Questions to ask before adopting a dog from a shelter

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6 Questions Adoptive Pet Parents Need to Ask

1.Has the dog you’re considering been behavior-tested? — Most large shelters and rescue organizations perform basic behavior testing as part of their assessment of the adoptability of the animals they take in. Knowing what types of tests were conducted on your future dog and her results will help you fill in the gaps in her training if you decide to take her home.

Some shelters conduct very thorough behavior assessments that go far beyond determining adoptability and can provide insight into whether a particular dog is a good fit for your lifestyle. For example, if a dog you’re interested in is very active and you’re looking for a lower energy lapdog, this dog is probably better suited to someone else’s home.

A comprehensive behavior and temperament assessment can determine a dog’s level of sociability with other pets, his degree of independence, and whether he’s suited for a home with children or an adult-only home.

2.What is the dog’s history? — How did he wind up at the shelter? Was he picked up as a stray, or did a previous owner turn him in? Generally speaking, the behavior of street dog will be markedly different from that of a relinquished family pet.

This is good information to have for a better understanding of your new dog’s behavior and training needs.

3.What veterinary care has your prospective dog received? — Most animal adoption organizations arrange to have pets’ health checked by a veterinarian before they are put up for adoption. Adoptive owners typically receive paperwork detailing the medical care the animal received while at the shelter.

It’s not unusual for large shelters to err on the side of overtreating dogs with an unknown medical history, so your new pet could come home with a fresh spay or neuter incision, dewormed, and/or heavily vaccinated.

Many shelters recommend that new owners take their pet to a veterinarian for an exam within a specified number of days from the date of adoption. Sometimes local veterinarians contract with shelters to provide the exams at no charge.

4.Does the dog have a known history of being abused? — If you know or suspect an adult dog was abused before she came to you, it’s important to keep two things in mind: you shouldn’t expect an overnight change in her, and you shouldn’t count on a complete turnaround in her trust level or behavior.

It takes time to help an abused animal learn to be less fearful and develop trust in humans again. With knowledge, hard work, and commitment, a previously abused pet can be transformed into a much-loved member of your family, but she can’t be reborn. It’s important to always remember that.

Here are some general guidelines for creating a safe environment for a previously abused dog:

Make her feel welcome and loved, and communicate clearly with her; I highly recommend the program A Sound Beginning, which is designed to help rescue dogs and adoptive guardians learn to communicate effectively and form an unbreakable bond

Don’t force anything on her — allow her to adapt to her new family and life at her own pace; provide her with a safe place where she can be alone when she feels like it

Protect her from whatever she fears

Create opportunities for her to be successful and build her confidence

Feed her a nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet and make sure she gets plenty of physical activity

Rehabilitating an abused pet presents a significant challenge, because these animals have been exposed to negative things they can’t unlearn despite your best efforts. But it’s important to feel hopeful, because life-changing progress can be made and there’s nothing more rewarding.

5.What are the steps involved in the adoption? — Shelters and rescue groups vary widely when it comes to vetting prospective adoptive families. For example, some shelters allow adopters to take a new pet home immediately. Others require you to wait until the animal has been spayed or neutered, dewormed, and/or vaccinated at the shelter.

Some organizations require home inspections before releasing a pet; others require potential adopters to bring other pets in the household and family members for a meet-and-greet before the adoption is finalized.

6.What food has your new dog been eating? — Some shelters send newly adopted pets home with a supply of the food they’ve been eating, but if this isn’t the case with your prospective dog, ask what the shelter is feeding and continue that diet for at least a week or two once he’s home.

It’s likely you’ll want to transition him to a different food, preferably a nutritionally optimal, biologically appropriate raw or gently cooked diet, but it doesn’t need to happen on day one. Everything in your furry companion’s new life with you will be a bit overwhelming and stressful for him in the beginning, so it’s best not to add a dietary change to the mix right away.

Author: David Diamond

David Diamond, Owner/Head Trainer: I use positive training methods and a firm, caring approach so owners and pets can learn to live together in harmony.

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