Adopting a dog from a rescue centre - Dog Training Tips

If you have decided that you want a dog, it is often a good idea to consider rehoming a dog from one of the many rescue centres around the UK. There are lots of lovely dogs who find themselves at rescue centres through no fault of their own. They just want a home and will very often prove to be loving and loyal lifelong companions to their new owners. Many dogs find kennel life stressful so offering a new home to such a dog is an act that benefits both you and the dog you choose to adopt.

Consider UK based rescues first rather than choose a sad-looking dog or puppy from a photo on a foreign rescue site. Whilst these dogs are just as deserving of a home, as dogs from UK rescues, it will be difficult for you to assess its personality without meeting the dog first. Once you’ve committed and the dog has been brought over to the UK, you may have problems. If this happens, then the poor dog may have to be surrendered to an already full UK rescue centre. If you adopt a dog from a UK rescue, then they are more than likely on hand to help you if you run into problems.

Also, avoid adopting from free ads on websites or similar, or from a ‘friend of a friend’. These may be stolen dogs or puppies and the truth about their background and behaviour may be withheld from you.

The best place to start
If you're thinking of adopting, the first thing to do is to look at the websites for the various shelters or, if you don’t have access to the internet, phone your local shelter and have a chat with them about your requirements and ask them if they have a dog that may suit you. If you do have access to the internet, most rescue centre websites will feature photographs of the dogs available for adoption, together with some basic information (name, breed, age, sex, temperament). Look at the dogs available and consider your own situation and how the dog will fit into your life and your household. Consider the cost of feeding them a good-quality diet and whether your budget can accommodate that expense (please don’t be tempted to feed low-budget, low-quality foods as these often contribute to unwanted behaviour and illnesses which can prove expensive and can see the dog returned to the shelter).

Choosing the right breed or type of dog
Choose breeds that are, or are likely to become, a size you can handle. If you have an active, outdoor lifestyle, you can choose an active young dog or a breed of dog that requires plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. For example, many springer spaniels and border collies are surrendered because their owners didn’t anticipate the mental and physical stimulation needed by their dogs. Before you rescue one, be sure that you are prepared and are being realistic about how much extra exercise you will be willing to take on. Don’t choose a breed of dog because it will force you to get out and get fit unless you are 100% sure about your commitment. In most cases, this doesn’t happen and it is the dog that suffers. If you prefer a slower pace of life, you may want to consider a smaller breed or an older dog who doesn’t need lots of exercise. Retired Greyhounds can make fabulous pets for the older or less active person; they are big enough not to trip over, happy to walk sedately on a lead around streets, and more than happy to laze on a comfortable bed.

Having decided which dog(s) you are interested in, contact the rescue centre by telephone and arrange to go and meet the dog… and possibly others that the rescue may recommend to you. At this visit, and before you meet and fall in love with the dog, ask lots of questions to further establish whether this is the right pet for you. Your questions may include: -

  • Was the dog surrendered or is it a stray?
  • If surrendered, what is its history? Why was it surrendered?
  • Has the dog been evaluated by a behaviourist? What are the findings?
  • How does the dog behave around other dogs and animals?
  • How does the dog behave around children?
  • Is there evidence of any training?
  • Is he friendly towards the staff, allowing them to take him out and return him to his kennel without issues?

These are all basic questions, and ones that the rescue centre staff will be happy to answer. In fact, they will expect you to want to know this information and will probably have the answers prepared for you in advance.

How to greet a dog for the first time
When you do meet the dog, you should try to assess his personality and temperament with the help of the kennel staff. The dog may be slightly wary of you at first. You are a stranger, so this is understandable. Allow him to make the approaches and set the pace of your greeting. Try to remain still and calm and allow the dog to come to you and sniff you. Don't just reach out to pet him as he may still be wary. It’s a good idea not to wear any strong perfumes or after shave when going to meet your selected dog for the first time, that way the dog can catch your scent which will help him to assess you. Once you and the staff feel that the dog is settled, you can interact a little more. He may not be ready to play or chase a ball for you, but he may be happy to let you have the lead and take him for a walk, or interact with him off lead in a secure area. Look out for signs of him shrinking away from you, cowering or shaking if you move your hands, speak loudly or make sudden noises such as a sneeze or cough. These may be signs that the dog either has been mistreated in its past or does not have a stable temperament and could need a lot of rehabilitation. This type of behaviour in a dog doesn’t mean that the dog is not suitable for adoption, but it may mean that, unless you have the skills to cope with and retrain a dog like this, you will struggle in situations around people or other dogs, that you can’t control. Consider whether this dog is right for you or whether it would be better suited to a different home. Don’t feel that you are letting the dog down by not taking him. Better he goes to the right home rather than end up back at the shelter or, even worse, euthanized because he has bitten. Look for a dog whose personality is suited to your level of knowledge and skill; a dog you can live with and cope with.

On the other hand, the dog you choose to meet may leap all over you, lick your face, and wag his tail so hard that he can barely stand still. This is lovely, enthusiastic behaviour and great if you can cope with this level of exuberance in your home. Also, once the initial enthusiasm has calmed down, check for those signs mentioned earlier… shying away from your hands, cowering and behaving in a fearful way.

In just the same way as selecting a puppy from a litter, the confident “me first” puppies and the ones that hide at the back of the pen are the ones for people with lots of experience and knowledge around dogs. Unless you are one of those people, you are probably better looking at the mild-mannered, middle of the pack dogs or puppies.

The same theory applies to rescue dogs. There are hundreds of dogs deserving a second chance at a ‘furever’ home. Most of them will make perfect family pets and loyal companions. If you are honest with yourself and realistic about your expectations and abilities, you will be able to take home the dog that is right for you. Choose carefully and you will be doing both yourself and the dog you rehome a great kindness. Then you can look forward to years of happiness and friendship.

This information is brought to you by Bark Busters in the interest of animal welfare and the great work that animal rescues and shelters do.

Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.

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