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Woman with rescue dog

Things to Consider When Rescuing A Dog

Thinking of getting a rescue dog?

Is there a dog-shaped space in your life? If you’re thinking of inviting a new dog to join your family, a rescue pet can be a wonderful idea. It’s incredibly rewarding, you’re giving a dog a fresh chance and you’re supporting rescue centres and the amazing work that they do.

Save our animal rescue

You might remember that we recently launched our #RescueYourRescue campaign, which highlighted the fact that many animal rescue shelters had experienced a sharp fall in funds during the pandemic.

A huge high-five to everyone who’s helped us raise £32,000 for pet rescue centres

The response was incredible. So many of you gave so generously that we’ve now raised over £32,000 to help keep pet rescue centres open.

Rescue your rescue logo

Asking the experts

#RescueYourRescue involved more than 100 animal rescue centres across the UK who take care of everything from cats and dogs to horses, rabbits and guinea pigs. Have a look at the full list here to get an idea of the vital work that’s going on around the country.

So who better to ask for advice on the best way to go about adopting a rescue dog? Here we share some ideas from our friends at animal rescue centres who are part of our #RescueYourRescue campaign – just in time for International Homeless Animals’ Day on 15th August.

First questions to ask yourself

Before you rush off and fall in love with a cute canine face online, ask yourself:

  • What age of dog is best for you and your family?
  • What gender of dog do you want?
  • What size of dog do you want?
  • How much grooming are you prepared to do?
  • Are you looking for a particular breed?
  • Do you want a dog that needs lots of walks or very few?
  • How suitable is your family home and home life for a dog?
  • Can you afford the cost of a dog, including adoption fees, food, insurance, vaccinations, other vet’s bills, dog walking fees and grooming? The PDSA says a dog can cost between £4,500 and £13,000 over its lifetime.
  • Are you planning any changes in your life that might make it hard for you to keep a dog in future?

Do your research

Steph McCawley, Supporter Engagement Officer at RSPCA Chesterfield & North Derbyshire Branch, emphasises the importance of doing your research on which breed would be best for your family and lifestyle.

She says: “We often have animals brought into our care that the owners can no longer look after due to circumstances changing or not knowing about the breed before taking it on or not being able to meet the dog’s veterinary needs. A lot of the dogs that come into our care do not come with a lot of history so we have to advise on specific homes to ensure the dog and family who take them on are safe and to reduce the risk of them being returned back to us.”

Daisy the staffie

Daisy, a 14 year old Staffy cross was brought into RSPCA Chesterfield & North Derbyshire Branch earlier this year. She’d received serious injuries when her previous owners’ home was broken into, including losing an eye. “Despite what had happened, she was the most affectionate, loving and kindest dog I’ve ever met,” says Steph. “So I was delighted when a lady opened up her home to let this beautiful Staffy have the new chance at life she so rightly deserved.”

Plan ahead

Steph also highlights that potential adopters need to think about the future. “You should think about your current situation and the likelihood that this will change,” she says. “Owning a dog doesn’t come cheaply and you need to be sure that you can meet the dog’s needs and any vet’s treatments that they might require both now and in the future.”

The wrong time to adopt a dog

Is this the right time for you to adopt a dog? It’s clear that some moments are far from ideal, for example if you’re:

    • Expecting a new baby
    • About to move house
    • Going on holiday soon.

And it might be better to postpone adopting a dog if you’re about to start a new, all-consuming job that won’t leave you much time to help your new dog feel at home.

And it might be better to postpone adopting a dog if you’re about to start a new, all-consuming job that won’t leave you much time to help your new dog feel at home.

Adopt a dog when you have plenty of time available to help them settle into the family and provide support and training, if necessary

“There are plenty of times when it’s inadvisable to introduce a new family member,” adds Wendy Hopewell, Founder of Team Edward Labrador Rescue in Nottingham. “For instance, we put rehoming on hold during the COVID-19 lockdown. We thought that it could cause separation issues when things returned to normal and people started going back to work, as the dogs would expect people to be around constantly at home.”

“New babies arriving can be a stressful time, too, to introduce dogs to a new family, when there is little spare time to take care of the dog’s needs. We like families to be around to settle the dogs in initially, so we’d always advise people not to take a dog just before they head off on their summer holidays.”

Martin’s story

Martin the Lurcher

“Martin is a male Lurcher who came in as a stray,” says Jazmin House, Fundraising and Marketing Manager of Margaret Green Animal Rescue in Wareham, Dorset. “He was quite a goofy character and would regularly make the staff here laugh. He spent over six months here in kennels with little interest, but one of our volunteer dog walkers took a liking to him. After a while, she asked to adopt him and we were delighted to say yes. He’s settled into his new home really well and is coming on in leaps and bounds, which is lovely to see.”


How to choose the right rescue centre

If you know it’s the right time and you’ve decided on the kind of dog that will be the best fit for your family, now’s the moment to look at animal rescue centres. With so many centres out there, it can be hard to narrow down your search.

