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German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America, Inc



Both owners and rescue volunteers often need basic guidelines for dog placement. There can be no absolute guidelines for all dogs. No two dogs are alike. The owner or the rescue volunteer caring for the dog uses his or her own knowledge and experience with the individual dog while choosing the possible new home, given both the dog’s needs and the local environment.  The volunteer network is there to ask for help in making the judgment, if necessary.  Here are some basic guidelines.

All dogs should be spayed or neutered and up to date on veterinary care before placement, if they are placed within the scope of the GSPCA rescue program..

If, for any reason this is not possible (such as a health problem age or if the dog is placed directly from a shelter or pound without neutering) the volunteer should check to see that this is done according to contract neutering date.

Volunteers should look for adoptive owners who are experienced with sporting dogs or who have been successful with the breed before. If they have not, be sure they are fully informed about what to expect of the individual dog and the needs of the breed before approving the home. Suggest reading materials, home visits with others who own GSPs or a conversation with a reputable breeder. Remember not to intimidate a potentially good owner. We all started without knowledge at one time.

If it is a family adoption, do confirm that the decision to adopt has been approved by all family members. Many GSPs end up in shelters because only one member of a couple wanted the dog. In other cases, parents thought the dog a good experience for a child who never wanted a dog at all.

Containment systems are the rule.  This means actual fencing, a large kennel run, or invisible electronic fencing.  Many of our rescues are strays.  That means they have escaped before and know how to get away.  Cable runs or tie outs are not recommended because many active dogs suffer ligament injuries on them.  The tied dog is captive, while other dogs or people coming onto the property can interfere with the dog at will. Invisible or electronic fencing is not intended for containing a dog while the owner is away from the home. Take some caution that the containment used is humane and effective. 

The ideal adoptive family will arrange to have ample time with the dog. If the person works away from the home all day, a home visitor or daycare is recommended. Dogs are pack animals and do not savor being left alone for long periods. They can be very creative about destroying the house or becoming hyperactive when alone for long periods.  Eight to twelve hours a day alone, whether crated or free in the home, is too long for most. There are exceptions, and most of these are older, more settled dogs.

Crating for young, destructive, nervous dogs or dogs just out of shelters and pounds is vital.  We recommend that the individual get the crate and fencing before they get the dog. Instructions on humane and positive crate training are available on the internet, but they should also be supplied to the new owner and discussed with them at the time of adoption. One of the most important roles of the rescue volunteer is to inform and assist both the troubled owner of a dog that may become a rescue, and a new owner who is about to embark on GSP ownership.

Obedience classes or individual instruction with an experienced trainer is recommended for all rescues, unless they come directly out of a home or from a breeder where this has been previously and successfully done.A return to obedience school is often a helpful way to bond the dog and owner, and to establish owner mastery.

City homes and homes in apartments and condos are often leash-walk situations but are still possibilities for GSPs. Volunteers and owners placing their dogs need to interview and consider these homes very carefully. Very young, 1-2 year old dogs, who have been given up because they are too active are poor candidates for confined homes with little or no off lead exercise.

In some cases, a mid-life dog, who is settled and known to be calm and not need the level of exercise as a young dog might, may be considered. There are, however, older dogs who have the same needs as some of our younger GSPs, so the dog and the situation must be a carefully considered match. Each adoption should be a scrupulous fit between the character of the dog and the situation and lifestyle of the adoptive family.

The rescue volunteer has as much to do in the role of an adoption agent as a foster care provider. As each rescue program evolves, volunteers become rescue prevention agents and counselors for new GSP owners.  If the dog is not right for the home or the family lifestyle, it will soon be unwanted. It will either become a rescue or it will return to rescue. In rescue, we want to help both people and dogs to get it right the first time.

Homes where someone wants to hunt with the dog are often ideal situations for some rescue GSPs. If the dog has potential for such activity and is proven not gun-shy, or bird shy, it can work out well. Gun-shyness, while caused by poor training and bad experience, is very difficult to overcome. The dog placed in a hunting home should be known to hunt successfully, or the volunteer or owner placing the dog should test it in a proper setting. Some individuals who hunt their dogs regularly, but who do not otherwise engage in rescue are often willing to help out by hunt testing rescue dogs. Contact your regional GSP club for a list of members, and ask for help.

Most GSPs that we have seen in rescue should be placed into homes that will allow them to be housedogs.  In some cases, however, if an older dog has always lived outdoors, a kennel or fenced yard situation may be permissible, as long as the dog gets enough activity, interaction and care. Each home situation and each dog must be a match. If the dog is to be an outdoor dog, however, be sure the outdoor housing is adequate for the climate, and that the new owner knows that outdoor dogs may need additional veterinary care.

Children are good for our rescues, providing the dog has lived with children before.  Child testing is essential if we do not know how the rescue has acted toward children in the past. One of the reasons that many rescues end up homeless is because they have not been introduced and acclimated to a new baby properly. Encourage young couple adopters who are planning families in the future to seek advice on bringing a new baby home to their GSP. Good planning can prevent heartache and re-homing.

Cats and other small animals, including small dogs, may be tantalizing to a prey driven GSP.  Some hunting dogs will kill cats.  Cat testing before placement is vital if the adoptive family has cats now or is planning on having cats. If the family has small pet rodents, caged birds, yard fowl or ferrets, they may need to be willing to keep the dog separate from these pets in order to protect them and to prevent the dog from doing harm. Even if the family has another dog, being sure of a proper, off property, introduction takes place can be the key to success.

