Thinking about getting a rescue dog?

Posted Monday, 12 January 2015

Rescue or puppy

So, you are thinking about taking on a rescue dog! 

Thank you, there are so many dogs in need of caring homes. I hope that I can help you to make your decision and provide support for you in caring for and living with your new friend.

Why adopt a rescue dog?

Because dogs need love and we need dogs!
Because in 2007 more than 100,000 dogs went through the rescue system
It's really exciting to be part of the beginning of something wonderful!
Because the puppy stage can be a nightmare!!!
Because they so much want to please you and will be very rewarding to train
You will feel good to be providing a safe new home for your new pal!
You may feel that you are too old to take on a younger dog but have a lot to offer to an older dog
Where should I get a rescue dog from?

Rescue Organisation

There are many rescue organisations about. The kennel club produce a rather thick brochure listing all the Kennel Club recognised organisations.

Please be aware that there are some so called dog rescue organisations that are no more than a dog selling outlet that import dogs for sale. Rescue organisations are un-regulated and as a result you will have to rely on your local dog warden to find out if a certain dog rescue organisation is really what it says on the tin! Some reputable local ones include Waggy Tails, Dogs Trust, and The RSPCA.

Private sale

You will often find dogs advertised on the internet, in local newspapers or by word of mouth. As a behaviourist I tend to find that dogs advertised this way are ones which I see fairly often as behaviour consultations. This is not to say that all advertised dogs are a problem but I would urge caution! You need to have your wits about you and I recommend the following:

See if you can see the dog interact with another dog not already in the household in whch he lives
Make sure you see him being fed and that he is happy to have people around whilst being fed
See how the dog behaves around toys that are on the floor. If there are no toys find out why.
Try to see the dog at the owner's home. How does he react when you arrive and enter the house?
Does the dog look fit and well? Ask to see vaccination certificates.
Try to find out as much as you can about his veterinary history, obtain vet's name and ask for access to records.

Making Your Decision

This is something that should not be taken lightly. The above suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list. But, sadly, many dogs who are adopted end up back in the system. Why? The following are some causes and explanations.

Separation related issues which result in complaints about noise, elimination inside the home, or damage to property
Allergies to the dog
The dog is aggressive towards other dogs and is difficult to manage
The dog barks excessively
The dog guards food, toys or beds etc
The dog chases cars, cyclists, animals etc
The dog won't come back when called
The owner was not prepared for the effort and commitment it can take to adopt a rescue dog
Marriage breakdown
The owner's don't know how to solve the problems they are having with their rescue dog

Still want to adopt a rescue dog? I do hope so!

I wasn't trying to frighten you.. honest! However, it is really important that you have thought this through and understand what to expect. The last thing a rescue dog needs is to be sent back to rescue. Deciding to return a dog to rescue is as difficult for the human as the dog. Having made this wonderful decision here is some more information which might help! Good luck and do give me a shout if you have any questions!


Remember your dog has emotions. Yes they do, even though people will tell you they only learn by association. It is a scientific fact that canines have at least primary emotions and there is much research into whether or not dogs have secondary emotions such as jealousy (but of course we already know they do don't we?)

Keep cool and don't panic, whatever your dog does! If you panic this will travel down the lead like an aerial and your dog will feel even more stressed.

Train your dog using rewards. Look for a trainer who uses kind techniques to ensure the most effective training. A good starting place is to look at the Animal Behaviour and Training Council ( for a list of members in your area. There are an increasing number of good trainers but if you have a rescue dog you will need a trainer who understands dog behaviour. There are various behaviour qualifications and you will need to research to discover the value of them. As a general rule it would be best to find one that is at least a foundation degree level and which has been listed by the ABTC - the voluntary regulatory body for the profession.

Do check any training class before you join to make sure you are happy with the techniques used and that the class is small and under control. You will need to make sure your trainer can manage rescue dogs in a class environment. Your trainer may ask to see you and your dog before registering you on the class and this is a good sign. It means that they will not take risks with your dog or the other dogs in a class. Some dogs are not suited to class based training until they have been rehabilitated.


Don't take an aggressive dog to a training class. This would cause more stress to your dog and the others in the class. You will need to rehabilitate him before joining a class. A behaviourist should be able to help you. Please see our behaviourist section.

Don't physically punish your rescue dog. Please realise that many dogs have received punishment or even abuse. This can make them more defensive when they feel threatened. So, don't handle them roughly or take them by the collar or shout at them, no matter what the provocation.

Do not over compensate for your rescue dog's sad past by giving too much un-earned affection or spending too much time with them. Rescue dogs tend to try to bond very quickly with their new owner and get more worried about being left alone. However, they must become accustomed to being left alone for short periods so start off as you plan to continue. Avoid taking two weeks off with them full time, never leave them alone all that time, and then go out to work full time leaving them alone all day as your rescue dog may not be able to cope. Start off by leaving them for a short while in another room with a well stuffed kong whilst you are in the house and then progress to leaving them for short times whilst you leave the house. Gradually build on the amount of time you leave them.

If a rescue organisation has turned you down for any reason they will have done so for good reasons. Try to resolve those reasons rather than just go to the internet/local papers and buy a dog which is up for sale.

If you have read this you may feel daunted! I really don't want to put you off, but it is important to realise that this is a big step to take. Rescue dogs need stability, so you must be sure this is right for you. I hope this helps you to make the right decision and adopt a rescue dog in the full knowledge of what you may expect. It truly can be the most rewarding thing to do.

If you would like more information about taking on a rescue dog please contact me.

The information contained above is for guidance only.