looking for advice on how to 'shop' for a shelter/rescue dog

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by patandchickens, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    This is not meant to be a thread discussing the pros/cons of shelters and rescues. If you don't like them, or have had bad experiences with them that you'd like to share, please do it ELSEWHERE; I really don't want arguments and complaints here, I am trying to get *useful suggestions*. Thank you [​IMG]

    We are back to sort of more or less looking for a dog, not in the sense of being on a deadline or anything but this would be one of the more convenient times to get one so I would like to see if the right one is out there for us.

    We want a grown (non puppy) dog, preferably medium sized (like 30-50 lbs ish), good with cats and small children and not excessively inclined to chase livestock... but the big thing to me is that it needs to be as non aggressive in any way, and easygoing and laidback and 'coping with things', as possible. (Obviously if we get a dog and a problem arises we'll work with it and find a solution but because I have never trained a dog before (just horses and cats) and have cats and small children, I =really really= do not want a 'project' dog. I hate to say that, because i know that there are bazillions of 'project' dogs in need of a good home and most dogs like what we're looking for will find a good home no matter what... but, it is what it is.)

    So my question is. Do you have any tips on how to proceed? We've spent a bunch of time on Petfinder.com, but there are a zillion listings and most of them have precious little information anyhow.

    FIRST QUESTION: if it were you, would you:

    a) make a zillion phone calls on all the most-plausible-looking Petfinder listings

    b) call the most-local shelters and rescues and say "hey this is what I'm looking for do you have any dogs at the moment that might be of interest to us",

    c) call the most-local shelters and rescues and say "hey this is what i'm looking for, do you think you could *keep an eye out* for something like that and call me back if you find a good candidate"


    d) call the shelters/rescues that actually SAY they will do that sort of thing (search for a particular type of dog for you) even though they are mostly an hour or two away from here.

    SECOND QUESTION: When I phone a shelter/rescue, I will obviously say what our situation is and what we're looking for, but what should I ask? I would like to ask what if any type of temperament testing they do, and whether the dogs are heartworm-tested; what if anything else?

    Thanks muchly for any constructive suggestions (again, no flames please, on the shelter thing OR on my wanting to stack the odds in favor of our getting a userfriendly dog),

  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Pat, I personally would do all of the above. Let the shelters know that you are looking for a certain breed mix/temperment/gender and also ask about their policies on caring for the dogs while they are in their possesion. Any decent shelter should be more than willing to work with you on it.
    When I adopted our siamese KiKi from the shelter and before we got the two mooses (aka GSDs) I let the shelter director know that I would be interested in any pups that came in that had obvious great pyrenees lineage. I told her what would be an acceptable candidate and what would not be and I explained to her why. This particular shelter keeps a file of what folks are looking for.
  3. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    Have you placed a wanted ad on Craigslist ? I would start there. List what it is that your looking for in a dog.
    I would deal with the shelter in person. Go there and talk with the people. You might want to write a list of what you are looking for and leave it with them.
    While there check out the dogs. It sounds like you are looking for the type of dog that will roll over easily for belly rubs and is happy happy. Ask to take the dog for a walk and spend some time just watching it. Let it unwind and relax then sit with it.
    Check out some poodle mixes. Stay away from the hunting breeds if you are concerned with prey drive.
    Good Luck!
  4. Crazyland

    Crazyland Songster

    Aug 14, 2009
    Sandhills NC
    Like Grit I would do all of the above.
    Research breeds to try and narrow it down a little.
    Shelters/rescues should be willing to work with you if they want to find the right home for the animals and not risk having them back in their care or worse.
    The humane society near my parents will keep a log of what you are looking for also.
    I would not post on CL but would look to see what people are offering.
    Being able to see a dog not in a cage will help you see their personality a little better. They won't be stressed.
    I would also volunteer if possible to work at a shelter to see the dogs coming in and really get to know them.
  5. SmartyChick

    SmartyChick An Official Milkmaid

    Oct 19, 2009
    Sullivan County NY
    I would go with everyone else and say do everything. I got my wonderful dog from pet-finder. I got my wonderful cat from a local shelter. Really I mean really narrow your list down with pet-finder, there are ALOT of animals on there and I know it can be overwhelming. Shelters don't have so many animals, but I like that you can see the animals face to face. Most of the shelters I have visited are very helpful. It seems like you have it all covered. I hope you find a great dog (or let a great dog choose you). [​IMG]
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks for the suggestions! I think maybe I will start calling some places and see if I can just talk with them a bit about what we're looking for, if they have time.

