So you’ve decided to adopt a dog but you’re not sure which one would be a good fit for you. There are important questions to ask when adopting a dog that’ll help you make a more informed decision. They may even prevent issues in the long run. Each dog is different and has different needs. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for as much as possible. By asking these questions you’ll be better prepared to provide your new pup with anything it’ll need.

1. What are the dog’s medical history and physical characteristics?

The first question to ask when adopting a dog is whether it has received age-appropriate vet care. These are things like vaccinations, deworming, or if there were any tests made. 

Ask about any medical conditions that you should be aware of and that may need constant medical care. This can have an impact on your budget and on the time you’ll need to dedicate to the dog. Every organization should disclose any medical issues. That way, it’ll be up to you to take on that responsibility or not.

If you’re adopting from a breeder, read about the breed you picked so you know you chose the right breed. If you’re adopting a mixed breed from a shelter, ask about the breeds that are in the mixture. This can help predict some characteristics and assess if a dog can be a good fit for your household.

If you’re looking to avoid puppyhood and the teenage stage, you can choose an older dog. In this case, an important question to ask when adopting a dog is what the dog’s age is. If you’re adopting an older dog, ask if it’s neutered or spayed. Adopting a dog that is already spayed or neutered can save you some costs down the road.


2. What’s the dog’s history?

Knowing what the dog has been through is one of the most important questions to ask when adopting a dog. Find out what kind of traumas it may have and decide if you’re prepared to work on that and help your new pup get through it. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that the shelter won’t know exactly what the dog’s history is. But they may be able to tell you if there is anything that sparks a reaction like flinching at the sight of a broom.

If the dog entered the shelter because it was handed in by the owner or if it’s been adopted and returned before, ask why. Find out if the dog suffered from animal cruelty and in what shape did it get to the shelter. A dog’s past shapes what it is like today. It can also develop habits and traumas that you should be aware of before adopting.

3. Did the dog receive any training?

Knowing the amount of training a dog has had is important. That way you can decide if you’re prepared for the amount of training it’ll need and if it’s something you want to deal with. Ask if the dog you’re looking to adopt is housebroken or if it has ever shown signs of aggression.

When you commit to adopting a dog, you’re committing to dealing with any behavior it may already have. So make sure you get as much information as you can about a dog’s behavior.  Whatever the situation is, it’s important for a new dog owner and a newly adopted dog to go to a training class. This allows them to know one another and start building a healthy relationship.

Understanding a dog’s behavior before adopting is crucial. It’ll give you a chance to decide whether you’ll want and will be able to spend time, effort, and money dealing with any behavioral issues.  

If you’re thinking about adopting a dog with behavioral issues, ask for help. A dog trainer will be able to talk with the shelter about the dog’s issues and help you evaluate a dog. That way you can make a more informed decision.


4. Is the dog well socialized?

Shelters and rescue groups usually do a behavioral evaluation. This helps ensure that their dogs are safe and social pets. This evaluation helps determine if a dog is adoptable and whether a dog is right for your household.

A behavioral assessment can determine if a dog is social with other animals (such as other dogs or even cats). It can also tell you if a dog gets along with children or if it’ll do better in a home with adults only. If you have kids at home and a dog has been known to growl at kids, then it’s not a good fit for you. If you don’t have children but you do have a cat, you should ask if a dog gets along with other animals, especially cats.

The type of questions you ask about how social a dog is will be different according to your situation. But it’s important you ask as many questions as you can so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises later on.

5. Does the shelter offer any post-adoption support?

Some shelters offer discounted training sessions. Others may offer a free initial vet appointment or coupons to pet-supply stores. Some may even offer support via phone or email to help your dog transition to a new home environment.

One thing all shelters should do is take a dog back if it’s not the right fit. Not that you’re planning on adopting a dog and give it back. But it’s good to know that there’s an option in case the dog you adopt ends up not being a good fit. So ask about what are the shelter’s reclaiming policies and if there’s an associated fee.

Making sense of it all

During the dog adoption process, you should ask as many questions about the dogs until you feel comfortable making a final adoption decision. You don’t want any surprises, especially when it comes to a dog’s medical condition and behavior. The more you know about a dog, the easier your dog owning journey will be. 

Most shelters are happy to assist you in making the right decision as they too want you to find the perfect dog. Don’t hesitate to ask for a third opinion like a vet or a dog trainer if it’ll make you feel more at ease. The most important thing is that you make an informed decision.