It's just as important to research rescue groups and individuals, as it is to research breeders. Far too many rescue people get a dog from a shelter, do a quick or incomplete assessment (if that), and then turn the dog over to a new (often unwitting) owner.
It's often not even a case of being actively misled... many rescue people feel compelled to save *every* dog, and it's more likely that the individual you dealt with was either overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of dogs, or just not "seasoned" as a foster home, and so doesn't understand the importance of doing an in-depth assessment. This *isn't* a way of "excusing" what happens... it's only an explanation.
Even the *wonderful* dogs should be kept for a minimum of 3 weeks (honeymoon period), and they should be kept IN THE HOME (not crated all the time, and NOT in an outdoor kennel -- they're being placed as *family members*!)
There's only ONE way to really know what home will best suit the dog -- and that's by getting to know the dog. It's just not possible to do that in 24 hours, or by keeping the dog away from the home situations.
(Please note: there ARE rescue groups and breeders who kennel their dogs, and allow them *limited* access to the home... this IS an acceptable method of assessing the dog's suitability for a home!)
There are subtle ways of determining if the dog's had enough exposure to the home environment to make him feel comfortable there: after 10-15 minutes of exuberance, the dog should calm down.
If you see pacing, heavy panting, yawning, he's stressed by the environment... re-evaluate, and try to determine the source of the stress: is it you, or being in the house?
When I talk to someone who is looking for a Saint, I tell them "if you wouldn't keep a dog the way the rescue group keeps them, do yourself AND *all* dogs a favor... leave it THERE".
This is the same premise we use when explaining to owners why NOT to buy a pup from a petstore or puppymill -- it's an incredibly important concept!! And, when you find a dog that you're interested in:

  1. Get an in-depth *written* history on the dog, prior to serious consideration.
    Even if the dog was a stray, the foster home *should* be able to list many, many insights, based on the 3-4 weeks (minimum!) that the dog has been in their home.
    You should get *behavioral* information -- NOT just spay/neuter, shots, and heartworm status! Ideally, you want to know where the dog came from, what situations it's been put into, and how it responded in those situations, as well as any other information that you can glean from the rescuer.
    The GOOD groups can give you this information... the GREAT ones have kept a journal from day one, with lots of insights and details. And, don't be afraid to ask questions, based on this history!
  2. Visit the dog a minimum of three times prior to adoption. The idea is to choose a dog whose personality meshes with your family... dogs are individuals, just as humans are!
    Get to know him (and his limitations -- every dog AND human has limitations!) before adoption.
    Consider these very seriously, as they're likely the reason he was dumped in the first place.
    If he's not the dog you'd do back-flips for, then leave him where he's at.
    And, if the foster won't allow you to visit the dog until you feel comfortable in taking him home, LEAVE the dog!
  3. Take him places *before* adopting him!!! It's best to accompany the foster person with the dog, so that liability is retained by the foster (the bigger the dog, the more important this issue).
    It's important to visit 2-3 locations: a park (exposure to dogs AND people), a shopping mall or grocery store (people), a pet store (dogs and people).
    Pay attention to how he responds in these situations.
    If you don't *like* his responses (in taking into consideration your own limitations), then leave the dog with the foster.
  4. Visit a reputable breeder, and ask to spend time with their "star dog" (I have a list of breeders in Ohio that I give to people who are looking at rescued Saints, for this purpose -- the really GREAT breeders do NOT have problems with this!
    They'll spend any amount of time with prospective owners, teaching about their beloved breed!)
    Do this *before* interviewing rescued dogs as candidates for your home... the point is to figure out what your chosen breed is *supposed* to be like, temperamentally.
    That way, you've got an idea of what traits to look for (and what to avoid) in a rescue.

    Brenda Rushman, Dip.C.B., C.C.B.T., C.C.B.C. PAWSitive Solutions! Canine Behavior Counseling, Ltd. www.PAWSitiveSolutions.net

    Our thanks to Brenda Rushman for these professional comments to which we subscribe fully.