What would you ask your dog's birth mom?
February 19, 2011 5:35 PM   Subscribe

My family and I have been approved to adopted a standard (short hair) collie. We were approved by the New England Rescue organization after a visit over the summer. They have found a potential dog for us. What should we ask the owner?

The dog and his owner are stopping by for a visit on Monday. What kinds of questions would you ask an owner of a dog you were adopting? Should the kids be there for this initial visit or no?

Relevant details (maybe): no animals in our home currently, but 2 kids (6 and 5). We know a lot about the breed and chose it carefully, but this is our first dog as a family.

He is 7 and a former show dog. He grew up with kids and is electric fence trained.
posted by beachhead2 to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First and foremost, I'd ask about health history - at 7, he isn't a young dog, which is actually kind of nice since many lifelong problems (allergies, digestive issues, etc) will already have shown up. If you think you might get another dog you want to know how he is with dogs, but if you don't it isn't as much of a concern. How much walking does he need? How is he accustomed to sleeping (in bed with you, in a crate, in a bed inside or outside your room)? Does he chew through toys like a little garbage disposal? How about shoes? What commands can he obey?

Ultimately, though, none of these questions are dealbreakers. They *are* nice things to know, since at 7, he already has a lot of habits that will be hard to train out if you don't like them. Not impossible, but hard.

Most dog owners will talk for hours about every detail of their dog's behavior once you get them started, so all you may need to say is "Tell me about this dog" and more than you wanted to know will come spewing forth.

If your kids meet him and they are kids who want a dog, you will almost certainly end up keeping this dog :)
posted by troublesome at 5:59 PM on February 19, 2011

Most of our dogs were adopted from shelters, so we didn't always have the opportunity to ask, but some things that I would have wanted to know:

1. Does the dog have any phobias? Not nice to find out about a thunderstorm fear at 1 AM.
2. What food is the dog currently eating? Even if you change the food later, you probably want to have some of the original food on hand and do a gradual change. Any food allergies?
3. How is the dog about nail clipping or other grooming? (Probably all good since he was a show dog.)
4. What is his favorite low-cal snack? Will he eat carrot sticks and green beans?
5. Favorite toys? Ball player? Does the dog rip every plush toy to shreds? Rope toys? This way you can have some favorite toys on hand when the dog comes to live with you.
6. Is the dog cat-friendly? Good to know if you have outdoor cats wandering through your neighborhood.

I have taken home-made dog treats I made to a meet with a dog owner and I think that is a nice way to show you are interested in welcoming the dog into your home.
posted by Agatha at 7:14 PM on February 19, 2011

My family and I have had smooth collies for the past 12 years. The most recent is also a former show dog we adopted. Since your dog is presumably a purebred, see if you can find out any health problems in the parents-- it's good to know what to keep an eye out for in the future.

Everyone else has great tips about general taking home a new dog. I just want to say that smooth collies and in particular our retired show girl are the best, smartest, and most well behaved dogs we've ever had. Congratulations on your new awesome friend!
posted by chatongriffes at 7:44 PM on February 19, 2011

If your kids are usually pretty good with animals and have been anticipating getting a dog, and the dog is already good with kids, they will love it from the moment they see it. What's more important is your interaction with the dog.

When I was around 8, my family adopted a racing greyhound. My brother and I went over to a neighbor's house to play while my parents visited with the dog for a while, and then when they were certain that he was the right fit for our family, they called us back home to meet him before they told his owners for certain. This was really good for a few reasons...the first dog we looked at was a dog that my brother and I were in love with but it just wasn't right for our family, it was skittish and neurotic and had some serious undisclosed health problems- and my brother and I were super disappointed. If you will be having multiple meetings with this dog, I would meet for the first time without the kids and bring them on subsequent meetings.

And congratulations on potentially getting a new dog, we have a smooth collie mix and they're some of the sweetest dogs ever!
posted by kro at 8:06 PM on February 19, 2011

Awesome. Thanks so much guys. I appreciate you taking the time to respond!
posted by beachhead2 at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2011

As someone who has two rescued border collies, I would ask if the dog has any obsessive habits and how they manage these. Most border collies get obsessive at times - you can normally manage this by making sure that they get *lots* of exercise. But they were bred to be working dogs and some just don't like being "idle" family pets. If he has lived with kids, he has probably been trained out of herding the kids: nipping at heels to move them along and getting them rounded up in a corner are favorite BC habits. But it is worth asking if he does this, so you can manage his behavior with your little one.

It is worth asking the dog's family why they are giving it up at age 7 and what you need to know, to keep this dog happy. Most probably, it is just too old to show and so they are replacing it (sad, but pretty common in the show world). Get to understand the dog's habits and also ask what commands it understands and how it communicates. For example, our old dog used to just stare at us when he needed to go out to pee. It took us months (and a few accidents) to learn the particular look that he used to communicate this. Most dogs learn short phrases, but are not good at separating those words in understanding commands. When we want our dogs to pee, we say "go potty" (to avoid upsetting the neighbors). But a dog-sitter said that they did not understand "potty" which was how she heard this. If you write down these commands and habits as the previous owners say them, the poor dog doesn't have to learn a whole new set of commands from scratch. Also ask about pet names and how/where the dog likes to sleep.

Just a quick note: the poor soul is going to be very confused and frightened with you at first - he won't understand why he is suddenly with a set of strangers and can't go home. He is likely to be depressed for a few months. Bear with this - it won't last for ever. Be kind and try not to be too heavy on the discipline side, while he works out what he can and can't do in his new home. One of our dogs discovered the vegetable bin and was in seventh heaven stealing potatoes and carrots for the first few weeks. He had been one of many outside dogs with his former owner and I don't think he had ever seen vegetables. We just took them off him when he came out with these in his mouth and told him "No." We just said No and cleaned up, when he knocked the cookie jar off the sideboard to eat the cookies. We made a habit of coming down again, just after lights out, to catch him in the act of tearing down the comforter that protected the sofa at night, prior to pulling out the stuffing. He settled down - once he got used to us and realized that meals were going to be at regular times from now on, the chewing stopped and he is the sweetest, best-behaved dog imaginable ... :-)

Congratulations on your soon-to-be-adopted fur-kid - you are going to have so much fun with a border collie!
posted by Susurration at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2011

Is he housetrained? Crate trained? My assumptions lean towards yes since he was a show dog, but always good to ask.

I like the idea of you meeting the dog first, then bring the kids in.
posted by radioamy at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2011

Collies seem to have a disproportionate amount of collisions with cars. I think it's because of their long nose (blocks vision). Be cautious about that.
posted by cda at 6:44 AM on February 26, 2011

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