by Vicki DeGruy, Wisconsin Chow Chow
Before you get started.....
The simplest definition of "Chow
Rescue" is finding new homes for abandoned or unwanted Chow
Chows. The whole job involves some skills you might not think would
have anything to do with rescue: you're a boarding kennel manager, a
groomer, a vet's assistant, a trainer, a teacher, a public relations
& media whiz and an advertising agency all rolled into one! You
certainly don't have to born with all these skills - you can pick them
up along the way. The major qualifications for the job are common
sense, determination and of course, a love for Chow Chows.
"Chow Rescue" can be
conducted by one individual but is much easier when you can find
others to help. Currently there is no one national organization for
rescue efforts. Work is being done by some regional Chow clubs but
most of the job is carried on by individual owners, breeders and
fanciers. If there is no group in your area, you may want to start
First you'll need to decide how much
time, money and kennel space you can afford to devote to this work.
Rescue is much harder than it looks and can become a full-time job!
Whether or not you can take in an abandoned Chow for foster care will
depend on space available, needs of family members and other pets,
your job and other demands on your time. Talk it over extensively with
your household before accepting your first rescued Chow.
Sources of Chows to rescue .....
One of your first decisions will be
just which Chows you can rescue and where they will come from. As hard
as we try, we can't save them all - there are just too many. If your
facilities are limited, you may choose to rescue only emergency cases,
strays or Chows scheduled for euthanasia at animal shelters. You may
also decide to accept Chows given up by their owners. Some groups, in
order to avoid becoming a "dumping ground" will only act as
advisors for people wanting to get rid of their Chows. It pays to
start small until you see just how much work you can handle.
Letting people know .....
Once you've decided on some basic
guidelines for your program, you can get the word out. The first place
to call is the Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare
Committee so we can list you in our Rescue Directory. We get calls
for help from all parts of the country and refer them to rescue
services in their areas.
Contact your local animal shelters,
humane societies, police departments, veterinarians, groomers and
boarding kennels to let them know that you are willing to accept Chows
or advise on their placement. Most kennel clubs carry listings of
breed rescue groups, also.
Give your service a name like
"Greater Chicago Chow Rescue or something similar. Make up a
simple business card or flyer that provides information about your
service that they can keep on file. This same flyer or card can be
posted on public bulletin boards, at vets' offices, pet stores, etc.
The flyer can also contain information about Chows you may have for
adoption. Periodically check with the places where you've left your
card to make sure they're still aware of you. You'd be amazed how
those cards travel or get lost!
Dealing with animal shelters ....
You'd think that most shelters would
welcome your help with open arms, but it isn't always so. To
understand why not, you have to look at it from their point of view.
While their business is to save as many animals as possible, they have
to be concerned about who they're saving them to. Shelters have been
burned by people who turn out to be puppymillers, resale brokers or
just plain irresponsible. They have legitimate reasons for checking
you out. If you're currently breeding Chows, expect them to be doubly
suspicious! "Breeder" is a dirty word to the shelter
managers who have to inject euthanasia solution into the veins of the
results of "breeders'" work on a daily basis. They want
proof that your own breeding isn't adding to pet overpopulation and
that the dogs they release to you won't be bred themselves.
You can establish a relationship with
a reluctant shelter through volunteer work, references from vets and
other shelters, and getting to know the manager and staff personally.
The Chow's reputation can be both a blessing and a curse. Many
shelters don't want anything to do with them and will be delighted
that you'll take them off their hands. Others do not consider Chows
(and some other breeds) to be adoptable at all and euthanize them,
period. If you consider the dog to be a good adoption candidate, you
may be able to covince them to release it to you.
Keep in mind that tax-funded shelters
and animal control agencies operate under state and local laws.
Private shelters are somewhat more flexible but even they usually have
a board of directors that sets policies for operation. If you run into
a policy or law that prevents you from rescuing a Chow, try to stay
calm and reasonable. Blaming the staff or harassing the shelter won't
do any good and only hurts your reputation. You can sometimes become
the exception to the shelter's rules by approaching the right people
in a professional manner.
Many shelters, especially tax-funded
ones, require an adoption fee before a dog can be released to you.
Most also require that you provide proof that you've spayed or
neutered the dog if it hasn't already been done.
The easiest way to get on a shelter's
bad side is not to do what you promised! If you've made an agreement
with them, live up to it. Another kiss of death is to promise to help
with a dog and then not be heard from again. Many shelters complain
that "rescue says they'll come but they never show up". If
you can't help, be courteous and honest enough to tell them. Don't
leave them hanging.
We also recommend that you provide
the shelter with the name and address of the adopting family and a
copy of the adoption contract when the dog is finally placed. Since
all shelters love happy endings, photos of the Chow in its new home
are appreciated, too!
One of rescue's pet peeves is that
shelters seldom call for help untill it's the Chow's last day to live.
It can sometimes take at least 24 to 48 hours for you to arrange to
pick up and house a dog. Ask your shelters to please call you as soon
as a Chow arrives so you can be prepared. The law requires that strays
be kept a certain number of days for their owners to claim them. You
can use that time to get ready to pick up the dog if it's not claimed.
Some shelters will try to place the dog themselves, only calling you
as a last resort. Encourage them to call you right away so you can
refer potential adopters to them. Keep in close touch with your
shelters so you know what's happening there.
If the shelter absolutely won't
release an adoptable Chow to you or you aren't able to provide a
foster home yourself, you can still refer qualified adoptors to the
shelter directly. We recommend that you go to the shelter first or
send someone knowledgeable to evaluate the dog's temperament and
health. If you can, offer to give the Chow a bath and grooming to make
it more attractive. Chow Rescue services that don't have kennel space
have been able to get many Chows placed directly from shelters by
advertising, the use of flyers, kennel club referrals and word of
Chows given up by their owners .....
Because of limited kennel space and
the great numbers of Chows already in shelters in danger of being
destroyed, some rescue services are no longer accepting Chows from
owners unless it's an emergency. Whether or not you can take these
dogs will depend on your own space and rescue load. The Chow Chow
Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee has published a booklet called "How
To Find A Home For Your Chow Chow" that tells owners how to
place their own dogs without resorting to rescue or the shelter.
Copies of the booklet are available from the Committee. You can xerox
them or ask the committee to send you free copies. You can save
valuable time by mailing out a copy to an owner rather than asking and
answering the same questions over and over to each caller. Not all
owners will care enough about their dogs to follow the booklet's
advice but in many cases, it will convince them that the
responsibility for their dog's future is theirs and that a shelter (or
rescue) isn't just an easy way out.
Before accepting someone's Chow into
your rescue program, it's essential to find out why they want to place
the dog. One of the common reasons (or excuses) is "we just don't
have time for him anymore". This can mean anything from just
being tired of the responsibility of owning a dog to behavior problems
that the owner's not willing to work on. Getting to the real reason
takes careful, tactful questioning, patience and an ability to read
between the lines. Read "The Job Evans Guide to Counseling Pet
Owners" for a good background in dealing with people and getting
to the truth.
Your questioning is very important
and you'll get better at it as time goes on. People often
"forget" important aspects of their dog's behavior and
temperament. They use terms like "nipping" and
"protective" when they really mean an out and out bite. They
make excuses. Listen carefully to what they tell you and ask them to
describe any questionable instances to you: What exactly does the dog
do when approached by a stranger?, How serious was the
"nip"?, etc. See the sections on "Evaluating
Temperament" and "Problem Dogs" for more
information. Don't forget to ask where they bought the dog. The
original breeder has a moral obligation to help, provided it's in the
dog's best interest.
