How to choose the right rescue dog?
In the next month or so, I'm going to be looking to provide a home for a dog.  Last time I did this I had a bit of a bad experience and took on a dog who turned out to have a few issues, so much so that I had to return him to the rescue.  So I'm keen to get it right this time.

I'm a first time owner, have lots of 'head' knowledge from doing loads of research but very little hands-on experience (eg, looking after friends' dogs, my two weeks with the previous rescue dog).  I know what to ask the rescue in terms of the dog's history, foibles etc (eg, how comfortable is he/she with other dogs, reaction to cats, whether the dog travels well, can s/he be left for a time, will s/he need a huge garden to roam in). 

What I'm not confident about is my ability to 'read' the dog when I meet him or her at the rescue.  I'm in awe of some of the dog body language experts on here - you seem to see things in the posted videos that I would totally miss.  Although I have read up on canine body language (eg , Turid Rugaas) I don't know if I'm spot the subtle signals, or interpret the messages correctly.

In a nutshell (sorry if this is a bit long-winded): what should I be looking for when I actually meet the dog at the centre?

Thanks!  Smile
I'm probably the least qualified to answer this bit I'll try. Big Grin

Are you allowed to take the dog for a short walk beforehand to help get to know the dog's personality a little? Maybe watch for ears being pinned back, wide eyes, stiff body, yawning, lip licking, eyes moving from side to side. Maybe ask if the dog has any know allergies. Ask if there is anything that the dog may react to (behaviorally). Any known fears? Ask yourself how does it act when you approach it. Ask them how it reacts with other dogs. And of course the questions you brought up.
Definitely take the dog in question for a long walk. Watch for staring, rigidness, frequent freezing, etc. Not every dog starts off with a focus on you, but if a dog you are looking at thinks you are at least as interesting as the environment, that's a pretty safe bet. Will the dog play with you in any place at all? In the room where you meet? In the lobby of the rescue? Outside? In a run? On a leash? Don't use this as a deciding factor, per se, but use it to determine the dog's comfort level as rescues in general tend to be a very stressful place. A dog that can play is a very comfortable dog.

See if you can get a pup that has been fostered or is in a foster home. You may find they have a completely different feel from dogs in a shelter. Whether or not that is YOUR feel is up to you, but they will definitely interact a little differently.
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Gotcha Day: November 14, 2015
Vet-Listed Birthday: May 2, 2014
Ask why the dog is in rescue. Was it owner surrendered and why? 

Let the rescue know up front that this is your first dog and you have only watched friends dogs once in a while. Hopefully that will help them in helping you find the right dog.  

If you can go see the same dog a few times while it is in rescue that could help also. I hope this time it works out for you.

One Border Collie Is Never Enough

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I think it is wonderful that you now feel up to giving it another go. I am no where near as experienced with rescuing a dog as others in the forum. I love the advice that others have given and some resonates with me in respect to my oldest boy who is now two. He was not a rescue but instead a clean slate with the exception of his genetics, this is written ! From a reputable breeder and both parents viewed and interacted with. He was chosen for me as a gift, I did not actually choose him.

Well along came Max ! An extremely timid pup perhaps even fair to suggest fearful. He has come along beautifully and is a happy, social and outgoing boy. He is who he is however and when I read LB's description of things to look for I immediately thought, "Oh my goodness, this would absolutely be how Max might appear "IF" he were to find himself in a rescue. I have seen all of this in him.
1/ At 14 weeks old, at friends (also a trainer) house socialising with 3 dogs and doing great. Husband came home and zero'd straight in on Max, "aww puppy"
and grabbed for him. You would think the husband of a trainer would know better, my friend made him spend over an hour slowly rectifying the
2/ Only a few months ago when a fellow who was dirt bike riding with my partner entered the house yard dressed in colourful bike gear and wearing his
helmet. He was big and imposing and walked straight towards Max even though it was not his intention to pay Max any attention.

Max would be a mess in a rescue environment. I can only add that while these behaviours are imported to look for perhaps don't let them be an automatic dismissal. This could be a dog just like Max and if it were, you would get yourself an awesome dog but you might not get to see this initially until stress or fear were removed.

I hope you find a wonderfully happy ending.
Thank you very much indeed for all the thoughtful replies to my message.  Lots for me to consider.

I can see now that I might have missed some signs that my previous dog was going to be challenging, but some other signals only became apparent after he'd been with me for a week.  Incidentally, it seems that he has been rehomed twice since he was with me and each time his new owners have returned him, so maybe he just doesn't show his difficult behaviours in a rescue environment.  It sounds like looking for a dog who has been fostered for a while would be a great idea.

A couple more questions:

1. I see a number of dogs described as 'shy', and used to think 'ah, that's quite sweet', but my previous collie's 'shyness' manifested itself as barking, growling and lunging at people when out on walks.  Is that typical shy behaviour or was that something else.  I think I can handle a dog who is a bit wary of people - I don't have lots of visitors to my home - but not if that shyness shows itself as overtly aggressive behaviour when we are on walks.