    It's not that we haven't thought about the breed thing, I just didn't want my post to be *even* wordier LOL. Besides, we don't care much about breed per se (except no super-fluffy or super-short-coated dogs), although obviously some breeds and crosses thereof are more apt than others to have the personality we need.

    I'm concerned that if I post a Craigslist or kijiji ad, people will just tell make up a story and tell me what I want to hear, about a dog's personality and behavior, and I am not convinced I know enough about dogs to be able to see through it. I had not thought of looking at ads there, though; that is a good idea, can't hurt [​IMG]

    I would love to volunteer at a shelter but have 2 small kids at home with me fulltime, so, [​IMG]

    Any further suggestions (esp. about what I should ask!) still appreciated,

    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010
  7. jerseygirl1

    jerseygirl1 Crowing 9 Years

    Jun 20, 2009
    Orange County, NY
    I say #1

    I got both of mine from Petfinder after extensive searching, I brought my current dog with me to meet him, had a behaviourist in when I brought them home and everyone is wonderful
    I found cragislist as a place where people post dogs that have issues, who will obviously not tell you what the issues are until they are out of the picture, and even then, you will never know the true extent until you experience it yourself.
  8. emys

    emys Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    Go to your local shelter or largest shelter during a slow time. Middle of the day, middle of the week. If possible have someone watch the kids while you do this.

    The staff are all there and not so busy. They will have a lot more time to spend with you. Discuss exactly what you are looking for with them. Let them introduce you to a couple of dogs they think might work. Talk to them about what they do to test incoming dogs - they will probably even demo it for you.

    Even if you don't find a dog there, you will learn a lot more about how to look.

    If you do happen to find one you think will work on that first visit, great! Bring the rest of the family back to be sure.
  9. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'm currently looking for a dog myself. Not sure what's in your area, but I'm looking at specific breed rescue organizations (all of the ones I've looked at so far do list their dogs on petfinder as well). Most deal with pure-ish breeds, but some have mixes as well. I'm only looking at labs and goldens, grown dogs who are known to do well with cats, other dogs, are easy going, etc. A big plus is that most of their dogs are adopted from foster care, so they've been living with families who can attest to their personality qualities. They do a lot more screening than local shelters, but you also know/learn a lot more about the dog. So that could be a route for you...
  10. cherwill

    cherwill Songster

    Jun 27, 2010
    McPherson, KS
    I would do everything you listed. We got our Weimaraner through Petfinder last October. We wanted that specific breed or a mix with Weim in it, so that helped us narrow down the search.

    The best option would be if the dog were in a foster home instead of living at the shelter. A dog in a shelter may have a very different personality when it's allowed more freedom. Good foster parents will be honest with you about how the dog behaves and about any concerns they have. The woman who had Gypsy was wonderful; she clearly was crazy about her and wanted to make sure we were willing to accept her little quirks (there weren't many). Gypsy had some skin issues that she wasn't sure was from giving birth or from mange, and kept us updated on treatment. We still keep in touch and send her pictures now and then. I think most people who foster animals would be a lot like this. If they didn't really care about the animal, they wouldn't foster in the first place. A good foster parent will also do some basic training and be willing to send pictures. They shouldn't be in a hurry to get you off the phone every time you talk to them.

    If you're afraid there may be a situation where you might not be able to keep the dog, I'd say try to adopt as close to home as possible. If you're committed no matter what, then you can look further out. We fell in love with Gypsy before we ever met her, so it wasn't an issue with us that she was two states away.

    Things we asked about: her behavior around children and other animals (since we already had a dog), if she played, if she seemed fearful of anything, if she was timid or outgoing, if she had any special food/nutrition requirements, if she was generally alert or very laid back, if she had any health issues, any quirky, needy or otherwise unusual behavior. The foster mother volunteered that Gypsy did a lot of mouthing/nipping as a greeting and when she wanted to play; she wanted us to know that Gypsy wasn't being aggressive when she did it. We described the behavior of other Weims we've had and compared Gypsy's behavior to that as a way of knowing how much the Weim personality she showed.

    Edited because I know how old the topic is; I just thought I'd chime in in case anyone else happens to be looking for a dog.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010

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