10 rules of ethical breeding
Recognizing an unethical breeder
Questions to ask a breeder
questions they should ask you
adopting an older dog

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When you adopt an adult dog

Far too many wonderful dogs are dumped in shelters every year, or given away when they no longer fit the family, sent back to breeders for a multitude of reasons.

Adopting a puppy or adult dog from a shelter can be a great way to get a dog. But, like getting a new puppy, there are some questions that you should ask before taking home that fuzzy face peering out of the kennel run.

What is the dog's history?

Was the dog found as a stray, turned in by the owner, a rescue, abused?

If the dog was found as a stray, you may have some extra behavior issues to deal with, especially if the dog was on it's own for awhile. The dog may not recognize you as a necessary part of it's life, and you will have to work hard to integrate it into your family pack.

If the dog was a rescue, or was abused, you will want to know the details to determine if you are prepared to handle any problems that come up. Some dogs will be overly shy, or submissive; others may be aggressive, or dominant, or hate kids. Most are well-adjusted, don't misunderstand, but you need to know in order to evaluate the situation.

Why is the dog available?

This is obvious for strays, but when the owner turns the dog in, you need to find out why. Was there a divorce? Are they moving? Is the dog showing signs of aggression towards the children? Did it just not "fit their lifestyle"?

Basically, are you dealing with a family pet that is being put up for adoption because of a family situation, or because the dog is a behavioral nightmare?

I have strong opinions of people who leave dogs at the shelter just because the dog is inconvenient- when you get a dog, you are responsible for it for life, and leaving it at the shelter when it becomes "inconvenient" puts the owner lower than pond scum in my book. Grrrr.

Does the dog have any behavior problems?

Remember that many "owner dropoffs" are left because they have a behavior problem that the original family decided it couldn't deal with. Make sure you're ready to deal with it.

Many dogs are put up for adoption because they soil the rug, or chew shoes, or bark too much. Some are available because they nip at the family children, or hurt the cat. Most of these are correctable problems, but you need to evaluate any problems very carefully. Are you ready to handle a full grown dog that piddles every time you greet it? Do you have the time required to correct a dog that jumps the fence?

The only behavior problems that really render a dog unadoptable, in my book, are human aggression problems. If a dog is aggressive towards children or adults, you should think very, very carefully about whether you are willing to deal with it. This is very serious, and sometimes cannot be corrected.

How is the dog with kids and other animals?

This is really an extension of the previous question - most shelters do extensive testing of their adoptable dogs to determine if they can go to a household with kids or cats or other dogs. If you have kids, or cats, you will want to know that the new dog will be able to interact with them appropriately. If you have another dog, make sure that the new dog will get along and that you are prepared to handle a multi-dog household.

Does the dog have any health problems?

While shelters make every attempt to assure that the animals they adopt are completely healthy, you should ask about other possible problems, such as hip dysplasia or thyroid problems, or other chronic diseases. A lovely little maltese was in the local shelter because she required thyroid medication every day and it was too much of a "hassle" for the owner. Again, these are correctable problems, but you will need to know about them.

Is the dog spayed or neutered already?

I say already because most shelters require that you have any dog spayed or neutered when you adopt. Many will have already done this before adopting the dog out, but you should check. Sometimes, it will be part of the adoption fee, or part of the fee will be refunded when you provide proof of desexing.
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