How To Find A Home For Your Dog!


Written by Karen deBoer, Lisa Hrico & Barbara Malone, Chow Welfare League of NPD, Inc. Published by the Chow Chow Club, Inc. Welfare Committee, 1992

Not long ago, you were thrilled to have a puppy of your very own. You never dreamed you'd have to give him up someday. Your dog still depends on you to do what's best for him, just like he depended on you when he was a puppy. Now, more than ever, he needs you to take time to think things through and make the right choices for his future.

Purebred Rescue helps to find new homes for dogs. Rescuers are unpaid volunteers with fulltime jobs. They usually don't have kennel facilities. The cost to care for rescued dogs comes out of their own pockets. They work primarily with dogs from animal shelters that need help immediately. Because there are so many of these dogs already, Purebred Rescue may not be able to take yours for you. Purebred Rescue is meant to be a last resort - a place to go when there's no where else to turn.

Your dog is your responsibility. Most of the work involved finding him a new, loving, permanent home is up to you. If your dog came from a private breeder or individual, contact that person immediately. Although he may not choose to help you, he has a moral obligation to do so. An ethical, responsible breeder/fancier will -want- to help you and has a right to know what will happen to the dog he or she brought into the world.

Finding a new home won't be quick or easy. It will take patience and hard work. This booklet will help you decide what's best for your dog, how to prepare him for adoption and how to choose the right owner for him. Finding a new home involves several steps, but before you start, there are some things you should know....

ABOUT ANIMAL SHELTERS

Shelters and humane societies were created to take care of the needs of stray and abused animals. Shelters today are so overcrowded that many dogs are destroyed the same day they arrive. By law, strays must be kept several days for their owners to reclaim them. Dogs turned in by their owners aren't protected by these laws, and are often the first to be euthanized. If you place your dog in a shelter, it will have only a 10% chance of being adopted. Shelters don't want to kill all these animals but they have no choice. Being purebred won't help a dog's chances of adoption - by some estimates 40% of the dogs in shelters are purebreds.

Because of the dog's unique temperament and the many misconceptions about them, many shelters refuse to offer certain breeds for adoption at all. We have found this to be especially true of Chows. Some shelters won't release them to Rescue groups either. Sending your dog to a shelter in hopes that he'll find a good home is wishful thinking.

STEP ONE: SOUL SEARCHING

There's a big difference between being forced to give up your dog and wanting to "get rid of him". Search your heart for the real reason why your dog can no longer live with you. Your answer will probably fall into one of two categories: People Problems include moving, death of an owner, divorce, a new baby, allergies, etc. With some planning and forethought, People Problems don't always mean having to give up your dog.

It is possible to find a rental home or apartment that allows pets, to raise kids and dogs together, to control allergies with medication, etc. If you're not sure whether you've considered all your options, call us. We may be able to give you ideas or send information that may help you keep your dog. Sometimes you can make temporary living arrangements for your dog that will buy you both a little time to find alternatives.

Dog Problems include aggression, house-soiling, destructiveness, barking, fighting, bad manners or other undesirable behavior. Any owner whose dog has a behavior problem always has four options:

Most behavior problems can be solved if you're willing to make the effort. Don't make the mistake of trading this dog in for another one that you think will be easier to work with. If you didn't train this one properly, you won't train the next one, either. If you know you would keep your dog if only he'd behave better, call us. We can provide training advice, reading material and refer you to qualified trainers to help you with your dog's problems.

STEP TWO: TEMPERAMENT EVALUATION

Your dog's adoption potential depends mostly on his temperament. Some dogs are primarily one-family dogs that don't adjust quickly to new situations. They're slow to make new friends, are protective and leery of strangers. True dog lovers cherish these traits but many other people don't understand them. You have to be realistic about your dog's personality and needs. Is he outgoing and friendly to most everyone? Is he unpleasant and aggressive to strangers? How will he react to the people who consider adopting him? Will he adjust easily to a new home? The ideal new owner has had your breed before and is familiar with its temperament but these homes are few and far between. The majority of people who'll be interested in your dog have never owned one before and their impression of the breed is based on a picture they saw in a book. They want a dog that will approach them happily with a wagging tail.

