This evening, we went over to the park around dusk. It's been very hot--- too hot to walk the dogs--- and we thought we'd get them some exercise after the sun went down.
Someone we've not met before showed up with a lovely English Pointer. My dad used to field-trial pointers when I was a little kid, and as soon as I saw her run over the hill I thought "I haven't seen an English Pointer in years." She came towards us, then turned and pointed her owner (or more likely the Chuck-it launcher in his hand) and then gave bounding across the field in that graceful canter shared by pointers and a handful of other breeds. She was classic white-bodied with spots and a darker head with a tiny blaze.
We got to talking when I complimented him on his lovely dog. He said he got her from rescue. He laughed and said "They told us she was a lab/bloodhound mix." I said "That's a pointer." And he said "She looks like a pointer. She points everything. Yes, she does seem to be a pointer."
A pointer is not especially rare and has a fairly unique look. This was a decent one; looked like she was from field trial stock rather than bench stock. We speculated that it might be hard for rescues to place pointers, but lab mixes go quickly. It's just lucky that this dog landed with someone who can handle her energy, drive, and high-strung nature; a pointer is about as far from a lab as you can get in temperament.
It got me thinking about rescues, and how they label dogs. I watch PetFinder diligently for Corgis, and with the exception of a small few mill dogs, virtually none of the dogs I see as "Corgi" or "Corgi mix" look like they have any Corgi in them at all.
I know rescues mean well. I know they are staffed with mostly volunteers. I'm puzzled that people who love dogs enough to work for little or nothing are so consistently awful at identifying breeds, though. It doesn't take a PhD to do so. I know in crosses you are guessing, but why label an obvious purebred as a cross? It seems Corgis are popular, so conversely if a dog is short and they don't know what to call it, I suppose they think tacking "Corgi" on the picture might move the dog faster.
I truly don't know. Maybe someone who has done non-breed rescue can enlighten me. In the meantime, I guess my message is to please use due diligence when getting a rescue dog. The staff mean well and are overburdened, but their breed labels are often terribly inaccurate. Make sure you meet the dog yourself and try to get a feel of its temperament and energy level, size and coat and all of that because the label on the posting may not match the dog at all.
The answer to your question (I know rescues mean well. I know they are staffed with mostly volunteers. I'm puzzled that people who love dogs enough to work for little or nothing are so consistently awful at identifying breeds, though.) is quite simple. Most people who love dogs enough to volunteer in shelters and rescues that take in all breeds and mixes, don't know dog breeds that well, whereas people who know dog breeds real well, don't volunteer there.... They are doing the best they can.
Anna, out of everything I've heard this makes the most sense and is probably the most true across the board (though all rescues are different). It's one of those cases where it's hard sometimes to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see where they are coming from. I guess the best example for myself is that I love to garden and mostly use natives. We compost and have rain barrels and the whole works. So people assume I know a lot about plants and start talking and I don't even know what type of plant they are talking about. Is it a vine? A perennial? A shrub? lol So I'm passionate but only about my own little corner of it and have no desire to wade through gardening books looking at every plant. I know a lot about my own plants and what they are, when they bloom, what soil they like, but don't start talking to me about peonies or clematis.
So I guess a lot of people who rescue are like that with dogs, whereas I DO go through breed books and read up on lots of breeds that I will never own, because the idea of selective breeding alone intrigues me so much (and I was the same with horse breeds when I used to ride).
Beth and Anna, you both raise good points. However, I'd like to point out that shelters are not run by volunteers. Private rescues certainly can be, but a full-scale shelter with a contract with Animal Control to take in all strays, seized and abandoned animals, can hardly be run on a volunteer basis. Some try, but they need a lot of help from outside organizations. Just maintaining a facility is overwhelming. So we seem to be talking about two different situations. Most of the people working here are paid staff, including professional behaviorists, vets, vet techs, etc, and professional development is provided for staff and volunteers.
