Adopting a Dog From a Dog Breed Rescue Group

By Michele Welton

dog waiting to be adopted

This gentleman is evaluating the temperament of a little dog offered by a rescue group. Hopefully they're well-matched and the little dog will find her Forever Home!

Unlike animal shelters and humane societies, dog rescue groups don't have a central or public location where you can go see a selection of dogs whenever you feel like it.

Instead, a dog rescue group is a small group of dedicated dog lovers who maintain a network of temporary foster homes.

When a dog is turned over to a rescue group, he's placed into a foster home for an evaluation period. The foster family provides daily care and basic training while the rescue group searches for the right permanent home – which could be you.

Some dog rescue groups specialize in one breed (like Pug Rescue of Sacramento). Others accept several related breeds (Northeast All-Retriever Rescue). Still others accept all breeds, crosses, and mixes.

Advantages of dog rescue groups over animal shelters

  • A rescue dog, as opposed to an animal shelter dog, has been evaluated in a home setting. The foster family can tell you about the dog's habits and behaviors. They know if he's housebroken, if he barks a lot, if he likes children, if he gets along with other dogs and cats.
  • A rescue dog has usually received some housebreaking, socialization, and training from the foster family.
  • A rescue dog will always be spayed or neutered and has had any health problems treated (or at least diagnosed and treatment begun).

Disadvantages of dog breed rescue groups

  • As with dogs from animal shelters, dogs from rescue groups usually have an unknown background, which means you can't be sure what kinds of problematic genes may be lurking. Many inherited health problems don't arise until adulthood or middle age. This is especially a concern in purebred dogs (see The Truth About Purebred Dogs).
  • As with dogs from animal shelters, some dogs from rescue groups have behavioral issues that need some work.
  • The vast majority of dogs offered by rescue groups are adolescents or adults. If you have your heart set on a puppy, a rescue group is less likely to be a good source for you.
  • If you're looking for an uncommon breed, you're less likely to find one through a rescue group.
  • Even with a popular breed, don't expect a whole catalog of choices. For example, you can't call a Dachshund rescue group and order a miniature longhaired reddish-brown 8-month-old female who loves cats. A rescue group will have whatever dogs they have at the time, and if they think you might be a good match for a specific dog, that's the one you will get to consider.
  • It's usually more expensive to adopt a dog from a rescue group than from an animal shelter or humane society. But keep in mind that the rescue group has neutered the dog, treated any health problems, started a flea and heartworm preventative program, provided grooming, and invested one-on-one time and effort in basic training and socialization. Rescue groups do NOT make money – indeed, their adoption fees often don't cover their costs.
  • It can be difficult to adopt a dog from a rescue group. Most groups are very careful with their dogs. Their adoption requirements are often strict. There may be a waiting list. You will need to work your way through a lengthy process that includes an application, references, interviews, and a home inspection. If you find this degree of screening too intrusive, you might not want to pursue the rescue option.

If you think a dog rescue group might be a good source for you...

book coverMy book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will help you navigate through the adoption process, which can be a bit daunting unless you know what you're doing.

I'll tell you how to find dog rescue groups in your area.... how the adoption process works.... specific questions you'll be asked by the rescue group.... understanding the adoption contract (including clauses to watch out for).... and how to test the temperament of a rescue dog before agreeing to the adoption.

Plus, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams....

  • Helps you sort out what kind of dog to get – purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed
  • Compares male and female dogs
  • Compares young puppies, older puppies, adolescent dogs, adult dogs

And if you should decide to buy from a breeder instead...

You'll be able to tell whether a breeder is good or bad by turning to pages 226-228 in Dog Quest and using my FAMILY COMPANION GUIDELINES™ – 15 things every breeder should be doing to produce good-tempered, healthy pets.

I tell you how to evaluate the breeder's web site, looking for specific things that give that breeder away as "good" or "risky." I tell you how to contact the breeder – the exact questions you should ask, what answers you should expect, and which answers are "red flags" that mean you should stay away.

So whether you're adopting from rescue or buying from a breeder.... Dog Quest has you covered!

Learn more about Dog Quest

Michele Welton with BuffyMichele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.