I’m currently in the market for a second dog. I fully expect, given that I am fostering dogs for a local rescue, to have a foster fail. One of the dogs I’m fostering is bound to win my heart (and Risa’s) and never leave. Even so, I have still gone to look at a couple dogs with other rescues. Dogs that I thought might be a good fit for my household.
As I touched on before, looks aren’t everything. Still, I have a type and the dogs I’ve looked at certainly have fit that. More importantly, I have a very specific set of criteria a dog must meet. Given Risa’s issues, it is important to me that any dog I adopt be dog-savvy. Not just good with other dogs but able to read and understand the subtleties of communication. To me, “good with other dogs” is too vague for me. Gibbs was “good with other dogs” and yet he scared Risa because he was big and didn’t understand he needed to take it slow with her. I also want an athlete and a dog who is handler-focused and intelligent. I want another competition dog so a lazy housedog isn’t going to cut it. Along with that, I would like a male who is about Risa’s size and between 1.5 and 3 years old. Confidence is also very important to me. I cannot have another fearful/reactive dog in the house (one is more than enough, thanks).
Some might consider me too picky. I’m willing to do some give and take, of course. But I also have to be selective for what I want. I want it to be a good match for everyone. This is a lifetime commitment, after all. I’m taking in this dog for the long haul. He’d better be what I’m looking for!
Having dealt with a couple different groups while looking for a dog, I’ve found some I would be honored to adopt a dog from and others not so much. Not all rescues are the same, of course, no more than all breeders or shelters are. The shelter I got Risa from was honest with me about what she was. They even had her out front with the staff rather than back with the other dogs to try and help her overcome some of her fearfulness when I went to meet her. But, like many shelters, they didn’t have the time to really get to know the dog in their care. You can only get a small window into a dog’s personality in a shelter. It’s so alien to what they have known before (whether they were someone’s pet or a stray). Many dogs in a shelter are shut down while others are balls-to-the-walls crazy. If you take them home, they may not be what you expect. That being said, you can still find a great dog in a shelter and I wouldn’t want to sway people away from getting a dog there.
I am a big fan of foster-based rescues and not just because I volunteer for one. 😉 The main reason being that the foster parent(s) really get a feel for who this dog is. The dogs are generally housed inside with the family. They go for walks, have playdates with other dogs, are exposed to kids and normal life. It’s much easier to determine who this dog is in the real world because being fostered in a home is the real world. The foster parents are more knowledgeable about the individual dog because that is the only dog they are caring for. They don’t have 20+ dogs to know. Just one.
When I look for a dog, I want to know a lot about him. Right off the bat, I want to hear how he is in various situations. Is he good with kids, dogs, fearful of men, excited to see anyone with a pulse? Does he enjoy training? What behaviors does he know and what does he need work on? Is there any history on him? Thoughts on breed/breed traits I should be aware of? Basically, who is this dog? On top of that, they should be asking me what I’m looking for in a dog to be certain this particular one is going to be what I’m looking for.
I recently went to see a dog and I was a bit disappointed in the staff. They didn’t really ask me what I was looking for. They didn’t tell me much about the dog I had come to see. We went outside, started walking, and then they handed me the leash so I could get to know him and the volunteer went back inside. I had expected a bit more. Maybe I’m biased by how in-depth the rescue I volunteer with is. Perhaps I really am too picky about a lot of things (actually, I am but usually in a good way). It almost felt like they wanted me to take the dog. All rescues do, of course, but this felt more like “let’s get him placed” rather than “let’s find the best home possible for him.”
My thoughts regarding bringing a dog into the family is that the dog (regardless of whether you adopt from a shelter/rescue or get a dog from a reputable breeder) should match your lifestyle. A good breeder/rescue/shelter should be asking a million questions about you, your home, your pets, and what you’re looking for in a canine companion. They should also be willing to answer any question you might have about them, their dogs, and the process of adopting/purchasing a dog. Even more importantly, are they there to support you after you bring the dog home? Are they just a phone call away to answer your questions about the dog’s behavior? Are they willing to take the dog back, no questions asked, if it doesn’t work out? Or are you on your own as soon as the check clears?
People research cars before they buy them. They go to see several houses before they plop down the money on one they want to buy. We compare the specs on televisions before we bring home that big screen behemoth. We should do the same with dogs. If more people did, there would be less of a need for shelters and rescues.