Are Rescued Dogs Good Dogs?
December 5, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Is adopting a rescued dog safe for a young family? I've never considered it before, but I am trying to expand my horizons.

I'm starting the process of dog adoption, and my goal is to have a dog selected and adopted in about a year's time.

I try my best to be very careful of the animal I take into my home. This is a big decision as I will have an animal living with my family (wife, 2 year old daughter, 3 year old son), for years, so I don't take this kinda stuff lightly.

Which brings me to the whole point of this. I'm very hesitant to adopt a rescued dog. I won't necessarily know the animal's history or lineage, and I really like knowing those type of things and the (real or perceived) reassurance I get from that knowledge. Maybe the dog was abused by a 3 year old boy in it's past, maybe not. Maybe the dog was allowed to eat off the dinner table? Maybe tons of other things that I could go on about.

The thing is that when I adopt a dog from a breeder (which is what I've always done), I know all about how it was treated, what it's lineage is, and I have a puppy that never had a master before me.

So, the question is: does that stuff really matter? Is a dog adopted from an animal rescue center just as likely to be ill-tempered or whatever as a puppy from a breeder?
posted by MustardTent to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can adopt a rescued dog and know all about its temperament - if you get one that's spent time with a foster family.
posted by HopperFan at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

My parents and I have always gotten rescued dogs. My recused pup is lying right next to me now, lamenting that my 2 year old has gone off to school. He follows him around and lets him do all sorts of toddler things to him. Most reputable rescues do temperament testing and know whether the kid will be good with kids or not. Eating off the table on the other hand they won't have, but that's easily trained out of a dog. Getting puppies are great (though you can get these from shelters as well depending on where you live), but we always got older dogs so we didn't have to deal with housetraining or what not, and found dealing with whatever "troubles" having a previous owner were much less than dealing with training a puppy from scratch. Also, most shelters let you meet the dogs before adopting, so you can "test out" the dog as you want.

I am wholeheartedly pro-rescue dogs for all families.
posted by katers890 at 8:16 AM on December 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Most of the rescue dog adoption programs have a try-out period -
where you can take the dog home and see how it does with your family.

those programs do NOT want the dog to be placed somewhere wrong -
they will work to help make sure that your family and the dog are a good match -

and, if you want the background on the dog, there are tons of home DNA tests -
for $50 you can find out exactly what the dog's breeding has been like
posted by Flood at 8:22 AM on December 5, 2011

we brought our puppy home from the humane society. she's wonderful. they did extensive testing of her before adopting her out (they could tell us which dogs were good with kids, cats, etc.). of course you "never know" but the same could be true for any puppy. working with them we at least knew that animal behaviorists had checked her out first. and gave us a ton of advice on how to train her/work with her. i fully fully fully support rescue pups!
posted by anya32 at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2011

My dog is a rescue and she's amazing with kids. She does have some issues with men (she's scared of them) and she's got really bad separation anxiety. Even with those problems she still fits perfectly with my family.

When we went down to the Humane Society I was actually there to look at a different dog. The dog I saw was more interested in what the other dogs were doing and seemed indifferent to my kids.

When I went to put Other Dog bag I saw my dog in her pen. She was laying down all the way in the back of the pen while all the other dogs were hopping around and barking. I took her outside to the fenced in areas and she was mellow and paid lots of attention to my kids. She was good on the leash, and even let my then one year old lead her around.

I'd done research into her breed and with the way she acted while we were at the shelter I took an educated guess that she'd work out. The gamble paid off in my case.


I totally agree that if you find a dog that's been fostered you can learn so much more about their personality. The foster family doesn't want the dog to go to a family that isn't a good fit, so they are going to be completely honest about the dogs they're trying to place.

It's also possible to rescue a puppy. Call around to your local shelters and leave your number. If you don't care about the breed you can get a puppy when a pregnant dog comes in. This is a rare case so be prepared to wait a very long time.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2011

Oops, I forgot the required pictures.

Why is there no "Dogs of Metafilter" Flickr page?
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

My mother currently has a rescue dog who was surrendered by his original owners; they had owned her for her entire life (10 years) and were able to tell the rescue folks everything you would ever want to know about her life, including information on her parentage. She was surrendered because the original owners lost their home to foreclosure, and my mom still sends them updates twice a year on the dog.