For the prey driven and task oriented GSP, both drug and bomb detection and can be successful jobs for a rescue, and some rescue groups have had some highly successful placements with the authorities.  Check with state police in your area for the correct contacts.  Be aware that, if the dog is taken, there is no adoption donation forthcoming to defray your care expenses, and that if the dog “flunks” detection school, he will be returned to you for placement elsewhere.

Help programs for physically limited people are possible good homes for rescues.  This is a little tougher, as most such programs want quite young dogs to train from an early age.  Other programs have no such stipulation.  Contact dog-human bond organizations for the programs in your area. Some GSPs have also had success as wilderness search dogs. These are also generally placements for only the very young rescue.

Long distance placements have been a matter considerable disagreement over time in rescue. Here are the GSPCA protocols: The rule is to place a local dog as locally as possible. The dog should be screened as suited for placement and fit with the prospective home. If that home is not available locally, but an inquiry comes from a distance, the local volunteer in that area should be contacted by the volunteer with the dog and assistance asked.

First, there should be no dog needing a home in that locality that fits the family’s needs. No dog in a locality should go wanting for a home, if there is a family right nearby who is suited to it. The volunteer near to the home should screen and approve the prospective home and do a home check, if this is thought necessary. The local volunteer should also arrange to see to the final contracts, counsel with the new owner, and be the back up for the dog that is being transported. If the local volunteer does not approve the home, or cannot back up the adoption, the volunteer in charge of the dog should continue to look elsewhere for a suitable home for the dog.

To the degree that it is possible, all records relating to the dog’s health care, shot record, heartworm and rabies protection, contracts and applications should follow the dog. Another copy should be retained by the adopting volunteer. If possible, the rescue dog should be microchipped before moving to the new home. There is funding for this purpose with the parent club, and some chip manufacturers provide discounts to rescue. A paper trail should be a clear record of the dog’s origin and destination. A microchip will detect the dog’s identity if it becomes lost, or if the contract is ever broken by the adoptive family. Our goal is to ensure the long term well being of the rescue dog and prevent recidivism. 

AKC registration papers may go with the rescue dog, if it is neutered prior to placement. If the family is to neuter the dog, the AKC papers may be given the family when the volunteer receives the neuter certificate from the veterinarian. Many families want to do obedience, agility or hunt tests with their new GSPs. AKC papers make that easier. If there are no papers with the dog, and the family wishes to do this, direct the family to the site, and ask them to arrange for an ILP number from the AKC. This will allow the dog to participate in AKC performance events other than conformation showing.

The rescue group does assist breeders with placements of returned dogs when the dog in question suits a home that a dog in foster care does not fit. We welcome breeders who take back their own pups and foster them while we are screening suitable homes for these dogs. Most of these have already been neutered, as they are mostly companion dogs, but if they are not, the breeder should be asked to neuter the dog before we send them adopters directly. Rescue simply cannot afford to neuter every dog it places. Those funds must be preserved for the shelter or pound dog that has neither breeder nor owner to afford its care.

Not every GSP that is unwanted or arrives in rescue can or should be saved. Rescue is for dogs which can be saved, retrained and properly placed. It is often our job to detect when a dog cannot live successfully with humans or other dogs, or is too ill or unfit for placement. This is an unpleasant reality, but it is reality. It is irresponsible to place a dog that is dangerous to humans or to other dogs.  It is our volition to place the dogs in homes where we feel they will succeed, be happy, and live out their lives. If you take in a dog that you either know or suspect will never be trustworthy, you must face that fact and choose to euthanize, or refuse the dog in rescue.

Dogs that have bitten humans cannot be placed by rescue organizations, and should not be placed by any other individual or agency, either. The liability is too great, and the ethical issues of putting a dog in a situation where it may mutilate or harm others is clear.

People often think they want a certain dog they have seen on one of the many web sites that sport their pictures.  The rescue volunteer has experience that may indicate that the fit between that particular dog and a family will not be a success.  Volunteers need to heed their experience and trust their judgment If they suspect a placement for any reason, they are probably right that it won’t work. If a placement mistake becomes evident, volunteers should be ready to take the dog back and start over.  In the case where the dog’s health or well being might be at stake in the “trial” adoption, the best advice is to place the dog elsewhere. 

We all become fond of the dogs in our care.  We don’t want to feel responsible for harm coming to them.  They have already gone through enough.  If you need advice, call a fellow rescue volunteer and talk it over. One of the roles of the national chair and the committee is to counsel with new volunteers and those who find themselves in a quandary about a dog or a situation. Use the resource. Internet communication now makes that easy and inexpensive.

There are many of us who have been doing rescue for more than a decade. We have made many mistakes, and we learned from them. We are ready and eager to help the owner who needs to place a dog or a volunteer who needs help or guidance. The GSPCA rescue is a network of skills, experience, and help for owners, breeders and other volunteers. Our ultimate goal is to prevent the need for rescue with owner education, counseling for new owners, support for breeder placements and support and networking with one another. When a dog has no owner or breeder to help it, however, volunteers are here to evaluate and place the dog if that is at all possible. We cannot always save every dog. We are often overburdened with our task. We can, however, help one another to do the best work possible for each of us. That is our charge.

If you have questions or concerns about these protocols, please feel welcome to contact us through the current chairperson, Nancy Campbell at If you wish to adopt a dog or volunteer to help in this program, you can click on “materials” on the web site and fill out an on line form for either purpose. We appreciate your interest in GSP rescue, and are grateful for your support.

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