|Barked: Fri Jan 4, '13 5:39am PST |
|Meet the dog and spend some time with him before you agree to take him.
Adopting a dog sight unseen is rarely a good idea. I did it with Ember - Her previous owner literally walked into my place of employment, asked if I wanted her or not and if not she was getting dumped elsewhere. I had about 5 minutes to decide. I had 12 years of socializing, training and rescue experience - I knew that I knew nothing about her, and how hard this could be and I still had a hard time getting through those first months.
She was extreme - Dog aggressive, severely reactive, working line energy levels, infested with parasites, infection and emaciated... Most dogs aren't like that. But the point remains that you don't know. What you've found out via Craigslist adds up to nothing. "Up to date on shots" is the mantra irresponsible people love to pull out to make themselves look credible.
"Friendly" and "potty trained" are relative terms, pretty subject to personal interpretation. Many people have no idea if their dog is actually friendly or not. Maybe he is friendly with them and only them, but since they never leave the house they've never seen him try to take a bite out of a stranger. Ember's owner told me over and over how much she loved other dogs and wanted me to let her into the group of small dogs I was supervising at the time. Ember had loved her Husky brother - she had never even seen a small dog and indeed, later tried to kill the first one she saw.
Other people are outright lying.
The only way to know for sure is to meet him - and even then, as has been pointed out, you still won't see his true colors for a couple months. 2 weeks to start to settle and adjust, 4 - 6 weeks to start to feel comfortable, 4 - 6 months to feel at home. Expect behavioral changes at each marker - for better or for worse. Some dogs are on their best behavior at first because they're afraid of getting in trouble, others act out because they've given up on life.
If you can't meet him, ask lots of very specific questions that can NOT be answered with "yes" or "no." For example, "When was the last time he met another dog? What kind of dog was it? How did he react to the new dog? How many children has he met? What did he think of them?"
By cycling through a lot of these types of questions on a range of topics (and it doesn't hurt to ask the same question different ways), you can start to pick out inconsistencies if the person is lying to you. You can also figure out really quick if they have any idea who their dog is. I knew Ember was unsocialized with other dogs because when I asked her owner, "How does she act with other dogs?" she answered, "Great! She loves playing with her brother! They would play all day!" Her previous owner didn't even recognize dogs outside of her brother, which told me quite accurately that there were not any.
Most importantly, if this seems fishy or you have a bad feeling about what you're getting into, don't do it. There are thousands of dogs in need of a home, ASAP. It's hard to walk away, but this doesn't have to be the one.
ETA: I always say, every dog up for adoption was given up for a reason. Your job as a potential adopter is to figure out what that reason is, and if it's compatible with your life. Ember's reason was that she was a working dog no one had any interest in. That's fine, because I wanted a working a dog.
If you find yourself feeling like you need more guidance, contact rescue groups or look up local dog trainers. You'll have to evaluate them too, but they can likely help you. When I was working as a trainer, we used to welcome people who didn't have a dog yet to hang around and get a better feel for working with rescue dogs or puppies, and what certain breeds were typically like.
Edited by author Fri Jan 4, '13 5:49am PST
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