Congratulations on taking the first step to welcoming an adopted dog into your family! Animal adoption is a noble act that will benefit not just the canine you take in (by giving him a second chance to live happily in a loving home), but also the shelter or rescue you adopt from (by allowing the organisation to give the slot left behind by your dog to another creature in need). The deed also discourages the proliferation of puppy mills and inhumane breeding practices. More importantly, it can teach children how to be more responsible, help manage loneliness and depression, and improve your overall health.
Adopting a dog is an exciting and rewarding decision that should be made conscientiously. As a prospective adopter, you should not let a dog’s cuteness be your sole reason for adopting him. Before you sign papers to welcome a dog into your life, be sure to seek answers to the following questions below so that you can make the most informed choice.
Questions to ask yourself
1 Do I have the resources to care for a dog?
Are you physically, emotionally, and financially ready to have a dog? Owning a dog means providing for his day-to-day needs (food, exercise, training, and attention), looking after his overall welfare (taking him to the vet regularly, paying for his medicine and vaccinations, having him neutered, and getting pet insurance), giving him a safe space to call his own, and supplying him with all the tools he needs to be at his best physically, mentally, and socially.
2 Do I have the time and energy to train a dog?
Dogs love attention and company. Depending on your dog’s age, breed, and personality, you’ll need to devote at least one to two hours a day to him, which could be in the form of play, exercise, training, or cuddle time. From potty training to crate training, puppies need constant instruction and guidance since they’re still learning the ways of how to dog. Meanwhile, fully grown or senior dogs can be left unsupervised for longer periods of time if the shelter has assessed them as independent and without separation anxiety.
3 Is my family or home companion/s on board with my decision to adopt?
Before adopting a dog, prospective adopters who share a home with other people should get the latter’s approval because of a variety of reasons. Some people are allergic to dog saliva and/or dander, not happy about dogs taking over their personal space, or simply not keen on the added responsibility of caring for an animal (like being forced to wake up extra early to let the dog do his business outside instead of sleeping soundly in bed until it’s time to go to work).
If everyone is okay with having a dog around, take a moment to discuss where he will stay (for example: will he be staying in your room the whole time or roaming freely in the common areas?), how little/much interaction they’re comfortable having with the dog, and which responsibilities they’ll want or need to take on when the time comes.
4 Is my home ready for a dog?
Whether he’s a playful puppy or a full grown pooch, be sure to come up with a starter kit with all the things your dog would need before he arrives. The basics would include a crate, collar and leash, feeding and drinking bowls, a blanket or doggie cushion, food, and treats.
Aside from putting together a starter kit, check to see if the environment is safe for a dog. Hide electrical cords, safely store breakables within his reach, check to see if your fence is tall enough (so he won’t be able to jump over it), and review the plants you have to guarantee that they are not toxic for him.
If you are renting an apartment or house, ask for permission from the landlord to make sure that having a pet in the property is allowed.
5 Did I do enough research about the kind of dog I’d like to bring home?
The breed of a dog should not be your main factor in choosing your adoptee. However, learning about a particular breed could clue you in on its general characteristics—helping you find out about the breed’s original purpose, physical and personality traits, energy level, exercise requirements, lifespan, as well as possible health problems and challenges. Through your research, you can also discover information such as which dogs are hypoallergenic, good with young children, or helpful in protecting your home.
Also, do your research about the shelter or rescue you plan to adopt from. A shelter is typically a stand alone location, where rescues are housed in a kennel type environment, while a rescue is usually found in an individual’s home, with the rescue animals being fostered in multiple volunteer homes. Questions to ask include: Is it a trusted organisation? Do the volunteers treat their animals fairly? Do they do regular health checks on their rescues? Will they give you support after you’ve adopted from them? Find one that will answer all your questions and fulfill your needs.
Questions to ask the rescue or shelter
6 What is the dog’s background?
Get to know the dog’s history by asking the following questions: Where and how was the dog found? Was he previously owned or a stray? What were his past owners like and why was he surrendered? Was there a history of abuse or trauma? Is he housebroken?
