A person holding a small dog up to their chest

Adopting A Dog: Essential Questions for a Perfect Fit

Americans adopt nearly 5 million shelter animals each year, and over 2 million of those animals are dogs. But even with so many people adopting, shelters are still filled with dogs looking for their forever homes.

If you’re on the journey of adopting a dog, congratulations! It’s an exciting, rewarding journey, but there is a lot to consider before bringing home your new best friend. In this article, we’re going to cover some essential questions to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Why It’s Important To Ask Questions Before Adopting a Dog

We all imagine falling in love with a shelter dog at first sight and knowing they’re “the one.” But, as emotionally driven as pet adoption is, there are some important questions to ask before you start the search, as well as before your puppy goes to their new home. Asking the right questions will set you up for success as a new pet owner.

How Lifestyle and Your Home Environment Can Affect the Dog

Your lifestyle and home environment can greatly impact your new family member. So it’s important to consider the following aspects of your lifestyle to ensure your new dog will be safe, comfortable, and happy.

Working From Home or Outside the House

Some breeds require more attention, while other breeds may be independent and content for several hours alone. If you work outside of your home and adopt a dog with separation anxiety who requires more attention, it could lead to stress on the dog as well as on yourself.

Frequent Traveling

If you’re a jet-setter who takes multiple long trips per year, it’s important to consider how that will impact your dog. An outgoing, people-loving dog may be perfectly fine with a pet sitter while you’re away, but a shy, introverted dog may be stressed and anxious.

Urban Areas and Rural Areas

Whether you live in an urban area or rural community will absolutely have an impact on your dog. This may be less important if you’re adopting a puppy who won’t know the difference. But if you’re adopting a middle-aged dog who’s used to running in fields, you may want to think twice about taking them back to your one-bedroom apartment in the city.

Young Children

Some dogs love young children, while others may feel uneasy with little kids around, which can lead to aggressive behavior stemming from fear. Training may be an option, especially if the dog is a puppy, but adopting a senior dog who is known to be incompatible with children can be a risk.


Being a plant parent can be almost as important to some people as being a pet parent, so it’s vital to consider what types of plants are in your space before bringing a dog home. Some common plants that are toxic to dogs include sago palms, albuca, monsteras, dieffenbachia, dracaena, and peace lilies.

Having Other Pets

If you have a pet at home already, it’s important to make sure they’ll get along with a new addition to the household. If you have, for example, a cat who’s never been around dogs, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member bring over their cat-friendly dog to test compatibility.

Size of Your Living Space

Finally, keep the size of your living space in mind when adopting a dog. Energy level, breed, and age all factor into how much space a dog will need when indoors. Adopting a mastiff while living in a studio apartment will not only be a tight fit — it also can have negative long-term effects on the dog.

Questions About the Dog’s Background

Adopting a dog — especially your first dog — is such an exciting time. However, it’s important to consider that not every dog parent is equipped to handle more difficult cases. So you’ll want to learn as much as you can about a dog’s background before committing to adoption.

Previous Living Situation

Unless the dog you’re hoping to adopt was born in the shelter, be sure to ask about their previous living situation. This can often uncover potential behavior problems or personality traits. For example, if your dog’s history includes abuse, they may show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which requires specialized care, accommodations, and training.

Personality and Manners

Though you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time with the dog you’re hoping to adopt at the shelter, there may be some areas of their personality you won’t be able to see. For example, they may have bad habits like destructive chewing or leash pulling. So ask the shelter about the dog’s personality and manners.

Potty Training

Another area that may not be entirely clear when you meet a dog at an animal rescue is how well they’re housetrained. Puppies in shelters may not be housebroken yet, so potty training your puppy might be up to you. Even if you’re adopting an adult or older dog, it’s important to ask about their habits and if they require additional potty training.

How the Dog Handles Children or Strangers

Ask the dog shelter how your potential pup handles children or strangers, especially if you have kids at home. If you learn that the dog isn’t great with kids and you have small children, you may have to make the difficult decision not to adopt the dog. Asking this question can also uncover how much training and socialization the dog will need.

