Many pet parents live by the adage, “Don’t shop, adopt.” However, when it comes to adopting a dog, it’s critical to do a lot of digging before bringing that pooch home from the shelter. Unlike young puppies that you buy from a reputable breeder, shelter dogs may come with a long, and sometimes harsh, history.
Whether you decide to bring home a senior dog from the pound, or a teenage pup from a local shelter group, you really need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
While these 60 questions are a good starting point, the amount of information available on any particular dog will vary. Dogs that are in a shelter situation may not be able to be thoroughly assessed until they’re placed in a home environment.
That’s why it’s a good idea to adopt a dog from a foster family. Since they had an opportunity to really get to know the dog, they’ll be able to tell you all about his personality traits and quirks.
Remember, never feel pressured into adopting a dog. You want to ensure that he is the perfect match for your household. A dog, even a senior one, is a huge commitment of time and money.
Questions to Ask at Home
Why do you want a dog?
What type of dog do you want? A young puppy, teenager, or senior?
Does every family member want a dog?
Are they all willing to make the needed adjustments to properly care for the dog?
Are they ready to provide consistent training to the dog?
Where will the dog sleep?
Where will he relieve himself?
Is your budget ready for a dog?
Questions to Ask the Shelter or Foster Family
How did the dog come to be in the foster home or shelter?
How long has he been there?
Why was the dog surrendered?
Is there any history or evidence of abuse?
Where does he sleep at night? In a dog bed or in a crate?
How does he sleep at night?
Has the dog been to a groomer? How did it go?
Has the dog undergone a general wellness exam performed by a vet? When? Does he have any known medical issues?
What type of dog is he? What known breeds does he have in him?
Is the dog fixed?
Is he up to date on all vaccines, including rabies and distemper?
Do you have medical records to prove this?
Is the dog on preventative medicines, including flea/tick and heartworm?
Is he micro-chipped?
Has the dog had a Snap 4 DX test? (This blood test is run by a vet. Though not required, he provides valuable insight into the dog’s health and is a screening process for six vector-borne diseases, including heartworm and Lyme).
Does he have allergies?
Is the dog housebroken? Does he give any signals when he needs to go outside?
How often does he get let out or walked?
What’s his potty schedule?
How energetic is the dog?
How much exercise is he currently getting every day?
How long are his daily walks?
Does he relax and cuddle up with you when you’re ready to stop playing?
What are his favorite games? (Fetch, walking, swimming, etc.)
Would he be good to take for runs or hikes?
Can he swim?
Crate Training Questions
Is he crate trained?
If not, how does he act when you leave him alone and loose in the house? Any unwanted chewing?
How does the dog act in the crate? Is he calm or does he bark?
How is he in the crate when he’s left alone?
Does he get along with other dogs?
How does he act around new dogs, both on the leash and off? (Ask to see the dog interact with another dog).
Has the dog been around children before?
Does he get along with kids? Toddlers?
Does he hoard his food or toys?
Does he get aggressive around his food or toys?
Does the dog have separation anxiety?
Does he bark a lot when left alone?
How long can the dog be left alone for?
Does he have any fears, including loud noises or thunder?
Has the dog been exposed to cats? How did it go?
How does the dog act around strangers? Is he shy, aggressive, or friendly?
Has he ever bitten or attacked anyone?
How is the dog in the car?
Has he had any formal training?
What commands does the dog know? Are they specific words or hand signals?
How does the dog walk on a leash? A harness?
What type of collar is used on him? Pronged, choke, etc.?
Does the dog pull or lunge at people, other dogs, or bicycles?
Is the dog food motivated?
Does he have any behavioral issues?
What type of discipline works best for him?
It’s important to be as thorough as possible when learning about the history, temperament, and health of a dog you might adopt. Remember, a dog isn’t just something you buy a place on a shelf. He’s a living, breathing creature that needs love, care, attention, and training.
Nicole is the proud mom of Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway, and Baby, a Burmese cat. Originally from Canada, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. Nicole has a strong love for all animals and has experience caring for all types of dogs, from Yorkies to Great Danes. Nicole even worked as a dog sitter during her travels through South America and cared for stray pups — something she holds close to her heart.
With a degree in Education and a love for writing, Nicole aims to share her and others’ expert pup-knowledge with dog lovers worldwide with DoggieDesigner