It is estimated that 130,000 dogs are taken in by rehoming charities in the UK every year (that’s 356 every day!). The most common cause for a dog to be surrendered is that the dog has some behaviours which the owner finds difficult to live with.
Many of these behaviours will be perfectly normal behaviours for a dog, but the original owner may not have done their research and chosen a pet which is unsuitable for their lifestyle. Some dogs may have more complex behavioural issues which will need ongoing training and management.
Taking on a rescue dog should not be undertaken lightly but can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Here are some tips to making the right decision.
Go to a reputable rescue centre
Unfortunately, there are some so-called rescue centres that do more harm than good, taking in too many dogs to take proper care of them and not checking the suitability of the dog for rehoming.
Reputable rescue centres will ensure that all their dogs are fully vaccinated, neutered and microchipped before they are rehomed. You should expect detailed grilling on your lifestyle and expectations to ensure that the dog is going to a good home. Do not be offended by this, the centre staff do not want the dog to be returned after a few weeks because they are not suited to your home and lifestyle.
To find a good rehoming centre, speak to local dog-owning friends and check out the national dog rehoming charities such as:
Be honest with yourself and the rehoming centre
Be honest about the time you have to spend with your new dog, your experience with dogs and the physical and mental energy you have to train your dog. Many rescue dogs will have complex behavioural and training needs. Taking on too great a challenge will adversely affect both you and your new dog and may result in you having to return the dog to the rehoming centre. This will not do either of you any favours so be realistic.
The dog whose character best suits your family may not be the one that first catches your eye. The rehoming centre staff know their dogs best so be guided by them and don’t simply go on appearance. Black dogs in particular, are often overlooked for no good reason. Older or disabled dogs are also often passed over but they still have a huge amount to offer.
Avoid overseas rescue
Unfortunately there are many dogs around the world in need of rescuing and it is easy to get caught up in the emotion and want to bring them over to the UK for a new life. There are, however, many reasons not to do this.
Firstly, many of these dogs will have been stray, living on the streets for some time. Many may never have lived in a home environment. This means that getting them into a kennel or home environment may be extremely stressful for them. Housetraining may be very difficult and they may never be the loving pet that you are looking for.
Secondly, many other countries have parasites carrying disease which are not present in the UK. By bringing over rescue dogs from other countries, we are bringing in dogs which carry the disease and pose a great risk to the UK dog population. Some of these diseases cannot be transmitted at the moment as we do not have the relevant parasite but some, such as Babesia, have already started to emerge in UK parasites.
If you want to improve the welfare of these dogs, it is better to support charities who do trap-neuter-release programs or who rehome dogs or have a sanctuary within the country of origin or other local countries.
Find out as much as possible about your dog’s background and needs before you bring them home. Take some time off work to give them time to settle in. There is often a ‘honeymoon period’ where things seem fine but be prepared for things to become more challenging after a few weeks as your new companion finds their feet.
Find out what post-adoption support the rescue centre provide, and look up local dog trainers and behaviourists who can help you to understand your new friend and their training needs.