Adopting a shelter dog? Ask yourself these questions first.

September 6, 2023 - 5 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Girl with long brown hair hugs her black and brown mixed breed dog with bow around neck

Thinking about adopting a rescue dog? It’s a wonderful thing to do. Not only are you giving one dog a new “leash” on life, but you’re also freeing up space in a shelter or foster home so they can devote their time and resources to other pups.

Before you em-bark on this journey, there are some questions you should ask yourself to be better prepared and avoid the “Puppy Blues” or even a painful rehoming experience.

Can You Afford a Dog Right Now?

Illustrated white dog sits on top of pile of coins while coins fly around himHere are some of the top expenses you might need to cover for your new furry bundle of joy:

Of course, a lot of expenses can be avoided or minimized. You don’t have to buy everything new. Accessories, toys, and beds can always be purchased secondhand!

Another way to minimize potential future expenses? Consider dog insurance, which is designed to reimburse you for unexpected illnesses and accidents.

Additionally, a non-insurance Wellness Plan like the one we offer at ManyPets can help you pay for vaccinations and some preventative care tools for your pup. A good dog toothbrush and toothpaste now may help you avoid a costly tooth extraction later!

How Do You Plan to Deal With Behavioral Issues?

Dog Barking

Shelters often don’t know the backstory of their adoptable dogs. Many are former stray dogs. Some have histories of abuse that may not have been disclosed to the shelter or foster family. And some lived perfectly happy lives but are now struggling to handle this new transition.

Whether your future dog spent their early years lapping water from dirty puddles or napping on a senior citizen’s lap, they can come with some behavioral issues.

However, depending on how long the dog has been in the shelter (or with its foster family), you should be able to get a rough idea of what you can expect. Sometimes, you might be pleasantly surprised by the dog’s level of training experience.

Here’s what to ask about:

Know which of these answers would raise red flags for you or might even result in you having to rehome a dog.

Your experience level with training and your current family situation (especially if you have young children) will largely dictate the type of dog you can adopt. Some dogs are extremely cute but just wouldn’t work well with your family.

Don’t let those heart-melting eyes or that fluffy, gorgeous coat overtake your common sense. If a dog is known to show reactivity towards cats—or children, or humans in general—there’s no guarantee they won’t go after you and yours, no matter how “chill” they all are.

How Much Time Can You Dedicate to Your Dog?

Man walking a dog at night wearing headlampHere are some questions to ask yourself to see if you have the time for a dog:

  • Are you able to give your dog at least two daily walks, or can you afford to pay a dog walker to do so?

  • Are you willing and able to put in the time to deal with any behavioral issues that arise (and potentially attend training sessions)?

  • Can you dedicate some time to socializing your dog?

  • Do you have time to groom a higher-maintenance dog?

  • Will you have to leave the dog alone for longer than 6–8 hours at a time?

Notice that there are many trade-offs here for time vs. money.

If you have the money for doggie daycare or a dog walker, you may be able to avoid the time spent on dog walking and socializing.

But if you don’t have the money OR the time, you’ll struggle to provide your dog with a high quality of life.

What’s Your Ideal Energy Level for a Dog?

hands holding up a small puppy in the air

There are two main factors that will influence your dog’s energy level: breed and age.

Herders and livestock breeds like Australian Shepherds might have the aesthetic you’re seeking, but they need quite a bit more exercise than a toy companion breed such as a Chihuahua.

If you can’t provide your dog with the physical activity they need to stay sane, they’re likely to act out in all sorts of unpleasant ways, from relentless barking to household destruction.

While you may not know exactly what breed a shelter dog is, they’re usually listed with their predominant breed online. Ask personnel at the shelter if you’re not sure, and do your research on dog breeds before you start your hunt.

illustration of dalmation puppy side profile holding a broken stick

How to Decide?

Breeds, Breeds, Breeds

Making a decision about the type of dog you adopt or buy is no small undertaking. There are an incredible number of breeds out there. Find out more about some of the most popular breeds' energy levels, maintenance, and more.

illustration of dalmation puppy side profile holding a broken stick

Now for age. Generally, a senior pup is going to have less energy than a puppy. Breeds still factor in (Labrador Retrievers seem to stay puppy-like well into old age), but it’s a general fact that we all slow down and lose mobility as we get older.

A potential bonus of adopting an adult or senior shelter dog is that it’s possible they’ll be housebroken and leash-trained, which will save you a lot of training time.

A shelter should be able to tell you a dog’s approximate age, and your vet could tell you more definitively.

Get a rough idea of your ideal shelter dog’s breed and age before you wander into a shelter. You can even set up alerts on a website such as Petfinder so you’ll know if a dog in a specific age range or with a predominant breed shows up in a shelter near you!

If Something Happened to You, Who Would Take Care of Your Dog?

MP_Walkies_Bed_Dog

You can’t plan for every possible life scenario. (If you can, please tell us your secret!)

However, there are some events that could impact what happens to your dog. Don’t ignore the possibility of a major life change happening within your pup's expected lifespan.

What would happen to your dog if:

  • You had to move to a different country?

  • You moved to a place that wasn’t pet-friendly?

  • You went to college far from home?

  • You had a job change that resulted in longer hours?

  • You suddenly had a longer commute (or could no longer work remotely)?

  • You got deployed (military personnel)?

  • You had a child?

  • You could no longer physically care for your dog due to age or a debilitating accident?

None of these questions have to be deal-breakers—many people can take their dog with them to a different country, for instance. And many people experience even more joy when they introduce their new baby to their dog.

However, it’s a good idea to have answers to these questions ready before you adopt a dog so you’re not caught off guard.

Is Your House Set Up for a Dog?

There’s a lot you can do to prepare your home for a new dog and that doesn’t mean you have to move to a new home in a rustic paradise. (The jury’s still out on the country vs. city dog debate, anyway.)

However, there are aspects of a home setup that make things easier and may even be requirements:

  • A fully fenced yard 

  • Access to a nearby fenced dog park (less ideal and can be dangerous)

  • A pet-friendly lease (if you’re renting)

  • Ground-floor access (especially for potty training)

  • Wood or vinyl floors,not carpet (makes for easier cleanup)

Again, these may not be deal-breakers. Plenty of us apartment dwellers have had to make the march downstairs for pupper’s potty time in the middle of the night, and carpet cleaners exist for a reason.

Figure out how to make conditions in your home as easy and safe as possible for your new dog, and you’ll be on the right track.

Adopting a Shelter Dog? How Dog Insurance Can Help

You can’t predict what’s going to happen to you in the future. That’s why human insurance exists.

You also can’t predict what’s going to happen to your dog. That’s where dog insurance comes in.

When you decide you’re ready to adopt a shelter dog, pet insurance is designed to reimburse you in the event that your dog experiences an accident or illness. You may find it’s worth it for the peace of mind alone, both now and in the future.


Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.