Before I get too far into this article, I would like to acknowledge that there are a large number of rescue and rehoming organisations that do a wonderful job helping and successfully finding new homes for many of the dogs that find themselves sadly not wanted any longer or without anybody to care for them.
I have recently worked with a number of clients who for all the right reasons, were trying to rehome one of the many dogs looking for a forever home. Let’s face it, many of us actively encourage people to do this instead of getting a puppy. However, this relies on a certain level of responsibility to be demonstrated by the rescue organisations to ensure that the dog is matched to the new family and unfortunately, in my recent experience, this has not always been the case. I do recognise my sample size is somewhat skewed by what I do, as I rarely get to work with the successful adoptions.
Recently, I have worked with three families who have all offered a dog a new home and a place in their lives, only to find the dog was not what they expected.
With all three of these families there has been a number of common factors. All, without exception, came to the families from smaller organisations or overseas charities. None of the families had met the dogs prior to rehoming, instead relying on the information from the rehoming organisation and all the dogs had manifested a fear of family members – mostly men and children.
This placing of dogs without due diligence has sadly resulted in stress and heartbreak to the families I have been working with. It is hard when somebody tells you that your new arrival is scared of you and then goes on to explain the risks and changes to their life, habits and routines that they are going to have to make and that there is a high probability they will never have the dog they imagined they were getting. By the time I get called, they have all bonded to one degree or another with the dog that they feel responsible to do their best, even though it was not what they signed up for and sadly they are now faced with tough decisions to either return the dog or make changes to their lives that they were not expecting.
As you can imagine, this is breaking the hearts of the people involved as they so want to help the dog. It also upsets me having to have these conversations with people.
So, this has prompted me to give a few tips to families who may be thinking of getting a rescue dog and provide you with a little more information that will hopefully prevent me having to have as many difficult conversations in the future.
So, let’s assume that you have already researched a little and understand that there is an amount of work involved in keeping any dog, you know now the practicalities of how much it will cost to keep in food and vet bills and that you will have to make arrangements for the dog when you need to go away etc. You may even have chosen a breed type or size and shape you would like. Remember though, dogs are generally time intensive, rather than space intensive.
So, you have done the above and you are ready to contact a rescue organisation. Any reputable rescue organisation should quiz you at length – do not feel threatened by this – they need you to be as honest as possible to ensure that they can provide you with what they think will be the best fit for your family and have the greatest chance of success.
As a side-note, any person who is giving up a dog for adoption, should again be completely open and truthful, as it helps organisations to find your dog a suitable home.
If after making contact with the organisation, they think they have a dog that will be a possible match, ask them for any back story, such as whether the dog has been in a family home, lived with other dogs and animals, how did it end up with them? Ask them if people can pat the dog, does it liked to be stroked and handled – this is all good information. If they were to say he or she is a little shy, nervous, aloof, discerning etc, then this should set off a little alarm that something needs further exploration, as these really translate as fearful or aggressive.
There is also likely to be a nominal fee of a few hundred pounds – if this puts you off, then you probably are not ready for a dog.
Once you have made contact and have been through the vetting process, I strongly recommend that you meet the dog before agreeing to take them into your home. In my experience of rescue, the vast majority of dogs that I see are in the one to three years age range. This is great, as by this time you will be able to see the dog’s personality and more importantly, you will see how gregarious he or she is. I know people often prefer puppies, but with puppies we can only stack the deck in our favour, as they mature and go through normal developmental changes of growing up, they may develop some behaviour you would prefer they hadn’t. So when you visit, you will be looking for a dog that happily approaches you with a wagging tail and looks like it wants to kiss you all over your face. If they will let you, take the dog for a walk, see how it reacts to children, other dogs and strangers, etc.
If children are part of the family, do not take them to the first meeting – arrange a further meeting with your children present. Try to remain objective and not fall for looks or big doe eyes – if the dog is not right for you and your family, it’s tougher to say no if the children are with you.
Hopefully, the organisation will have done a good job matching you to the dog, however there will be dogs that are not going to be suitable for your average pet owning home and they will require more work and support – try not to take one of these dogs just because you feel sorry for them – there are people out there, just like me, who will provide a loving home for these dogs, but do so in the full knowledge of what is involved.
This may seem a little over cautious, but this dog will potentially live with you for what we hope will be a great many years and by being cautious and spending time finding the right one now, you will give yourself the best possible chance of a successful and happy adoption experience which will last years.
As a final thought, should you want some support or advice before making a decision, seek out a competent trainer or behavioural consultant – it may feel expensive, but it will be worth every penny.
Reproduced with Kind Permission of Dog World