Questions to Ask When Adopting a Rescue Dog

Questions to Ask When Adopting a Rescue Dog

The following is a contribution from one of our regular readers. She has adopted rescues in the past, so is perfectly placed to share the questions to ask when adopting a rescue dog. This includes what you should ask yourself, things to look out for, and questions to ask the shelter too.

What questions should you ask when adopting a dog

Adopting a rescue dog is a mammoth responsibility that not enough people take seriously. As rates of dog adoption have skyrocketed in recent times, it’s all the more important that we know exactly what we’re getting into when we adopt a dog.

Careful consideration must be taken by asking the right questions to the rescue dog shelter and exploring some questions yourself.

When you first go to a rescue center, they will likely ask you all the leading questions to get to know you and your situation. This interrogation is just to ensure they introduce you to dogs that will fit perfectly in your home life… this is why it can be so hard to adopt a rescue dog.

A key part of having a smooth family life with a new dog is to discover as much about them as possible beforehand.

Here are 10 questions to ask when adopting a rescue dog to help ensure you make the right choice for you and the dog.

1. What is the dog’s personality?

Dogs are much like humans! Well…like human toddlers at least. They can be stubborn, happy-go-lucky, sulky, affectionate, cheeky, quick-tempered, dozy, and curious.

One dog could even encompass all of those traits in a beautiful bundle of fur and drool.

To an extent, you’ll learn most of your dog’s quirks during the long years of knowing them, but the rescue center will definitely have some insight on the broad strokes of your potential dog’s nature.

They’ll know enough to confidently recommend them to you or not.

2. What is the dog’s history?

Your history shapes who you are; the same goes for rescue dogs. Depending on their situation and age, a dog’s prior situation can be traumatizing to them or instil some hardcore habits.

For every dog that runs and hides at the sight of a mop due to a violent past, there is a dog that will jump on that mop for fun because their former owner used to play tug of war with them often.

It’s true that sometimes the rescue center will have limited information, like in the case of stray dogs.

Find out as much as you possibly can so you are well prepared.

Handy Hint: Here are some more things you should be looking for before you choose a rescue dog.

3. Is the dog good with children?

I know what you’re thinking.

“Why wouldn’t this be part of the history or personality questions?”

You would be right to a degree. The fondness of kids is down to socialization and temperament. That said, a happy, bubbly, and energetic dog might be terrible with young children because of their boisterousness.

Equally, a dog socialized with older children may hate the non-stop poking of babies. Every case is different.

questions to ask when adopting a dog
Whether your rescue dog is good with children is an important question to ask. (Image licensed via

Ask your rescue center what the dog’s experience is with children. If there is no tracked history of interactions with kids but the dog seems friendly, introduce them to your children before taking them home.

4. Does the dog have any health issues?

Many first-time dog owners underestimate the cost of vet fees at the best of times. Vaccinations and check-ups aside, prior health issues can make the care of your dog more emotionally taxing and expensive.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t adopt a dog with prior health conditions. These unfortunate pups deserve to be loved too.

Just be sure you are equipped to make their life as healthy and happy as possible, regardless of how many medications or physiotherapeutic practices they need.

5. Has the dog been spayed or neutered?

A very simple question with a very simple solution. This could be another potential cost to you if spaying or neutering has not been done. Spaying is usually more costly than neutering due to the complexity of the surgery.

Some rescue centers offer that their veterinarian does the surgery as part of the adoption fee. If that is the case, you’ll need to know how to care for your dog as their stitches heal.

6. What is the adoption process?

Speaking of adoption fees, what is the adoption process anyway?

Each rescue center has its own rules and guidelines for this. Generally, you’ll have an adoption fee as a donation to the service.

Many rescue centers process documentation, administer the first vaccinations and worming tablets. They may also give you a starter pack of food.

You rarely take your dog home on the same day you meet them. It’s more common to take them home the second or third visit.

Questions to ask yourself before adopting a rescue dog

Adopting a rescue dog is a noble thing to do, but you have got to make the right decision for you and your family. This starts with some introspection before you even step out to find your ideal rescue dog. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you choose a rescue or shelter dog.

7. What kind of dog would suit our lifestyle and personalities?

I find that as a nation of dog owners, we get so hung up on breeds. The Labradoodle, French Bulldog, and Miniature Dachshund all spring to mind when considering the fashionable dogs of the 2010s.

I don’t think concentrating on breed is particularly helpful as it narrows your possibilities.

What I do advocate for, however, is understanding yourselves, your lives, and the kind of dog that would fit perfectly.

  • Do you live in an apartment?
  • Or do you have a huge yard?
  • Do you want your dog to be your running partner?
  • Or can you barely squeeze in a daily walk?
  • Are you a neat freak who needs a hairless or non-shedding dog?

All of these factors will help you in choosing the right rescue dog for you.

8. Are we confident in training a rescue dog?

Training any dog takes confidence. Rescue dogs and bred dogs alike need consistent, kind, encouraging training.

Handy Hint: Here are some training tips you can use to help your rescue dog get socialized.

Many owners assume that rescue dogs will be more complicated to train, but this is not necessarily the case.

Some dogs had wonderful owners who have unfortunately fallen ill or passed away (yes, I believe that dogs do understand death. Those former owners trained their dogs lovingly so the adult dog you adopt will just need to adjust to their new environment.

On the other hand, you do have some rescue dogs with more challenging behavioral habits.

Whatever the case may be, ask yourself if you are able to train your dog.

  • Have you trained dogs before?
  • What is your capacity for a controlling or dominating dog?

It is good practice to know your capabilities before beginning your search.

9. Can we afford to adopt a dog?

Dog ownership is not cheap. It is estimated that annual dog expenses can cost you anywhere between $400 to $1,200 (far more with Great Danes and larger breeds).

You have to be clever about your finances, as unexpected vet surgeries can leave your destitute if you have not accounted for them.

On top of that, you’ll also have the initial adoption fees and the many items you need to buy to equip your house for your new dog’s arrival.

I’m talking about dog bowls, dog food, leads, beds, toys, and carriers.

It is best to ensure you are in a financially comfortable position before adopting any pet, but especially a dog.

10. Are we ready to adopt a dog?

I would say this question could be split in two. One is if rescuing a dog is right for you. I am a strong believer in rescuing dogs as opposed to buying them. If you really want a puppy, there are plenty of puppies that are abandoned or even born in animal shelters.

That said, if you want a specific breed, be sure to buy a puppy from an ethical, humane dog breeder.

The second part of this is are you ready for a dog at all?

This is a big question. In my fictional opening to this very article, I painted a picture of someone who is clearly not ready.

Just waking up one day and deciding you want to adopt a dog is not a good basis for responsible dog ownership. A puppy is not for Christmas. A puppy is for life.

Handy Hint: People who rush into adopting rescue dogs will often talk about the honeymoon period. Click the link to try and avoid this happening to you.

You owe it to your new pooch to be well researched about dog behavior, habits, training, necessities, and health issues.

Lucky for you, reading this article was a great first step!


It was decided. After waking up one morning in want of a furry friend, I was destined to adopt a dog. With no awareness of dog behavior or dog ownership, I waltzed into the nearest animal shelter to choose my rescue dog.

Choosing my rescue dog would be a breeze.

The rowdy bulldog had a certain twinkle in his eye and I just knew he was the right one for me. No information or formal adoption process was required, so I strolled out of the rescue center with my new dog that very afternoon.

We lived happily ever after. The end…

.. said no one ever!

Don’t make a mistake like the story above and make sure you ask all the right questions before adopting a rescue dog.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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