The ABCs of Adopting a Purebred Dog From an Animal Shelter

German shepherds in a kennel
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If you’re smitten with the idea of sharing your home with a purebred dog, chances are that there’s a breed rescue group or shelter in your vicinity with just the right pup in need of a family.

According to statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 25 percent of dogs who enter shelters are purebred.

To help these deserving dogs find loving homes, we’ve put together a helpful primer on locating — and adopting — your own purebred companion.

The Many Breeds Up for Adoption

From Dachshunds to Dandie Dinmont Terriers, practically every breed out there has a rescue group that works to find new homes for dogs who’ve been displaced because of unforeseen family circumstances — such as a divorce or an owner’s sudden death — as well as other crises, like the sudden shuttering of a puppy mill.

According to Sheila Balter of Cavalier Rescue USA, you can find dogs of various ages and temperaments through breed rescue groups. Most dogs available for adoption range from adolescents to seniors, which can be advantageous for prospective owners because they get a solid picture of a potential pet’s size, temperament and health status. Although it’s not impossible to find a puppy through a purebred rescue group, it’s rare — and the few puppies who are available tend to get adopted quickly.  (On Vetstreet dog breed and cat breed pages you can often find information about specific breed rescue groups under the "finding" tab.)

People often think that dogs found at shelters or through breed rescue groups are special-needs pets with health or behavior problems. The reality is that plenty of nice, healthy canines are available for adoption, including purebreds, crossbreeds, mixed breeds, young dogs, adult dogs and senior dogs.

“There’s really any pet you could imagine,” says Kim Saunders, vice president for shelter outreach and public relations at Petfinder. “The reason is because the pets on Petfinder are posted by our members — over 13,500 shelters and rescue groups. These groups encompass everyone: large, well-heeled humane societies; small-town animal control agencies; and foster-based rescue groups, which may focus on one species — dog or cat — or on a particular breed.”

How to Find an Adoptable Purebred Pup Online

Thousands of breed-specific rescue groups across North America post their adoptable pets on sites like Petfinder, where you can search by breed, age, sex, size and location. Petfinder's search results also include dogs in shelters, but the types of purebreds found at shelters vary across the country.

“Out in the Midwest, you see a lot more herding dogs, while in the Northeast, you may see more bully breeds," Saunders says. "In cities, you tend to see small dogs, like Chihuahuas in San Francisco and Philadelphia.”

The presence of certain breeds in the media also influences when certain breeds show up at shelters in larger numbers. Following the release of the movie 101 Dalmatians, lots of people got the dogs, decided that they weren’t a good fit for them and then gave them up to shelters.

In the market for a specific type of dog, either purebred or mixed breed?

You can do two things to improve your chances of finding your dream dog: First, set up a search on Petfinder, so that every time a pet of that type is added to the site, you’ll be notified. You should also contact shelters and breed rescue groups to let them know what you’re looking for, ask what you can do to meet any screening requirements and check back with them regularly.

“Letting them know about your specific desires will be helpful for you, so that the next time a pet that matches what you want does come in, they would have you top of mind,” Saunders says.

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