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How to choose a good refuge….

So you have decided to adopt a rescue dog, that is great news but how do you choose a good refuge and what should you ask to make sure that you make the correct choice?


Conflicting answers or reluctance to answer questions are red flags.

  1. Ask about the dogs heath and request to see all medical records if there are any problems, not just vaccine records.  Look for any discrepancies between intake paperwork and what is being advertised. Glaring age, breed or weight differences should be a red flag.
  2. What is the dog’s known history – not just where did this organization get the dog but what do they know before then?  Was it stray?  Owner surrender?  History is important because dogs with poor early socialization or bad experiences may be may require more extensive training but be sure to confirm what they KNOW versus what they’re ASSUMING.
  3. What socialization has the rescue or shelter been doing with the dog, especially if it’s a puppy?  What do they know about the dog’s formative early months of life? Do they have the puppy’s mother?  Have they been using food during socialization or just exposing the dog to things without ensuring it was a positive association?
  4. Ask about behavioral issues.  Concerns should be discussed with their certified behaviorist (who should also be the one administering behavioral assessments).  Inquire about guarding behaviors, body handling and sociability observed while the dog has been in their care.
  5. Why was the dog abandoned, if the dog was an owner surrender? Was it for behavioral reasons?  Many rescues and shelters often try to downplay behavioral concerns or owner neglect.
  6. Where has the dog has been while it’s been in this organization’s care?  In a kennel?  In a foster home?  What interactions has the dog had with children, kids, cats or other dogs
  7. What training methods do they use?  If they don’t publicly say, ASK!   It should specify they do not condone the use of aversive methods including prong, choke or shock collars or electric fences.
  8. Research and read reviews about the organization you’re considering adopting from.  If they are a charitable group, ask around for recommendations.
  9. And lastly, OBSERVE:  Before you’re ready to adopt, visit a few times. Do the animals seem happy, well cared for and the volunteers/staff happy to be doing their job?  Are the dogs being happy talked and given treats?  How are the animals being handled?  Are they being dragged around by their leash at events?  Are they cowering in their crates?

Happy looking dogs!

So, it’s buyer beware, and it’s up to us to help keep refuges accountable.  Ask lots of questions, demand answers and yes, trust your gut. Making good matches – for both the people and the dog – should be their top priority, not just trying to move out as many animals as possible.

Doing your homework beforehand could cause a lot less heartache afterward!




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