If you do not want to purchase a puppy through a registered breeder rescue organisations should be your only other option. Never purchase your puppy from a pet shop, or an unregistered breeder, you will only perpetuate the puppy mill industry.
The first step is to choose a rescue organisation. You can either visit your local animal shelter or, if you would like a specific breed of dog get in touch with the rescue group affiliated with that breed. Many organisations even post profiles of their dogs available for adoption on the Internet, so spend some time looking through this information. Researching, allows you to narrow a choice down, without the emotional outlay that being there in person would do.
Rescue organisations will label their dogs with specific breeds or mixes of breeds. You can use this information to form some idea of how the dog will behave in certain situations. Become familiar with different breeds what they were bred for, and their personality characteristics. This will give you a better idea of what behaviours you can expect from your new dog.
Most organisations temperament test their dogs prior to being released for adoption. Based on this temperament test, dogs can be matched to the correct human much more successfully, but it still should not stop you from making your own assessment. An organisations temperament tests should serve as part of your own assessment.
If you have a particular interest in a dog, the rescue organisation should allow you to spend some one-on-one time with this dog. This should be done in an outdoor secure area, off lead, and on lead. Spend some time offering the dog treats, watch the dogs body language and the way he moves around you, play with him, sit and relax with him. Based on your own feelings, observations, and feedback from staff, you should get a pretty good picture of this dog. If you can take him out in to the greater environment for a walk, even better.
This first meeting should only be with you and/or other adults the dog will be living with. If you have children, other family members, or another dog they should be brought to the second meeting. Good staff will facilitate a meeting between your resident dog and children and the dog you are considering adopting. After the second meeting you will have an even better idea of how this dog will fit in to your life.
Some encouraging signs to look for when a adopting a pet dog include; approaching the front of the ‘run’, taking and eating treats offered by different people, relaxed fluid body movement, having a relaxed interest in you, exploring the environment with lots of sniffing.
I advise people to always sleep on the decision, and have at least two meetings with any dog they wish to adopt. It can be a highly emotional choice and time taken to think will serve best in the long run. After a few meetings you will have a ‘feel’ about a dog, trust your ‘gut’ and ask yourself- ‘Is this truly the right dog for me/us?’ You should never feel obligated to take a dog, or take a dog just because you feel sorry for it.
Understand that when you are adopting a dog it is coming to you with a history that often you will be unaware of. The adoption process can be a stressful one for the dog, and this will have an impact on behaviour, so you may not see your dogs’ true personality for several weeks.
Adopting an older dog means that you get to skip the baby puppy stage, it also means temperament testing will be more reliable. The added bonus is that you get to save the life of a dog.