10 Important Questions To Ask *Before* Adopting A Dog

Nothing compares to a dog. As an owner of two rescued beagles, a former sales associate at a holistic pet supply store, and an owner of 22 pets at one time as a child (really), I can safely say with 100 percent confidence that dogs are the absolute best and we do not deserve them. You will never find a creature as loyal, protective, loving, and selfless as a dog. Sound good to you? If you don’t have a dog now, I highly recommend them, as long as you read through these 10 questions to ask before adopting a dog first.

That’s right. I said adopt. Not purchase from a breeder or a pet store. Please rescue a dog. Why? For one thing, there is an overpopulation of dogs right now in shelters because people who buy a lot of their dogs decide sooner rather than later they aren’t cut out to raise one and then they unceremoniously dump them at the shelter. These shelters are overcrowded (and that’s an understatement), which leads to more senseless euthanizing to make room for more unwanted dogs. Additionally, nearly all of the dogs sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, and puppy mills are bad news.

Most puppy mills do not have very good living conditions for the dogs, and they don’t treat the dogs like living creatures — just a means to make a profit. And according to an article from The Dodo, “Even if a breeder is USDA or government inspected, they can still legally house dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs in small wire cages for their entire lives.” This is awful for multiple reasons, but one of which is that this is incredibly inhumane. Another reason is that a lot of these dogs end up getting parasites, Giardia, and Brucellosis. Not to mention the many genetic disorders dogs can get from years and generations of inbreeding. Many of these dogs have permanent psychological problems as well.

So adopt. Don’t shop, y’all. However, Los Angeles-based certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer Russell Hartstein tells Romper that it's important to keep in mind before going into a shelter that they're like war zones. "The pets that reside there have extreme elevated stress and cortisol levels and are homeless. They are under chronic stress and do not exhibit the same behaviors (positive or negative) and overall health until several weeks/months after being in your home. So what you see in the shelter and temperament tests are not accurate, nor should be relied upon."

But it's still important to ask these questions (of yourself and the shelter) that Hartstein suggests.


Do you have the time and resources?

Dogs take a lot of time, effort, and money, and that's an understatement. Do you have the means to pay for their yearly vaccines and any emergency vet visits that may come up? Can you afford grooming costs (if you adopt a dog with a coat that requires maintenance), and even the cost of getting their nails clipped twice a month? And that's not to mention the other dog necessities like a water bowl, a food bowl, toys, treats, leashes, collars, and of course food.

As far as time goes, dogs require being let out at a minimum of three to four times a day, and depending on the breed, they may need a good long walk at least once a day. Do you have a fenced-in backyard to let them run off some energy? Do you have enough room in your house to keep them inside at night and during the day when you're not home? If you work long hours a dog may not be for you, because if they're in a crate or alone 12 hours a day, that's just no fun for anyone.

"Dogs (and cats) are time intensive and not space intensive, so time is of utmost importance," Hartstein says.


Can you meet the dog's needs?

"Not only time, but money to pay for dog training, behavior, nutrition, medical visits, shelter, toys, dog boarding, pet sitters, dog walkers, groomer, equipment, etc.," Hartstein says. "Am I educated to enrich another animal's life properly and humanely?"


Do you have others to consider in your home?

If you have small children, elderly people, or even if your partner isn't too sure about a dog, be sure to be conscious about what type of dog you're adopting or if you should get one at all. You should see the amount of dogs that end up at shelters because the family didn't have time for them after having a kid, or already had children and didn't realize the commitment adding a dog would entail.

Also, will other people help you care for the pet? Many folks get a dog to teach their kids responsibility or their kids "promise" to help take care of them — and then it all falls to one parent. When it gets to be too much for that one parent to handle, back to the pound the dog goes.


What is the dog's past like?

This one is a tough one. Many times, shelters don't know anything about the dog's past — if only they could talk, right? But if possible, still ask to see if there's anything you should know that could give you a glimpse into how they're going to act in your home, or any quirks you have to look out for.

"Though many times unknown, the more information you can gather beforehand, the more informed your decision can be," Hartstein says.


Is the dog good with other animals?

Bringing another animal into your home when there's already one living there can be a stressful time for everyone. If you already have a dog, bring them to the shelter with you for a meet-and-greet with the potential dog you may be adopting to see how they get along. When you bring the dog home, slowly introduce them and be sure to reassure your current pet that it's still their house, too, and have separate water and food bowls, treats, and toys for each animal. Most shelters will know if a dog is good with cats because they can "test" them with some of the cats who are also at the shelter (in a safe way, of course).


Does the dog have a medical condition?

This is important to know up front because you may need to budget time and money toward purchasing and administering medication.


Does the dog have an emotional, behavioral, or training condition? A bite history?

Know what you're getting into before you bring the dog home. If you know they have emotional issues, you can better prepare yourself to help the dog with them head-on or preemptively hire a trainer.


What are the dog's temperament and energy levels?

Some breeds are more hyperactive than others. Some dogs are more hyperactive than others. Decide what type of temperament would be a good fit for your family before adopting a dog. Do you want a lap dog, or a dog that loves long walks and hikes? Somewhere in between? I can guarantee there is one that's perfect for you at the shelter.


Has the dog been vetted?

Ask if the dog has been spayed or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, etc. This is usually included in the cost of the adoption fee and all of these things are very important for the life and health of your dog.


What is the dog's age and breed?

Remember, puppies are way harder than older dogs, but many folks don't like adopting seniors since they don't have as long to live and sometimes they have more medical issues. Breed can also play a factor depending on where you live. Some apartments don't allow "bully breeds" or they have to be under a certain weight limit.