There are alot of ways to get a second hand dog. One is to go to the shelter and adopt one of the many dogs there waiting for a new home. Another is to look in the paper or a Craigs List type place for a dog; many people acquire a dog and for some reason or other cannot keep it. These days financial issues are a common reason for rehoming a dog and sometimes life just throws us a curve ball. Yet another way to get a second hand dog is to acquire a rescue. Now the term "rescue" is used loosely these days; seems every dog who is a second hand dog is considered a rescue.
Rescue: to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil. So this pretty much explains where a rescue dog fits in. Many dogs are actual rescues; saved from a horrific life of pain, suffering and strife. Dogs taken from Puppy Mills that have been raided are indeed rescue dogs. Dogs abandoned and saved from a life on the street are rescues. Many of the lucky rescues end up in a foster for some rehabilitation before being rehomed.
But many second hand dogs are simply rehomed dogs; dogs who have gone from one home to another. When you add a second hand dog to your home there is often alot of unanswered questions. You may know a bit about this dogs past life; perhaps you will know nothing of their past life. Often when a behavior issues arises with a second hand dog the new guardian has no idea where or why it has appeared. Being that you may know nothing about this new dogs past life you must deal with the issue at hand. Having a professional help with the problem can be very enlightening.
I think the most common misconception is that a fearful dog means that it has been beaten. Many dogs are never socialized properly; putting an under socialized dog into a new environment is very stressful. And this stress often results in a dog that cringes away giving it a "must have been beaten," look. Recently I was asked if my little Jack Russell was a rescue. After telling a gentleman at the park that she was not social he concluded she must be a rescue. Funny the idea people have in their head of rescues or second hand dogs. And no she was not a rescue; she is a terrier and a very tenacious terrier at that, even at almost 14 years of age.
The most common behavior issue that I have seen with second hand dogs is separation anxiety; true separation anxiety. This makes perfect sense if you think about it. Even if the new home is a better place for the dog; he/she has a sense of wanting to go back home. Where has the family gone? Of course not all dogs display this and there are extreme differences and levels of separation anxiety if they do display it. We cannot sit our new dog down and explain what has happened; they have no idea why they are in a new home. So time, patience and understanding are in order.
Dogs adjust; they happen to be a very flexible species. Bonding can happen very quickly depending on the dog. Sometimes it never happens; this is a sad but possible situation, it all depends on the dog, the person, the past and present. Often a dog a dog may seem to be the best dog ever and after a few months they make a complete turn around. Dogs tend to hide their insecurities; once they relax into their new home you get to see the real dog come out. This can take days to months to happen and it is often when I get the call for help.
So if you are adding a second hand dog to your family; take it slow, get to know this dog as it unravels over time. There may be many hidden secrets behind those amazing eyes; many you will never know. But a dog is a dog and worth every moment shared.