"Rescue" -- especially breed specific rescue -- does not always (or even often, in the case of some breeds) mean "rescued off the streets."
posted by anastasiav at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2011

Please get a rescue dog. There are so many puppies that you can easily find one that's never had a family before, if what you want is a blank slate. Most no-kill shelters will let you foster or do a trial period first, so you can bring the dog back if there are issues that come up. The shelter we adopted from will let you even "check out" a dog for a day if you want - so you can bring it on a long walk by itself, or even to your house, if you want to see how they act outside the shelter environment.

The shelter we adopted from tries its best to write up little biographies of every dog they have, so you could easily go in and say "I need one that's good with kids", and they'll find one that they know came from a house with kids. There are so many dogs on our shelter's website that came from perfectly loving families that were evicted or lost their homes and couldn't take care of their pet anymore.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:31 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can rescue a puppy if it makes you more comfortable. We did. We visited the Humane Society pretty consistently for several weeks. We went to more than one location. At the time my kids were ages 4 and 6. We wanted to adopt a young adult dog or a puppy. We visited with several adult dogs. Most we not appropriate for us. Some we did not have the option to visit with because they were marked no appropriate for children. There were always puppies to be had but they get spoken for quickly.

We finally adopted a puppy from our local Humane Society -- an Australian Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix. She is a lovely thing. We love her and although she was a puppy and was never abused, as far as we know, she's a bit loony because of her breed. She is protective and a bit skittish. She is fine with my kids. She has never harmed them and I feel no anxiety over safety issues at all. She lets them crawl all over her. They play together. Safety is the most important thing but also think about grooming and maintenance and cleanliness. My dog sheds like no tomorrow and sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. Of course, this dog is part of our family and my husband loves her like a child, but I will never, repeat NEVER get a dog that sheds this much again. I'll be brave and say I will never have another animal in my house again. Not worth it. I'm not a monster. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2011

A note about those DNA tests, they are mostly crap, they don't test for several breeds (like pit bull amongst others) for legal reasons, so they won't be completely valid. However, I have always found that the behavior testing done by the shelters or foster families is much more worthwhile than going just based on breeds.

Oh and the required pictures of my rescue puppies (my parents' and mine) both who love my toddler.
posted by katers890 at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are no guarantees with dogs, but when I was growing up, my family took in dogs straight off the street (a lot of them) and never had a bad experience with any of them.

My in-laws' family has adopted a number of dogs through rescue groups. Most have been great. One they had to give up because it didn't get along with their other dog.

I would be more concerned about adopting a purebred from a breeder, myself.
posted by adamrice at 8:36 AM on December 5, 2011

Nthing that I've always had rescued dogs throughout my life and they've been fabulous. Take your time, find one of the options where you CAN get lots of background info, consider the breeds you like and what would fit with your family's lifestyle. I definitely think your odds are just as good or better for finding a great dog through rescue as through a breeder. We had a lab and a border collie, neither of whom were ever feral or on the streets. They both came from homes where the families couldn't take care of them (a border collie in an apartment with a low-energy family is just not workable). Maybe look into finding a dog that had an older owner who was no longer able to care for them?

Also the border collie was originally from a breeder and we had to contend with way more health problems with him then we did with our mutty lab. I know not all purebreds are unhealthy but I think there's a definite benefit to a mix.
posted by brilliantine at 8:47 AM on December 5, 2011

I would be more concerned about adopting a purebred from a breeder, myself.

This, for several reasons. A purebred dog is much more likely to have health issues simply because the business of breeding inevitably leads to inbreeding. Some breeds are worse than others, but few if any are problem free.

Aside from that, there is no guarantee of perfect temperament even if you do get a dog from a breeder. However, if you are really attracted to a particular breed, there is almost certainly a breed rescue group somewhere fairly close to you. And those folks will also have mixes (so a poodle group might have some poodle/Lhasa mixes or other mixes, and those will probably have fewer health problems - but of course there is never really a health guarantee with any dog.) A breed rescue group is also going to be a foster situation so you will be able to get a lot of info from the foster family (as mentioned above).

Rescue is always the way to go! Good luck, and don't worry yourself sick about getting the wrong dog. If you have any problems at all, you will be able to take the dog back or get the help you need.
posted by Glinn at 8:50 AM on December 5, 2011

There is no guarantee when you get a dog from a reputable breeder, either. Many years ago we bought a very expensive standard poodle from a top breeder. She was a nightmare -- very agressive and dominant. It was OK before we had kids -- I was training her for agility and willing to do what it took to establish myself as the alpha. When my son started walking, he crossed through a doorway before her (a sign of dominance) and she bit him in the face to put him in his place. She was returned to the breeder. It was heartbreaking.

