From Vetstreet's Kim Campbell Thornton:

If you’re smitten with the idea of sharing your home with a purebred dog, chances are that there’s a breed rescue group or shelter in your vicinity with just the right pup in need of a family.

According to statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 25 percent of dogs who enter shelters are purebred.

To help these deserving dogs find loving homes, we’ve put together a helpful primer on locating — and adopting — your own purebred companion.

The Many Breeds Up for Adoption
From Dachshunds to Dandie Dinmont Terriers, practically every breed out there has a rescue group that works to find new homes for dogs who’ve been displaced because of unforeseen family circumstances — such as a divorce or an owner’s sudden death — as well as other crises, like the sudden shuttering of a puppy mill.

According to Sheila Balter of Cavalier Rescue USA, you can find dogs of various ages and temperaments through breed rescue groups. Most dogs available for adoption range from adolescents to seniors, which can be advantageous for prospective owners because they get a solid picture of a potential pet’s size, temperament and health status. Although it’s not impossible to find a puppy through a purebred rescue group, it’s rare — and the few puppies who are available tend to get adopted quickly. (On Vetstreet dog breed and cat breed pages you can often find information about specific breed rescue groups under the "finding" tab.)

People often think that dogs found at shelters or through breed rescue groups are special-needs pets with health or behavior problems. The reality is that plenty of nice, healthy canines are available for adoption, including purebreds, crossbreeds, mixed breeds, young dogs, adult dogs and senior dogs.

“There’s really any pet you could imagine,” says Kim Saunders, vice president for shelter outreach and public relations at Petfinder. “The reason is because the pets on Petfinder are posted by our members — over 13,500 shelters and rescue groups. These groups encompass everyone: large, well-heeled humane societies; small-town animal control agencies; and foster-based rescue groups, which may focus on one species — dog or cat — or on a particular breed.”

How to Find an Adoptable Purebred Pup Online
Thousands of breed-specific rescue groups across North America post their adoptable pets on sites like Petfinder, where you can search by breed, age, sex, size and location. Petfinder's search results also include dogs in shelters, but the types of purebreds found at shelters vary across the country.

“Out in the Midwest, you see a lot more herding dogs, while in the Northeast, you may see more bully breeds," Saunders says. "In cities, you tend to see small dogs, like Chihuahuas in San Francisco and Philadelphia.”

The presence of certain breeds in the media also influences when certain breeds show up at shelters in larger numbers. Following the release of the movie 101 Dalmatians, lots of people got the dogs, decided that they weren’t a good fit for them and then gave them up to shelters.

In the market for a specific type of dog, either purebred or mixed breed?

You can do two things to improve your chances of finding your dream dog: First, set up a search on Petfinder, so that every time a pet of that type is added to the site, you’ll be notified. You should also contact shelters and breed rescue groups to let them know what you’re looking for, ask what you can do to meet any screening requirements and check back with them regularly.

“Letting them know about your specific desires will be helpful for you, so that the next time a pet that matches what you want does come in, they would have you top of mind,” Saunders says.

What You Need to Know About the Application Process
Whether you've fallen in love with a dog based on his Petfinder photo or you're in the process of getting prescreened by a rescue group, references, a personal interview and a home visit may be required.

The process may seem demanding — but it’s for a good reason.

“Rescue groups have taken responsibility for the dog being offered for adoption, so they have careful parameters to ensure the dog will not go into a situation that will cause the match to fail,” says Robin L. Adams, executive director and founder of the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in Reinholds, Pa. “Things like fenced yard requirements and no children under a certain age are for the protection of the dog and the family.”

How to Help Your Adopted Dog Feel at Home
Transitions take time. For the first few days, keep things low-key, so your dog learns that you’re consistent, kind and approachable. Although it may be tempting to show him off to friends and family, it’s best to develop and nurture the bond between you and your new friend first.

Some dogs may lapse on their house training, act out or even try to run away when you bring them home. Be patient, Balter advises, and don’t hesitate to ask the rescue group for advice.

