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Questions To Ask Before Adopting a Shelter Dog

Despite all of the available information and promotion, there are still not enough homeless dogs being adopted and raised in good homes with loving families. This results in many dogs living out caged lives in a municipal shelter or, even worse, being “put to sleep.”

Puppies in the cageIf you are a true dog lover and have a passion for these animals, please visit your local animal shelter and consider adopting a dog or puppy from there, instead of purchasing a new puppy from the newspaper or a pet store. There is no better or kinder service you or I could do for the dog community than by providing a positive, loving home to a perfectly good shelter animal.

For some of you, the idea of adopting a shelter dog will instantly cause you to become negative or feel defensive toward these animals. I realize that most families prefer to have a puppy that they raised themselves from birth, but there are literally thousands upon thousands of well mannered, healthy dogs that need a home like yours.

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In fact, it seems to be a common thought that dogs from animal shelters are tainted.  Most of the dogs and puppies that are living in animal shelters are there for various reasons that do not include acts of violence or sickness. Yes, there are many of them that have had problems in the past with abuse or that have developed survival instincts from living on the streets, but these animals can all be trained to perfection in most cases

General Questions to Ask When Adopting a Dog From a Shelter

All this doesn’t mean that you should blindly and ignorantly adopt a dog or puppy from an animal shelter. Like any service or product, animal shelters are there to provide a specific function that you, as a consumer, should investigate before making your decision. There are specific questions that should be asked to the animal shelter from which you are considering adopting a dog.

  • Is there a full-time licensed veterinarian on staff?
  • Do the dogs get more than just food and water?
  • Does the shelter provide socialization for the dogs, allowing them to interact with other dogs and humans, or are they always locked in their own cage?


These questions about the dog’s current living environment could have a significant impact on their current and future behavior. The last thing you want to do is adopt a puppy who has been crammed up in a small cage during its entire stay at the shelter. This kind of treatment can certainly induce traumatic anxiety disorders, stress, and fear of the outside world.

  • What kind of medical treatment do the dogs receive at the shelter?
  • What vaccinations (e.g. hepatitis, distemper) have the dogs received?
  • Have they been tested for heatworms? Fleas and other parasites?


Most organized animal shelters will at least provide the minimum care necessary needed for a dog to go home with you, however, there are some places that unfortunately neglect important medical guidelines.

Before Taking Home The Dog You Have Selected

Once you have your sights (and heart…) set on a specific dog, you should be sure to ask the following:

  • Is the dog currently recovering from an injury? Has he been injured in the past?
  • If so, what type of injury is it? What type of medical treatment and/or medication has the dog received?
  • If the medical treatment is expected to continue, what are the associated costs?
  • Has the dog’s temperament been professionally evaluated?
  • Are they overprotective of territory?
  • How often does aggressive behavior occur and for what reasons?


Most shelters have this information posted on the front of each cage that is designated to the specific dog, or other animal. It is important that you look at this information and assess whether or not it is detailed enough so that the dog can be trusted with your family set up. The staff should also know how the animal reacts with children and around outside stimulants such as moving cars, other people, etc. This information is valuable in determining whether or not the shelter dog you are considering will be a good match for your home situation.

  • Does the shelter offer any services after you bring home a new dog?
  • Do they provide pamphlets or brochures explaining the best way to handle an adopted dog?
  • Are there tips from a newsletter or a website that can help your adopted dog adjust easier?
  • Can they refer you to a qualified dog trainer that specializes in shelter animals?

REMEMBER:  Adopting a new dog is a significant responsibility. The more questions you ask, the better you will feel when you take home your adopted shelter dog or puppy.

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