Be tactful and professional when
talking to owners. This, too, takes practice and often, self-control!
It's hard to stay calm and unemotional when an owner tells you his dog
is worthless, not mean enough or whatever. It's also hard to tell the
owner of a poor adoption candidate that the best thing may be to put
the dog to sleep. People don't realize that you may have received 5
(or 15!) other calls today, all wanting help. They may have no idea
that no one will possibly want their beloved, but biting, dog. Your
tone of voice and choice of words could make the difference between
that dog being dumped by the side of the road or being brought to you
where it might have a chance. Gently explaining the facts of life
about dangerous dogs and being sympathetic to the owner's fear of
euthanasia could keep a bad dog from going to someone who can't
possibly handle it.
You might even get calls from people
wanting you to help sell their dogs for them! They feel the dog is
valuable or want to "get their money out of it". Just
explain that you're not a licensed dog dealer and that your main
concern is for the dog's future welfare. You can point out that if the
Chow was originally purchased as a companion, they've most likely
already received more than their money's worth. That usually gets the
point across, but if not, you can offer to help them find a home once
money is longer their main objective.
If you accept a dog from an owner,
ask for a donation toward the dog's care. At the very least, ask the
owner to bring the dog up to date on DHLP and rabies vaccinations and
get a heartworm test. Some owners will care so little about the Chow
that they'd rather dump it than "pay" you to find it a home.
If that's the case, I just accept the dog as is. Whenever possible, I
ask the owner to bring the dog to me rather than pick it up myself.
It's really the least they can do!
A transfer of ownership waiver should
be signed by the owner before handing over his Chow. This waiver
protects you in the event the owner changes his mind and wants the dog
back after it has been placed. It also protects you if you decide the
dog is not adoptable and is destroyed. Another protection is the
owner's written certification that the dog has never bitten anyone. A
copy of the signed waiver should be given to the owner. In some cases,
the owner might really want to keep his Chow but doesn't know how to
handle a behavioral or training problem. By offering to work with them
to solve the problems, you might avoid a rescue later!
Kennel space and foster homes ....
Before you accept a Chow, make sure
you'll be able to keep it for as long as it takes to place it. It
isn't easy to find homes quickly and you may have the Chow for several
months. Shifting a dog from one foster home to another is hard on our
"one family" breed so you must make a commitment to stay
Although it's easiest to work with
and socialize a rescued Chow when it's in your own home or kennel, you
may be able to work out an arrangement with a sympathetic boarding
kennel owner or vet for a short-term stay. It's not a cheap solution
but may help get an emergency case out of a shelter when you don't
have a home available.
Naturally, the most ideal place for a
rescued Chow to stay is right in your house but that may not be
practical. It's a good idea to isolate shelter dogs from your own dogs
for a time to prevent the possible spread of parasites or diseases. If
you already have a multi-Chow household, they may not accept this new
stranger in their midst. Chows of the same sex usually don't get along
and they tend to do best in male/female pairs. On the other hand, if
you've been living comfortably with different "groups" of
Chows in your house, rotating them inside and out, adding another
"rotation group" might not be that difficult for you. A
crate is a must for dogs that may not be used to being left alone in a
room or away from home.
If you have kennel runs, check them
over to make sure they're secure. Most Chows aren't diggers or
jumpers, but some rescued ones are, at least during the first few days
while they settle in. Some of them fear being abandoned again and will
try to escape out of anxiety. Dogs given up by owners are sometimes
spoiled and may never have been in a kennel before. They generally
cause the most trouble during this initial period. (Shelter dogs and
strays are usually just happy to be somewhere warm and dry with
regular feedings!) Expect some barking from the new tenant and some
grumbling from your own dogs. Things usually settle down after a day
or two as everyone accepts the new arrangements. Some rescues are very
quiet and withdrawn the first few days, like being in shock.
Some rescue services have used
private foster homes to care for rescued Chows. This can work very
nicely and then again, it can be more hassle than it's worth. It works
best when the person or family is well known to you, has had Chows
before and, preferably, training experience and is fully prepared for
what they're getting into. The foster family needs to be committed to
caring for the Chow for the duration and have proper facilities. They
also need to be available for adoptors to visit. Arrangements between
you and the foster family to pay for food and medical care must be
made ahead of time. The question of liability for damages the rescued
Chow may cause while in the foster family's care also must be answered
ahead of time. Who will be responsible if the Chow bites or injures
someone? Don't let these considerations stop you from using a suitable
foster home if one is available but don't wait till something happens
before thinking about them.
Health care .....
All strays and shelter dogs can be
assumed to be in need of shots and wormings. Give them as soon as
possible! Dogs given up by owners are usually behind in their shots,
too. Owners may vaguely remember when the dog saw the vet last and
it's usually been longer than they thought. We recommend that all
rescued Chows receive a health checkup from a qualified veterinarian
along with DHLP and rabies vaccinations and a stool and heartworm
check. You can give your own DHLP shots to save money but rabies must
be given by a vet. A heartworm test should be part of the routine
examination and is an absolute must if you live in an area where
heartworm is common.
Besides isolating rescued dogs for a
period of time, the best protection you can have is to make sure your
own dogs are up to date on vaccinations, are well-cared for and
healthy to begin with. We recommend giving your dogs annual
intra-nasal Bordatella (kennel cough) vaccines along with your regular
shots. They're safe even for baby puppies and can be given at home to
save money. DHLP shots include a Bordatella vaccine but we've found
it's not as effective as the intra-nasal. Just like the common cold,
kennel cough comes in different "strains" and the
intra-nasal vaccine protects against most of them. Kennel cough is an
air-borne virus. A dog doesn't have to be physically exposed to a sick
dog in order to get it. Bathing a rescued dog right away helps to
remove bacteria and germs that could spread disease.
I don't want to minimize the health
risk that comes with taking in rescued Chows but having rescued dogs
since 1985, my own dogs have only become ill twice. Both times
involved kennel cough and happened before I used intra-nasal vaccines.
You should be careful if you have baby puppies at the critical
immunity stages and with very old dogs in failing health. The highest
risk dogs from shelters are usually baby puppies who've not received
vaccinations yet and may have come in contact with a disease. Most of
the risk of introducing disease can be handled by common sense, good
management and proper care of your own dogs.
Health Problems .....
Most people want to adopt healthy
pets. They're reluctant to adopt a Chow that may need surgery or other
costly care. What problems you can fix and how much to spend depend on
the dog's overall adoptability, your budget and your total rescue
load. If you're operating on a bare minimum of funds, one dog with a
serious problem could bankrupt your entire rescue program. This is
never a black and white issue. Your personal feelings toward the dog
can get in the way of practicality. You'll have to set your own
Talking to other rescue groups about
how they deal with problems can help you decide what to do. Working
with a health problem that can be cured with a short-term course of
treatment may be more practical than trying to save a dog with a
chronic condition that will cause expense and heartache to its new
owners. Put yourself in the place of the adopter when evaluating a
dog. Would you want to be saddled with a dog that has a chronic and
potentially expensive health problem?
Entropian is probably the most common
health problem in rescued Chows. It's also one of the least expensive
to treat. You may be able to find people willing to adopt a Chow that
needs surgery but the dog's adoptability is greatly enhanced by having
the work done while still in your care. Blindness or inherited eye
conditions that lead to blindness have been seen in rescued dogs and
require some soul-searching before trying to place a dog. Heartworm
treatment is one of those gray areas. It's a one-time cure but it's
expensive. The cost is usually a minimum of $200 and can go as high as
$500. Asking a new owner to assume this cost is unrealistic. If the
cost is totally outside your budget or fundraising program or if the
dog's adoptability is average or below, you might consider putting the
dog to sleep in favor of spending money on more adoptable dogs.
