This post goes over the long list of questions people should consider asking when adopting a dog.
I don’t mean this whole list should be taken literally. I mean these are just some ideas to give you. Pick and choose what questions apply to your situation.
And of course, don’t expect the shelter or rescue to know everything. These are questions to start discussions or find your deal breakers.
I had high standards when I adopted my mutt Ace years ago. I worked 10-hour shifts at the time and needed a dog who was already housebroken, kennel trained, gentle with cats and fairly lazy. May 2018 update: Ace has passed away.
I believe I found the right dog because I was able to overlook other dogs that did not meet my criteria. This is hard to do when you walk through a shelter, and every set of eyes seems to say “I’m yours.”
This list may seem long, but remember you are searching for a companion who will hopefully share your home for the next five to 10 years.
Asking “yes or no” questions is not always effective because each person has her own definition of “housebroken” or “aggressive” or “high energy.” You need to seek out specific examples.
Questions to ask before adopting a dog
When searching for a dog to adopt, I recommend you ask some of the following questions:
- Where did this dog live before the pound/shelter/rescue?
- Why was she surrendered? Or, why are you trying to re-home her?
Behavior around other dogs
- Is this dog friendly around other dogs?
- Has this dog ever growled at another dog?
- How does she act when she meets new dogs?
- What does she do if another dog tries to take her food or toys?
- Does she like to play nonstop?
- Could I see her interact with another dog?
- Can I take her for a short walk with my dog?
- Would you trust her at the dog park?
- Do you leave her unattended with other dogs?
- How does she act when she meets other dogs while leashed?
- Does she chew things that aren’t hers?
- Where does she sleep at night?
- What are her favorite activities?
- What is she scared of?
- Have you ever trusted this dog off leash?
- Does she like to play fetch?
- Does she like to swim?
- Has this dog been to a professional groomer? How did it go?
- Has she ever been in a crate (kennel)?
- How does she act in a crate?
- How do you think she does when left alone?
- Do you leave her loose when you’re not home?
Behavior around cats
- How does this dog act around cats?
- Has she ever shown aggression around cats?
- Does she like to chase cats?
- Has a cat ever swiped at her? How did she respond?
- Could I see her interact with a cat?
- How much exercise does this dog need?
- How far do you walk her each day?
- Is this her typical energy level?
- Does she lounge around when nothing’s going on?
- Would this dog like to go for hikes? How about running?
- Has she had any formal obedience training?
- What commands does she know? Please show me.
- Does she pull on the leash during walks?
- Is she easy to train?
- Is she treat motivated?
- How do you discipline her and how does she respond?
Aggression to humans
- Is there anything that brings out aggression in this dog? (Bikers, strangers, men, etc.)
- How does she act around strangers?
- How does she act around kids? How about toddlers?
- Have you ever seen her growl at a person? Why do you think she growled?
- Has she ever shown fear or shyness around new people?
- What does she do if you try to take her food or toys away?
- Has she ever snapped at anyone?
- Has she ever bitten or attacked anyone?
- Has she had any accidents?
- Does she keep her cage/kennel clean?
- Does she ask to go outside?
- How often does she get a potty break?
- How long can she be left home alone?
- When does she bark? Is she a vocal dog?
- Does she bark when left alone?
- Does she bark at the door?
- Does she bark at people/dogs on walks?
- When was her last veterinary exam?
- Does she have any health issues?
- Does she have any allergies?
- Has she had any injuries you know of?
- Is she up to date on shots?
- Is she spayed?
The list could go on and on. My point is, it’s OK to get as much information as possible about the dog you could be spending the next 10 years with. Rescues and shelters ask adopters a lot of questions. It’s OK to ask questions right back.