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Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog

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:

General history

  • 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?

General behavior

  • 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?

Kennel training

  • 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?

Energy level

  • 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?
Questions before adopting a dog

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?

Potty training

  • 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.

What are some questions you would ask before adopting another dog?

Questions to ask before adopting a dog


Friday 16th of July 2021

These are fabulous questions! I recently wrote an article on how to adopt a foster dog ( I also encourage people to have a goal for their dog. This could be small or big (companion to guard dog). For example, I wanted a dog to be a therapy dog for kids. So, he also needed to fit those criteria as much as possible. I love questions and you have covered almost all of them. Keep up the great work! Terri


Friday 12th of April 2019

I feel sorry for the poor dogs it's hard enough as it is getting adopted. Very few dogs would meet that criteria. I adopted a dog that had been abused. Found he growled at people and other dogs. Had a few toilet accidents in the house. 10 months later and with training he is the most lovable and loyal dog. If I had asked all those questions I probably would have missed out on adopting a great dog.


Saturday 25th of August 2018

So sorry to read that Ace has passed away, our dog passed just two weeks ago. I was reading this, in hope that one day, we could adopt another. We're a long way off yet, we have some healing to do. You have some really good suggestions on what to look out for. Have you been able to take another chance?

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 26th of August 2018

We got a weimaraner from a breeder while Ace was still alive. Not sure yet where our next dig will come from. It will be a while yet. So sorry to hear your dog has died. Take care.


Tuesday 2nd of May 2017

I asked many of these questions and the answer to all of them was "we don't know". I ended up with an insecure aggressive dog. Quincy was abused and the rescue organization I got him from literally just rescues unadoptable dogs and tries to get unsuspecting people like me to adopt. When I pushed on the questions I was told either adopt or don't. I took him home since he was 12 years old and clearly needed help. As a result, I can't let him near other dogs or my family/friends. He trusts me but that's it. It's a lonely existence for me. If a rescue organization doesn't answer these questions, walk away and find another organization.

Joseph Connor

Sunday 25th of February 2018

We are a family who adopt. After the Death of my best bud, I chose to use a specific Rescue Agency for spe Certain breeds. The process involved reviewing pics & commentaries. Similar like Dating on Line.

What seemed like a great decision has left me with odds about my knowledge on smaller dogs (Daschunds). One dog is aggressive with other dogs/people & the other is aggressive toward people. BOTH animals PISS one the Floor DAILY! I spend at least 1/hr a day cleaning up DOG PEE Each & Every Day! This has become my Daily Excercise.....Cleaning up DOG Piss! I truly love them, but after 2/ growing tired. I'm 70 yrs. Help!


Thursday 27th of April 2017

In my experience, a lot of shelters would have trouble answering some of those questions. For example, the questions about barking and vocalization: When a dog is in a shelter environment it is in an unfamiliar and stressful situation. Of course it barks.

And it is very common for dogs in shelters to urinate in their runs. Shelters are staffed by volunteers for the most part, and dogs in shelters don't always get walked as often as we would like. They often don't have the chance to go outside to relieve themselves.

With regard to interaction: In my experience, shelters deliberately don't let dogs interact.

These questions would be very fair to ask someone who's fostering a dog for adoption. But a lot of them wouldn't be suitable for adopting a dog directly from a shelter or pound.