2. How much does initial 'chemistry' count for?  I met one collie last year and we hit it off straight away - I liked him as soon as he was brought in to the room, and he chose to sit with me rather than the kennel owers, then initiated lots of stroking and play.  He was also very responsive, which is something I'd love to have in  a dog, and the rescue said 'he's a very confident boy'.  I didn't take him in the end as there were concerns that he had hip dysplasia.  But that is the only time I've had that kind of mutual 'YES' on a first meeting, and I've met 7 or 8 rescue dogs now.  Did you all immediately take to your dogs when you met them?

Thank you again for all the advice.
Depends on the rescue group.
Sorry to say some are just looking to get the dog rehomed. They can omit information or have not been given full disclosure themselves. Unfortunately rescue groups can attract workers/volunteers that are "I love dog people" who may not be that dog savvy.
Another issue you are up against is the dogs in rescue are generally extremely stressed, so it is hard to see what's really them
Sorry to say it can be a minefield. But I have seen some amazing dogs come out of the pound.
I am assuming you are in the U.K. I am a Brit but haven't lived there in over 20 years, but the Dogs Trust was a very active organization.
I would look to a rescue that is really questioning you and your lifestyle and outright in saying that such and such dog would not be a good fit.
Do you have rescue groups there that work solely on their dogs being in foster homes not a Kennel as this can give the rescue a good insight into the dog.

I am not saying you are taking a huge risk by going rescue, you take a risk whatever way you go.
Also please give your new friend time to adjust and to get to know each other.

The last pup I got was my old girl May who is 14 all the other dogs have found there way here.
Another caution is if you rescue privately direct from the owner. The do not always honour a trial period.
I have had my fingers burnt that way. Unfortunately I get "offered" dogs regularly. I am deciding about one now that has been offered. Completely different dog for me, lol.

No matter how you obtain your new friend I think you need to be brutally honest to what you really want in a dog and can give. There are advantages of taking in a non pup.

So in a nutshell look for a rescue that will not say "walk round and see if anything takes your fancy."
Look for a rescue that will ask you questions and help you choose a dog.

To be honest I have accompanied people to look at rescue yes I can pick up a lot of information by seeing the dog, but as I say the dog is usually stressed. Also there is no way I can "see". If a dog is distructive, escape artist, resource guarder, reactivity, etc. But underneath these sad dogs are some gems.
I do believe most dogs end up in rescue because of unseen circumstances and been seriously let down by their previously owner. I think there are few that are genuinely difficult. It is about getting the right fit, so you need to know what that is
Quirky describes the rescue/adoption scene very accurately in my opinion. There is a rescue in the UK I have heard very good things about through friends in the UK. It is called, Valgrays Border Collie & Animal Rescue and is located in Warlingham. I don't know where you live in relation to Warlingham but I will say this. My British associates crack me up when I hear them say, "Oh that is a long way" because a long way to them is equal to a drive we may do to simply have Sunday lunch with the inlaws. I guess it's all relevant to the size of your country and what you are accustomed to LOL.
I have followed the journey of several dogs through Valgreys and they seem very knowledgeable, experienced and committed to the best outcome for their dogs. They specialise in Border Collies and take on dogs for all manner of reasons including dogs from bad backgrounds, putting huge effort into their rehabilitation which is not to say all their dogs have needed rehabilitation. They seem to test their dogs in all circumstances that a dog might come upon in it's future life, well at least all that are reasonable to do so, children, other dogs and animals, strangers, traffic etc. I have seen their descriptions of dogs and they are very detailed in respect to why the dog came into rescue, what it's background was, what issues they may have worked on if any and what type of home they feel the dog would be best suited to. Even if you don't obtain a dog through them, I think perhaps starting a communication with them may help lead you to rescues that they consider conscientious and experienced in respect to wanting long term success for the dogs and new owners. This of course is not a personal recommendation from experience but instead hearsay but if I were to move to the UK and want to adopt a dog Valgrays and the BC Trust would likely be where I may start.

In respect to shyness, well this is such a broad spectrum and can be effected by so many things, from genetics to upbringing. Using Max as an example again. If he had been purchased by a different family who perhaps although well intended was just totally clueless, he may have turned out very differently. A predisposition is exactly that and not necessarily the way a dog will remain. I very much believe a dog is a combination of nature and nurture.

This is a photo of my timid boy as a pup. This could have remained how he approached all things in life right into adulthood but it is not. It would however likely be how he approached newcomers if he were in a shelter and stressed.

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Thank you Trifan and Quirkydog for all the helpful advice. I have sent in an application to Valgrays, and I'm also keeping an eye on the Border Collie Trust, Border Collie Spot and Wiccaweys websites. Valgrays sound good because don't seem to be a kennels.

Thank you both for the reality check regarding how much it's actually possible to tell about a dog when you meet them in a rescue environment. I can see now that I did miss some signs with my previous attempt, but there were plenty of things I couldn't have predicted.

I'll start visiting rescues in a couple of weeks time, fingers crossed.

Thanks again.

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