Well I’ve done this twice before so I’m an old pro right?
Nelson has been gone since September and I miss him very much but I’m ready to find a new furry friend.
Since I expect a dog to live around 15 years I want to ensure I get the right dog for my home and lifestyle. Since I’m going through the process and asking around I thought I’d share some tips for finding a rescue/shelter dog.
Number one rule is to shop for temperament and activity level. Never shop for a rescue dog for their looks. Never ever adopt a dog because you feel sorry for them or they will be put to sleep if you don’t take them home. And never go to the shelter and take home the first dog you meet, which is what I’m afraid I will do at this point. So I’m conducting extensive research online and asking experienced dog owning friends and dog trainers to keep an eye out for me for my perfect fit.
I sort of have my heart set on a herding breed, especially an Aussie, but honestly any 50 pound muffin will do. My brother and sister have young children so I need a dog that is good for family get togethers and also who likes other dogs and cats. Because I may end up with a cat someday as so many need homes, and I travel and need to leave my dog with friends sometimes who all have dogs. And I like to take my dog off leash on group outings with other dogs. Not everyone has the same needs. If you are sure your home will be cat free, who cares if the dog is not great with cats. Or if the kids are grown and you have a quiet home it doesn’t really matter if small children stress a dog out.
Anyway, you need to be sure and get lots of information from the rescue or shelter to make sure it’s going to be the best fit for you and your life possible.
All dogs require training. If you adopt a puppy (man I do not want a puppy…LOL) you need to give them a solid foundation with a trainer who uses positive and non-forceful methods. You also need to housebreak them. Also be prepared for them to chew things up and pee on the floor. You may even need to pay a pet sitter to give them potty breaks if you work during the day. But if you live alone like me an older dog may be a better choice.
Older dogs might come with baggage. I don’t particularly want to deal with any form of aggression as I have been down that road before and figure it’s not my turn this time. Some people with lots of dog experience are able to deal with that better in their lifestyle and experience and can be a home to a dog who needs a second chance. Separation anxiety can be okay for a family who has a person home at all times. For me, the dogs who end up at the shelter because they are too hyper/active but friendly are a great fit because I will be an active owner and can take a dog on some of my work trips and into the pet stores I visit and I work at home much of the time.
If your local shelter seems to only be posting pitbulls and other large breeds on their website then congratulations, your town may not be taking a lot of dogs into rescue. Pits are hard to place but can be very wonderful family dogs. I don’t have a thing against them and Nelson played with many in his younger years and I used to walk some back when I was a dog walker. They are just not the breed for me. But I digress. In rural towns and areas where not enough education and spay/neuter is being done shelters may be high volume and you will find a much greater mix of dogs available for adoption. So expand your search parameters and take some time, maybe even a few months, to find your friend who will be with you for many years to come.
On a somewhat related note there is a recent trend in the US to rescue pitbulls for K9 forces. Super cool!
Anyway, hand’s down the best place to conduct a search is Petfinder.
You may see dogs from neighbouring provinces or states in your search. Personally I’m leaning towards getting a dog from Maine as there seems to be a lot of nice all breed rescues there that foster their dogs and list a lot of information about them.
You know how when you go shopping a good tactic for an important purchase is to leave the money home and browse? Do that. Visit shelters meet dogs and sleep on it before you adopt one.
If you are dog savvy you might be able to go to a shelter and pick a dog without too much help. Sometimes the staff can help you dog test or cat test it under supervision if necessary, but ideally you deal with a shelter or rescue that has an excellent reputation for assessing dogs. And if you aren’t sure, check their references. And if you really need help, get a good dog trainer friend to come with you. Kind of like when you get a mechanic to look over that used car you are considering.
I have spent time volunteering in a high kill shelter back when the Cape Breton SPCA was a mess and I can tell you that you that you get a mix of breeds and temperaments and some of the nicest dogs I met got overlooked and put down because people are shopping for looks. My heart broke into pieces when a sweet little Shepherd mix who’d had multiple litters and was not much to look at was put down due to space constraints. I’ve never met a softer soul but nobody wanted her. Had I known they would put her down I would have done something, but you can’t save them all. She was the perfect dog for any home but the shelter did not know how to educate potential adopters at the time and it was a free for all. I also got in the cage with a large and not too friendly Rottweiler mix for some nice photos to see if we could give him a chance. At all times there was a steady stream of little cranky dogs from homes who did not bother to train their dogs, border collies that were simply not couch potatoes and would do fine in active homes, and for some reason a large number of large friendly “Benjis”. Of course there were also tons of “Cape Breton Specials” ie shep/lab/collie mixes that people gave up for silly reasons and not a thing wrong with the dogs. Big friendly mutts by the boatload.
So if you think you don’t have options for adopting, you are misinformed. Widen your search and take your time.
After all this, if you want to buy a puppy then please deal with a reputable breeder. If you can’t meet the litter with their mother, it’s a puppy mill simply put. The best way to start down that path is to visit a kennel club show and meet breeds and breeders and ask a ton of questions. Research, research, research because if you make a mistake, your puppy may end up in a shelter.
It is with great responsibility we share our homes with man’s best friend the noble canine.