Hip Dysplasia .....
Hip dysplasia can be very common in
rescued dogs. It's been estimated that as many as 50% of all Chows are
affected by it. How can you tell if a rescued Chow has HD? You can't
really know for sure without an x-ray but there are things you can
watch for. A dysplastic dog may show any or all of these symptoms. An
obvious red flag is lameness or limping in one or both rear legs.
There may be stiffness when getting up or after exercise. A dysplastic
dog is often very careful how he positions himself as he sits or lies
down. Some of them have a hard time finding a comfortable position and
HD symptoms can be more noticeable in
a dog that's walking around the house rather than gaiting around the
yard at a trot. At faster speeds, even an unsound dog is able to
balance himself so that he appears to be almost normal. It's not as
easy to do this at a walk and irregularities can show up. Watch how he
stops and stands. A sound dog will stand squarely, solidly, with his
weight balanced equally on all four legs. A dysplastic dog usually
can't stand this solidly and will often sway a little in his rear as
he shifts his weight around in order to stand comfortably. Give him a
little nudge and you might be surprised to see how easily you can
throw him off balance. If you put your hands on the hips of a
dysplastic dog as he walks or climbs stairs, you can sometimes feel a
"popping" or "grinding" sensation in his joints.
If you suspect a dog may have HD,
it's a good idea to do an x-ray before investing any more money in his
care. HD, like heartworm, is treatable but the cost can range from
$100 for a simple pectineotomy to $1000+ for hip replacement. Some of
these treatments may only have a temporary effect. Placing a dog with
mild HD may be possible but the adoptor should be made aware of the
condition before he or she takes the dog.
Skin and hormone problems .....
Strays and dogs from neglectful
owners may come in with problems that look more serious than they are.
Poor diet, particularly generic dog food, can cause allergies, hair
loss and hot spots. Fleas and parasites are another cause. Unless you
have reason to suspect the problems have a more serious cause, a flea
dip and a decent diet are the first things to try. Many shelters
automatically dip new dogs when they arrive to get rid of any creepy
crawlies. Coat recovery from parasites or bad diet can take time, but
you should start to see an improvement and new hair growth within 2-3
weeks. If not,suspect a thyroid or hormone disorder that should be
treated. Keep in mind that adolescent Chows may going through their
coat change and will look scruffy for awhile no matter what you do.
The same goes for bitches that may have weaned a litter before their
rescue. In both cases, although the coat looks bad, the skin
underneath should be healthy.
Thyroid pboblems cause coat loss and
changes in behavior and skin pigmentation. A test to determine thyroid
levels usually costs between $25-40. Most thyroid deficiencies can be
treated through daily medication. This is an example of a chronic
problem that can usually be dealt with but you must inform the adoptor
of the problem and be sure they understand that the dog must have
medication every day for the rest of its life. Reproductive hormone
problems also cause coat loss and changes in skin pigmentation that
look similar to thryoid disease. Spaying and neutering usually cures
it immediately. Spay/neuter won't have much effect on a thyroid
Mange comes in two forms: sarcoptic
and demodectic. Sarcoptic mange is contagious and can be cured with
one or two dips and proper kennel management. Any age of dog can be
susceptible. Demodectic mange is not contagious and is usually found
in adolescent dogs. Mild cases of demodectic mange may clear up by
themselves, but more serious conditions, called
"generalized" mange can result in complications and staph
infections that are difficult and expensive to treat.
Accidents and emergencies .....
You may be called about a stray Chow
that's been hit by a car and needs care immediately. There may not be
time to evaluate temperament or consider the dog's future
adoptability. Fortunately, people tend to rally round a dog like this
and help you find money to pay for treatment. Some vets will discount
their services considerably on an emergency case. There is a strong
emotional involvement with these dogs and it can be hard to be
objective. Ask the vet to give you an honest appraisal of the dog's
injuries, what's involved to save it and what the dog's future might
hold before committing yourself.
Pregnant bitches .....
Pregnancy can also be considered a
health problem! Many shelters automatically euthanize pregnant bitches
rather than bring even more (and probably mixed-breed) puppies into
the world. I've had several pregnant bitches come into rescue, usually
strays. In these situations, you have no way of knowing what the sire
was, if he had a good temperament or whether he was healthy. A
pregnant bitch presents several problems: the cost and time involved
in whelping and raising the litter and bringing the bitch back into
condition, along with keeping track of and enforcing spay/neuter
contracts on several puppies for their lifetimes. One solution to the
problem is spaying the bitch prior to delivery. This, again, is a
personal decision that has to be based on what's best for the dog and
Serious health problems can create a
dilemma for rescuers. The most common and potentially expensive health
problems I see are heartworm infestation and hip dysplasia. The cost
to treat and cure these and other problems can be prohibitive. There
are many factors to take into consideration when deciding whether to
treat or destroy an unhealthy or unsound dog: the age of the dog, the
seriousness of the problem., cost, whether it's curable or chronic,
the dog's temperament, adoption potential, availability of homes and
the needs of other rescued dogs. These are personal decisions. It
helps to be practical and try to keep your emotions in check.
Depending on your area and situation, you may discover that you could
save five healthy lives for the cost of saving one dog with a serious
problem. More on this can be found in the section on Problem Dogs.
Spaying and neutering .....
We recommend that all rescued
Chows be spayed or neutered before placement. Animal shelters that
place dogs with spay/neuter contracts report that less than half of
the new owners actually alter their dogs as promised. Contracts are
helpful but once the dog is out of your hands, you have no real
control over what's done with it. No matter how beautiful the Chow,
allowing a rescued Chow to reproduce is simply adding to your own work
in the long run. It's become our policy at Wisconsin Chow Rescue to
spay and neuter all Chows before placement. The purpose of rescue is
to keep our breed safe and in good, responsible hands.
Most pet owners are just not capable
of breeding wisely and keeping track of their puppies. Remember that
one bitch, bred only once, can be responsible for 1,000 descendants in
only four years! Even if an adoptor doesn't mention breeding, you can
be sure that the idea will cross his mind when the bitch next comes in
season or when their friends mention how much they'd like a pup of
their own. The thought of having a houseful of cute, fluffy Chow
babies can be just too much to resist. They don't think that having
just one litter will do any harm. There are also people who'll lie
about their intentions and plan to use their new rescued Chow as
backyard breeding stock.
Considering all the expense and
trouble involved in rescue, it makes no sense whatsoever to allow the
Chows you save to continue to add to the population problem! Spaying
and neutering before placement gives you true peace of mind.
Advertising your adoptable Chows as already altered will eliminate 90%
of undesirable applicants to begin with. The people who're simply
interested in a loving companion will be glad this service has
provided for them.
Puppies too young to be altered
should be placed with spay/neuter contracts that include a provision
for enforcement and a substantial spay/neuter deposit. A provision for
enforcement means that your contract must include actions that you can
take if the agreed terms are not met. Specify that you have the right
to repossess the puppy if it has not been altered by a certain date.
The additional provision that any future litters born of this dog
shall be turned over to you is also effective. Be prepared to take
legal action if your contract is not honored! Spay/neuter deposits are
an effective incentive. The deposit should at least be large enough to
cover the cost of the surgery. The larger the deposit, the better!
