By Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA
I’ll start this post by stating the obvious: I love dogs! Like anyone with an obsession for dogs, I wish every single one on the planet could have it as good as my mutt Otis.
I’ll likely catch flack by also stating something that’s perhaps not as obvious: You should absolutely meet your puppy or dog before adopting, which rules out flying a puppy in from another state, or adopting a dog sight-unseen from a rescue in, for instance, Taiwan or Korea.
The problem with adopting from abroad
Over the years I have received so many distraught emails from new owners that I’ve lost count. As soon as I see the breed described as “Formosan Mountain Dog”, my heart sinks.
The Taiwanese rescue organizations—which it must be said, have their hearts in the right place—send photos and videos of the rescue puppy to excited potential adopters, invariably with description showcasing the dog’s excellent social skills with children, people and other dogs.
And then the new owners meet their terrified, under-socialized puppy at the airport, only to discover that the he’s frightened of everything and everyone, tormented and confused after a 10-hour flight, with no context to make sense of what just happened to him. And then it’s downhill from there.
With the rescue organization across the Pacific Ocean, the new owners have no recourse. My heart bleeds for everyone involved, but especially the puppy.
Search the net, but meet before adopting
I understand the allure of surfing the Internet for a dog. We found Otis on Pet Finder, and fell in love with her (and a couple of her siblings) from the images in our browser. But then we drove four hours from San Francisco to meet the litter, spent several hours interacting with each available pup, decided on Otis—and then drove back to across California to get our house ready (we had been out of town for several weeks), returning the following week to bring her home.
Many (but not all) of the Taiwanese and Korean rescue dogs, in contrast, are essentially feral, most having had no contact with humans during the first 18 weeks of life, the crucial socialization period, nor exposure to buses, cars, traffic, city sounds, skateboards, and everything else a puppy needs to incorporate into their worldview to thrive in our man-made world.
We have grown accustomed to buying anything and everything off the Internet, and this makes sense for shoes, computers, furniture and books. But you don’t need to resort to the Web alone to adopt your next four-footed companion. You may find what you think is a good match on the web, but make sure you can spend time with the dog before making a final decision.
Another reason to work with local rescues and shelters is that, if you find the dog does not fit your life, you have a humane and familiar organization that can help re-home the dog.
So, look closer to home, meet your dog or puppy and make sure it’s a healthy love connection.