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Frequently people are adopting dogs from rescue shelters. Adopting any adult dog can be a bit of a challenge in that it's hard to know the dog's history. Some rescue dogs have a history of abuse and/or neglect. The process of meeting and choosing a dog doesn't give the dog or the people a great environment to get to know each other. Dog's can sometimes be different at a shelter.

Given the, sometimes, unnatural process of getting to know a possible future adopted dog; Are there ways, when choosing a dog, to see if the dog has problem behavior?

This question originally discussed looking for potential health problems and signs of abuse when adopting a dog - it was separated into two questions.

What danger signs indicate health issues when aquiring a new dog?

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    From my experiences with dogs and animals in general, the signs are quite easy to spot. The animal's body language should speak for itself. Backing away when approaching the animal, nervous twitch, the eyes, the tail etc. I guess it's easy for me to say and not explain it thoroughly yet that's the general explanation. Always let the animal approach "you" and leave your hands by your side so that it will "check you out" and no sudden movements. If you feel the animal will strike, best to just back away and use a gentle voice. – Funk Forty Niner Oct 23 '13 at 14:48
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    I would be happy to. – Funk Forty Niner Oct 23 '13 at 14:50
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One additional thing to keep in mind is that many pet shelters accept that your adopted pet may have unforseen problems, as you say they can sometimes behave differently at a shelter versus at your home. The policy will vary between shelters but for example the RSPCA Adoption Policy for the ACT in Australia includes:

While we hope your pet selection process is successful and permanent, we do offer a fourteen-day period to ascertain acknowledged behavioural abnormalities during which time depending on the problem a refund may be available. During this period you may surrender the pet for any reason and no charge will apply to the surrender.

A local shelter that I'm familiar with doesn't offer any sort of refund policy but does make it clear you're welcome to try adopting a different pet if things just don't work out. The nervous reaction of a dog (or any other pet) can be a sign of abuse, but it's no reason to totally avoid them and instead look of it as the chance to give them a great new life full of affection. In my experience sometimes pets that have been abused in the past will form an even greater bond with you, given some time.

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From my experiences with dogs and animals in general, the signs are quite easy to spot. The animal's body language should speak for itself. Backing away when approaching the animal, nervous twitch, the eyes, the tail etc.

I guess it's easy for me to say and not explain it thoroughly yet that's the general explanation. Always let the animal approach "you" and leave your hands by your side so that it will "check you out" and no sudden movements. If you feel the animal will strike, best to just back away and use a gentle voice.

Added note: It's not the same thing when you're standing in the back of a "horse". You better have some pretty quick reflexes when that puppy "bucks"!

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