7 Questions To Ask When Adopting A Dog From A Shelter
Shelters can be noisy, overwhelming places to visit. However, saving your best friend is such a worthwhile cause; we can't even begin to explain how wonderful shelter dogs can be! We hope this list of questions will help you in your search for your perfect rescue dog:
1. Was this dog a stray or an owner surrender?
While you may never know the entire history of the pup you are interested in, asking some questions may give you a better idea of where he has been (and what you are getting yourself into). Dogs are surrendered to shelters for many reasons including owners moving, allergies, the birth of a child, death of a family member and many many more. Don't assume that an older dog has a behavioral issue because it has been surrendered.
2. How long has this dog been in the shelter?
The less time the dog has spent in the shelter, the easier the adjustment phase will be to your home. Shelters are highly stressful environments for dogs - full of noise and anxiety. In many cases a dog who has spent 6 months in a cage is likely to be suffering from some mental distress from lack of stimulation.
3. What breed or breeds do you believe this dog to be?
Most shelters should list what they believe each dog to be on their cage cards, however some of the cards often just list "Lab mix" or "Bulldog Mix" for example. In this case, find a shelter worker and ask their opinion on what they believe the "mix" is!
4. What medical treatment/s has the dog received since it came into the shelter?
Shelters are busy places and many have a high turnover of dogs and a very over-worked staff. If there is a dog you are interested in, politely ask about their medical history. Ask what vaccines the dog received when it came into the shelter and find out if it has been tested for internal parasites (including heartworms). Did it come in with any health history? Does it have any known medical issues or any that are currently being treated? (ear infections, skin issues, etc)
5. Have you tested this dog with other animals? (Dogs? Cats?)
While most municipal shelters are unable to test dogs with cats, many of them do socialize young dogs with other dogs. Often, due to space issues, they will house a few dogs in a single run. If you have another pet at home, be sure to speak to a shelter worker about this. Talk to them about the possibility of arranging an interaction with another dog within the shelter and then bringing your dog into the shelter to meet the possible new family member. As for cats, it is way too traumatic to bring your cat into the shelter! You can discuss safely testing the dog with a resident shelter cat; workers are often used to this request and can help you arrange this.
6. How would you describe this dog's personality and do you think it would fit into my household?
When you are explaining your lifestyle and your household, be completely honest. You want the dog that is going to be the best fit for you and the shelter wants to make sure that the dog doesn't end up back with them! If the shelter knows that the dog you are interested in is extremely energetic and you have a very busy work schedule that sees you gone for many hours a day, they may suggest a different pairing. As much as you may have your heart set on a dog, the workers do spend the most time with these animals and are able to gauge their personalities and needs. Be sure to bring children to the shelter as well - it is important to see how they react to the dogs and the dogs react to them. Again, shelter workers should be able to point out "child friendly" adoptables.
7. What is involved in the adoption process?
Each shelter has a very different adoption process. If there is a dog you are seriously considering bringing home, make sure you are assertive in asking about how to start the process. They may want to speak to your landlord if you are a renter or ask that you provide personal references. Again, every single shelter follows their own protocol when it comes to dog adoptions. Make sure you get all your questions answered and bring a notebook to write everything down.
Lab Mix Puppy in Shelter
Photo by This Year's Love