Hold up your end of the bargain by promptly returning the deposit upon
receiving a veterinary certificate showing the surgery has been
Early Spay/neuter ......
Some veterinarians and animal
shelters are now altering puppies and kittens as young as 6 weeks of
age. An article in the July 1991 issue of Dog Fancy reports that the
Medford, Oregon SPCA has spay/neutered thousands of animals between
8-12 weeks of age since 1974 with no serious ill effects. A study
conducted by the University of Florida found little difference in the
behavior or health between animals altered at 7 weeks or 7 months of
age. Dr. Kathy Salmeri, one of the researchers in this study, noted
that a review of veterinary literature fail to show any scientific
information on what the best age for neutering actually is. The
commonly accepted age of 6 months seems not to have any basis in fact.
More than 50 humane organizations now perform spay/neuters at very
early ages including the Massachusetts SPCA, the Memphis animal
shelter and the Commission on Animal Control in Chicago.
What would be the advantage of early
spay/neuter? It's been shown that only 50%, at best, of adoptive
owners of shelter puppies actually spay or neuter them as promised. By
altering rescued puppies before adoption, we can be 100% sure they
won't go on to produce more unwanted animals and free ourselves of the
hassle of enforcing contracts. This is definitely an option worth
It only makes sense that a clean,
well-groomed Chow is more attractive to potential adoptors. Most stray
Chows are in such awful shape when they arrive that you'll need to
groom them right away just to find out what health problems might be
hiding under the hair!
It's tempting to shave off a
neglected, matted coat to save time and start fresh. If at all
possible, don't do it. Shaved Chows aren't very appealing to adoptorc
who expect the usual long coat and a shaved Chow can take several
months to get his coat back. Shaved adolescent Chows can look bad for
quite a while. The adult hair isn't growing in well yet but the puppy
hair has stopped growing.
Everyone knows that a Chow should be
fully groomed out and mats removed before bathing but...a really
filthy matted coat is almost impossible to get a comb through. Most
mats are made of dead hair that's trying to fall out. Bathing the
Chow, mats and all, can loosen the dead hair enough that mat removal
will be easier once the original dirt is out. A hefty dose of cream
rinse helps. This first bath may not penetrate fully to the skin and
you may have to bathe again after you've removed the worst of the
mats. Mats that can't be combed out or broken up with a mat splitter
can be scissored off. All this takes more effort than shaving but can
pay off by getting the Chow adopted more quickly.
Grooming a newly arrived Chow gives
you an idea of what care it received before and what its temperament
is like. Some of these dogs have never felt a brush or water hose in
their life! They can be terrified of being lifted onto a grooming
table or into a bath tub. If you think the Chow may bite you out of
fear, slip on a muzzle just long enough to get the dog on the table or
in the tub. I like to leave a lead on during the bath - rescued Chows
are champion bathtub escape artists. With experience, you'll perfect a
"one-handed" shampoo method, the other hand being used to
hold onto the unhappy dog. The next baths and grooming sessions are
never as wild as the first one! When the new owner picks up the Chow
is a good time to give a "hands-on" grooming lesson. They
need to know what tools to use and the most effective techniques. Be
realistic about grooming requirements and shedding. Emphasize that the
beautiful, well-groomed dog they're taking home today didn't get that
way by magic and won't stay that way without regular brushing!
See also Grooming
Your Pet Chow Chow
Training and socialization......
Most rescued Chows haven't had much
of either one! Despite this, few rescued Chows are canine terrorists
or vandals. Even adult Chows who've always lived outside can be
housebroken in just a few days. Most of them have never been taught to
come when called, walk properly on lead or stay in a crate. Most of
the people who want to adopt your dogs won't have a lot of experience
in the training department. You'll help make your placements more
successful by giving a rescued Chow a short-course in the commands
used most often in every day living. Training sessions, whether at
home or in class, give you an idea of the Chow's basic temperament and
whether he'll accept discipline from his new owner. The subject of
dominance is discussed more fully in the section on Problem Dogs.
All Chow people know that Chows
require different methods of training and motivation than most other
breeds. Physical force is seldom needed or recommended. You should
always be cautious when correcting a newly arrived rescued Chow whose
temperament you're not sure of yet. The Welfare and Obedience
Committees can help you with training problems or refer you to a
qualified trainer in your area for advice.
Exposing the rescued Chow to a
variety of situations gives you more valuable insight into its
temperament and reactions. Some of them are born socialized but most
of them never left their owner's yard except to go to the vet. Take
the rescued Chow along on car rides, walks, anywhere where it can see
new people and new things.
"Kid-testing" is definitely
a good idea. . (Whether or not stray Chows should be placed in
families with children will be discussed later in the manual.)
Kid-testing should always take place under your supervision and with
the dog on lead to prevent potential problems.
Evaluating temperament ......
This is probably the most critical
part of Chow Rescue but like many other subjects in this manual,
there's not always one right answer to any question. We've based our
recommendations on experience but others may have had different
experiences and offer different advice. Many of us are now looking
even more critically at Chow temperament because of the steadily
increasing numbers of unwanted Chows and the lack of homes available.
In some areas, only the very best dogs are considered adoptable.
You'll have to set your own guidelines on acceptable temperament based
on what's best for you, your adoptors and the best interests of the
What is a "good"
Good temperament means different
things to different people. We cherish the aloof, independent,loyal
and stubborn nature of our Chows but the reality is that this breed
was never meant to be for everyone. Most people don't want a Chow that
acts like a Chow - they want a Golden Retriever in a Chow suit! If
you've worked with a number of Chows, you know there's a wide range of
temperament among individuals. There are Chows that act like Golden
Retrievers just as there are Chows that don't like anyone but
themselves. Is there a happy medium somewhere?
You'll have an easier time defining
what good temperament means to you if you target the market you're
"selling" to. Most people who want to adopt a Chow have
never owned one before and their impression of the breed is based on a
picture they saw in a book. True "Chow people" are few and
far between. To adopt the greatest number of Chows into the greatest
number of homes, you'll need dogs that can be worked with by people
with little or no experience.
What would describe the
"average" person who calls about adopting a Chow? He or she
is usually married, both work and they have 1-3 children under age 10.
If they had a dog before, it was probably a popular breed like a
Cocker Spaniel or Lab. The kids and their friends are always running
in and out, the household is a busy one. They want a safe, reliable
dog that can fit in. What would be their idea of a good temperament in
Families like this need a stable dog
that doesn't startle or snap easily, is confident enough to handle the
noise and bustle of a busy home, is protective yet wise enough to know
the difference between friend and foe. He shouldn't have to tolerate
abuse from children but his reaction should be to walk away, not growl
or bite. He should be able to tolerate handling from strangers while
on walks, at the vet, groomer or boarding kennel. He needs to be loyal
but adaptable enough to adjust to a stay in a boarding kennel or with
a friend while the family goes on vacation. We feel this is a
reasonable description of "good" temperament that also fits
within the breed standard. A Chow doesn't have to be a Golden
Retriever in disquise to fit within this definition.
Problem dogs ....
Now that we understand
"good" temperament, what is a "bad" one? Truly bad
dogs are rare but many dogs have problems. We get into another gray
area here because what's a problem to you might not seem like a
problem to me. "Chowpeople" might be willing to tolerate a
wider range of behavior than the "average" family.