How the Dog Handles Other Pets

Likewise, you should find out upfront if a dog at the shelter doesn’t like other pets and needs to be in a single-pet household. The last thing any new dog parent wants is the stress of their older pet constantly at odds with their new dog. Keep in mind that this will affect your ability to adopt other pets in the future as well.

The Dog’s Breed

Many dogs at shelters are mixed breeds, and often they don’t have exact percentages. Regardless, it’s important to ask, as some shelters may do testing in order to give potential adopters some clarity. Knowing a dog’s breed can help uncover potential behavioral or medical issues.

Behavioral Issues

Beyond a dog’s breed, be sure to ask the shelter about a dog’s behavior. And if the dog does turn out to have behavioral issues, know what your limits are in terms of how much you’re willing to take on.

There’s no shame in forgoing the adoption of a high-needs dog. Every dog deserves to be in a home with a parent who is willing and able to care for them the way they need.


Similar to breed, some shelters may not have a clear answer about age, but they should be able to give you a ballpark. An older dog may experience health issues sooner than a younger pup, and it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Questions About the Dog’s Needs

Every dog will have different needs. One dog may need much more exercise to burn off energy, while another dog may have a health condition that requires a certain diet. These are vital aspects to be aware of before adopting a dog.

Exercise Requirements

As noted, high-energy dogs have higher exercise needs than low-energy dogs. So, if you adopt a pup with high energy, you’ll need to walk and play with them more. This may mean taking time away from other things in your life to tend to your pup’s needs.

Training and Socializing

It’s important to know upfront how much training and socialization a dog has. If they aren’t trained fully or haven’t been socialized much, it will require more time, energy, and potentially money on your part to ensure they get what they need.


Dogs in shelters may have chronic or recurring health conditions, which can impact dietary requirements. Ensuring a correct diet for your puppy is vital. Certain diets can be expensive, so knowing about dietary needs can help you determine if the dog is right for your lifestyle.


Another area that can hit the wallet hard is grooming — unless you do it yourself, which can be time-consuming. If your pup has a double coat or curly hair, they’ll need frequent grooming. Dogs with double coats shed a lot, and dogs with curly hair are prone to matting, so it’s important to stay on top of their grooming needs.

Supplies You’ll Need

It’s also a good idea to find out which supplies you’ll need to care for your new furry friend. The shelter should be able to provide a list of supplies they use with the dog regularly, like dog beds, toys, brushes, etc.

Introducing Them to Your Family and Other Pets

Finally, it’s important to ask the shelter staff how to introduce the dog to friends, family, and other pets. Dogs have individual personalities, just like people, so the way one dog likes to be introduced will be different from another dog. This information can also ensure the dog doesn’t respond negatively out of fear.

Questions To Ask About the Adoption Process

Different shelters have varying processes, requirements, and policies, so you’ll need to make sure you’re clear on the adoption process before you commit.

What is Included in the Fee

Ask the shelter what the adoption fee includes. Typically, adoption fees fund medical care prior to adoption, which can include a checkup, heartworm test, vaccinations, treatment for fleas (if necessary), dental exam, and spaying or neutering.

Post-Adoption Support

Most shelters provide some level of post-adoption support, so be sure to check in about this. Examples of post-adoption support can include a phone hotline, a digital pet care library, behavior support contacts, virtual training services, healthcare clinics, and microchip services.

They should also be able to provide you with all of the health history information you need for your puppy’s first vet appointment.

Adoption Returns

While hopefully, you won’t need the information, it’s important to ask the shelter about their return policy if it turns out the dog is not a good fit. Returning a dog to a shelter can be an extremely difficult decision, but sometimes it’s for the best. Some shelters and humane societies offer open surrender services with no questions asked, while others may have stricter policies.

Make Healthy Food Choices for Your New Pup With The Honest Kitchen

Adopting a dog takes planning and careful consideration of your lifestyle and a potential new dog’s personality, history, needs, and more. If you’ve made it to signing those adoption papers and are looking for the right diet for your new rescue dog, look no further than The Honest Kitchen.

All of The Honest Kitchen’s puppy and adult dog foods are full of whole food, human grade ingredients that will support your dog’s health and longevity. Plus, their delicious recipes will satisfy even the pickiest eater.

Support your new dog’s nutritional needs with The Honest Kitchen!

Back to Blog