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My girlfriend is interested in getting a puppy. We have been doing some research before getting one, and the book "Before you get your puppy" says on page 9 of the linked PDF:

Make sure you test drive several adult dogs of your selected breed or type before you make your final choice. Test driving adult dogs will quickly teach you everything you need to know about a specific breed. Test driving adult dogs will also pinpoint gaps in your education about dog behavior and training.

And on page 26:

It is vital that you know what and how to teach your puppy, before you get him. So in addition to this book, read other books, watch videos, observe puppy training classes, and above all, test drive as many adult dogs as possible.

What is less clear is how we can find a dog to "test drive". I've done some searching and haven't found anyone offering that kind of service.

What are good options for "test driving" dogs?

Any information on what a test drive should consist of, and how long it should last would also be helpful.

Note that we are located in England, and the breed we would like is not a commonly available one here. Unfortunately we don't have any local dog owning friends that could help.

  • 3
    Do you have a strong reason for wanting a specific unusual breed? If you're not a seriously doggy person already, picking a breed based on preconceptions can land you in trouble, especially if that breed has issues which are less well-known. As a first dog, choosing one that's "easier" may be a better choice. There's a reason labs and spaniels are so popular - they're usually good-natured animals. – Graham Jul 26 '18 at 15:54
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    Maybe you can help a friend of the family take care of their dog while they are on vacation or something. – mathreadler Jul 27 '18 at 8:52
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    Just make sure that you get a breed that is fit for beginners. Even a difficult breed if trained properly by an experienced trainer will be nice to test drive, but could be horrible if trained by someone getting their first dog. – joelfischerr Jul 27 '18 at 12:10
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Fostering is a great way to see if you're ready to commit to a dog, contact your local rescues to see what kind of dogs are available.

The perks with fostering are:

1) You're helping a dog in need.

2) You do not need to keep the dog or find it a new home if you decide it's not for you.

3) Shelters typically provide all food and vet care, no cost to you.

4) You may end up falling in love with the dog you foster and keeping that one instead!

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    We've tried this with all our dogs - Anne, (wife), has an uncanny knack of bringing home dogs that result in option (4). – Martin James Jul 25 '18 at 1:22
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    I have some qualms concerning fostering with the goal to "test drive" as many dogs as possible. Dogs may develop anxieties when they are introduced into many families but are never allowed to stay. Fostering is great to get a feeling for how caring for a dog will be, but please refrain from perpetual switching dogs to "test drive". – Elmy Jul 25 '18 at 4:35
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    @YElm But surely going into a foster home is better for the dog than the alternative? They go into foster in the first place for the sake of the dog, not the human who fosters them. Either fostering is bad for the dog and shouldn't be encouraged, or it's a good thing that should be made available to as many dogs as possible. I see no issues with being a "frequent fosterer", but I suppose we could quibble over the calculus of whether it's more worthwhile to take care of one dog for its lifespan, or foster potentially dozens of dogs in the same time period. – Nuclear Wang Jul 25 '18 at 13:11
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    @YElm Fostering is a much better alternative to the cages they live in at a shelter. The dog gets much more love and attention as well as a comfort of being in a home. Shelter dogs get euthanized regularly (does vary from place to place), some places have time frames. For example: if not adopted within a week they get euthanized. Going into someones home for fostering prevents this from happening. – Rebecca RVT Jul 25 '18 at 13:46
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    @YElm I don't think Rebecca is suggesting one cycle through dogs daily or even weekly... but fostering them for a few months is a great way to get some familiarity while providing them with a better living situation even if only temporarily. Additionally, I think (speculation) fostering may have a positive effect on the dog's personality that may make them more adoptable once returned to the shelter, so it's win-win. – Doktor J Jul 25 '18 at 21:18
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I don't know specifically about England, but here in Germany, many pet shelters are looking for volunteers who (regularily) take dogs for a walk. Even if they might not have your specific breed available, interacting with different dogs will teach you a lot about them, and it will allow you to check if you're really that enthusiastic about the daily care a dog needs.

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    It is the same in UK - you can volunteer to walk the rescue dogs. We have done this often - the dogs seem to enjoy it fine, even though they don't, (usually), get to go home with us. – Martin James Jul 25 '18 at 9:56
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Other answers are good. One thing you might not have thought of is to go on a walk for an hour every morning and an hour every evening. See how you feel after doing this for a month. Don't allow yourself to miss a session. Can you see yourself sticking to that regime for the next decade rain or shine?

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    +1, first make sure you're not actually a cat person. – Mazura Jul 26 '18 at 3:04
  • This probably should be part of the selected answer :) . There are some differences in walking with a dog: – jay Jul 26 '18 at 22:27
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Many foster agencies will let you let you take a dog for Monday - Friday and then decide. They want to place the dog in a good fit.