The most common temperament problems
we see are shyness, fear-biting, aggression and dominance. They can be
man-made or inherited. Man-made problems occur from abuse, improper
training or lack of any training or socialization. Some man-made
problems can be corrected with training and good care. Inherited
problems are there for the duration. They can be modified but never
quite cured. Not all of us will agree on what conditions make a Chow
unadoptable or training methods to try. The following discussion is a
collection of opinions based on experience with a large number of
Suspicion of strangers is part of the
Chow's basic nature. Scooting under tables to hide from guests is not.
Shyness results from heredity or lack of socialization. Shyness can
also come from abuse, but the majority of shy dogs were born that way.
Socialization and obedience training will help build confidence and
may make the Chow into an acceptable pet. A dog who inherited his
shyness will never be as confident as the one who just needs
socialization. Shy dogs may be able to be placed in quiet households
with adults who understand and are willing to work with the dog's
problem. It's essential to be totally honest with the adoptors about
the dog's personality and make sure their expectations are not higher
than what the dog may be capable of. Many people adopt shy dogs
because they feel sorry for them and are convinced they were abused.
They often baby the dogs and can make the problem worse without
Fear-biting is an extreme form of
shyness. Many shy dogs would never bare a fang if their lives depended
on it. Fear-biters can and will bite anytime they feel threatened,
whether or not a threat actually exists. Dogs react to a perceived
danger by "flight or fight". Shy dogs choose flight.
Fear-biters don't know what they should do so they try a little of
each. They give mixed signals. They look like they're going to run
then they change tactics and rush you. Sometimes they fight and run at
the same time! I feel that fear-biters are more dangerous than
outright aggressive dogs because they're so unpredictable. You never
know what will set them off and how they'll react. Fear-biters are not
mentally stable and we recommend that they should not be considered
adoptable. Some fear-biters were once normal dogs that were abused to
the breaking point. These dogs will break your heart because you can
see that they might have the potential to return to near-normal if
placed in the "right" hands. We'll go into the issue of
biting dogs in more detail in a little while.
Dominance and aggression .....
These two subjects aren't the same
but can be closely related. Aggression means different things to
different people. First, let's look at some definitions of these
Dogs have been described to us as
being "mean and aggressive" for just barking at strangers.
Dogs defending themselves from abuse have been called "aggressive
or vicious". Protection, schutzhund and herding dog trainers call
a bold, courageous dog "aggressive". The dictionary defines
"aggression" as: "an unprovoked attack or
invasion" and "aggressive" as: "boldy hostile;
quarrelsome". Those are the definitions we'll use here to discuss
"aggressive" behavior. I'll use the dictionary's definitions
in this discussion.
The dictionary defines
"dominate" as: "to rule or control by superior
power". The word "alpha" is often used by behaviorists.
It means "first". Most people think the terms
"alpha" and "dominant" are interchangeable. I
don't. I consider alpha and dominant to be two different, although
related, things. An alpha dog -wants- to be first. A dominant dog
already -is- first. This can be a big difference! Chows, by their
nature, have "alpha" personalities. They feel above everyone
else. Their pride and dignity won't allow them to grovel before the
average master! You can tell the alpha's easily both as puppies and
adults. They push everyone else away from the food dish, they're the
first out the door, they're not afraid of much and they fight the
hardest when you make them do something they don't want to.
Being "alpha" isn't all
bad. Alpha dogs are confident, secure and they make the best show
dogs. Alpha dogs can make very good pets provided their owners have
stronger personalities than they do! An alpha dog may challenge your
leadership from time to time but will obey you if you keep the upper
The trouble starts when an alpha dog
is allowed to become dominant. The dominant dog -knows- he has the
upper hand, whether -you- know it or not! Dominant dogs are made, not
born. Lack of training and discipline and/or the owner's failure to
recognize and deal with an alpha's challenges are what creates
dominant dogs. It can be hard to recognize a truly dominant dog.
They're often very well-behaved, loving and easy to live with - untill
you push them or threaten their leadership position. Most dominant
dogs aren't outwardly aggressive but will react with greater violence
than other dogs. Alpha dogs challenge - dominant dogs defend.
Alpha dogs challenge when they feel the leader is weak enough to be
defeated. A dominant dog knows he must defend his position against
challenges from subordinates and will use whatever force he feels is
necessary. A dominant dog considers you to be subordinate to him. He
(or she) won't tolerate corrections or discipline. And he will bite
you if that's what it takes to keep you in line.
Many adolescent Chows coming into
rescue are alpha's on the verge of achieving dominance. They're
usually spoiled brats who were never taught manners and were allowed
to get away with murder. Most of them have potential if you can take
them through boot camp and place them with owners who can enforce
commands. These dogs will walk all over someone who's afraid to get
tough when necessary so your skill at screening adoptors is important.
An older dominant dog who's enjoyed
this position for some time is another story. This dog isn't going to
give up his throne easily, if at all. Who wants to play second fiddle
when they're used to leading the band? We can't read their minds so we
don't know just what actions they'll consider to be a challenge. An
innocent thing like taking away a forbidden object could lead to an
"unprovoked" attack. Forcing these dogs into a submissive
posture like a down/stay is asking for it! Dogs like this require
professional training with an aggression specialist experienced with
Chows and even then they may not be suitable for adoption by anyone
less qualified. Truly "vicious" dogs are rare and are
considered to be mentally disturbed. If you examine the details
sorrounding an aggression incident, very few cases can truly be
considered "unprovoked", at least from the dog's point of
Dogs that have bitten ....
It used to be that every dog was
entitled to "one free bite" or so people believed. That
phrase has been widely misunderstood. The owner of the biting dog has
always been held financially liable for any damages unless it's proved
that the dog was deliberately provoked. Homeowner's insurance usually
covered that first bite making it "free" for the owner. If
the owner could prove that the dog had never bitten before, the dog
was "free" from being destroyed as a dangerous animal. Some
people still believe that "one free bite" means their dog
has the right to bite someone once. Nothing could be further from the
Because of increasing legislation and
insurance regulations, there are few options open for an unwanted dog
with a bite record. Homeowner's insurance will usually cover the first
bite incident but no further ones. Nearly every state has a
"dangerous dog" law. In most states, a dog that has bitten
(whether or not it was his fault) is considered to be a dangerous dog.
Under the law, even a dog that's shown a tendency to bite can be
considered "dangerous". In some states, it's illegal to sell
or give away a dangerous dog. In any state, you're required to tell
the new owners about the dog's complete history. In order to keep a
"dangerous" dog, the law may require special confinement and
mandatory liability insurance.
Rescue services find themselves in a
Catch-22 when it comes to placing a dog that's bitten. If you're
honest and obey the law by telling adoptors about the dog's history
and what the person will have to do to keep it, no one in their right
mind will want it. If you don't tell the adoptor, you've left yourself
open for a lawsuit that could cause you to lose your home and
everything else you own if the dog should bite someone. Heaven help
you if that dog injures someone and the court finds out that you
withheld information or actually misrepresented the dog!
The "pitbull" issue has
made it tough for any dog that bites or has a tendency to. Some cities
and counties have proposed new laws that would actually make owning a
Chow illegal. These laws, up till now, have been fought in the courts
using the argument that people have a Consititutional right to own
property. (Animals are considered property). Recently, a Wisconsin
judge ruled that our Constitutional rights don't include owning a dog!
This ruling is expected to open up even more attempts to ban certain
breeds that are considered by some people to be
Now, more than ever, we have a
responsibility and an obligation to provide people with safe, reliable
My own rescue service has had to draw
some hard lines as to which Chows are adoptable and which are not.