Your first steps might include:

  • Asking a local vet, dog trainer or dog-owning friends for recommendations.
  • Looking at Facebook or other groups dedicated to the particular breed you’re interested in.
  • Having a close look at the rescue centre’s website to check out its credentials.
  • Beware of any rescue centres that only offer puppies or that don’t allow you to meet the dog before you adopt.

Look into rescue centres for specific breeds

Of course, there are many fabulous mixed-breed dogs in rescue centres across the country. However, if you have your heart set on a particular breed, you may find there’s a centre that’s dedicated to rescuing that type of dog. For example, look at Greyhound Rescue Wales and Freedom of Spirit Trust Border Collies.

“We’re a specific breed rescue centre that rehomes Labradors,” says Wendy of Team Edward Labrador Rescue. “As a result, we have a great deal of knowledge about the breed and have lots of professionals on hand to help us if needed on behavioural issues and specific breed health problems.”

Be prepared to travel

If a centre asks for a home visit and reference checks, this should reassure you that they are taking precautions to ensure their dogs go to a good home.

Wendy from Team Edward Labrador Rescue thinks it’s important for potential adopters to be prepared to travel to meet the dog who may join their family.

“We expect people to meet the Labradors that are available for rehoming at our foster families dotted around Nottingham and Derbyshire,” she says. “Here we can see the interaction between them, meet other dogs in the family under our supervision, and carefully match them according to each Labrador’s needs.”

What makes a good potential adopter?

Every rescue centre wants to find the perfect match for their dogs. So what are they looking for?

“Our priority is finding the dog the home that suits them,” says Steph McCawley from RSPCA Chesterfield & North Derbyshire Branch. “We make sure that their new owner can meet all their needs firstly and can give the dog all the care and love they need.”

What do you need to adopt? The means to support a dog, hard work, patience and compassion

“We also look at the person’s employment to ensure they can afford to care for the dog,” continues Steph. “We consider their experience of dogs but, most importantly, the relationship with the dog they are showing interest in.” “Another important factor is the right attitude – compassion and an understanding that rescue dogs will need time to adjust to their new home. Hard work and patience are key for anyone considering rescuing a dog.”


Ben’s story


“We took in Ben, a handsome black Lab, after his owner passed away,” says Wendy of Team Edward Labrador Rescue. “He suffered from separation anxiety so during lockdown we enlisted the help of an animal behaviourist to help his foster family work with him on his issues. We were looking for a special family to take him in and were delighted when we were able to rehome him six weeks ago. He has settled in incredibly well with the two other Labs in the family and we couldn’t be happier.”

Tackling the myth of behavioural issues

You’ll sometimes hear people say that dogs from rescue centres can behave in problematic ways, such as being shy, anxious or destructive. However, it seems that this is more of a myth than a reality.

According to Margaret Green Animal Rescue, it’s a misconception that all rescue dogs that come in to kennels have behavioural issues.

They say that more often than not, these dogs come from loving homes that are unfortunately unable to keep them due to family loss, a change in work commitments or moving to accommodation where they’re not able to keep pets.

How to prepare your home for a rescue dog

Your new dog will need time to settle in and it makes sense to ensure that your house is ready to welcome your new family member.

Margaret Green Animal Rescue recommends the following tips:

  • If you have a garden, make sure it’s fully secure to prevent your new companion from wandering off.
  • Think about how to prevent your dog from running off through the front door, for example when you open it for guests or for the postman. You can do this by installing a baby gate or by putting the dog in another room behind a closed door when you open the front door.
  • Find a safe spot for your dog to go if they need some quiet time alone. For example, you could put a dog bed in a low-traffic room.
  • Think about where your dog will stay when you leave them alone in the house. Ideally, it will be a room that’s easy to clean and where there’s nothing that can be damaged if the dog gets anxious when they’re left.
  • To prevent the new dog chewing things when they’re bored, provide them with toys and dog chews to keep them occupied and entertained.

What to expect in the first few days

Every dog is different, so they’re likely to react in a different way when they come into a new home. However, here are a few insights into the kind of behaviour to look out for.

In the experience of Margaret Green Animal Rescue, it’s not uncommon for a dog to sleep for long periods of time for the first couple of days, as dogs don’t always switch off completely in a kennel environment.

They say that dogs may also go off their food for a few days and may be unsettled due to the change in environment and the change in routine. Meanwhile, other dogs may come in to the home and be very excited - especially if they have been in a home environment previously, and will start exploring and running around every room in the house.

Therefore it’s really important to allow the dog time to settle in for the first few days after getting them home, as it may take them a while to adjust to their new surroundings. Patience and understanding are paramount.

To prevent the new dog chewing things when they’re bored, provide them with toys and dog chews to keep them occupied and entertained.

Please share your rescue pics!

Do you have a gorgeous rescue hound? Please share your pictures with us on Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to hear your stories too.

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