Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to find your next four legged running partner

Today I would like to address a question I get a ton, which is," I want a running partner of the four legged variety, where do I start?".  I am going to break this post down into three main sections:  Rescues, Shelters, and Puppies.

Rescues:  Hands down this is my favorite place to search for a partner, especially if you have a specific breed in mind.  Rescue groups usually foster dogs in foster homes, so the foster mom or dad gets to know a ton about the dog and it's personality.  They learn the activity level of the dog and dog's quirks if any.  They learn valuable information about the dog, like does the dog like cats, does the dog get along with other male dogs, how is the dog with kids?  Often dogs in shelters appear one way and then when sprung from "jail" act a completely different way.  MOST rescue groups are not on a time clock, so they really get to know the dogs before adopting them out.  MOST rescues have the dog's best interest in mind, so you will have to fill out sometimes a very lengthy questionnaire, complete with reference and vet checks.  MOST rescues will also complete a home evaluation upon approval of application.  I capitalize MOST because some don't, and that is fine, they aren't bad rescues, its just been my experience that most rescues are very thorough with their dogs and potential new homes.   Most rescues will let you inquire about any dog in their program, but if the dog is not a good fit, they will not adopt them out to you just because you want a specific dog.   Most rescue groups want to help fit the dog to the lifestyle that you live. Most dogs in rescue are not puppies, so you don't have to wait to incorporate them into your running schedule but you do want to introduce any dog new to scheduled running slowly.  That can be another post entirely!!!

There are both breed specific and non breed specific rescues out there!  I was a foster home for years for Australian Shepherd Rescue and Placement Hotline or ARPH,  as aussies are my breed of choice, and i wanted to give back to the breed I love.

Quill: Adopted and renamed to Maverick
Bella: Adopted and kept her sweet name Bella

Not all rescue groups are created equal so as always, beware.  Do your research!  The only negative about rescues really is that you don't know the dog's past health issues or their genetic predispositions, so you don't know their probability of getting genetically heritable issues like hip displaysia or eye conditions. As I said earlier, we mostly get in adult dogs and we can do a good guestimate of age based on teeth, but other than that, we really don't know much else about them unless they are an owner surrender.  

Shelters:  Another great place to find a running companion.  Most shelters let you meet the dogs, and some even let you have a trial run before you complete the adoption.  The only draw back is that sometimes dogs act one way at the shelter, and then completely different when they get home.  Being at the shelter can be a very traumatic event for some dogs.  Sometimes their real personalities are hidden behind fear.  If you are wanting to adopt a shelter dog specifically for running, talk to the staff and see what they think.  See if the shelter offers a meet and greet area to introduce other dogs in your household.  See if the person that relinquished the dog had kids or cats, and had any comments about why the dog was taken to the shelter.  With aussies, more often than not, the reason is usually too much energy.  The great part about taking a dog from a shelter is that you may have saved a life or freed up space for another dog if it is no kill shelter.   

Breeders:  This is a tough one, and one that I steer people away from, mainly because most people can't wait the year or even two for the dog to mature and the growth plates to close to start organized running.  IF you can wait and you are patient (which is tough for even me:), you can find some awesome puppies and breeders out there!  I am very lucky in that I have met many reputable, caring Australian shepherd breeders out there, but I have also come across those who are just out for making money, and really don't care about the welfare or future of the pup.  I will admit, finding reputable breeders in the breed you love can be tough.  Anyone can make a fancy website or FB page to promote their kennel and sell puppies.  Some even use very slick puppy brokers to sell their pups at a premium.  A reputable breeder will let you see the male and female, even meet them if they are both on site (note: sometimes a breeding may happen via AI or the female will travel to the male and then travel back home).  A reputable breeder will get references for you and your dog owning history, but will also provide references for them and let you talk to previous puppy owners.  A reputable breeder will do as many health clearances as they can on both the puppies and the breeding male and female, even as the female and male age.  If problems arise, a good reputable breeder will be honest with you and help you make decisions with your own dog.  A good reputable breeder will take a puppy or dog back, no matter what age.  I won't put a litter amount per year or a price amount per puppy on any breeder, but a good reputable breeder is not out to make money, but to further the breed by adding good genetics to the gene pool via their breeding's.  Their progeny are out there to better the breed, not add disease and poor conformation for a buck.  A good breeder will either talk to you or have you fill out a questionnaire before the pups are even born to make sure they have a good understanding of your life style and family, and will help pick the puppy out that fits best you and your family.

I have had good experiences with all three situations as one of my main competition and sometimes running partner was a shelter dog, and three of my dogs came from awesome breeders.  I also communicated with deuce and stella's breeder on when I could run with them and how much, and also kept my vet in the loop about their activities.  If you ever have a question about adding a four legged running partner to your pack, please ask!  I love helping people as they start their journey into running with dogs!

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