State laws regarding dogs that have bitten or injured people and
potential liability problems have to be taken into consideration. We
have a hard enough time placing Chows with good temperaments much less
ones that require special handling and special homes. Because of this
and bad experiences with some rescued Chows, we now destroy dogs when
we realize they're beyond our help. Some of the dogs that we've had to
euthanize include dogs with bite records, fear-biters or overly shy
Chows, and Chows that show unpredictable, unprovoked or unnecessary
aggression toward people. In some cases, we also destroy Chows that
are overly dominant and won't tolerate normal corrections and
You'll have to use your best judgment
and experience when evaluating a problem Chow. In some cases, you'll
need to search your heart to decide what is really best for you, the
Chow, the breed and the public. Despite your best efforts, a Chow may
prove to be too much too handle or too big a libabilty risk. Just as
with any breed or mixed breed, some dogs are unpredictable, mentally
unstable or dangerous, whether it's a result of poor breeding or bad
handling. When and which Chows to euthanize is a personal issue and we
don't expect everyone to agree with our policies. You'll have to set
your own. We advise that you put yourself in the adopting family's
place as you evaluate a problem Chow. If you were an inexperienced
owner seeking a loving, reliable pet, would you want and be able to
handle this dog? In many cases, the answer will be no.
Some rescue groups refuse to accept
Chows with known temperament problems. We feel we cannot turn a dog
away to be dumped on an unsuspecting owner or shelter or turned loose
if the owner refuses to accept his responsibility for it. If
necessary, we will accept the dog and have it humanely destroyed. If
such a Chow is being given up by its owner, we explain the difficulty,
ethics and liability involved in placing it. We discuss the options
available, if any, and explain the euthanasia procedure. This
discussion needs to be handled tactfully and with sympathy. Many
owners love their dog even if it is dangerous and cannot face the
responsibility of taking its life. You will need to gently explain the
reasons why they must not turn this job over to someone else or put
other people in danger by giving the dog away. If a Chow in a shelter
is showing similar problems, we explain the situation to the shelter
personnel and recommend that the dog be destroyed. Again, you'll have
to make your own judgments and set your own standards regarding Chows
with serious temperament or health problems.
Putting a Chow down is never an easy
thing to do but it can sometimes be the kindest rescue of all. Chows
with temperament problems have a high abuse potential and can become
"boomerangs", returning to rescue over and over again,
sometimes with more problems than when they left. When in doubt,
consider what is best for everyone concerned - the dog, yourself, the
public and the breed. Taking a Chow with a questionable temperament
out of circulation permanently may be the wisest thing, not only for
the individual dog but for the breed as a whole. If you ever make a
mistake, make it on the side of safety! If you have to make this
decision someday, try not to be too hard on yourself or feel guilty.
Turn your attention to the Chows you -can- help. You did your best and
everything you could for that particular Chow. Sometimes things are
just beyond our control and we have to turn the problem over to a
Evaluating Chows in shelters ......
For the most part, Chows in a shelter
don't show well. They're usually scared, confused and not in a mood
for company. Your first impression of a shelter Chow while in its
kennel or crate can be misleading. Retreating to the back of the run
with a low growl could be considered normal. Charging the gate with
teeth bared is not! A Chow that retreats while barking hysterically,
tail down and body hunkered over, should be regarded with suspicion.
If it quiets down after a short time, when it sees you're not a
threat, it may have potential. If it continues with its hysterics even
though it's obvious that you're not threatening it in any way, it may
be a fear-biter or too shy to be adoptable.
Talk to the shelter worker who's had
the most contact with the Chow. A dog with a stable temperament will
have managed to make friends with at least one person there. If the
Chow's been there for some time and no one can get near it, you should
have serious doubts! Find out how the Chow was captured, how long
before it could be handled and what's been done with it so far. Ask
the shelter worker to put a lead on the Chow and take it out for you
so you can go for a walk. Outside, away from the noise and confusion,
a stable Chow should allow you to handle it without growling or trying
This initial interview can really
only tell you that the dog might be adoptable. It'll take more time
and testing to know whether the dog will be a good pet and what kind
of owner it needs. If you can't take the Chow home with you and plan
to refer adoptors directly to the shelter, you'll need to spend more
time with the dog to get a clearer picture. You can make
recommendations to the shelter about the dog and what type of person
it should go to.
Chows of unknown background .....
Stray Chows have no history and you
have no way of knowing how the dog was treated in the past or whether
or not they have ever bitten anyone or shown aggression. It's been my
experience that most stray Chows have exceptional temperaments and are
well-suited for many families. However, you need to use extra care
when evaluating and placing stray Chows. As a safety measure, I
usually will not place a Chow of unknown background in a family with
small children. It can't be said often enough - better to be safe than
Selecting new homes ......
This is the most time-consuming part
of rescue. Each Chow will need different circumstances and your job is
to find a home closest to the ideal. Hardly anyone has acres of room
to run and someone home all day to care for the Chow! You'll need to
set some guidelines as to what you feel is the right environment for
the average dog. These guidelines should be flexible enough to adapt
to the individual case.
Rescue has a big advantage over an
animal shelter. The sheer numbers of animals that shelters must deal
with makes it hard to screen new owners properly. Rescue can take more
time with placements and there isn't as much pressure. Shelters seldom
say no to an unsuitable owner because it can mean the animal's death
if not placed within a few days. Rescue can pick and choose their
adopters. So be choosy!
You'll be spending alot of time
interviewing, asking questions and educating about the nature of our
breed. Some rescues save time by preparing an information packet and
adoption application that they mail out to callers first. Interested
parties fill out and return the application for further screening.
Most of your callers will have no
idea what living with a Chow is like. Be honest about the good and bad
points of our breed! Leaving out important details will only guarantee
that the dog will be returned to you to repeat the adoption process
again, leaving behind a discouraged and disillusioned adopter. Make
sure your new owners know what they are getting into and what their
commitment is expected to be.
Ask lots of questions and listen
carefully to the answers! Two of the most important questions you
should ask are: "Have you ever had a dog before and what happened
to it?" The ideal answer is: "It died of old age." but
more likely you'll hear one of the following: "he ran away"
or "he got hit by a car" or "we got rid of him
because....he barked too much, chewed too much, we couldn't housebreak
him", "we moved", etc. Any one of those answers imply a
serious lack of responsibility and commitment to their pet. If you
give them a rescued Chow, it's likely that they'll eventually get rid
of him, too! Find out what people expect from a dog and if their
expectations are realistic.
Other important questions involve
whether they own or rent their homes, the number and ages of their
children and other pets, how much they know about Chows and the care
of dogs in general, whether or not they have a fenced yard and their
willingness to take advice from you on the care and training of their
adopted dog. Get the name of their veterinarian to find out about the
care given to their last pets and if renting, check with the landlord
to see if he allows pets in his units.
Information about finances is
relevant - you want to make sure there will be adequate funds for
medical care and quality food throughout the dog's life. The new
owner's income level may or may not affect the care the dog will
receive. Wealthy people don't always make responsible owners. The
priority the new owner gives to the needs of the Chow is a better
estimate. A good question to ask during an interview is "how much
do you expect it will cost per month to properly care for a dog?"
You'll be surprised to see that most people's estimates fall short of
what the dog will actually cost them. Be realistic about expenses and
be sure that the adopter is prepared to handle them.
Some people will resent all these
questions and become defensive. Tactfully explain why you must be so
careful to find the right home and that you're acting in the dog's
best interests. After all, this dog was abandoned and not properly
cared for the first time around. He trusts you to do this right!
