Shelters, breed rescues and mixed breeds:
When shopping for a dog at a breed rescue or shelter the same rules apply as those for shopping for a breeder.
The major difference between a shelter and a rescue group is a physical kenneling facility. For the most, part shelters house animals. For example, Chicago's Animal Care and Control, Animal Welfare League, Anti-Cruelty Society, Evanston Animal Shelter, Skokie Animal Control are local shelters. They get their animals in various ways and their policies on how and where they get their animals may vary from each other. They may take in unwanted or unmanageable animals directly from owners; they may collect stray animals; they may receive animals from other, out of state shelters, they may seize animals from criminals during raids; they may seize neglected or abused animals. They may or may not put animals up for adoption directly from their facility.
Rescue groups are, generally, a network of foster homes. The rescue group personnel pull animals from the shelters and drop off facilities and put them into their foster home networks. Occasionally, a daycare will house dogs pulled from a rescue group with whom that business has a relationship. They make other arrangements as well.
Most breed rescue groups also accept unwanted pets of their breed. Breed rescues probably have their dogs housed in foster homes. Most national breed club have listings for local breed rescue groups. You can find that information through www.AKC.org in the same way you can find a breeder.
In most cases involving any foster home, you would be given contact information for the foster person and see the dog there.
You now know that you might be looking at a dog in a traditional shelter or you might be looking at one in a foster home. Neither of these environments are ideal places to see dogs. The dogs are stressed to be sure. However, a friendly dog will still be a friendly dog. Choose shelters that used qualified behaviorists to assess temperaments. The best tests are the Assess-A-Pet method and the S.A.F.E.R.Method. These tests are not perfect. Successful passing of these tests do not guarantee any given dog will be a good match for any given home, but they should eliminate dogs who are unsuitable for pet homes.
Most shelters will have a separate room for you and your family to go with the dog of your choice to a more peaceful setting, so you can get to know each other a little better. A good shelter won't rush you. They want the to make the best matches possible.
Some foster homes have many dogs. It is almost impossible to get a clear picture any dog's true nature and personality in this type of environment. Dogs shut down when housed with many other dogs. It is a good defensive strategy. Under these circumstances often the behavior you see is artificial. So narrow your search to dogs living in foster home where there are no more than a few dogs. A foster home with few dogs is probably a good environment to get a good idea of the personality and temperament of the dog you are considering.
Information about the history of a dog you are considering at a breed rescue or a shelter may be very limited. Nevertheless, ask a lot of questions.
As I said earlier, a pure-breed puppy/dog should behave in accordance with the breed description. Akitas tend to be aloof, but springer spaniels tend to be outgoing. An aloof springer is a red flag. An outgoing akita is also a red flag.
Any time breeds are mixed the behavioral rules that apply to each breed go out the window. Therefore, even if the puppy looks mostly like a particular breed he may not behave like that breed. Also, mixing breeds does not eradicate health problems associated with either breed.
Stay tuned for the finale, part seven.