10 important things to consider when you decide to adopt a dog

Fiona Goodall/Stringer/Getty ImagesAdopting a four-legged friend comes with a ton of responsibility.

Adopting a dog is no small task and can be especially daunting for first-time pet owners.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider that will help make your time at the shelter a little bit easier.

Follow the 10 tips below to ensure you’ll be providing a forever home to a dog in need.


Ask for an assessment of a dog’s behaviour and health, if one isn’t provided.

BiancaGrueneberg/iStockIt’s important to find a dog that fits your lifestyle and personality.

“Any established shelter that prides itself on being at the forefront of animal rescue will provide behavioural and health assessments,” Ryan Parker, a certified dog trainer from The Humane Society of Ocean City, told INSIDER.

Many reputable shelters will take the time to analyse the personality, energy level, and more of each dog they’re putting up for adoption.


Make note of a dog’s energy level.

bruev/iStockSome breeds are more active than others.

Before making a decision, it’s important to consider the amount of energy and time you have to devote to a new four-legged friend. According to Parker, if the energy level of the owner’s household doesn’t match that of the dog, the adoption often does not work out.

Consider the following questions: Do you live in a smaller urban area without much room for your new dog to run around? Do you live on a farm with a big family and plenty of space? How do potential adoptees interact with their handlers at the shelter?


Make sure you find out as much as you can about a dog’s history.

bruev/iStockIt can give you insight into a dog’s behaviour.

Here are some questions you may want to ask at the shelter, according to The Humane Society of the United States: How long has the dog been at the shelter? Did the dog arrive as a stray? Was the dog surrendered by a previous owner? If so, why?


Find out how a dog responds to food.

Capuski/iStockSome dogs exhibit a behaviour called food guarding.

Depending on a dog’s history, it may engage in food guarding. Food guarding is when dogs become protective over their food or toys, and it could range from mild growling to a full attack, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

While food guarding is a mostly normal behaviour that develops when dogs have to compete for food as a puppy or a stray, an overly aggressive response to food can be dangerous for you or anyone in your household.

As such, it’s important to talk to a dog shelter about potential adoptees and how they respond to food. It might also be worth asking the shelter to feed a dog in front of you so you can assess the situation yourself.


See how your prospective pup socializes with humans and other dogs.

Photology1971/iStockYou can learn a lot from first impressions.

A dog that has been adequately socialised is friendly to most people and other animals. Well-socialised dogs are also more comfortable in unfamiliar situations, instead of anxious or aggressive, according to the Animal Humane Society.

When you’re at the animal shelter, be sure to take note of a dog’s first reaction to you. Are they cautious, aggressive, or friendly? First impressions will give you a good idea of how your new dog will react to strangers on the street and in your home.

It’s also a good idea to see how a potential adoptee interacts with other dogs. Ask the people at the shelter if their dogs get to go outside and play with each other, which exposes them to new surroundings and encourages them to socialise.


Figure out whether you want to adopt a purebred or a mixed-breed dog.

Fischer S./iStockIt’s important to do your research.

Since different breeds of dogs have different needs, take the time to learn about all the ones you’re considering adopting.

If you’re hoping to adopt a Husky, for example, make sure you have time to brush the dog every day. And if you’re interested in a Great Dane, you should know the breed is actually quite docile and loves to lounge around all day.

Ask yourself: Is this breed compatible with your lifestyle and living arrangement? Like finding a new roommate, it’s important to find a dog that’s a good match for you.


Find out how old a prospective pet is.

KalebKroetsch/iStockIs a younger or older dog right for you?

Puppies require a considerable amount of time and patience up front since you’ll have to carefully train and socialise them.

On the other hand, older dogs tend to have lower energy levels and are often already trained. However, older dogs are also more likely to have health problems – which may not be a financially viable option for some people.


Test how well-trained a dog already is.

Veronika7833/iStockMany dogs can be trained to perform dozens of behaviours.

When you’re looking for a dog at the shelter, you can do a couple of quick tests to assess the potential adoptee’s intelligence and level of training.

For example, do they come to you when you call their name? Do they walk well on a leash or do they constantly pull you all over the place? Can they follow basic commands like sit or stay?


Be sure you have your house ready and any supplies they might need.

Flickr/cogdogMake sure everything is in order.

Is the dog microchipped? Do they need medication you have to obtain? Do you have food, toys, and grooming supplies? All of these are important questions to ask yourself before you officially adopt a dog and take them home.


Figure out for sure if you’re in an ideal situation for a dog.

Flickr/gammamanJust because you want one doesn’t mean you’re ready.

Tons of people want a furry friend, but even if you want on, it doesn’t always mean you’re ready for it.

Really sit down and ask yourself if you have the money, time, and commitment to adopting a dog. If you are already finding yourself backing down from the challenge, it may not be right for you.

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