People who don't understand this attitude will probably not be good
owners of the Chow you've rescued so carefully and at great expense.
After the initial phone screening,
you can invite the families you feel are suitable over for a visit.
Have them bring the kids so you can see firsthand if they are
well-behaved and how they interact with the Chow. Some rescue groups
visit the adopter's home as part of the screening process.
Unfortunately, some people will lie about their home and intentions.
If you have reason to doubt anything they tell you, check things out
Trust your intuition and gut
feelings. If something about the adopter doesn't seem quite right,
even if you can't quite put your finger on it, don't give them a dog! A
good rule of thumb is to never place a dog with someone you wouldn't
want for a good friend. If you wouldn't feel comfortable having
these people as guests in your home, don't give them a dog! Be honest
with yourself as well as with the adopters. Don't let your enthusiasm
to place a dog get in the way of your common sense. Is this dog really
right for this family? Do they honestly have time to work with it?
Will they really care for it properly? Would they be wiser to wait
until a more suitable dog comes along? Would you be wiser to wait
until a more suitable family comes along? Better to turn people away
than to put a Chow in a home that may be hazardous to his life.
Rescue placements can be just as
susceptible to impulse as shelter placements or pet store purchases.
To avoid letting an adopter's excitement run away with him, you can
require people to wait at least 24 hours before making a decision on a
dog. "Sleeping on it" can be just as good for you as for the
potential adopter. You may realize later that this home is not the
right one for the dog. This "cooling off" period gives you
both a chance to back out.
See also "How
To Find A Home For Your Chow Chow".
Saying no .....
Frankly, most of the callers you
interview won't be suitable homes for the dogs you have for adoption.
You'll need to learn how to say no in a polite way that doesn't offend
the caller. This isn't as hard as it sounds. Most callers aren't
accustomed to being interviewed in the first place - they expect the
usual backyard breeders' enthusiastic responses to their questions of
"how much?" and "when can I pick him up?"
When I get a call, I usually start
the conversation with "Let me tell you a little about our
program..." After this brief introduction to rescue, the caller
already understands that they're not dealing with the average
advertiser nor the average dog. I explain that we're trying to match
the right owner with the right dog and find the best home we can.
"Let me ask you a few questions to see if we might have a dog
that would be right for you." After getting a few answers, I
already have a fair idea whether this caller is one that might be
worth talking to. If not, there are several ways to end the
conversation gracefully. Even if this caller is obviously not suitable
because of the way he's treated his past pets, be tactful. Suggest,
for example, that he wait until his children are older before getting
a dog or that perhaps there are breeds that would be better suited to
Trial adoption periods ......
We offer a two week trial period on
our adoptions. An adopter may return a Chow for refund of the entire
adoption fee during that trial period, no questions asked. We use this
trial period mostly for the adopter's benefit. Some people feel more
secure having this option and it allows for unforeseen problems.
But...offering a trial period should never become a substitute for a
good screening process! Many Chows do not adjust well to brief periods
in a succession of homes. Work to get your placements right the first
Adoption contracts ......
A written contract should accompany
every adoption. Keep the original for your records and send a copy
with the adopter. Ours is based on contracts used by other rescue
organizations and animal shelters. I believe in keeping contracts
simple, easy to understand and easy for the adopter to live up to.
It's a good idea to have a lawyer look over your contract to make sure
it is legal and enforceable. You don't want to find out later, in
front of a judge, that your contract won't hold water!
A contract is a "meeting of the
minds" and an agreement between two parties. Those two factors
are essential to the enforcement of any contract. There has to be an
undersdanding between the parties - a meeting of the minds - on what
the contract requires and the ability of both sides to live up to it.
Be sure your adopters understand what they are signing and what your
terms mean. Read the contract through to the adopter and give him a
chance to ask questions if he's not clear on any of the points.
There are several critical things
every contract should include:
1) a provision that enables the
enforcement of the contract. You can put as many terms in the contract
as you want but unless you specify a penalty for violating those
terms, you have no way of enforcing them. A common penalty is
repossession of the dog.
2) a provision that requires the
return of the dog to you in the event the new owner can no longer keep
it. Make sure the adopter fully understands this provision and that he
may not sell or give the Chow to anyone else without your permission!
The dog must be returned to you.
3) a liability waiver releasing you
from responsibility for the dog's future behavior, actions and
damages. No matter how careful you've been when evaluating the dog's
temperament and screening the new family, the future can't always be
foreseen. This provision will protect you, in most cases, from being
held liable for the dog's actions. This provision will not protect you
if you have in any way misrepresented the dog's temperament or have
not used good judgment in selecting a proper home!
Refer again to the section on "Problem
Dogs". Your best protection against possible legal action
against you is to not to place dogs with questionable temperaments or
bite records at all. Be safe, not sorry!
No contract by itself, no matter how
binding or well-written, can guarantee a good secure future for your
rescued Chows. Your best guarantee of a good home and a successful
placement is your good judgment, common sense and caution when
evaluating dogs and adopters. No contract, by itself, substitutes for
good follow-up and communication after adoption either. Remember that
you have to hold up your end of the bargain and the contract, too. (see
Contracts are a tool. How the tool is
made and used will determine how effective it is.
Adoption fees .....
A fee of some kind is necessary to
recover some of your expenses, however, don't expect the fee to cover
all of your costs. How much to charge is a personal decision and will
be based on many factors including what the local market will bear.
Most people want puppies and today, backyard bred puppies complete
with papers can be had for as little as $50 in some areas. Our club's
fee averages $75 - $100, just enough to cover spaying or neutering .
Some rescue groups feel that higher
fees insure that the new owner will put a greater value on the Chow
and be less likely to "dump" it if things don't work out.
Personally, I haven't found that to be true. Some people will get rid
of a $500 dog as easily as a $50 one. If you've screened your homes
carefully and maintained high standards in selecting adopters, the
kind of people you choose won't need a high fee to remind them of
their dog's value as a companion. The "right" people will
cherish a rescued Chow just as much as an expensive, pedigreed one.
Guarantees and refunds ......
Because the history and inheritance
of most rescued Chows are unknown, they can't be guaranteed in the
same way as a dog from a reputable breeder. Your contract should state
that dogs are adopted "as is". If you do a careful medical
screening prior to adoption, you should be able to catch any major
Be realistic and practical during
your evaluations of rescued dogs. Your service will gain a better
reputation if you offer people dogs that are healthy and mentally
sound. Represent dogs honestly! Don't hide physical or behavioral
problems fbom the adopters. Use good judgment and common sense. Put
yourself in the place of the adopter when evaluating a dog. Would you
want to be saddled with a dog that has a chronic and potentially
expensive health problem or a difficult behavior problem?
Since few things in life are a
certainty, there is always a chance that you and your vet may miss a
health condition in your examinations. During the two week trial
adoption period that we offer, we encourage the new owner to take the
dog to his own veterinarian for an exam. If anything serious is
discovered that the adopter doesn't want to deal with, we take the dog
back and refund the adoption fee. In certain cases, if serious,
unforeseen problems develop in the future that the owner can't afford
to treat or cope with, we allow the adopter to exchange the dog for
another rescued Chow.
Just like a responsible breeder, your
job doesn't end when the Chow leaves for its new home. It's your
responsibility to check in with the new owners on a regular basis to
see how the relationship is going, advise on any developing problems
and make sure the dog is doing well. If you've chosen the right homes,
you'll have made many new friends who'll be anxious to share their
Chow's antics with you!