Within a breed personalities differ. I would base the decision more on the dog.

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    "Within a breed personalities differ." Yup. That's why there's no such thing as a vicious dog breed, just dog breeds that tend to attract the sorts of people that mistreat their dogs until they turn vicious in response. – nick012000 Jul 26 '18 at 9:14
  • That is some pretty flawed logic. Are you actually asserting that there are no such thing as, say, dog breeds more inclined to hunt? That the only reason there are "hunting breeds" is because the owners are more likely to push their dogs to hunt? – RIanGillis Jul 30 '18 at 13:17
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As others have already stated, you'll definitely want to look at organisations that are looking for volunteers for both fostering but also dog walking.

For example, The UK's Blue Cross have a scheme which allows you to walk their dogs for them. I would definitely look at this option even if you think you're already set on your dog breed. I was absolutely set on a specific breed but then fell in love with another one just by meeting it. Don't rule out the option to change your mind. When you walk the dogs, you'll get an opportunity to meet many different ones for a short time (as Guntram Blohm pointed out).

As this RSPCA blog suggests, while you're searching for a new dog, you get the opportunity to help all of the dogs that you regularly walk:

By helping the dogs to become sociable and trusting, this means they stand a much better chance of finding their forever home.

That's got to be a win-win for both parties.

Again, fostering has been mentioned already but specifically for the UK, the Battersea Dogs Home have a great explanation of the process to see if this might be something you'd consider.

  • Good advice here. Also, be prepared by researching the physical and emotional needs of the dog in question and whether your lifestyle can practically be adjusted to suit the needs of the dog. Any reputable charity/breeder will ask you these questions. Walk away from anywhere that doesn't have this conversation with you before handing over a dog (whether for keeps or test-driving). – user8045 Jul 25 '18 at 11:00
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    To clarify this for Americans, the Blue Cross you mentioned is the Blue Cross for Pets in the UK: We find happy homes for abandoned or unwanted pets and we keep pets healthy by promoting welfare and providing treatment. In the USA, Blue Cross Blue Shield is a consortium of health insurance companies. I found it odd, but not completely out of the question, that a health care organization loaned out pets to people. – Johnny Jul 26 '18 at 6:21
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https://www.borrowmydoggy.com/ is a website that allows just this - you can get matched with local dog owners to give their dogs walks. It's potentially a simpler starter than fostering. I've not used it personally, but some friends have (as dog owners) and love it.

  • My girlfriend did sign up to this a couple of weeks or so ago, but no dog owners have contacted her yet. – Adam Jul 25 '18 at 18:43
  • @Adam I use the site. In order to do anything but browse dogs, you have to become a paying member. Otherwise, you cannot send or receive messages. And the onus is on borrowers to contact dog owners, not the other way round. – Bob Tway Jul 27 '18 at 9:37
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I'd suggest looking for your local dog park. Whether you find a "test" dog or not, it'll give you a chance to see a large variety of breeds and how they will interact with other breeds and humans.

Taking my girlfriend's dog to the park has taught me a lot. For example, she usually isn't very interested in small dogs her size, unless they are some mix of terriers or corgis (also A-Type personalities). Large dogs get harassed into chasing her. She stays away from adult humans. Children are fair game.

Personally I find her hilarious, but some people might not want an A-Type chihuahua-terrier chasing after everything.

  • Definitely agree. It's only by seeing several of the same breed that you get an idea what that breed's tendencies are. It's also good practise in how to introduce yourself to dogs that don't know you. It's less good if you have your heart set on a specific rare breed, like the OP, but I suggest anyone who's not already a doggy person should think twice about starting on a rare breed which may have unknown problems. – Graham Jul 26 '18 at 15:47
  • And talk to the experienced people at the dog park. Nearly all will be happy to discuss the various breeds, and their pros & cons, while pointing out live examples of behavior at the park. – Basil Bourque Jul 30 '18 at 4:47
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Dont get too hung up on specific breeds especially if you are looking to foster. The act of looking after a dog in its self is key to knowing if its right for you. I tend to look that you need to fit your life around a dog, not the other way around, every animal has its own quirks, issues and anxieties, and you need to work with those.

It sounds like you are new to dogs, so i would recommend fostering/adopting an older dog as a first step, they tend to be easier as they generally speaking, like to just have a good place to rest and its a good snap shot of life (12-18 years) with a dog in the space of a couple of years, where as a puppy is a ball of excitement and energy for the first few years.

Ease your self into younger dogs over time. Puppies and rescue dogs alike are both wonderful, but they are a full time commitment like children and so many get returned or dropped off at rescue centres as people jump into something they were just not prepared for, its great you are doing the research and willing to do whats right to prepare your self.

If you are dead set on a specific breed, then look to foster dogs with similar personalities and sizes, puppies are also available, but they do tend to get snapped up quick.

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