Thinking about Adopting a Rescue Dog? Here are 20 Questions to Ask First
A rescue dog can be every bit as good a companion or working dog as a purebred dog purchased from a breeder, but there are different considerations in choosing a rescue dog for your family. If you are unsure whether you are ready for a dog at all, whether from a rescue or a breeder, consider some questions you should ask yourself and your family before adopting a dog. If you know you want a dog and are thinking about rescuing your new best friend, answer these twenty questions to help decide which rescue dog is right for your family.
Questions 1 – 10: What Type of Dog Is Right For Your Family?
1. How Active is Your Family?
Do you want an active jogging and biking companion or a buddy to cuddle with on the couch? Perhaps you want a little of both. Deciding what activities you want to do with your dog can help decide what size and energy level is right for you.
2. Do You Have Kids?
Because mixed breed dogs may exhibit a variety of breed characteristics, you don’t always know what traits will come out or already exist in a potential dog. If your dog wants to herd, you kids may end up being herded all over the house and yard. If an older dog has never been around kids before, she may not respond well. Make sure you learn if an older dog is good with children before bringing her home, or choose a puppy that is unlikely to have herding breeds in her.
3. Do You Have Cats or Small Pets?
If your new dog has high prey drive, she may not be able to learn to get along with your cat and may obsess over small pets. While some dogs with prey drive can learn to tolerate small household pets, this may not be a risk you want to take on. Choose a dog that you know is good with cats and small animals or choose a puppy of a breed that generally doesn’t have very high prey drive, like a retriever or companion breed mix.
4. Do You Have Other Dogs?
A new dog can be a great companion for existing dogs in the household, but if your dog or the dog that you are considering bringing home is reactive to other dogs, you may have a long journey ahead of you. Make sure your dog can meet the prospective dog and arrange for fostering if at all possible.
5. How Much Time Do You Have?
All dogs require time and energy to thrive, and spending time with your new companion is why you’re getting her anyways, but some dogs need much more time than others. You can talk to foster families of potential rescue dogs to find out how demanding the dog is of your time and how much time she is happy to spend resting in her crate.
6. How Much Mess Can You Handle?
All dogs make life a little messier. Paws track in dirt and most dogs shed. All dogs lick themselves and their bedding, and some dogs tend to slobber a lot or drink very messily. Some dogs are reluctant to walk through wet grass, while others love a good mud puddle like nothing else. Be honest about what you can handle in the habits and physical attributes of the dog you choose.
7. Do You Want Your Dog to Deter Crime?
If you want your dog’s presence and bark to deter would-be criminals and alert you to danger, you’ll find that most dogs can do the job just fine. Even smaller dogs have a loud, fierce bark that will make criminals seek out easier targets. If you feel unsafe in your neighborhood or on walks, however, a powerful dog with protective tendencies may be the right choice for you.
8. Are You Interested in Advanced Training?
Older dogs can be surprisingly quick to learn advanced training techniques, but if you have very specific goals for your new dog, a puppy may be better able to adapt to your lifestyle and needs. Choose a dog that tends to focus on you and is easily motivated by a treat or toy.
9. How Much Time Do You Want With Your Dog?
This can be a hard question to consider, but be honest about how long you want to commit to your dog. Older dogs can be amazing pets who already have great training. Older dogs are calm and easy to be around, but you won’t get as much time with them as with a younger dog. If your kids are a few years from leaving your house and you would like to travel when they move out, an older dog may be perfect for you.
10. How Much Can You Afford to Spend on Caring For Your Dog?
All dogs have costs in medical care, food, toys, etc. but some dogs tend to be more expensive than others. A purebred dog from unknown circumstances may have been badly bred and have genetic problems that come out later in life. Big dogs cost more in pretty much everything, especially food.
Questions 10 – 20: How to Find The Right Dog For Your Family
11. Where Can You Find a Puppy?
If you’ve decided that a puppy is right for your family, you have lots of adorable choices to consider. Animals services and rescues in your area may have entire litters to choose from. Most puppies stay in foster care and are available at weekend adoption events at pet stores or shelters. Be ready for a challenging search. There is usually not much information available about the breeds and puppies get adopted quickly. Be careful not to rush into a decision because puppies are being adopted around you. Be patient and you’ll find the dog you’re looking for.
12. Where Can You Find an Adult Dog?
Adult dogs are available for adoption at Animal Services in your area as well as at weekend adoption events and local rescues. Fosters will often meet with you to show you a dog you are considering.
13. Can You Foster?
If you are considering an adult dog, it is best if you can foster first. Find out ahead of time if a rescue will let you foster. Most animal services allow fostering.
14. What About Craigslist and Pet Matchmaking Sites?
You can find great family pets that need new homes directly from the families that need to rehome them. This can produce the least stress for the dog, and allow you to learn a lot about the history of the dog. Be very careful of scams and remember to play it safe.
15. How Can You Tell What Breeds a Mixed Breed Dog Is?
Some physical characteristics are very revealing, like a blue tongue indicating a Chow Chow ancestry, or webbed feet pointing to a water retriever or spaniel.. Watch your prospective dog closely to find signs of heritage. You can also submit a genetic test if you want to be sure.
16. What Behavioral Traits Should You Look For?
Some behavioral traits, like a fixation on small animals or high reactivity to other dogs, are immediately apparent. You can tell how responsive a dog is to you by getting her attention for simple training exercises.
17. What If The Dog You Are Considering Is Scared or Stressed?
Fear can hide a lot of normal behaviors in a dog. A responsive dog may seem dull, or a reactive dog placid. You can tell a dog is experiencing stress if she pants rapidly with lips drawn tightly, if the whites of her eyes show, and if her eyes dart around. Excessive licking also indicates stress. Walk your prospective dog around or try to foster first to tell who she is beneath the stress.
18. How Can You Tell How Big a Puppy Will Be?
It can be very hard to determine how large a puppy will grow. Paw size is a classic indicator, but it can be very misleading. To play it safe, assume that a given puppy will grow as large as any breed that might be in her.
19. How Do You Know How Old a Prospective Dog Is?
The shelter or rescue staff can give you some sense of a dog’s age, but these estimates are often a bit low. You can look at a dog’s teeth to get some sense of age. Both wear and tartar build up indicate age, but keep in mind that dog’s whose teeth don’t meet well may have more tartar and dogs that chew a lot may have less.
20. How Do You Know If a Dog is Right For You?
Only you can decide if a particular dog is right for you. Everyone in your family should agree on the dog that you choose. Be very careful to go through your checklist and make sure your potential dog meets the criteria you carefully considered before your search. It can be easy to be carried away by a dog you fall in love with, but for the welfare of both you and the dog, it is best to stick to your guidelines.
Rescue dogs are amazing dogs. Whether you want to adopt a puppy, an adult dog, or are considering giving an older dog a great place to spend her golden years, a rescue organization or animal shelter is a great place to find your new companion.