The answers the volunteers give you can help you learn if the dog’s previous conditions match your current setup and if you’re capable of handling him. It can also guide you in discovering potential behaviour and training needs you’d have to prepare to handle.
7 What is his personality and temperament?
After looking into his background, you should also learn more about the dog’s personality and how he acts toward people and other animals. Asking about the dog’s disposition and energy can help you determine if he will match your own personality, lifestyle, and expectations.
Moreover, find out if the rescue group has conducted a canine temperament test (which evaluates a dog’s prey drive, level of aggression, protectiveness, ability to distinguish between a threatening and non-threatening situation, stability, confidence, and friendliness) and ask for their findings. However, it’s important to note that not all temperament tests are foolproof. Animals placed in kennels may display fearfulness or aggression but behave differently once they’ve settled into a less stressful environment.
It’s also worth remembering that not all dogs will be known to the rescue shelter. While volunteers try their best, they sometimes might not be able to fully profile the animal as it’s in a new environment and may behave differently to when it’s settled in your home. It’s important to be conscious of the fact that you’re adopting a family member and not a replaceable animal that needs a loving home. Work with the information you get, but leave room for surprises.
8 What is his medical history?
It’s important to find out what the rescue or shelter is planning to cover in terms of the dog’s health while under their care. Get a record of the dog’s completed vaccinations (here’s a guide to core and non-core vaccines a dog should get) and treatments, including pre-existing conditions or special needs that you should be aware of. Also, inquire if they’ll cover the dog’s neutering and microchipping requirements.
Be wary if the rescue or shelter fails to give you medical records of the dog you’re interested in. It could mean that they didn’t administer the proper medical checks through a veterinarian, they didn’t pay enough attention to the dog at the centre, or—sadly true in some cases—they simply didn’t have the funds or time needed to be thorough. As a general thumb rule, your first stop would be the local vet you’ve researched as your new family vet.
9 Can I spend one-on-one time with the dog I want to adopt?
Take time out to bond with your prospective adoptee before taking him home. Make an appointment with the shelter or rescue, so you can take the dog out for a walk or play with him. Visit him at least four to five times, so that you can observe how the dog responds to you and see his true nature emerge during those times. Also, let him meet your entire family and other pets you have at home. If the interactions are not as positive as you had hoped they would be, don’t get discouraged. Be open to meeting other dogs that you might not have considered adopting, or taking this particular dog home for a two week or so trial—as is mostly allowed by shelters.
10 How much is the dog’s adoption fee?
Each shelter or rescue has their own price point for adopting dogs. Most fees are set based on the age of the dog, the medical services he received when he arrived, and his food, lodging, and accessories. A few also consider the dog’s breed and popularity in the market.
For instance, you might think that a dog’s adoption fee is low, not realizing that he has not had any of his first year vaccinations, microchipping, or neutering done yet. If these are not included in his adoption package, assess if you can handle these additional costs and time requirements.
11 What is the organisation’s adoption timeline and policy?
Once you’ve decided to adopt a particular dog, find out their adoption process. Many organisations publish their requirements and timeline on their website, so you can get a rough idea of how long it’ll take to adopt a dog from them.
Due to the nature of shelters, it’ll be easier for you to simultaneously see more pets at their facility and likely take home an animal on the same day. On the other hand, rescues take longer and are more particular about adopting out their animals. Most require an interview and a home visit before they give the go signal.
Speak to the volunteers to find out what their policies are in terms of adopting a dog, such as finding out if they have a trial adoption period and if they offer a two-week health guarantee.
12 What kind of post-adoption assistance does your organisation offer?
You’ll need all the help you can get if it’s your very first time owning a dog. Ask the organisation if they offer support to new owners, such as providing a week’s worth of dog food (so that your dog can transition slowly into the food you’ve bought for him) or sharing knowledge on how to treat medical problems that suddenly appear after you’ve taken him home. Inquire if they could suggest a veterinarian or ask if you can gain access to their official vet and have medical treatments at discounted rates.
May the answers to these 12 questions lead you to the best adopted dog that will cover you with sloppy kisses and greet you with affectionate barks!