Thanks for choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter! Adoption not only saves the lives of pets, it also goes a long way in helping put an end to irresponsible puppy mill breeding. However, to make sure that the dog you're about to adopt is a good fit for you and your home, it's important that you ask the right questions and choose carefully. Many dogs, unfortunately, get returned to shelters for reasons that could have been avoided. Please do your due diligence before adopting! Research the breed as well as the dog's history to understand what that particular pup requires and honestly ask yourself whether you can properly provide for his care. The following questions are a good place to start.
Why is the Dog in the Shelter and How Long Has He Been Here?
It's important to learn the background of the dog so that you have a better understanding of what to expect. Dogs who were given up by long-term owners may be housebroken, but may also take time to adjust to a new home. Shelters won't always know the circumstances, but it helps to get as much information as you can.
Is He Good With Other Pets and Kids?
If you have other pets in the home, you must find out if the dog will get along with them. Some dogs absolutely love kids, while others will growl and snap at them. If you have children, you must make sure a dog will get along with them as well.
Has He Shown Aggressive Tendencies?
While an aggressive dog can be trained to be more trusting and docile, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. In some cases, the dog may have been aggressive when he came to the shelter, but has shown improvement. If you are thinking of adopting a dog who has shown aggression in the past, you should consider leaving his care to someone with the proper experience and knowledge—or devote a good amount of time learning how to train and care for a dog prone to aggression. There's no two ways about it, adopting a dog with fear and aggression problems is a huge responsibility, but the rewards are immeasurable.
What Breed(s) Is He?
Breed can tell you a lot about what to expect from the dog. While each dog has his own individual personality (influenced in large part by his history), some breeds have characteristic traits. For example, Labs can be extremely loyal, but do require a lot of exercise, while Chihuahuas love to please their owners, but can also be aggressive. In many cases, the shelter is only able to guess at what breed(s) the dog is. If the dog was abandoned by his owner, the shelter may have been told what breed he is. When found on the streets, the shelter only has the information of what a vet guesses the breed to be.
What's His Medical History?
Medical history is very important. You want to make sure the dog has been spayed or neutered, or that the shelter will provide a certificate to have the surgery done. You also want to know whether or not the dog is up to date on vaccinations, if he's had heartworms, any medical treatments he's had while in the shelter or any medical conditions he currently has. If you fall in love with a dog with a history of medical conditions and want to give him a home nonetheless--that's wonderful! Just be sure that you've got the funds to care for a dog that may require constant veterinary attention.
What Kind of Personality Does He Have?
Just like humans, dogs have personalities. While one dog may be a couch potato, another may be hyper. Choose a dog with a personality that suits your lifestyle. If you enjoy watching movies in your spare time, find a dog who doesn't require much outdoor exercise.
What's Involved in the Application Process?
Applications vary from shelter to shelter and it's important to know what to expect so that you can gather all the necessary information. Most shelters will want to know about your previous pet history, will want a number where they can obtain a vet reference, and will want to know how you plan to take care of the dog. In some cases, the shelter may also send someone to look at your home to make sure it's safe and a good fit for the pet.
By Amy Brantley
About the Author
Amy Brantley has been a writer since 2006, contributing to numerous online publications. She specializes in business, finance, food, decorating and pets.