Is this dog-friendly around other dogs? How does he act when he meets new dogs? On leash and off leash.
  10. Ask to see him interact with another dog.
  11. Have you ever taken him to a dog park? How did it go?
  12. If you have a cat, has he been around a cat before? How does he act around cats?
  13. Is there anything that brings out fear or aggression in him? (Bikers, strangers, men, etc.)
  14. How does he act around strangers? Is he scared, shy, aggressive, or friendly when meeting new people?
  15. Has he been around kids? How  old where the kids?How does he act around them?
  16. Has he ever nipped, bitten or attacked anyone?
  17. Do you consider him a vocal dog? What makes the dog bark? Does he bark when left alone, at the doorbell, at people/dogs on walks?
  18. How is he in the car? Is he calm, overly excited or scared of the car?

Training Questions

  1. Has the dog had any formal training for behavior, obedience, hunting, agility, etc.?
  2. What commands does he know? Ask for specific words or hand signals used, this will help you understand how to interact with the dog if you adopt him.
  3. What type of training tools have been used on him? E-collar, prong collar, etc.
  4. How does he walk on a leash? Does he walk with a flat collar, harness, prong collar, or any other tools?
  5. Does he pull or lunge at other dogs, people, cars, or bikes?
  6. Can I take him for a short walk? If you have another dog, ask if you can walk the two dogs together.
  7. Does he have any known behavioral issues?
  8. Is he food motivated?
  9. What type of discipline works with him? A firm no, a leash correction, redirection, time-out?

Please visit our Adoption Page for all the information you will need when adopting your new dog!

Adopting the Perfect Dog

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 a Adoption Question? I am always looking for input and opinions, if you have a question that you feel should be added, please comment below.

About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

Debi McKee is a dog mom, volunteer foster dog home, and lifetime dog lover. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for our free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.

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