It is very exciting when you plan to bring a new friend into the house. With so many dogs to choose from and so many ways of getting a dog how do you know you will get it right? What support will you get once you find your dog or puppy? How will you know that you are making the right decision? These are all questions you might be asking yourself just now, or in the future. While we can’t make that choice for you, we can give you some general advice and information which might help you make the right decision.
There are lots of ways you might come across your new dog:
- From family or friend who no longer want their dog, and you already know the dog
- From the newspaper or free ad sites on the internet
If you don’t already know the dog we can give you advice about the remaining choices. We can talk you through the benefits and pitfalls, and most importantly we can help you think about the bigger picture.
Here at Dog Rescue World we are committed to rescue dogs. We have built this website to support rescues and dogs looking for homes, but we also have information about the other options.
There are many different rescues in the UK. Here on DRW we currently list around 290 rescue centres (and there are probably more we haven’t yet identified). That means that even in the area you live there are likely to be a number of rescues who will offer you the chance to re-home a dog. These rescues work in different ways. Practices will vary from rescue to rescue, but here are some examples of good practice.
Assessment of Dogs
All good rescues should assess a dog as fully as possible before rehoming. The way this is done will vary. If a rescue keeps dogs in kennels the assessment will be done from a kennel environment, while those that use foster homes (i.e. people who look after the dog in a home environment until a permanent home is found) will have been able to assess the dog in a home environment. An assessment should try to identify the following behaviours in the dog:
- Behaviour around other dogs
- Behaviour with other animals (cats and smaller animals)
- Training eg Is the dog house trained? How well does the dog walk on a lead? Recall?
- Does the dog have any issues such as separation anxiety or resource guarding?
When meeting a dog for the first time you may wish to ask the rescue what information they have on the above areas. Obviously the level of assessment will depend on the resources available to the rescue.
Assessment of Homes
Some rescues you visit may not ask for any home assessment to be done, while others may ask you questions regarding your suitability for the dog. In a few cases for some breeds they may ask for a veterinary letter to verify knowledge of the breed or type of dog. Other rescues might carry out a home visit.
What is the benefit of each of these approaches?
1.Meet and purchase dog. This happens in many of the larger dog pounds. If you are an experienced home, and have dealt with difficult dogs in the past you may find this works well. For a lot of dogs that have no issues it can also work very well. If you choose this route you need to be sure that you will receive back up from the pound should it not work out, will they take the dog back in the event of a problem? This won’t happen in every case so you need to be sure that you are taking the right dog for your situation.
2.Assessing Suitability. You may be asked to complete a form giving the rescue information to determine your suitability for a particular dog. This may be a precursor to a home visit or may be sufficient in itself. You may be asked questions such as who all lives in the house, what hours are you out, are there any other animals in the home and what experience do you have. These questions are about trying to work out your level of suitability for the dogs in the rescue’s care. Don’t feel under pressure to answer the questions. Simply answer them honestly and openly. If you have chosen a specific dog in the rescue and you are turned down, it does not mean you are not suitable for any dog, just that the dog in question needs something different.
3.Home Visit. Rescues that carry out home visits are doing this for the following reasons:
•To verify that you are who you say you are and that you live in the house that you have specified. This might seem over the top but there are instances of people acquiring rescue dogs for all the wrong reasons including things as horrific as dog fighting.
•To ensure that your home is secure for the dog. What you consider to be secure may vary to what is needed by the dog. For example if you have a fenced garden, but the fencing is only 4ft high then some dogs could clear that without a second thought.
•To verify that all the family are committed to the dog. You should ensure that all family members are present for any home visit.
Donations for Dogs
All rescues will ask for a donation for the dog. The amount will vary from rescue to rescue. Expect to pay anywhere from around £75 up to around £200. When thinking about the donation you are asked for, consider what work the rescue might do with the dog prior to rehoming it.
•The cost of caring for the dog in the rescue, kennelling costs, feeding costs.
•Other veterinary work such as dentals, worming and flea treatment
Choosing the Dog
Some people visit rescues knowing what type of dog they are looking for, eg a specific breed, a size, long coat, short coat, male or female. Others just go along for a look, thinking they will know when they see the dog. Some people have a fixed idea and this may change totally when they meet the dog.
At the end of the day, most people choose a dog based on what they ‘see’ or learn about the dog’s needs. People’s ideas of the right dog vary by as many people as are looking for the dog. Some people might see a dog and like the look of the dog, only to discover that the dog has specific needs which might put them off taking the dog. For example age, a health condition or a disability. Don’t let this put you off. There are lots of dogs with specific needs that live happy lives in homes. (there are articles on just such dogs provided on the website to encourage people to overlook these perceived difficulties).
Prior to looking you should write down everything you can think of that will affect your choice, such as:
2.The ages of those in the family
3.How long the dog will be left during the day
4.How much space have you in the house for a dog
5.What exercise can you commit to on a daily basis
6.Is anyone in the house allergic to animal fur
All of these things will affect the type of dog you should choose. For example it is not fair to take on a young dog and leave it for hours. It is not fair to take on any dog and leave it for 9 hours with no break. If you have very young children you may be limited in the dogs available, as rescues may be reluctant to re-home big and bouncy dogs with toddlers. Having thought this through in advance will help you make an informed decision as to the dog that is right for your family.
