Getting a new dog is a big commitment, as you will be responsible for caring for your dog for 10-15 years.
Where you choose to get your dog from can have an impact on your dogs life in the early stages of transitioning to a new home.
Here are some tips to help you find the right rescue for you and your family.
Just as important as it is for you to ask your rescue questions, it's important that they are asking questions of you!
Do you work full-time? Retired? Do you have an active social life, or do you keep to yourself most often? What types of physical exercise do you enjoy, or would you rather binge watch Netflix? Do you have a fenced yard that will keep your dog safe, or will all potty breaks be on leashed walks?
These screening questions help the rescue find the best matched homes for their dogs. If you like to spend weekends curled up on the couch with a great T.V. series, maybe a 1 year old Border Collie isn't for you, but a 4 year old Lab might enjoy endless hours on an oversized dog bed.
Owning a dog is a huge financial responsibility. A responsible rescue will want to ensure you have access to disposable income to properly take care of your dogs basic needs, emergency vet visits, and anything that may come up (and something will always come up!!)
A screening process should start with an application, and be followed up with for additional information or questions. A rescue may also want to interview you over the phone or in person, and may want the dog to meet your family members and any other pets in the home.
Thorough Adoption Process
Personally, I am not a fan of spontaneous decisions to get a dog.
Seeing an adorable puppy at an adoption event has a tendency to lead us to decisions that are not well thought out.
Many rescues run adoption events to showcase their dogs, letting the public meet them in person, but they don't send the dog home with you that day. Applications are received and the rescue screens potential adopters for the best match. (Side note: adoption events can be stressful and scary for many dogs, and we may not see their true personalities at big public events. It's best to meet the dog you want again in a quieter setting.)
A reputable rescue won't rush the process. There should be no guilt of "There's a lot of interest, if you don't take him today we can't guarantee he'll be available".
You are allowed time to think. Again, you are allowed time to think your decision over!
It is a big commitment and a responsible rescue will respect you for consulting with family members, looking over your finances, etc.
You may be put on a wait-list for a specific dog, and it's perfectly O.K. if you are not approved for a specific dog, but the rescue may have different dogs that suit your lifestyle better, and they may make suggestions based on the dogs they have available.
Follow a few difference organizations online. Are they professional? Do they present themselves as a group you can trust? Do they post helpful articles and tips for new adopters?
Is there controversy around their posts or lots of negative comments?
Ask around what others experience has been with a particular rescue group.
Were others happy with the process? Were their questions sufficiently answered? Did the rescue know the dog personally, their preferences and quirks? Did they feel rushed?
Ask other professionals such as: groomers, veterinarians, and trainers.
Communication is vital, both between the rescue and potential adopters, and within the organization it's self.
If you're speaking with more than one person are they telling you the same thing, or are there discrepancies?
Are your questions being answered in a timely fashion and with enough detail to give you confidence?
Are you given updates of the application process or on the dog of your choice?
Has the dog you are considering been to the vet for a basic wellness check?
Are there paper records of veterinary visits, vaccines, and overall health?
Medical records belong to the dog and should follow the dog to their new home.
Does the rescue have a quarantine process? What does that process look like? How long does it take and where does it take place?
How is the rescue ensuring puppies get proper socialization when they are in isolation?
What are their bio-security protocols to prevent the transmission of disease?
Are minor health conditions treated in house, or are they seen by a veterinarian?
Are new dogs tested for parasites and communicable diseases?
Behaviour Knowledge and Training
What training methods does the rescue organization adhere to?
Dominance and punishment based, or positive reinforcement?
You want a rescue that has a basic understanding of learning theory (ex: reinforced behaviours will be repeated), and behaviour modification (ex: understanding what counter conditioning is and how to apply it properly).
A rescue may pair up with trainers and behaviour consultants. Ask them what trainers they recommend, and then research that trainers qualifications, experience, and training methodologies.
Does the rescue do any sort of temperament testing before placing dogs? If so, who does the test and what is their experience?
There are various types of temperament tests, but the person doing the tests should have a thorough understanding of what the test results may, or may not, imply, and the limitations of any particular testing method. These tests may be performed in house, but someone within the organization, or outsourced, to a trainer for example.
Having a new dog in your home overnight or for the weekend is not going to give you a true representation of their personality or temperament. It can take 1-3 months for a dog to really acclimate to a new home and new people.
Bouncing around from place to place, either foster to foster or trial home to trial home, is incredibly stressful for dogs. This undue stress can have serious health consequences, and increases the risk of a dog biting.
Where Are The Dogs From?
There is much debate about importing dogs from different countries.
This practice opens the country up to new diseases.
From a behaviour perspective, this practice often puts highly stressed dogs into the homes of unsuspecting, and unprepared, new dog owners.
A responsible rescue will be transparent about where their dogs come from, where your particular dog came from, and the work involved when you adopt a new dog with potentially serious behaviour problems.
This applies to dogs within your country who may not have been socialized as young dogs.
Knowing the dog
Are dogs living in foster homes? Are they being kenneled? Who knows the dog best?
Anyone living with a foster dog in their home should know:
- What the dog eats (Are they being fed a quality diet? Is their calorie consumption being monitored or are they having to fight other dogs for their food? Are they being fed a specific diet for a specific reason?)
- What the dogs preferences are for playing, reinforcement type (food motivated or toy motivated)
- Any minor health conditions (ex: runny eyes, dry itchy skin, etc)
- Does the dog actually like other dogs, or are they merely tolerating them?
- How are they with cats? Have they met cats while living with a foster family?
A reputable rescue will help you through the adoption process, and then continue to provide ongoing support as your dog transitions to a new home.
A good rescue will provide information on what you can expect in the first few days and weeks of bringing a new dog into your home. This is especially true for first time dog owners.
Because this transition can be stressful for a lot dogs we may see changes in appetite or behaviour. A responsible rescue will tell you what changes may be normal, and what changes are cause for concern and may require a veterinarian or behaviour consultant, or both!
Does your rescue provide resources to help you? Facebook groups or specific websites may be apart of your adoption package so you have easy access to having questions answered.
Are you able to contact the rescue with follow up questions? Or are you left high and dry to figure things out for yourself?
What has your experience been when rescuing a new dog?
What did you love? What did you wish you knew before starting the process?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
We're Here to Help
Feeling lost? Not sure which rescues are good and which are not?
Confused about what questions to ask and what answers you want to hear?
Contact us for more details on how to find a rescue that is reputable and suits your wants and needs best.