Our pounds and shelters are full of excellent, but misunderstood dogs. By misunderstood I mean most dogs are in the pound because they had owners who could not speak dog. These owners who didn't give the dog what it instinctually needed created a dog with issues. The two main reasons a dog develops issues are lack of exercise and lack of leadership. Humans forget they are dealing with a canine animal and too many times do not give the canine what it needs as that animal; when the dog does not act like that picture-perfect image they had in their minds they assume they "didn't get a good one" and they "get rid" of the dog. That's the bad news. The good news is since dogs live in the momentómeaning they do not dwell in the past or think of the futureóit is absolutely possible to take a full grown dog and start over as if it is the first day of the rest of its life. If you do it right, you will see a totally different dog from the owners who dumped the dog at the pound saw.
Your first task is to find the right dog. This is going to take time on your part, and should begin before you even set foot in a shelter. Not every dog is a match for every human family. Decide what size dog you would like. Study the different breeds so when you get to the pound you have a general idea of what a wide variety of breeds are like. There are two main things you should look for: the dog's energy level and the dog's dominancy level. By studying a wide variety of breeds before you get to the pound or shelter you should be able to make a more educated guess as to what type of dog will work for you
For example, if you see a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix and you studied up on this breed you will know that it will be high energy and needs a more dominant owner. You should choose a dog with the same or lower energy level than your own. You also need to take a serious look at your family's personality. Are you the laid-back, not very active type or are you more authority-driven and active? If your family is passive, a dominant dog would be a horrible match for you. If your family is more assertive and can easily provide structure you may be able to handle a more dominant type. If you are a laid-back, like to watch TV type of family then choosing a very high energy dog that needs to go on daily jogs would not be a good match for you.
After you have a good general idea of what types of dogs will work for you and everyone in the house is in agreement about adopting a dog, it is time to start looking at different pounds and rescues for the right match. Do not think that you need to come home with a dog on the first day. If you choose poorly and bring home a dog that does not match your family you may hurt the dog you are trying to save more than you are helping it. Dogs that are repeatedly returned to the pound have a higher rate of being killed. Take your time and choose wisely.