When you love your dog, it's easy to think that everyone else will love him, too. Look at your dog as if you've never seen him before. If you were meeting him for the first time, what kind of impression would he make? Would you want to adopt him?

IF YOUR DOG HAS EVER BITTEN SOMEONE...

If your dog is aggressive with people, has a bite record or is a canine terrorist and you don't want to live with him don't expect anyone else to, either. The legal liabilities that could result if your dog injures someone in his new home could cause you to lose YOUR home and everything else you own.

Nearly every state has "dangerous dog" laws. In most states, any dog that has bitten (whether or not it was his fault) is considered to be a "dangerous dog". In some states, it's illegal to sell or give away a dangerous dog. In any state, you're required to tell the new owners about the dog's history. Laws about dangerous dogs require special confinement arrangements and mandatory liability insurance.

If you're not willing to hire a trainer who specializes in aggression problems, take your dog to the veterinarian and have him humanely put to sleep. Don't place him as a "guard dog" or take him to a shelter where he can endanger others and spend his last days in confusion and fear.

Putting a biting dog to sleep is the safest and kindest thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

STEP THREE: PREPARING YOUR DOG FOR ADOPTION

Having decided that your dog really must have a new home and that his temperament is suitable for a new owner, take him to a veterinarian for a complete check up and any necessary vaccinations. Bring all vaccination up to date, not just rabies.

If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, do it now! Placing your dog intact could put his life and well-being in serious jeopardy. No reputable breeder would be caught dead adding your dog to a breeding program unless it came from a well known dog fancier in the first place. The only kind of "breeder" who'll be interested in your dog will be a puppymill. Wholesale dog brokers seek out cheap or free intact purebreds for resale to puppymills or research laboratories. Watch out, too, for private owners looking for a mate for their own dogs. Spaying or neutering -guarantees- that your dog will not end up in a puppymill or in the hands of a "backyard breeder". It's the best way to insure that your dog will be adopted by a family who wants him only as a best friend and member of the family. Give your dog a brighter future - make the appointment today!!

Groom your dog! Get rid of all those mats and tangles and give him a bath, in that order. Make sure he's neatly trimmed. If you can't do these things yourself, take him to a groomer. Get rid of his old rusty choke chain and buy a nice, new, strong collar and lead. You want your dog to look beautiful and make a good impression on prospective adoptors. Make sure he's clean and well-dressed! Fill out our "evaluation questionnaire". Be honest. You'll be giving this to the new owners. If you need help in grooming your dog, email The Mid-Atlantic Chow Chow Club and we will be glad to help.

STEP FOUR: WRITING AN AD

There's a trick to writing a good ad that will generate interest while not misrepresenting the dog and also do some preliminary screening for you. At the very least, the ad needs to give a concise description of your dog, his needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number. The description should include his breed, color, sex, the fact that he's neutered (you -did- do that, didn't you?) and an indication of his age. Hints: if your dog is under a year and a half, state his age in months so he'll be perceived as the young dog he is. If he's over three, just say that he's an "adult". Many people wrongly believe that an older dog won't adjust to a new owner. If your dog was bred and raised properly, this isn't true. There are definite advantages to an older dog ("what you see is what you get", they don't chew anymore, they're already housebroken, etc.) and you should point these advantages out to your callers.

In your ad, emphasize your dog's good points: Is he friendly? Is he housebroken? Well-mannered? Loves kids? Does tricks? Don't keep it a secret but don't exaggerate either. Knowing his name doesn't make him "well-trained"! Next, pre-qualify homes by stating any definite requirements: fenced yard, no cats, kids over 10, whatever. Try to state these in a positive way saying "Kids over 10" sounds better than "No kids under 10". Always state that references are required. This lets people know that you're being selective, want to do what's right for your dog and prepares callers for the barrage of questions they'll be asked.

