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Adopting a dog: what to expect when getting a rescue dog

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Adopting a rescue dog is a great thing to do. Not only do you provide a furry friend with a long-term loving home, you also play a part in reducing the number of homeless pets in the UK.

Before you rehome a rescued dog, you’ll want to do your research to make sure you choose the right pet for you and your lifestyle. 

Let’s take a closer look at what to expect when you rehome a dog, plus some top tips for helping your new pet settle into their new home. 

What should I know before adopting a dog?

Adopting a dog from a rescue shelter is different to bringing home a young puppy. It may be more rewarding, but your rescue dog might have health problems or behavioural issues that’ll take patience and kindness to work through.

Your rescue centre will provide details of the dog’s history, plus an assessment of any troublesome behaviour so you know what to expect.

Some problems may be easier to overcome than others. For example, if a dog hasn’t been properly house trained, you can rectify this in no time with training and positive reinforcement. 

Deep-rooted issues, on the other hand, may be harder to overcome  - especially if they date back to the dog’s early years.

What kind of behaviour issues is a rescue dog likely to have? 

This will depend on the individual dog and their background. No dog is guaranteed to have behavioural issues, or not to have them. A rescue dog could be:

  • Anxious whenever you leave them alone (separation anxiety)
  • Improperly toilet trained
  • Wary or suspicious of other dogs and people
  • Prone to destructive behaviour 

This doesn’t mean a rescue dog will always be more challenging than a puppy. Remember that all puppies need training, while the needs of rescue dogs can vary.

How to choose the right rescue dog for me?

Research a few nearby rehoming centres before paying them a visit. It’s helpful to have a few ‘candidate’ dogs in your head, ideally dogs that are suited to your lifestyle and home environment.

Rescue shelters offer more choice than you might think. Take a few online quizzes to find out which breeds suit you best. I.e. Do you lead an active lifestyle? Do you have small children at home, or another resident pet?

When visiting your rescue centre, remember to keep an open mind! Avoid getting too attached to any of the dogs - difficult as it may be - until you’ve chosen your new pet and everything has been confirmed. 

Preparing to bring your new dog home

A vet or member of the rescue centre team may visit you before take-home day to conduct a home check. It’s useful to be prepared - arrange your furniture accordingly & stock up on bedding, food, bowls and toys too!

The rescue shelter staff will have loads of experience in their field, and will provide all the info you need. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions. Which food does the dog eat? What’s their usual sleeping arrangement? 

The more info you can gather and the more you prepare, the easier things will be when your chosen dog does come home.

Top tips for bringing home your rescue dog

Take things slow at first - Give your new pet space to explore their new home.

Make some rules - consistency is king, so make sure the whole household is on board. Where will the dog sleep? Will they be allowed on the sofa? 

Set a schedule and stick to it - regular walking and feeding times will help to set your new dog at ease. 

Be patient - An older dog may not be as receptive to training as a young puppy. Make house training fun, and always use reward-based techniques. 

Looking ahead to the future

Whether in sickness or in health, your new dog will need a vet. It’s a good idea to find a vet soon after your dog comes home, they’ll conduct regular health checks and provide expert advice on healthcare and wellbeing. 

If you need to, speak to your vet or rehoming shelter for advice on behavioural therapy. They’ll be able to recommend a suitable and qualified canine behaviourist. 

Remember... it could take a few weeks for your dog to settle in. With patience, kindness and consistency on your part, you’ll be in for a truly rewarding experience and your dog will be in for a great life indeed!

Need more info?

For expert advice on adopting a rescue dog, have a chat with your local vet. Locate your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page or chat to a vet online today. 

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