So you’re thinking about adopting a dog–what do you need to know?
Deciding to adopt a dog will change many aspects of your life. It’s a long-term commitment that’s not for everyone! So how can you figure out if a dog is right for you? How can you tell if a dog will be a good fit?
By asking the right questions, that’s how. The questions you ask will depend on whether you plan to adopt a dog from a shelter or purchase a puppy from a breeder. Today, we’re going to talk about the former.
Questions for Yourself Before Adopting a Dog
Though you should know what to ask before you visit a shelter, anyone considering getting a dog should first make sure they are ready for this responsibility.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. Take your time to answer them, and be as honest as possible.
Is a Shelter Dog or a Rescue Dog Better for Me?
The terms “shelter” and “rescue” are used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two.
Local governments fund and run shelters, where animals live in a facility together. It’s easy to see all the dogs when you visit, but it may be harder to get extensive information about their behavior or temperament.
Rescues are volunteer-operated and funded through donations, and they generally have specific breeds or needs. Animals rescued by these associations typically live in foster homes until they find permanent housing. If you’re curious to see how a dog will fit in with your family, going to a rescue center is an excellent way to find out.
Can I Afford to Have a Dog?
There’s no way to sugarcoat the reality that dogs are expensive. So before even heading to a shelter, ask yourself if you can afford to have a dog, as you may find that having a pet is out of your budget.
Some non-negotiable dog expenses include things like:
- Adoption fees
Other costs may include kennel fees, grooming, vet fees, and emergency vet fees. Not to mention, dogs may destroy your belongings, some of which can be pricey to replace (like a screen door or a couch).
Calculate spending around $2,000 per year on non-negotiables and up to $1,500 per year on emergency vet fees. And then be honest about whether you can afford an extra $3,500 per year.
What Breed Should I Choose?
Selecting the right breed for your circumstances is critical. Ask yourself if the characteristics of the breed you’re considering work with your lifestyle. Consider factors like the dog’s energy level, size, and temperament to help ensure the best fit.
For example, do you live in a small apartment? If so, a big boisterous dog is probably not the best choice. Maybe you love to run and plan to take your dog with you on long distances. If so, look for a breed that can withstand the mileage. Have young children? Your dog needs to be well-behaved. If you’ve never had a dog, is this breed recommended for first-time owners?
Do I Have The Time and Energy for a Dog?
Having a dog is like having a child–it requires lots of energy. Be honest about whether you have the time and energy required for daily walks, playtime, training, and socialization. If your job keeps you away from home most hours of the day or requires lots of travel, a dog may not be the right fit.
Will a Dog Be Happy in My Home?
Is your space dog-friendly? Think about whether your home can comfortably accommodate the specific breed you’re considering.
If you want a large dog, a small apartment may not be ideal, unless you are ready to commit to daily walks. Are parks nearby? Do you have a fenced-in yard the dog can play in? These considerations are critical to giving your dog a happy life. Renters should also ask their landlord if pets are allowed.
Do I Have Other Pets?
If you already have a pet, consider whether adding a dog to the mix would be beneficial to them. You don’t want to adopt a dog and find that your other pets are unhappy with the new addition. Cats, in particular, may have a difficult time accepting a dog, and some dogs are too territorial to have another animal in the house.
Is My Family Willing to Help?
Finally, it’s vital to assess your family’s willingness to participate in the care of the dog. Have honest conversations with each family member to determine if they’re on board with the responsibilities that come with having a pet. These conversations are especially important if you want everyone to help. Otherwise, you have to be willing to take care of the dog by yourself.
Questions to Ask at the Shelter
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions and answered them honestly, the fun part begins visiting shelters. Here are some questions to ask when you find a dog you’re interested in.
Start by asking the shelter for basic information about the animal, such as its breed, age, and weight. Other relevant questions are if the dog is housebroken, whether it’s crate-trained or sleeps in a dog bed, and how big will a puppy get. Knowing the answer to these questions will help make the transition period easier.
What Is This Dog’s History?
It’s not always easy to get a full picture of a shelter or rescue dog’s past, but you should still ask. Even minor details can help you fill in some important gaps, so try to find out as much about the dog’s history as possible.
One critical question is how the dog came to be in the shelter. Did someone find them on the street, or did their owner surrender them? If their owner surrendered them, what was the reason?
Another vital question is if the dog has suffered abuse. Though the answers can be difficult, learning about the dog’s history can reveal whether they have behavioral or emotional issues–and whether you are willing to deal with those things.
What’s the Dog’s Medical History?
The dog’s medical history also needs explaining. Have they been spayed/neutered? Microchipped? Has the dog received its vaccines? For rescue or shelter dogs, the answer to these questions is typically yes, but you should still ask. Additionally, it’s imperative to ask if the dog has health problems that require ongoing treatment.
Has the Dog’s Behavior Been Assessed?
When an animal enters a shelter or a rescue center, staff typically assesses its behavior. These assessments are vital to determine if a dog is ready for adoption and with what kind of families it would thrive. You may learn that the dog has a common behavioral issue, like separation anxiety or excessive chewing, that must be dealt with.
Ask the shelter personnel which kinds of tests they performed, which should give you a better idea of characteristics like maturity, sociability, and energy levels.
Has the Dog Been Trained?
Whether the dog has received training is another critical question to ask.
Experienced dog owners may be fine with a dog that has no training, but first-time owners may prefer one that understands basic commands. Dogs with training also likely came from a home and not the streets, which is helpful information. You should also ask if the dog knows how to walk on a leash, and have the shelter or rescue assess this if they don’t know.
Finally, based on what the shelter has seen, find out if they recommend specific training classes for the dog you’re interested in. If they do, many even offer on-site training centers.
What Is the Shelter’s Adoption Process Like?
Lastly, make sure you understand the shelter’s adoption procedures before adopting a dog.
Find out if you can spend time with the dog before taking it home and how much the adoption fees are. If you have another pet, ask the shelter if you can introduce the animals, and take note of any post-adoption services required. Some shelters ask new owners to send regular photo updates or submit to home visits.
You should also confirm the shelter or rescue center’s return policy before finalizing the adoption. It’s important to know what your options are if the fit isn’t right and whether there are any fees to rehome the dog.
Are you Ready?
So there you have it–a starting-off point of what to know when adopting a dog. Because inviting a furry friend into your life is a decision that will affect you for years to come, it’s critical to answer all of these questions thoroughly and honestly. A dog may not be right for you at this particular moment, and there’s no shame in that.
If you do determine that you’re ready for the responsibility of dog ownership, make sure that the shelter or rescue center can answer all of your questions. If you feel uncomfortable, you may want to visit a different dog rescue.
Once you do get yourself a puppy or a faithful old-timer, be sure to learn about these hazardous foods your dog can’t eat.