Having recently written about how to find a dog from a breeder, I wanted to give equal air time on how to find a dog from rescue or shelters.

I’d like to start with this piece written by a rescue person, from the Best of Craigslist.

Note to adopters

Lassie, Cleo, Rin Tin Tin and Toto don’t show up in rescue. We don’t get the elegantly coiffed, classically beautiful, completely trained, perfectly behaved dog. We get the leftovers. Dogs that other people have incompetently bred, inadequately socialized, ineffectively “trained,” and badly treated. Most Rescue dogs have had it. They’ve been pushed from one lousy situation to another. They’ve never had proper veterinary care, kind and consistent training, or sufficient company. They’ve lived outside, in a crate, or in the basement. They’re scared, depressed and anxious. Some are angry. Some are sick. Some have given up.

But we are Rescue and we don’t give up. We never give up on a dog. We know that a dog is a living being, with a spirit and a heart and feelings. Our dogs are not commodities, things, or garbage. They are part of sacred creation and they deserve as much love and care and respect as the next Westminster champion. So please, please don’t come to rescue in the hopes of getting a “bargain,” or indeed of “getting” anything. Come to Rescue to give, to love, to save a life — and to mend your own spirit. For Rescue will reward you in ways you never thought possible. I can promise you this — a rescue dog will make you a better person.

Having found several of my dogs over the years from rescue, I can tell you I heartily agree. With all of this.

Who knows what extenuating circumstances push someone to put a dog into shelters or rescue: Incompetent breeder; bad seed; wrong choice of breed; misled or under-educated owner; circumstances beyond one’s control, people who should never have been allowed to have a dog in the first place. The list goes on and on. I’m certainly not looking to play the blame game — how can I when, many years ago, I had to rehome one of my beloved dogs (aided through the help of a rescue person) because of a deadly sibling rivalry.

The point, as was so well-stated above, is that if you want to get a dog from rescue, don’t be naive and unrealistic about what’s going to be involved in making a commitment to this dog. Since the vast majority of dogs don’t wind up in rescue because their owners treasured and trained them, realize that it ain’t necessarily going to be easy. Though I can guarantee that it will be rewarding.

Okay, enough about making sure you go into getting a rescue dog with your eyes open. Here’s what you need to know:

1.  Do the research first. Educate yourself. Pick the right breed/mix for your lifestyle. If you’re not sure (even if you think you are sure) ask a few trainers what they think about your pick. Talk to other people who live with this breed.

2. Consider paying a trainer to come with you when you look at potential dogs to test for temperament.

3.  But realize that you’re not really going to see the full personality of your dog for a least a few months. That’s how long it will take most dogs to feel safe and trusting in their new environment. Some dogs take longer. Often what you’ll see will delight you — like the petals of a rose unfolding into full bloom. And sometimes, unfortunately, what you’ll see will be a problem surfacing that wasn’t apparent at the beginning. If that’s the case, get help fast.

4.  Pick a time to get your dog when you can be home for a week or two, so you’ll have a good chunk of time to devote to getting both you and your dog off to a good start. That includes immediately enrolling you and your dog into an obedience class.

5.  Form good habits fast. Learn how to deal with potentially difficult habits fast. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, or what your dog is doing and why, get help fast. The more quickly you build a way to communicate with and understand your new dog, the more quickly you’ll help her learn how to make the right choices, ensuring that she’ll get to have a long and happy life with you.

In other words, be as sure as you can be when you make a commitment to your dog that you’re in as good a position as you can be to honor it. The only thing sadder than seeing a dog in rescue is seeing one adopted and returned again through no fault of its own.

It’s a tragedy that there are so many dogs in rescue and shelters. If you’re in a position to take one home and love it for life, you’ll be richly rewarded. I can say that from considerable first-hand experience.

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