Additional tips: Keep to a steady schedule, so your dog knows what to expect. And provide a crate, where he can retreat if he’s feeling overwhelmed.

One advantage of adopting an adult dog is that he has life experience to draw on, potentially helping him to settle in quickly. If you choose to adopt a dog who has come from less-than-ideal circumstances, take heart.

Although many people fear that such a pet is damaged goods, Adams says that dogs have a miraculous ability to respond to love: “I can’t even count the number of emails and letters I receive that tell us, ‘It’s like he’s been here forever.’ ”

Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning writer who's a huge fan of breed rescue groups. Her late Greyhound, Savanna, and her 11-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Twyla, both came from breed rescue groups and have been more special than words can say.

Also on Vetstreet:
Purebreds vs. Mutts: Which Are Healthier?
Top 10 High-Maintenance Dog Breeds
Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Pet
12 Best Couch Potato Dogs?

Want to see some adorable dogs right now? Check out our puppies slideshow below:

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  • NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Gibbs, a Golden Retriever puppy poses for pictures as the American Kennel Club Announces Most Popular Dogs in the U.S. on January 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for the American Kennel Club)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • A Samoyed puppy waits with its owner in a park as Beijing enjoys a pollution free spring day on April 18, 2013. The breed which is originally from Siberia were used to herd reindeer and pull sleds and were able to survive the harsh winters with their thick coats. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON

  • Two Beagle puppies play as the American Kennel Club officials announce their annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S January 27, 2010 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Puppies watch on at a police dog training base September 16, 2005 in Beijing, China. The dogs are trained by a police squad to learn identifying, catching, tracking and other skills. According to the Ministry of Public Security, there is an estimate of over 10,000 working police dogs in China. These dogs are divided into 30 kinds according to international conventions and are widely used in police work, rescue and military missions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • A view of a puppy at the North Shore Animal League America's Tour For Life Pet Adoption Event on April 26, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

  • NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Dominique, a Bulldog puppy poses for pictures as the American Kennel Club Announces Most Popular Dogs in the U.S. on January 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for the American Kennel Club)

  • A wolf plays with a one-month-old puppy in its enclosure of Berlin's Zoo on May 31, 2013 in Berlin. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE

  • Puppies just born by a sniffer dog sleep at a police dog training base September 16, 2005 in Beijing, China. The dogs are trained by a police squad to learn identifying, catching, tracking and other skills. According to the Ministry of Public Security, there is an estimate of over 10,000 working police dogs in China. These dogs are divided into 30 kinds according to international conventions and are widely used in police work, rescue and military missions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

  • A Mastiff puppy rests during the XVIIIth International Dog exhibition on November 8, 2009 in Prague. (MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A three-day-old Labradoodle puppy is shown to the press at the Uri Bekman's 'World of Dogs' kennel in Pardesia, 30 kms north of Tel Aviv 07 December 2005. (YOAV LEMMER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Three-day-old Labradoodle puppies nap at the Uri Bekman's 'World of Dogs' kennel in Pardesia, 30 kms north of Tel Aviv 07 December 2005. (YOAV LEMMER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A seven week old Daschund cross puppy waits to be re-homed at the Cheshire Dogs Home on January 4, 2010 in Warrington, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Three-year-old Galia suckles her first litter of six puppies on June 4, 2009 at the Barry Foundation Great St. Bernard breeding kennels in Martigny, Western Switzerland. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two-week-old puppies play on June 4, 2009 at the Barry Foundation Great St. Bernard breeding kennels in Martigny, Western Switzerland. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two-week-old Saint Bernard puppies play at the Barry Foundation breeding kennels in Martigny on June 4, 2009. The Saint Bernard dog was once the ubiquitous companion of monks at the monastery tucked 2,500m above sea level, guiding them through the Alps or helping them to rescue stranded or lost travellers in the snowy mountains. However, there are no longer any such dogs living permanently at the monastery these days. In fact, the monks decided five years ago to part ways with their pedigree breeding programme, as the work became too much for the four monks living permanently at the monastery to handle. The breeding kennels faced the risk of being shut permanently if not for a group of Swiss bankers and animal-lovers who set up the Barry Foundation to buy the breeding programme. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two puppies play as American Kennel Club officials announce their annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S January 27, 2010 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A volunteer holds up a puppy that was born after its mother has been rescued from a truck, in an animal hospital in Beijing, China, Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Chinese animal lovers mobilized by online calls for help blockaded a truck of hundreds of dogs being shipped off for food in a rare, permitted display of social action amid a broad crackdown on most kinds of activism. (AP Photo)

