Applicants As Potential Homes
Step 1. Interviewing Callers.
"First come, first served" does not apply here. You are under no obligation to
give your dog to the first person who says he wants him or her. You have every
right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new
owner. Don't let anyone rush you or intimidate you.
To help you along, we've included a list of questions that rescuers ask
potential applicants. Make copies of this list and fill in their answers as you
speak to people who contact you about your dog. Get out the list you made with
your requirements for a new home and compare it to the answers the applicants
First of all, get your applicant's name, address and phone number.
Deceitful people may call you from a phone booth or give you a fake address. Ask
for information that you can verify.
Does the applicant's family know about
and approve of their plans to get a German Shepherd?
If not, suggest
they talk it over with their spouse and call you back. The same applies to
people living with a companion or roommate. When one person adopts a dog without
the full approval of the rest of the family, the adoption often fails.
Do they own or rent their home? If renting, does their landlord
approve? You'd be surprised how many people haven't checked with their landlord
before contacting you. If you have doubts, ask for the landlord's name and
number, then call him yourself. Be cautious about renters - they're quicker to
move than people who own their homes and movers often leave their pets behind.
Remember, you're looking for a permanent home for your dog.
Does the caller have children? How many and how old are they? If
your dog isn't good with kids, say so up front. How many children can make a
difference depending on your dog's personality. A shy dog may not be able to
cope with several children and their friends. Very young children may not be old
enough to treat the dog properly. If the applicants don't have children, ask
them if they're thinking of having any in the near future. Many people get rid
of their dogs when they start a family.
Have they had dogs, especially German Shepherds, before?
how long did they keep them?
These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they've had in the
past will tell you how they might treat your dog. The following answers should
raise a red flag and make you suspicious:
"We gave him away when we moved." Unless they
had to because of unavoidable problems, moving is a poor excuse for giving up a
pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard
enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there's a good chance
they'll give yours up someday, too. "We gave him away because he had behavior
problems." Most behavior problems poor housebreaking, chewing, barking,
digging, running away - result from a lack of training and attention. If the
applicant wasn't willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he
probably won't try very hard with your dog either.
"Oh, we've had lots of dogs!" Watch out for people who've had several different
dogs in just a few years' time. They have never kept any of them for very long.
Do they have pets now? What kinds? Obviously, if your dog isn't good with cats
or other animals and your applicant has them, the adoption's not going to work
out. Be up front. Better to turn people away now than have to take the dog back
later. The sex of their other dogs is an important consideration too. For German
Shepherds, dog-aggression issues can arise in both male and female dogs. Dog
fights can be serious problems and one dog can hurt or even kill the other.
Do they have a yard? Is it fenced? Your dog will need daily
exercise. Without a yard, how will he get it? Can the applicant provide it with
regular walks? If the yard isn't fenced, ask how he plans to keep the dog from
leaving his property? Did the applicant's last dog wander off or get hit by a
car? If so, how will he keep this from happening to his next dog? Does he
understand that our adventurous German Shepherds may wander off if left
unsupervised? Does he know that keeping a German Shepherd tied up can have a bad
effect on the dog's temperament?
Where will the dog spend most of its time? Although most German
Shepherds don't mind spending time outside unless it's too hot or too cold, a
whole life outdoors probably isn't what you have in mind for your dog. Dogs
always kept outside are sometimes neglected, lonely and may develop behavior
Why is the caller interested in a German
Shepherd? What do they like about them? Find out what kind of dog
"personality" they're looking for. Many people are attracted by the German
Shepherd's beauty but don't know anything else about them. They might not have
the slightest idea what a German Shepherd is all about and might not like its
temperament and characteristics. If their expectations don't match your dog's
disposition, the adoption's not going to work. Be honest about our breed's good
and bad points. Is a German Shepherd really what they're looking for or would
they do better with another breed?
Get the phone number of
their vet (if they've had pets before) and three other personal references.
Call those references! Explain that John Doe is interested in adopting your
dog and you want to care, annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were
they in good condition and happy? How long have they known this person? If they
were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person? If
they have owned a pet before, call animal control in their town and inquire
whether there have been any complaints about their dogs. If they have had to pay
fines for “dog at large”, do not adopt your dog to them.
2: The In-Person Interview
Once you've chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates,
make an appointment for them to meet the dog, and another one for you to see
their home. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and
yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there.
It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back
home with you if things aren't as represented, if you think there'll be problems
or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing.
If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on "neutral"
territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog at home.
They may be hostile toward the new dog or even start a fight. It is best to
first introduce two dogs through a chain link fence where they will be off leash
and can't harm each other. In this situation, they can act naturally as if they
were in the wild.
If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview.
You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the
dog. Some allowance should be made for kids' natural enthusiasm but if these
children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by
their parents, your dog could be mistreated in its new home and someone could
Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your
home? Would they make good friends?
If not, don't give them your dog.
Trust your instincts. 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!
On a final note: Ask the potential adopters if you can visit with your dog on
occasion. If they say “no”, be very leery and reevaluate this person's potential
for being a good owner.
Step 3. Saying Good-bye
After the interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide if
they really want to adopt your dog. Make sure they have a chance to think over
the commitment they're making. While they're deciding, get a package ready to
send along with your dog. This package should include:
- Your dog's medical records and the name,
address & phone number of your vet.
- Your name, address & phone (new address if
- Your dog's toys and belongings (dog bed,
blanket, etc.), a supply of dog food & special treats he loves
- An instruction sheet on feeding, special
needs, etc.; some reading material about the German Shepherd breed.
- Collar and leash; ID and rabies tags.
Set aside a special time for you and your dog
to take a last walk together and say good-bye. We know you'll cry. Do it now, in
private, so you're clear headed when he has to leave. He may be confused about
being left with strangers and you won't want your emotions to upset him even
There are some things you need to explain to the new
family before they take your dog home: The dog
will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new people, learns
new rules and mourns the loss of his old family. Most dogs adjust within a few
days, but others may take longer. During this time, they should avoid forcing
the dog to do anything stressful - taking a bath, obedience training classes,
meeting too many strangers at once, etc. - until he's had a chance to settle in.
Tell them take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them. The
dog might not eat for the first day or two. Not to worry - he'll eat when he's
ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken dog may
have an accident during the first day in his new home. This isn't unusual and
rarely happens more than once.
Step 4. Paperwork
Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a
waiver of liability. We've included a
sample contract you can use. Keep a copy for
your records. 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
Tell the family they should call you if the adoption
doesn't work out. Let them know you want to keep
in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them
to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the dog back
home if things don't work out the way you both expected.