Our club sends annual Christmas cards
to all adopters and most respond with photos and letters. These
"happy endings" are a godsend on days when rescue isn't
going so well. They're happy reminders of all the good work you've
done! Some rescue groups hold annual reunions or picnics for adoptive
owners and their dogs.
Good follow-up is necessary to make
sure the Chow remains with its new family, is being well-cared for and
that the owners are living up to their agreement. People can be
strange sometimes - they may be embarrassed to call you about a
problem. When things aren't working out, some people are ashamed to
tell you that they don't want to keep the dog anymore and may give it
away without your knowledge. They may move and forget to let you know.
It's essential that you keep in touch and avoid these problems.
You have to keep up your end of the
bargain, too. Be available for advice and help. If your contract
states that an unwanted rescued dog must be returned to you, then you
must be prepared to take it back - no matter what. If you move and
don't notify your adoptive families, how will they find you? What will
happen to their Chow if things don't work out? You are the safety net
for these dogs for the rest of their lives. Don't let them down!
If you're like most of us, the bulk
of rescue costs will come out of your own pocket. Needless to say,
this can put a big strain on your finances! Adoption fees will not
cover the total cost of boarding, feeding and providing medical care
for rescued Chows.
If you're a member of a regional Chow
club, the club can help initiate projects to raise money for a
"rescue fund". Rummage and bake sales, fun matches, donation
drives, raffles - all can be easily organized and fun. They allow
members who may not otherwise be able to get involved to be able to
help. There are many skilled artists who are willing to create a
special piece of Chow artwork that can be reproduced for sale or
raffled off. Tee shirts, sweatshirts, pins and other jewelry are good
When accepting Chows given up by
owners, ask for a donation toward the dog's care. If you're picking up
a Chow from a shelter, depending on the shelter's policies, you may be
able to convince them to waive their usual fee. By working closely
with local veterinarians, you may be able to negotiate lower rates or
discounts. Return the favor by referring adopters to these
veterinarians for future care of their adopted Chow. Ask local feed
and pet supply stores to donate food and equipment in exchange for
publicity. Scouring the classifieds and hunting through rummage sales
can find bargains in crates, used equipment and fencing.
Under certain circumstances, The Chow
Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Fund makes grants available to Chow Rescue
groups and rescue volunteers toward the medical expenses of rescued
Chows. Supported expenses include spaying and neutering, vaccinations
and heartworm testing. For more information about the Welfare Fund and
to request a grant application, contact the CCCI Welfare Committee at
the address shown at the end of this article.
Advertising & publicity .....
Many people shy away from newspaper
classified ads because they're afraid of the attracting the wrong kind
of callers. Classifieds are still a good way to advertise pets! They
cover the widest territory at a reasonable cost. The keys to
success with classifieds are how you word the ad and how you handle
the callers. There's a trick to writing a good ad that will
generate interest and do some preliminary screening for you.
As mentioned in the section on
spay/neuter, advertising your rescued Chows as already altered will
weed out all the puppymillers and would-be breeders right off the bat.
At the very least, the ad should give a description of the dog, his
needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number.
A typical ad can look something like this:
CHOWS FOR ADOPTION: young adult dogs,
friendly, spayed/neutered, vaccinated. Fenced yards preferred,
references required. Reasonable fees. Chow Rescue 555-1234
Note the wording. "Young
adults" screens out people who only want puppies.
"References required" screens out most of the people who
would intentionally deceive you. "Fenced yards preferred"
excludes another segment of the population and "reasonable
fees" writes off the folks looking for free dogs. This will cut
down on your number of total calls, but more of the calls will be the
kind of people you're looking for.
If your budget allows, you can
include more detailed descriptions, more information about your rescue
program, etc. If you include the ages of the dogs in your ads and the
dogs are under two years old, state their age in months, not years. If
over two, just say "adult". State the requirements for a
home in a positive way. "Kids over 10" sounds better than
"No kids under 10". Does the dog have any special qualities
or good points that should be emphasized? Especially pretty? Loves
kids? Does tricks? Include them in the ad but don't exaggerate.
Knowing his name doesn't mean he's "well-trained"!
Take advantage of the special rates
some newspapers offer and always run your ads so that they'll appear
in Sunday's edition - the day with the greatest circulation.
Inexpensive advertising possiblilities are local weekly
"shopper" publications. Their ad rates are cheaper than a
newspapers and you may even be able to afford a photograph or
eye-catching border with your ad. You can ask your local feed supplier
or veterinarian to sponsor advertising for you. You both get publicity
at a reasonable cost.
Printed or xeroxed flyers with Chow
illustrations or actual photos of well-groomed rescued dogs can be
posted on bulletin boards. They get attention! Flyers are inexpensive
and you have more room to describe the dogs and your program Public
bulletin boards can be found almost anywhere - grocery stores,
churchs, banks, pet supply stores, veterinarians, factories, even at
K-Mart! Flyers can be mailed out to kennel clubs, trainers, groomers,
anyone who might be able to pass the information along to potentially
Newspapers are always looking for
local public interest stories. Your rescue service can make great copy
and get you the kind of advertising money can't buy. Call your area
papers and get the names of reporters in charge of writing this kind
of story. Then neatly type a brief "press release" about
your service and include some clear photos of well-groomed adoptable
Chows and send it to them. The release should be concise and include
the "who, what, where, how and why" of your work.
Contact local kennel and obedience
clubs for dates of shows and the possiblity of acquiring booth space
for publicizing your program. Some shelters may be willing to
cooperate with you and allow you to share space at their periodic
"adoption days". More and more kennel clubs are putting on
independent "dog fairs" and exhibitions at local malls.
These are excellent opportunities to publicize rescue and educate the
public on responsible ownership. An attractive booth can be set up
with miminal expense for decorations and flyers. Rescue groups from
other breeds may be willing to work together with you to share booth
space and expenses.
All of us encounter it at one time or
another. Burn-out is that depressing, hopeless feeling you get when
you're overwhelmed with the demands of rescue, have to destroy a dog
or just realize that no matter how hard you work, you may never solve
the problem of too many dogs and not enough homes.
There will be feelings of anger -
anger at those who've abandoned their dogs, anger at those who
continue to breed irresponsibly, anger at the ignorance so many people
show about responsible dog ownership and care, and anger at those who
turn their backs and refuse to help you.
Burn-out is usually a temporary
condition, but while you're in the midst of it, you don't know if you
can keep going anymore. There's no easy way to shake these feelings of
frustration and hopelessness. One of the best ways to deal with it is
to keep in touch with other rescue volunteers for moral support. We all understand these
feelings and can relate to what you're going through!
You may have to set limits for
yourself and learn to say no. It does no good to take in more dogs
than you can handle, care for and place in a reasonable amount of
time. It's easy to get in over your head! If you, your family and own
pets are being neglected because of rescue, then you need to cut back.
It's hard to say no, but the reality is that we can't save them all.
You need to keep things in perspective and try to achieve a balance
between rescue and the other aspects of your life. Take a break if you
When things seem hopeless, remind
yourself of all the good you have done, all the dogs that you've been
able to help so far. Look back on the successful placements you've
made and what you've accomplished. Remember that no matter how large
the problem may seem, each person can make a difference. Every effort
you make, no matter how small, is an important contribution. You may
not be able to save them all, you might only save a few, but each one
is precious, each one is a step toward solving the problem. Even if
you can only help one dog, that's still one less Chow that will die
alone, unloved and unwanted. Take heart and keep the faith!
Rescue assistance, education and