Adopting a new furry family member can be overwhelming. Who should you contact? What kind of dog do you really want?
And many shelters and rescue groups will ask many questions of you and have requirements that you’ll need to meet.
Does the dog have basic good manners?
It’s unlikely you’ll rescue an Obedience superstar, but dogs in rescues and shelters can vary from fully trained to no training at all. Ask the rescue or shelter staff what behaviors the dog understands, such as sit or stay. Find out the specific verbal cues and hand signals the dog already knows so you can use them at home for a smoother transition. Also ask how well the dog walks on leash. Loose leash walking is tricky for most dogs, so you want to know how much training you’ll need to do. See if you can take the dog for a few walks before you make your decision.
What type of dog do you want?
Are you looking for a puppy, an adult, or a senior? Do you want a specific breed or mix?
Can you afford a dog?
As much as we love dogs, they cost a lot to take care of. There are veterinary bills; expenses for food, toys, and chews; training costs; and equipment costs for crates, collars, and leashes.
Take a look at this post we put together on our sister site about how much a labrador puppy costs. This post includes not only the initial cost of a puppy, but also ongoing expenses.
Is your home suitable for a dog?
Depending on what type and age you’re considering, you may need to puppy-proof your home.
You might be required by the rescue to have a fenced yard.
What is the dog’s personality?
Although breed can tell you a lot, every dog is unique. Ask the shelter or rescue staff what they’ve learned about a particular dog’s likes and dislikes, traits and quirks. For example, are they happiest with a ball in their mouth? Are they food motivated? Do they like alone time or are they a social butterfly? Be aware, if a dog has been in a foster home, more will be known about their temperament than if they have been housed in a shelter.
Follow your gut instincts. Do you like these people? Would you be comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don’t give them your dog. If something about them doesn’t seem quite right, even if you can’t explain what it is, don’t take a chance on your dog’s future. Wait for another family!
If the families do not have any other pets, then a meet-and-greet and home visit can be scheduled together. Going to the applicant’s house allows you to see what kind of environment your dog will be living in and will offer you the chance to give some feedback for improvement, if necessary (e.g., they have a hole in their fence, there household items such as kids’ toys they will need to make sure stay picked up and out of reach of the new dog).
Set aside some special time for you and your dog to take a last walk together, spend some time playing together or even snuggling. Understandably, re-homing of a family pet can be incredibly traumatic for both the human and the dog. Try to get your emotions under control before drop-off so that your dog will have a good start to acclimating in its new home.
Let the family know you’d like to keep in touch and will follow up with them in the next few days to see how things are going. Assure them that if they have any questions or concerns they can reach out to you for help and guidance. Also, let the family know that if they feel that the adoption won’t work out, you are willing to take the dog back.
Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. A contract will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don’t have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember — a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the dog to his new owners. Keep a copy for your records.