A Guide To Adopting Your First Rescue Dog.

A dog can be an amazing addition to any family – and getting a rescue dog is a fantastic way to make sure you are doing some good while welcoming your new four-legged friend.

The reasons to adopt rather than shop are clear. Not only will you be giving an abandoned dog a much-needed home, but rescue dogs are often older and so you can forget the messy, difficult puppy stage. Not to mention the fact that you aren’t supporting potentially cruel puppy farms.




Finding the perfect rescue dog.

When you are looking for a suitable rescue dog it is really important to use a reputable rescue organisation or charity like Blue Cross, RSPCA or The Dogs Trust. If you are looking for a particular breed than you could do some research into breed specific rescue charities like Spaniel Aid UK.

You may see dogs offered on Gumtree, Pets4Homes or in classified adverts in the paper and on the internet, but if you care about dog welfare and want to make sure that you aren't getting a sick or stolen dog then the reputable agencies should definitely be the place you to go.

Registered rescue agencies will undertake health and behaviour checks as part of a thorough assessment of every dog in their care. This helps them to ensure that they find the most suitable home for each dog so you get a dog that is fit and well and you know if it has any behaviour issues like guarding, barking or if it is scared of dogs or people.

It is also important to have realistic expectations. More than 20% of adopted dogs get returned to the rescue centre as owners don't comprehend how long it takes them to settle, what issues the dogs may have and what caring for a dog actually entails. Dogs are totally dependent on us to care for them, feed and exercise them, not to mention entertaining them and picking up piles of poo so there is a lot to consider before embarking on dog ownership.


All rescue dogs have a history, so often take longer to settle and some may have behaviour issues. When we adopted Charley she was so shut down that she had no idea how to play or what toys were for.
Now, several years on she is a bit of a ball mad barker which we are working on through training. She is definitely not aggressive or lame..... which were the reasons she was taken to the vet to be put to sleep before Spaniel Aid U.K. managed to save her.  

She is scared of sudden movements in the house and she cowers sometimes. We have no information about her circumstances but I think she may have been hit by her previous owners. She does love to snuggle at night and always has to be leaning on one of us. If we move she moves so I think if we were to leave her for any length of time she might suffer from separation anxiety. All these are things that are part of her make up that we didn’t know when we adopted her. 


But what about when you have made the decision to adopt a rescue dog? Where do you go from there? Read on to get some top tips for adopting your first rescue dog.




Prepare in advance.

Being prepared is essential in many situations – none more so than when bringing home a new dog. Once you have chosen your new furry friend, or even before you begin looking, you should begin thinking about the details. These include where your dog will sleep, and who will be taking on the majority of the walking and feeding duties. You will also need to think about practicalities, such as where your nearest veterinary surgery is. Will you need pet insurance? Plus don’t forget about all the equipment you will need, food and bowls, bedding, and toys to help your dog to feel at home. Check out local dog training classes in the area, too, as this is the perfect way to not only train your pup, but bond with them too.

Finding the perfect fit.

Bringing home a rescue dog has its fair share of challenges, but you can ease some of these by choosing one that suits your lifestyle. There are lots of different types of dogs waiting to be rehomed, so you can really look into which one will suit your family. When considering this, think about things like how active you are, whether you have children or other animals, if your house is noisy or quiet, and how much previous dog handling experience you have. All of these can help you to find the ideal dog for your home.

Make introductions.

Even before your dog comes to their forever home, you will want to make sure you introduce every family member in a neutral, safe space. This will normally be done at the rescue centre. Don’t forget other pets, too! Some rescue dogs are fine with other dogs, cats, or even smaller animals… but this should never be left to chance. Make introductions before they come home with you to ensure that you don’t have any surprises later. Most rescue organisations will insist on meeting all the family and other dogs before you are allowed to adopt as it makes sense to check that everyone will get on.




Be understanding.

Rescue dogs have sometimes (but not always) come from neglectful or difficult homes. When they first come into your home, they may be shy and nervous, or rambunctious and not as friendly as you would like, they might even chew the furniture or wee on people's belongings!

If you notice some negative behavioural traits, be calm and patient with your dog. Let them find their way to you by being a reliable presence – and remember those training classes! It takes time for them to settle.

A wise friend told me that we should look at the 3:3:3 rule which gives some guidance of what to expect in the first 3 days, the next three weeks and how the dog will be feeling after 3 months. Charley took at least 3 months to settle and were very patient and careful with her. You can check out this useful guidance by clicking on the link.

Take some time.

One of the most important things is to take time. Don’t give up. Your dog may take a while to fit into your family dynamic, but bringing home a rescue dog is a rewarding experience that will result in you having a friend for life.

If you follow these handy hints, your rescue dog should settle in and be a wonderful member of your family for many years to come giving unconditional love and moments of pure joy for the whole family.



                     Kim with Leo the Labrador and Charley the cocker spaniel out in the heather

This blog was written by Kim O'Donnell and Jessica Pierce who has contributed as a guest blogger.



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