  • Nine Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies from a litter of 17 look out of their box in Nauen, 50 kilometers outside Berlin on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. On Sept 28, and 29, 4 year old Ridgeback Etana had 17 puppies. All of them survived. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

  • Seven Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies from a litter of 17 look out of their box in Nauen, 50 kilometers outside Berlin on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. On Sept 28, and 29, the 4 years old Ridgeback Etana had 17 puppies. All of them survived. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

  • A puppy is transported in a child's push chair, on a snowy street downtown Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • A seven week old Border Collie puppy rests after frolicking with its sibblings in their garden as outdoors temperatures dropped below minus 10 degrees celsius in the village of Bodice on December 16, 2010. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A seven-week old Border Collie puppy rests after a play with its siblings in their garden as outdoors temperatures dropped below minus 10 degrees celsius in the village of Bodice on December 16, 2010. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Six-month old Chihuahua puppies, Ellie, left, and Gulliver, right, nuzzle together at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in Methuen, Mass. Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The already adopted puppies, born without front legs, were fitted with wheels made by Eddie's Wheels of Shelburne, Mass. and are training to walk and run with them. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • Puppies run at a playground in the K9 school and hospital of the Middle East Kennel Cub at Nahr al-Kalb area, north of Beirut, on October 27, 2010. The Club, which is the largest in the Middle East, has more than 400 dogs and clients bring their pets to be trained, bred and hospitalized. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this handout image provided by Pucchin Dog's, 'Love-Kun', a 3-day old chihuahua puppy with heart-shaped markings is presented to the media with his brothers at Pucchin Dog's on August 6, 2009 in Odate, Akita prefecture, Japan. The new puppy is the brother of 2-year old chihuahua 'Heart-Kun' who was also born with a perfect heart-shaped marking on his back from the same parents. (Photo by Pucchin Dog's via Getty Images)

  • This photo provided by the Chicago Zoological Society shows 10 African wild dog puppies, six males and four females, huddling with their mother, Kim, at Brookfield Zoo in Broofield, Ill. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)

  • In this Thursday, May 19, 2011, photo, Bonnie, a basset hound, nurses her puppies at an animal rescue facility in South Knox County, Tenn. Bonnie and Clyde, the father of her puppies, are being cared for by At Risk Intervention animal rescue, after being saved from flood waters in Arkansas. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Paul Efird)

  • Two adopted stray dogs play at an animal shelter on December 15, 2006 in the outskirts of Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. The animal shelter, established by Chinese animal lover Dai Shuqing, is located at an abandoned warehouse which houses some 100 dogs and costs over 2,000 yuan (about US $255) per month. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

  • Golden Retriever puppies with their handlers as the American Kennel Club officials announce their annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S January 27, 2010 in New York. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Susan Thomson holds a three-week-old Chihuahua puppy named Tom Thumb on April 7, 2009 in Renton, Scotland. An unofficial measurement taken by the owner makes Tom Thumb approximately 6 inches long. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • A dog suckles her puppies on February 16, 2009 at Halikisla village of Kars, eastern Turkey near the border with Armenia. (MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A six month old Weimaraner puppy guards his master during Slovakia's national canine all breeds competition in Banska Bystrica on 6 May 2007. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Portuguese Podengo puppies are displayed for the media during the launch of the Crufts Dog Show Febuary 24, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

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