Locally sourced: Get to know your puppy or dog before adopting

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, well, 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.


About the Taiwanese rescues: 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 they meet their terrified, under-socialized puppy at the airport 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.

Look, 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.

The Taiwanese 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.

On top of that, my issue with bringing in dogs from other countries is that the shelters in the United States are filled to capacity with homeless dogs, where you can meet, interact with and get to know your dog before bringing him or her home. And if it does not work out for whatever reason, you can work with the shelter to re-home the dog.

We have grown accustomed to buying anything and everything off the Internet, and this makes sense for shoes, computers, furniture and books. But with shelters all across the country filled to capacity, you don’t need to resort to the Web to find your next four-footed companion.

Look closer to home, meet your dog or puppy and make sure it’s a healthy love connection.

About Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life. I take a scientific and holistic approach to dog training. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf. The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life. Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
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