Adoption is forever—at least, that’s the way it should be. Many of the animals in shelters and rescue agencies have bounced from one owner to the next, partly because those owners didn’t take the time to make sure they were a good match for the rescue dog. It’s important to go into a rescue adoption with a firm understanding of your own lifestyle and capabilities and how those match with your potential furry companion.
While it’s tempting to adopt the cutest pup out of the bunch, basing an adoption solely on looks increases the likelihood that an owner will return the dog back to the rescue agency. What’s more important is making sure their temperament, activity level and health requirements are a good fit for your household. This is why rescue agencies often have such comprehensive adoption processes from the start.
You can aid in this process by considering a few important things before moving forward. Make sure to ask the rescue agency these eight questions before adopting a rescue dog:
- Where did the dog come from? Rescue dogs usually have a troubled past. They might come from the streets, from a breeder or from an abusive owner. The dog’s back story can teach you about triggering environmental factors to avoid and offer insight as to why the dog acts the way they do.
- Does the dog have behavioral issues? Every future pet parent should ask about behavioral issues because you don’t want any surprises when bringing home your rescue dog. If their temperament isn’t what you expected, then the pup and your household aren’t a good match. Some owners have experience correcting behavioral issues while first-time pet parents are better off adopting a calmer, well-trained pup.
- What’s their medical history? Make sure the dog is up to date with all their vaccinations and inquire about any other health problems they have experienced. Shelters and rescue agencies are usually responsible for updating every dog’s rabies and Bordetella shots, spaying/neutering and giving preventative treatments for heartworms, fleas and ticks. These medical procedures are free of charge to you, so make sure your furry friend is fully covered before bringing them home.
- Any signs of chronic illness? It might not be possible to know which diseases your pup has suffered in the past, especially if they were abandoned or began life as a stray. However, a physical examination can tell you whether or not any chronic illnesses are present. Before adopting a dog, you’ll want to know if they’ll have any special requirements like dietary restrictions or daily medications.
- Does the dog get along with other pets? This question is a must for people who already own at least one other cat or dog. You need to know whether the rescue dog can get along well with other animals or if they become scared, territorial or aggressive. Households with young family members should also ask if the dog is used to being around children.
- Do they know basic commands? If the dog is accustomed to specific commands, ask the staff to demonstrate them. Commands for sit, stay, come and drop it vary among owners, so a word or hand signal that works for one dog may not work for another. Once you learn their commands, it’ll be much easier to train the pup in a new environment.
- Has the dog been house trained? Don’t assume that older dogs have already been house trained. Many have spent their whole life on the streets or came from neglectful owners who never bothered to train them. Ask staff if the dog takes regular potty breaks outside or if they do their business on pee pads. You should also ask if the pup roams freely or stays in a crate while family members aren’t home.
- What’s the dog’s energy level? Make sure you’re committing to an energy level that’s appropriate for every member of the family. A senior dog with hip problems can’t roughhouse with children, and older adults with health problems of their own can’t go on long hikes with energetic pups. A rescue dog and owner make a great pair when they have similar health conditions and lifestyles.
If you don’t find the perfect pup right away, don’t worry—there’s a rescue dog out there for everyone! Adoption is a lifetime commitment, so take as much time as you need to pick out a pup that matches your lifestyle. Asking these few simple questions is important not only for you but also ensures that the rescue dog finally gets their loving forever home.