*Never* include the phrase "free to good home" in your ad even if it's true. If possible, don't put in any reference to price at all. While "free" will generate a lot of calls, most of them won't be the kind of people you're looking for. Save yourself the trouble of sorting the wheat from the chaff right from the start. Not specifying a price will give you a lot of latitude. You can easily discourage an unsuitable prospect by telling him the dog costs $700 and just as easily give the dog free to that perfect family if you so desire. Set a reasonable adoption fee to help cover your advertising and spay/neuter expense. The key word is "reasonable". Don't expect the new owner to give you the total "investment" you have in your dog. By the same token, someone who's unwilling to pay a small amount may not be able to afford the dog's future upkeep and medical expenses. A reasonable range might be between $75-150.

Your ad should look something like this:

Rottweiler: young adult male, neutered. Friendly, housebroken. No cats. Fenced yard, references required. Karen 555-1234

Call your local newspaper and place your ad. It can take 6-8 weeks to find a good home for your dog, so plan on advertising for several weeks. If you can't afford that, nearly every community has "shopper" publications offering low cost (or even free) advertising. Make flyers with a good photo of your dog and post them on community and grocery store bulletin boards, at vets' offices, pet supply stores, grooming shops, etc. Get the word out among your friends, relatives and co-workers. Be patient, persistent and creative!

STEP 5: SCREENING CALLERS

Talking to prospective adopters can be frustrating and time consuming. To help you along, we've included the adoption applications we use. Make copies and fill in the information as you speak to your callers. It's easy to get people talking about dogs and this information will help you choose the right family. To save time, you can also mail the application to your callers for them to fill out and return to you.

After getting the caller's name and phone number, the first thing you should ask is whether or not they have children and what their ages are. If your dog isn't good with kids, be up front with the caller right away. The next question should be whether or not they currently have pets, what kind they are and what sex. If your dog isn't good with cats and they have one, forget it! If they already have a dog, make sure it is of the opposite sex. Dogs seldom get along with dogs of the same sex and fights can be serious trouble. If you didn't have your dog spayed or neutered (shame on you!), make sure the caller's other dogs are. Unwanted puppies are a leading cause of an unplanned (one way) trip to the animal shelter! Do not even consider placing your dog with someone who plans to breed it!

If the family has no pets or dogs now, find out if they ever had any and what happened to them. Did they die of old age? Run away? Get hit by a car? Did they have to "get rid of it" because of a behavior problem or because they moved to a new home? The answer will give you an idea of what the future may hold for your dog. Stay away from anyone who's had quite a few dogs in a relatively short period of time. Your dog probably won't stay with them long either.

Does the family own their home or rent? If they rent or live in a condo, does the landlord or condo association approve? Get the landlord's or condo association's phone number and call to check for sure. Do they have a fence? How tall is it and what is it made out of? Get their address and check it out. Do they really live there, is there really a fence and is the neighborhood the kind you feel comfortable in? Would the dog be easily stolen or injured by neighbors?

Has the caller had a dog before? How much do they know about the breed? Find out what kind of dog "personality" they're looking for. Many people don't have the slightest idea what your breed is all about and may not like its temperament and characteristics.

Find out what they expect from a dog and if their expectations don't match your dog's nature, the home won't work. If they're inexperienced or have never owned a dog before, are they willing to accept your advice on handling and care? Are you prepared to educate them?

References: Get the phone number of their vet (if they've had pets before) and two other personal references. Call them! Explain to the vet and the references that John Doe is interested in adopting your dog, that you love your dog and want to make sure John Doe will give it a good home. Ask the vet whether the former pets were given annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were they in good condition and well-groomed? What happened to their past pets - died of old age, hit by car, etc? How long have they known this person? Does the person have a fenced yard, etc.? This will give you an idea how well they actually know your caller. If they were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person? You may get different answers than you expect either investigate the caller further or scratch them off your list.

STEP 6: IN PERSON INTERVIEW

Most of your callers won't get past your telephone interview. Once you've chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, you can make an appointment with them to see the dog. Actually two appointments are in order: one at your home and one at theirs. Going to their home lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there. It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back home with you if things aren't as represented, if you think there'll be problems or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing.