It will also help a rescue recommend specific dogs as suitable to your needs. Please be prepared to listen to these recommendations and don’t dismiss a dog because it doesn’t exactly meet your ‘mental image’ of what your dog looks like.
Now you have a clearer idea of the type of things which would affect your ability to choose a dog, you can start looking. The internet has a wealth of information about dogs looking for homes. Some rescues will advertise dogs from other countries for re-homing in this country. Here at DRW we strongly recommend that you meet any dog before offering the dog a home. While it may well work out taking a dog unseen, you need to know that the rescue you take the dog from is able to take the dog back should problems arise.
If you have a specific breed in mind, there are rescues that specialise in most breeds. A full listing of these is available on Dog Rescue World, see the link to Breed Rescues. However, general rescues may also have dogs of specific breeds available. It is also not unheard of for a pedigree puppy to become available through rescue. Remember though, if no puppies are available, dogs only stay puppies for a very short period, so don’t be put off looking at slightly older dogs.
Some rescues specialise in ex puppy farm dogs. These dogs tend to be pedigree dogs which have passed their use for breeding. Remember that many of these dogs will have been kept in horrendous conditions just like those shown in the photograph here, and be afraid of the outside world and human beings. Most rescues who work with puppy farm dogs insist that they are re-homed to homes that have an existing dog, as the ex breeder dogs will probably be more used to other dogs than human contact.
While some of these dogs may have health problems, they do ultimately make fantastic pets and there are many happy examples of ex breeding dogs moving happily into a home environment.
Buying a Puppy
If after all your research you decide that you want a puppy and a pedigree, you need to think carefully about choosing your breeder. At Dog Rescue World while we are dedicated to rescue dogs, we are also concerned with animal welfare issues including some bad practices surrounding the breeding of dogs. In this section we will give you advice that is aimed at helping you avoid giving money to unscrupulous breeders, often referred to as Puppy Farmers or Back Yard Breeders. The most important thing to remember is that a breeder who breeds responsibly will re-home responsibly. If you see a litter of puppies in a pet shop, or in a kennels and the mother is not available to view then that probably means that the pups came from a puppy farm.
When looking for a breeder contact the breed club for your chosen breed. They are likely to have lists of breeders who are registered and may even have details of those with pups available or due. Once you are in contact with the breeder you need to ask the following questions:
1.Is at least the mother available to view with the puppies
2.Are the puppies reared in the home or are the dogs kept in sheds or kennels
3.How many litters does the breeder allow the bitch to have and how often
4.Are the puppies Kennel Club registered (other registrations such as Dog Lovers Registration are not the same thing).
5.What health checks have been carried out on the parents prior to breeding (if you have researched your chosen breed carefully you will know what health checks should have been carried out to minimise ill health in the dog as it grows up. Links to the Kennel Club information on breed health tests can be found on the left menu of this page).
6.What back up will the breeder give to the puppies in the future should the need arise (the most responsible breeders guarantee to take the adult dogs back).
If you are happy with the answers to your questions, then go ahead and make arrangements to visit the breeder. A truly responsible breeder will have many questions for you including some of those which rescues would ask, for example what hours do you work, what experience you have of caring for dogs.
If you are a pet home, a good breeder may sell you the dog on a non-breeding contract, i.e. insisting that you do not use the dog or bitch to have a litter of puppies. Avoid breeders who insist on you having one litter and giving them the choice of puppies. We would also recommend that you avoid breeders who insist that you do not neuter your dog when it is old enough.
Private Rehoming via Free Ads in Papers or Internet
Free ad sites on the internet or in local papers can hold adverts for dogs for sale or free to good home. Where these are for breeders please follow the advice given in the section above. Where the dog is advertised free to good home then you need to consider the following issues:
Why are the owners rehoming the dog. Please be wary of reasons given as these may not always be as genuine as you wish to believe.
What will happen if I take the dog and it doesn’t work out? It is highly unlikely that the owner will take the dog back again.
It can be very tempting to go for a ‘free’ dog. However remember that such a dog may not be neutered, vaccinated, wormed or deflead. That work on it’s own will run into hundreds of pounds. Then you do not know whether there are any other health complications that the owner has not declared.
This is not to say that many people don’t successfully re-home dogs in this way, and it may be that your perfect dog is waiting there for you. We would only caution you that it is not always as unproblematic as it appears.
This has been a long article, and if you have reached this point we thank you for reading and hope that you have learnt some pointers which help when looking for your new dog.
If you still have questions join our lively forums where there will be lots of people available to give you further help and advice. And please remember that rescue dogs rock! Read the articles on dogs with special needs because they need homes too, and consider whether you could offer such a dog in rescue a loving home. We wish you every luck in finding your new best friend.
If you want more information about puppy farming and the national campaign against it, please visit the Puppy Love Campaign
website by clicking on the highlighted text to visit their website.