Questions to Ask the Dog’s Previous Owner (or Shelter, Fostermom)

You want to get as much information as possible to help you decide on a dog and as much info as you can get to help the dog make the smoothest transition to your household.  There is very little info on some dogs but a great deal on others, depending on where you are getting the dog from along with other factors.

If you’ve read the previous articles you already have an idea of what size dog you want, what the grooming requirements should be and how energetic (or not) he should be. You’ll also want to take your travel issues into consideration.  You’ll compare your lifestyle issues with the dogs you find and consider.

If you’ve spent much time on any dog forums online you’ll already know that there is much talk about poop among dog owners. None of us really planned on this but as it turns out, how and where a dog poops can become major issues in your life.  Even if you get a dog who has been sworn to be housebroken they can experience some setbacks when moving to a new home. For this reason you need to find out all you can about this dog’s poop habits.  Does he go for a walk or is he let out into the yard?  What surface is he used to going on. (A dog who has never walked on cement might seem to be entirely un-housebroken when in fact he just doesn’t know how to act on a new surface.)  Does he walk for 5 minutes, poop and then come straight home or does he get another 10 minutes outside after pooping before coming back in?  The more you know about how he is used to going the closer you can approximate that situation and make a gradual change away from it if need be.

In any area where the person with custody of the dog does not know the answer to the question you will need to treat the issue as if the dog has had no training.  If you know nothing about a dog’s potty habits you need to start him off as if he had never been housebroken by watching him continually, containing him when you can’t watch and taking him out often.

Here are other questions you will want to ask.

How does he walk on a leash, ride in a car, behave when left alone, greet people entering?

Does he chew, dig, bark, jump, beg, chase, counter surf?

How well does he submit to nail clipping, ear cleaning, hair cutting, body exams (by vet or you checking him over) thunder, kids?

What are his favorite treats/foods?  What cues or commands does he understand? What tricks does he do?  Has he ever had any obedience training? Who (or what company) did the training? Does he have favorite toys or games?

Does he have any bad habits? If so, what? (Note: sometimes people looking for a new home for a dog will not be forthcoming about the dog’s bad habits for fear you won’t want him. Always ask but don’t assume you’ve gotten the whole story.)

Is there anything he is afraid of? Is he amenable to kids, cats, birds (or any other critters you may have) and visitors?

Is he crate trained? (Crate trained means he will go into the crate and stay in the crate until told to come out, without crying.  Even a crate trained dog might fuss a little on the first night in a new house. )

Finally you want to make sure you get all medical information and records. Ask about past illnesses and the resolution of them. Get the name of the vet he’s seen and get all shot records.

Now that you have all the information you can get, take it all with a grain of salt and understand that dogs will be at least somewhat different in a different household, with a different leader and different expectations.

(Note: There is one big area I am leaving out here and that is in regard to any type of aggression. I am going to assume if you are reading this that you are not prepared to deal with an aggressive dog of any stripe and that you will make this known to whomever you are dealing with in regard to adopting a dog.)

Katie Millwright says:  This is Tommy. We adopted him from the “no-kill” shelter when he was about 2 1/2. He is 7 now, and he is SO smart and happy! And when we need a babysitter for our 4-legged kids, its Gramma all the way!

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