If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on "neutral" territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog and home and may show hostility or even fight.

If the family has children, ask them to bring them along to your home. You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the dog. Some allowance should be made for kids' natural enthusiasm but if these children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by their parents, you're asking for trouble!

Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don't give them your dog. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn't seem quite right, even if you can't explain what it is, don't take a chance on your dog's future. Wait for another family!

If you're not sure about someone, call us at 609-728-5857 or email MacChow. We'll be happy to help you with your decision.

THE LAST STEP: SAYING GOODBYE

Congratulations! You've finally found a great new home for your dog. We know it wasn't easy. After all the soul-searching, preparations, advertising and interviews, your dog is ready to go to his new family. Set aside a special time for you and your dog to take a last walk together. We know you'll cry, too. Do it now, in private, with him, so you're clearheaded when he has to leave. He may be confused about being left with strangers and you don't want your emotions to upset him further.

After both home interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide whether or not they really want to adopt your dog. You want to make sure they understand the commitment they're making. While they're deciding, get a package ready to send along with your dog. This package should include:

There are a few more things you need to explain to the new family before they take your dog home. Even a well-housebroken dog may have an accident during the first day in his new home. The dog will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new family, learns new rules and even mourns the loss of his "old" family. Most dogs adjust within the first few days, others can take longer. During this time, the new family should stick to the dog's old schedule as much as possible and avoid forcing the dog to do anything unpleasant - taking a bath, obedience training, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. until he's had a chance to settle in a bit. Have them take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them.

Have the new family sign an adoption agreement with a waiver of liability. The adoption agreement will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You should use the waiver even if your dog has never bitten anyone. You don't have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have misrepresented the dog to his new owners. Keep a copy in your records.

Make sure the new family understands that they should contact you if the adoption doesn't work out. Let them know you'd like to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems.

Be willing to take the dog back home if things don't work out the way you both expected. Keep their address and phone number on file and ask them to notify you if they move. Make sure they have our phone number. We're always there to provide help and advice.

PUREBRED RESCUE

Purebred Rescue helps to find new homes for dogs. Because of the overwhelming numbers of dogs in shelters, many rescue groups can no longer accept dogs given up by their owners. Purebred Rescue can still help you by including your dog in their public listings of dogs available for adoption. You, as owner, are still expected to do the majority of the work to find your dog a good home and keep the dog with you until it is placed. Most rescue groups have requirements to be met before your dog can be listed:

- Your dog must pass a pre-adoption evaluation by a rescue volunteer.

- Your dog must be spayed or neutered and vaccinations brought up to date.

- You must agree to help the rescue volunteers by continuing to look for a new home yourself and being honest about your dog's temperament, history and the reason why he needs a new home.

Dogs that are granted listing privileges stay with their owners while Rescue and their owners look for new homes through advertising and special events. Suitable applicants will be referred to you for further screening. Sometimes a dog can be placed quickly but it usually takes at least 4-8 weeks to find the right family. A donation for this service, while not required, is appreciated to help cover advertising, postage & telephone expenses.

If your dog absolutely cannot stay with you any longer and you have done all you can to find him a home, he may be eligible for a Rescue "foster home" if space is available. Donations to help pay for your dog's care while in a foster home are usually expected. Please understand that although Rescue volunteers love all animals and especially the dog, they are human beings with limitations. They can't work miracles and they can't always help every dog. There are just too many of them and not enough good homes to go around.

The American Kennel Club can put you in touch with the national or local breed rescue nearest you. Many of these clubs provide advice to dog owners, potential dog owners and referrals to rescue services. They can help answer your questions about evaluating your dog's adoption potential, screening new owners and tell you how to find more information about dogs, their training and care.

To reach the American Kennel Club, call their main switchboard between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, or write to:

The American Kennel Club 51 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10010


DOG INFORMATION QUESTIONAIRE - SURRENDER AGREEMENT

Dog's registered name: _______________________________________

Call name: ____________________ Sex: _______ Color: _________