Traumatized by the experience, it was 7 years before we got another dog. This time we picked a pound-hound that might be a shnauzer/poodle mix. He is a sweetheart. A joy to train and sweet and patient with the kids.

Go with a rescue dog from a rescue that fosters them. They will have observed enough of the dog's personality to know if it will be a good fit for your family.

And maybe consider waiting a couple more years. A dog take many hours to train properly... and a poorly trained dog can be a misery to live with. You have very young kids that take a lot of time right now -- in a couple more years they will enjoy the dog more and it can be a joint project to train it.
posted by LittleMy at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: We have a rescue dog. She's a little neurotic but she's come a long, long way. They did personality testing (on her, not me, although I did get the impression that they were very serious about getting good matches) at the shelter before I adopted her, and I was given a long worksheet with the results of how she reacted when someone took her food away, made loud noises, acted weird, someone came rushing at her, etc. Oh, and reaction to cats (I adopted a cat the same day). They did testing over several days before allowing dogs to be adopted.

Maybe call around and ask what temperment testing takes place at your various shelter options. We had our dog for few years before the kid showed up--it has worked out fine, but I think it's good she had a few kid-free years to get her confidence up but for perspective, she was afraid of moths when I met her.

For what it's worth, having a small child around a dog requires vigilance and training both of the dog and the child whether you get the dog from Her Lady's Royal Awesome Dog Breed Consortium or the local humane society. Just like people, some dogs are assholes.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:55 AM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, my rescue dog is an "open adoption." Her former (very loving) owners had to give her up for unfortunate reasons but we keep in touch and have playdates ever couple of months. From them I have not only her full medical history and knowledge of her personality, but also an extremely helpful resource if strange problems or issues arise with her behavior -- just a quick email and I can find out if it's something my dog has done before.

This is unusual but not unheard of. We had another rescue dog growing up where we had his full pedigree (he was a show dog) but his owners just dropped him off at some point and provided no further information in terms of medical history, temperament, etc. He had an abusive owner between the show owners and us and we have no idea what happened there either. But he was a wonderful dog who was very gentle with us and, as long as you never ran a vacuum cleaner around him, had no behavioral issues whatsoever.
posted by olinerd at 9:08 AM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: If I was picking out a dog for a family with a toddler I think I would be too worried about picking out a puppy and would be more comfortable with an adult dog. When you get a puppy (rescue or from a breeder) you have some information. You can, in some cases more than others, know the breed, the parents' characteristics, the purpose of the line. But even within a single litter the puppies' personalities will vary. The dog will change as he ages.

When you select a more mature dog you know exactly what you are getting. I volunteer at a shelter, working one-on-one with the dogs. One benefit of a rescue dog from a more hands-on rescue is that the trainers and volunteers know the dogs and can make recommendations based on their experience. We rate our dogs in several ways, for example: owner's level of experience, good with cats, minimum age of children, good with other dogs, etc. And if the situation isn't perfect we always want the adopting family to return the dog and find the right fit.

I think for someone with dog experience it's pretty easy to spend five minutes with a dog and know what you're getting. If a dog is people oriented, listens to correction and is respectful of you and your family you can teach them any house rules that they might not have picked up in previous situations.

Just take it slow, meet a lot of dogs until you find your ideal one and go in armed with your favorite dog personalities fresh in your mind. Think of the best dog you owned or the most well-behaved family dog on your block and find one just like that.

I think that people sometimes imagine rescue and shelter dogs to be completely wild banshee dogs that jump all over you and act crazy because they've never had training. Some are. But a respectful dog who has never had a day of training in her life will still not run up and jump on a person or put their mouth on a person, even in excitement. Find a dog with a sweet personality, re-enforce the good behaviors, teach manners and teach your child to respect the dog's boundaries and that will take you a long way towards a great dog experience.
posted by tinamonster at 9:26 AM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: I have a rescue dog who is fantastic--he is very well-behaved and cuddly, and I didn't do much to get him that way. It's his natural personality. I encourage you to get a rescue dog as well if you can find a pooch you are comfortable with. There is a lot of excellent advice in this thread, so please open yourself to the idea, at least, of shelter dogs.