I am not a professional. I work in adoptions. So though I don't have to identify every breed, I have to know enough about these breeds to be able to counsel potential adopters about the dogs. Catahoula Leopard Hound puppy? I never even heard of that before Hurricane Katrina brought them north. But when we have puppies that may have that in them, I need to know about the breed. (Not to mention knowing about people, but that is another looooong story :) )
When it comes to lost dogs, we ask people now to email or bring us a picture, that goes in the lost dog file. We put photos of the dogs we find on our web site. I think it's more likely that the dog's owner misidentifies their own dog's breed when they make a lost report, than we describe a dog in a way that makes them unidentifiable. (Yes, some owners describe their intact boy dogs as spayed females. What can you do? :)
Anna, dog people do volunteer. If you could find someone here who's not a dog person, it's because they're a cat person.
Hi Julia, It's very heartening to know how things work at your Shelter, and hopefully most are run that way. Having people send in pictures of lost pets, keeping them on file and posting photos of found dogs on your website is fantastic!
Smaller shelters often have more volunteers than paid people and rescue groups are generally all volunteers. In my experience people who know dog breeds really well are generally active in the sport of dogs, showing, breeding, competing etc. Although some of these volunteer at Shelters and Rescues, they are a small percentage of that group. When they do, they are more likely to be active in their own breed rescue than in a Shelter or all breed/mix breed rescue. Most volunteers who generously give of their time in these venues are dog (or other animal) lovers and their knowledge of breeds is cursory and develops more during their exposure to rescue work. This was my point in response to Beth's question.
Maybe it's that all shelter workers are dog (cat) people, but not all dog people are shelter workers. :)
I do realize that this is a large shelter, but I think that any facility connected with a group such as the SPCA, or under some kind of oversight, would have the same concerns. I certainly hope so.
Beth originally asked about multi-breed rescues. I can think of a couple in the area that we work with, but the vast majority of private rescues are breed-specific. So I wonder if there are private, small, volunteer-run, multi-breed rescues elsewhere. Does anyone know about that? Is anyone else here involved in one?
I do a small private corgi rescue but would take corgi mixes. Around here we don't have many corgis and/or they just turn them into humane societies. I have in the past gotten a few calls from humane socities to take a corgi that they thought they couldn't rehome.
There are many here in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs All Breed Rescue coordinates rescue efforts in many breeds,has a network of foster homes and takes some mix breeds as well. My friend Teresa Strader started Mill Dog Rescue. They take dogs from puppy mills form many States, put them in foster homes, Vet them, and place them. They also coordinate with other rescues and have placed thousands in just a few years since they started. Safe Place works with Hospices to place dogs of terminally ill people. Colorado Chihuahua and Small Dog Rescue takes many toy breeds and mixes, fosters and adopts them out. In Denver, Dream Power Ranch ( they also have volunteers in Colorado Springs) takes all breeds, cats and other animals. Lifeline in Denver, specializes in taking and placing puppies of all breeds and mixes. There are many more throughout the State. Some shelters are privately funded. I adopted my Corgi from a no kill shelter in Buena Vista that has since opened a second shelter. I guess we're lucky :-)
Cardigans often get mislabeled as a corgi mix because of their tail.
Had to resurrect this thread because yesterday I saw a guy with a GORGEOUS and sweet 9-month-old black and tan coonhound that he swore upside down and backwards was a bloodhound, as identified by the rescue where he got her.
Black and Tan Coonhound:
I guess there is some similarity (coonhounds were bred from bloodhounds), but the coonhound is much lighter-bodied and sleeker in coat and musculature. And not jowly. :-)
Guy got it to do search and rescue, which she should shine at, but a bloodhound she is not.
I have purchased several books with large color pictures for my favorite shelter over the years because most people just don't know many breeds. When I was volunteering they'd often look up images online BUT the pictures that they find online are of young show dogs - which eliminates seeing normal variation in a breed. Given no other options, people tend to imagine crosses of the breeds that they are most familiar with until they know better. I could even tell when they'd get a new person doing "intake" of the animals because the descriptions would change depending on their experiences. Some people imagine the most exotic dogs possible, others the most mundane.