Buddy an English Mastiff, was my first dog. He was adopted from a reputable breeder who was fostering him, at 2 years old. He was an absolutely wonderful dog who I learned a lot from. He had no behavioral problems, simply a lack of training. Which was a good thing, because if he had problems it would have been an 185 pound problem.
First, let me say I am all for people finding the right dog for them. Whether it be from a responsible breeder, shelter, or rescue.
Let me define what I think that is.
A responsible breeder is one who breeds for health (screening for congenital problems), and temperament, finding the correct, responsible homes for the puppies they produce based on matching personality and energy level to the right owners. Not all puppies are for everyone. A responsible breeder, in my experience, also takes responsibility for puppies they produce should they not work out in a home, for whatever reason, and re-homes them appropriately. Several good breeders I know, when they don’t have a litter, also foster rescued dogs of their breed and find them loving homes. These are breeders that truly love their chosen breed and the dogs they produce, and are not in it for the money. Prospective puppy buyers should feel they are more interviewed by the breeders as the breeders are by them.
Having said that… good responsible breeders are the minority. Even now, the often sought-after mixed breeds, should be produced responsibly. Just as you would expect from a purebred. Being a cross breed doesn’t mean they should not be looking after the future health and happiness of that puppy and its owners. If someone is intentionally planning and producing a litter, they should be screening for any inheritable health problems that any of the breeds in the background are prone to.
‘Rescue’ is a term that has been used for close to 20 years, maybe more, to help people find a dog, adult or puppy, even of a specific breed (thus the term ‘breed rescue’). These dog lovers would keep their eyes and ears peeled for dogs, whose time was running out and have safe, appropriate temperament, and pull them out of shelters and other situations to give them a better chance of finding the perfect home. These dogs in “rescues” are often placed in a foster home where they live as a family member, while they are evaluated and trained for proper placement, while a suitable home is found.
There are many Rescue organizations and Shelters who work very hard to find homes for animals every day. Beautiful mixed breeds and purebreds alike. Unfortunately, in today’s economy, dogs are not being as quickly adopted as they are being surrendered. More wonderful dogs are being given up because of various reasons including unemployment and difficult lifestyle change reasons (going into a nursing home for instance).
Just as with screening breeders to make sure you take home a healthy happy dog, shelters and Rescues should be asked lots of questions as well. If it is a dog over 6 months of age it should be determined if it has been tested negative for heartworm disease. That is a very common, expensive, and fatal disease if left untreated. Temperament is also important. It is unethical, although not impossible, for someone to re-home a dog who has aggression issues, especially if it has bitten people. Many rescue, shelter workers and breeders want so badly to find a home for their animals that they under-play behavioral problems that can effect the safety of you and your family.
Please know that many behavioral problems, including various types of aggression, can be fixed… but, it is a safety issue as well as a liability that you may not be prepared to deal with.
Regardless of the age, size or background of your dog, it is a good idea to start building your relationship by getting them involved in a good obedience class as soon as possible. Partly to start off on the best possible foot, partly to be able to evaluate your new charges’ behavior and temperament in a controlled environment and nip a problem in the bud, should one arise. Not all issues will show themselves before you adopt them, and can even take a while to develop in your home environment.
Find a GOOD reputable rescue, or a good reputable breeder whenever possible. Where ever you get your dog, start your relationship of on the right foot by learning how to best communicate with him/her by finding a reputable trainer.
Not all puppies or rescue dogs start out perfect… it’s up to you to help them become the perfect dog for you!