However! If you cannot bring yourself to overcome the feelings of reluctance when it comes to shelter dogs, though, that is totally fine. Don't let other people give you crap about it or make you feel guilty if you decide to go to a (responsible, ethical) breeder. You will be happier if you decide to get a dog that you feel entirely comfortable with, rather than one you are always a little doubtful of. And it would probably be better for the dog in question, too, to have an owner who trusts her fully.
posted by zoetrope at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2011

In my experience a lot of rescue dogs were rescued from people who put no thought into getting a dog or spoiled the poor thing or otherwise got rid of a living creature who, through no fault of his own, did not turn out to be magical fantasy Lassie.

And I'be seen fosters from all kinds of situations turn into lovely pets.

If you can possibly take some time to hang out with some dog people, a training meetup or an agility club and see people a dog interaction that makes sense to you, and then enlist those people to help you find a dog, things will go well.

I have never been around a herding club, or an obedience trainer, or any other doggy group that wasn't at least 1/3 people who were also involved in rescue. And, really, nothing tells you more about what people know than seeing them work with their dogs.

Do agree that you might want to wait until the kids are older.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:50 AM on December 5, 2011

We rescued my pit bull right off the street. The first 2 nights, I slept with her leash tied to my wrist in case she tried to kill one of my cats. She didn't, and a year later we couldn't be happier with her.

That said, you can NEVER know how any dog will be around your children, no matter where you get it. Minimize risk, educate the children on how to respect the dog, train the dog, and hope for the best. If that doesn't ease your mind, maybe give it a few years before bringing in a dog.

If I were in your position, I'd wait until the kids were a little older. But either way, an adult dog is going to be a little more docile and controllable than a puppy. (My sister got an active little puppy for her 4-year-old, and the poor kid was so terrified by it always jumping on him that they had to give it away.)
posted by coolguymichael at 10:06 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is why we adopted our rescue guy from an organization that does a lot of background into the dogs with fostering and extensive observation of all habits - good, bad and ugly. We also got a Golden Retriever, so chances were pretty good that he would be good with our little guy (who came after the dog). It's worked out really well for us.

Obligatory photos: 1, 2, 3
posted by Leezie at 10:26 AM on December 5, 2011

My family had a rescue dog that sometimes bit and snapped. As the dog got older, he would really get aggressive. However, my family should not have ignored those features in the first week of his adoption, let alone the fact that he wouldn't go near the women in the family. And when he got old and sick, they should have got him help.

So...I'd recommend a dog that's been fostered and taking it easy when you do foster/adopt the dog. Pay attention to any red flags - you have children. But I suspect that many people go on to have happy relationships with their rescue dogs, as long as they're sensitive and sensible about it.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2011

Adopted a 6 year old lab who was absolutely the BEST dog I'd ever had. She was fostered and I knew exactly what her temperament would be with kids. When I visited to check her out, the foster family's youngest (about 4) was feeding Coco right out of her dog dish...while the dog's nose was in the dish. Some dogs would not tolerate this at all, but this dog happily wagged and divided her attention between the food on the dish and the food being plucked out of her dish and being offered to her directly. She obeyed verbal and hand signal commands. What a sweetheart. She passed away when she was 14 years old and I still miss her. She had been given up for adoption because the original family had a new child who developed allergies to her. Very sad for them, but awesome for me. Already house trained, a known quantity around kids, just an excellent fit.

The Breed specific rescue organizations I am aware of DO foster and care very much about good placement. (I had to agree to a home visit in order to adopt from one of them.).

I love puppies. Love them. But they take a huge amount of time, attention and consistent discipline for training. Their eventual personality is still a mystery ("will they grow out of jumping up? Will they continue to chew?"). I am an unapologetic fan of adopting an adult dog when smaller kids are involved.
posted by jeanmari at 10:48 AM on December 5, 2011

I've had good experience with rescue dogs. Both the dogs I've had as adults are rescued Welsh Terriers. I adopted Barney from a local shelter when he was six and a half years old. He did have separation anxiety due to being bounced around a bit before I adopted him, but he was a wonderful dog with a great temperament. I had him for almost 9 years - he passed away in February, just a couple weeks shy of his 15th birthday. I miss that little guy.

