You’ve decided to add a dog to the family - congratulations! Adopting a dog is one of the most rewarding decisions you can make. There is nothing like a wagging tail to greet you when you return home each day.
If this is your first time adopting a pet, it can be overwhelming. Knowing the right questions to ask a shelter, rescue organization, or adoption center is key to helping them find the right canine companion for you.
Here are a few questions that can help you gather a whole lot of information in your search for your new four-legged family member:
Both shelters, dog rescues, and adoption centers take in unwanted dogs and try to find them new and loving forever homes while caring for the animal's needs. There are some differences between these types of organizations but all are available to you for adopting your new furry best friend that is patiently awaiting their forever home.
Animal shelters are physical locations that house several animals on the premises. Shelters often take in stray animals, and owner surrenders (animals dropped off by people who can no longer keep them).
Shelters can be private foundations or government (city/county) run. Rescues are private organizations that often have no physical facility. They usually operate by using a network of foster homes (people who volunteer to care for animals in their homes until a permanent home is found). Rescue groups are funded mainly by donations, and most of the staff are volunteers.
Because rescues are typically small organizations, they can provide more individualized care for each animal through their foster network. Depending on the organization, each may also be able to provide you with varying amounts of information about the pet you are considering.
Many rescue organizations take animals from shelters who would otherwise be euthanized because the shelter can’t care for the animals’ needs. Sometimes the animal may have temporary health needs. Other times, rescues may take special needs dogs who need a bit of extra work or training before they are ready to go into permanent homes. Shelters often are too large and don’t have the staff to do that one-on-one work (this depends on the shelter).
Rescue organizations can often provide more detailed information about the dog you are considering. Since the animals in their care live in foster homes, foster families have the opportunity to get to know the animals over time. Additionally, dogs who live with foster families have an opportunity to get some socialization that they might not necessarily get in a larger, busier shelter environment.
Some rescues are also breed-specific. For example, specific rescues take in Greyhounds who have retired from racing.
Just because a dog may have been surrendered by an owner that should not rule it out as a potentially adoptable pet. According to the Humane Society, moving and landlord issues are a few of the top reasons people give up their pets.
Ask if the shelter or rescue staff knows why the owner surrendered the dog along with other questions that may impact your family.
- Does the dog have a bite history?
- Has the dog ever attacked a person or another dog?
- Was the dog temperament tested?
- Did the dog come in with puppies or other dogs?
- Has the dog had additional training while in the shelter?
- Does this dog get along with other pets?
- Does this dog enjoy being around small children?
Be sure to ask many questions so that you find the right pup for your family to adopt. This will ensure that the pet you adopt will get along great in their forever home safely.
The more time you and your family can spend getting to know the dog before taking it home, the smoother the transition will be for all of you. You will also get a better sense of the dog’s temperament.
Ask to spend time with the dog in a quiet room away from the distraction of other dogs. It's also important to ask to walk the dog outside on a leash and to play fetch and with other toys. Most shelters are happy to provide one-on-one time with the dog you are looking to adopt as they want the pet to go to a family that fits them best as well.
The more you get to know the dog’s personality, the more confident you (and the shelter/rescue) can be that it is a good match.
Many shelters and rescues have discounted spay/neuter programs. Some organizations include the cost of the procedure in the adoption fee. Be sure you ask your rescue or shelter if this procedure has been completed are not. If not, be sure to take note of that when taking your dog home and as they encounter other pets.
Some adoption fees also cover the cost of microchipping the dog, initial shots and vetting, and spay and neutering. Be sure to check with your shelter or rescue and take advantage of these possibly free or discounted services. Microchipping, shots, spay, and neutering are important services that will help keep your pet safe and healthy as they prepare to go to their forever home.
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