In May we adopted Linus from WTCARES (Welsh Terrier breed rescue). He's 3 and was given up due to divorce. I know several people involved with WTCARES through a Welsh Terrier group I'm in, and the person at CARES who was facilitating his adoption specifically recommended him for us. He's been with us six months now and it's working out well.

A breed-specific rescue might be something to consider if there's a specific breed you have in mind.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2011

Response by poster: You guys have been just great. Thank you so much for all your advice & personal stories. I really needed to hear this, and wow did I learn a lot not only about rescued dogs but about the whole process and what to expect.

Please, if anybody has any more to say, I am very happy to hear it.

Point of clarification: Although it was implied in my original description, I did not explicitly say that I've had dogs before, if it matters to any of those who would join this conversation after this update.

Again, thank you all so much. I knew I would learn a lot from posting this question, and I'm ready to add (well-researched) rescue organizations to my list of resources in finding a new furry friend.
posted by MustardTent at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another voice in support of rescue, and taking some of the budget you'd have spent with a breeder to do one-on-one sessions with a trainer, who can help you identify the personality traits of your dog and how to best work with your dog to have him/her be part of a good happy family.
posted by judith at 11:43 AM on December 5, 2011

Rescue dogs are great dogs (I am the completely biased owner of 2 rescue dogs). The best part is that if you choose an organization that does fostering you can find out all about your dog from the foster family. As everyone has said most good rescues want the dogs and owners to be happy with the arrangement.

You can always foster a dog for a while to see if it is a fit for your family, I got one of my dogs that way. I rescued 2 dogs with behavioral problems by choice as I like the challenge of helping them and it's worked out great for us and I like to think for the dogs. Having said that there are lots of dogs out there just looking for a second chance that won't have anything other than the normal OMG I'm in a new place and have to learn some new rules problems that any dog, rescue or not would have moving to a new home.

If you have your mind set on breed specific dogs thinking their behavior might be more predictable there are LOTS of breed specific rescues out there and purebred dogs end up in rescues too.

I'd suggest rescuing an older dog at least a year or 2 old as their personalities are more "set" by that point and you will know more what you are getting, even more so than getting a puppy from a breeder.

Go talk to shelter and have a look around, talk to the people there they would love nothing more than to help you if you explain your situation and your concerns. If they don't find another shelter, there are too many good shelters out there that need support and would love to help you find the perfect dog for your family.
posted by wwax at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2011

I adopted a rescue dog a couple months ago and am extremely happy. It took more effort than just going to a pet store and picking out a puppy, but it was well worth it. I wrote to many rescue groups to find the right dog for my lifestyle.

I found one whose description on seemed to match what I wanted. I wrote to the rescue group and filled out the long application. They got back to me and interviewed me. I also interviewed them too and this is the important part. I asked lots of questions about the dog, who was in foster care. I honestly described my lifestyle - that I work and needed a calmer dog. I asked lots of questions about the dog I wanted to adopt.

My dog is great with everyone. I really can't imagine a dog with a better temperament. She even gets along with my parents' grumpy dog who doesn't like any other dogs. She's completely fine with babies and toddlers.

The rescue I got her from gave me a two week trial period during which I could take her back and get my money back. Reputable rescue organizations will likely do the same since they want to find a good match for your family.

Note: I wrote to many rescue organizations and some took a long time to write back because they are so busy. It's normal for them to take several days or even a week to get back to you since they are mostly made up of volunteers.

Good luck! I think you'll be able to find a great dog if you're honest about what you want and find a reputable rescue organization.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:15 PM on December 5, 2011

If you have not had dogs before then definitely get an adult dog, not a puppy. Puppies are massive amounts of work and need clear, confident, unequivocal direction from every member of the family and pretty much constant supervision for their first 6 or so months of life. I would never recommend them for any inexperienced owner. This holds true if you adopt from a shelter, rescue, get a dog from a friend or acquaintance or buy a retired breeder or show dog.

Selecting a dog is a massively important decision and should be done with as much knowledge and experience as possible. If you have a friend or acquaintance that has dog training experience, enlist them to help you. If not then perhaps look into hiring a dog behavior expert to help you. I am pretty confident in my dog knowledge and I spent four months picking out my adult dog, meeting countless dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes before I found the one with the personality that "clicked." It was worth it. He is far and away the best behaved dog I've owned. He's just the right speed for my family and he's adorable to boot. (/end dog brag.)
posted by tinamonster at 12:15 PM on December 5, 2011

We have two rescue dogs (one lab retriever-ish, one... who-the-heck-knows) that we adopted as puppies three and two years ago. We also have a 14-year-old son, a toddler nephew who used to spend two full days here a week, and varies infants and toddlers who visit on a regular basis. Our dogs loooove kids! They calmly tolerate toddler antics such as shrieking, less-than-soothing petting, being leaned on, being chased, having hands and fingers in their mouths, and having a curious someone play with their food while they're eating it. They especially love that toddlers often have hands and faces that smell and taste of food remnants.

The key for us has been training. Since the pups got here, they've been taught to not respond at all to being "bothered." Fingers in the food dish? No problem. Come when you're called? No problem. "DROP IT!" when there's a kid toy in the mouth instead of a dog one? Again, no problem. It takes persistence, but I'd think that's true of any dog. Our dogs are loving and lovable and it's been endlessly heartwarming to see the kids enjoying them so much.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2011

Since you have small children, I would very very strongly recommend looking into resources on integrating dogs into households with kids.

I know Dogs and Storks is well regarded, although it primarily addresses babies. I don't have small kids, though, so I really don't have first hand experience with the other resources available. Do look for that specifically, though, because there are some pretty serious issues with how dogs and kids interact that often leads to problems. Kids tend to be a little herky jerky and unpredictable, some dogs don't really see kids as humans, and if you aren't familiar with a dog's body language and signals, it can lead to disaster.

That said, I'd like to echo what a lot of others have said already: Used dogs are awesome! I've never gotten a dog any other way, and I've never been disappointed. I have a friend, though, who decided to take the 'safe route' and get a purebred dog from a breeder. The dog is one of those breeds that are considered great, safe family dogs. That dog is straight up vicious. She's bitten people many many times, and I won't even go to my friend's house because the damn dog snarls and snaps and chases me, and I'm not dealing with that.

I, on the other hand, have a pit bull mix who'd been picked up by animal control as a stray in heat. They knew nothing about her, and all I knew about her was that I loved her. She is a perfect dog, and I thank my lucky stars for her every day. She's sweet, gentle, smart, and just the all-around best dog. We also have a 20 year old cat and recently adopted an elderly little dog who was at the shelter too.

I would never leave any of them alone with a small child, but if I somehow became trapped in an animals and babies version of those logic problems where you have to transport things (you know, usually a fox, a chicken, and a bag of corn) across a river, I'd leave the baby with the pit bull.

I'm not suggesting you go to a shelter and bring home some random pit bull or anything, mind you. I am, however, suggesting that you go in without too many biases about the physical type of dog you're looking for, because that is never an accurate gauge of a dog's temperament and personality.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:45 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to emphasize a point that others have made. Many people's objection to getting a rescue dog is the idea that you don't know what their personality is like, what kind of history they have, etc, and that it is better to get a puppy so that you can "control" their upbringing.

However, I think it makes just as much sense to look at the other side of the coin - when you get an adult rescue dog, their personality has already developed and (given a good foster organization) you can be pretty confident what they will be like as a pet. But puppies are still developing their personalities, and if you get a dog as a puppy you have, IMHO, much less of an idea about what type of dog they will be once they grow up.

tl:dr - give me a nice, settled adult dog any day.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:15 AM on December 7, 2011

We have 2 dogs - the breeder dog was purchased as a puppy and has behavioral issues (including a strong dislike of children); the rescue dog adopted at age 4ish is a perfect little angel. You never know how it's going to work out - just because a dog is from a respected breeder doesn't mean it's going to be free of issues and just because a dog is a rescue doesn't mean it is certain to have issues.

Check Petfinder for local rescues and shelters - you can filter for dogs that are shown to be ok with children.

Also, if rigorous temperament testing is what you're looking for, check out Best Friends.

VERY IMPORTANT: If anyone giving you a dog in exchange for money does not make you fill out a lengthy application with references, don't adopt that dog (applies to "breeders", craigslist, pet stores, and some "rescues"). Someone who is not worried about the family that the dog is going to is likely not worried about the temperament of the dog. Reputable breeders and rescues want to make sure that the dog and family are the right fit for each other, and that the dog is not likely to end up back in a shelter. Here is a sample application from the shelter where we got our rescue pup.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:05 PM on December 13, 2011

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