Advice on: getting a rescue dog

Carolyn Menteith is a behaviourist at with over 25 years of experience working with and training dogs.

While there is nothing cuter than a puppy, there is no doubt they are hard work – and many people who desperately want a dog, just don’t have the time or the energy needed to dedicate themselves to raising the perfect dog from puppyhood.

The answer is to rehome an adult dog from rescue. By doing this, a lot of the work will probably already have been done for you, and you will know exactly what that cute ball of fluff has grown up into. With a rescue dog, what you see is what you get. Even better, you are giving a dog a second-chance in life and providing them with their much-needed forever home.

Before you rush down to your nearest rescue centre however there are some things you need to think about.

What you’ll need to consider

First of all, and possibly surprisingly, rescue organisations in the UK are not regulated, and so you need to ensure that wherever you choose to start your search for your perfect rescue dog is reputable. A good starting point is to look at the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes website ( and choose a rescue that is a member of this highly respected umbrella organisation. Not every great rescue organisation will be a member, but you do have the reassurance of knowing that the hundreds that are work to high standards of welfare and operational standards, and assess every dog that passes through their doors in order to do everything they can to make sure they find the perfect home. 

If you choose to rehome a dog from a rescue organisation that isn’t an ADCH member, ask around other professionals (both vets and behaviourists/trainers) to find out all you can about the organisation you plan to visit and to make sure they are reputable. 

Decide what kind of dog is right for you

Before you go, think carefully about what kind of dog you want to give a home to. Think about size, how much exercise you can give them, how much grooming you want to do, how much training you are happy to take on, how much noise your neighbours will tolerate, and what kind of dog would fit into the life you lead and the family you have or expect to have. Then make sure you stick to these requirements! It’s very easy to be swayed by a pair of big brown eyes belonging to a totally unsuitable dog – but you wouldn’t be doing yourself or the dog any favours if you took them home – and you’d be depriving them of their perfect home too. 

Most rescue centres have a website so you can get an idea about what dogs they might have and what their adoption procedure is. Then go and visit. Spend time talking to the staff about what you are looking for – and let them guide you. They know the dogs in their care better than anyone.

Patience is key!

Be patient – it’s worth it. If they don’t have a dog to suit you, be prepared to wait until they do. You dog will be part of your family for many years to come so don’t rush into a decision.

Once you find a dog you are interested in (or maybe have a shortlist), spend time meeting them, getting to know them and seeing if you have a ‘connection’ and can imagine them living with you. 

If you have another dog, arrange for the dogs to meet before adoption so you can see if they are going to get on – after all, they will be living together too.

While it is easy to think you will be able to do lots of training and ‘iron out’ any problems, unless you are highly experienced, be realistic and don’t rehome a dog based on potential. Be sure that if that dog stayed exactly as they are now, you would be happy. It’s a bit like a marriage in that way! 

Questions to ask a rescue centre before adoption:

  1. How much of the dog’s history do you know?
  2. Why were they given up by their previous owners?
  3. Are they toilet trained?
  4. Have they lived with children/cats (whatever you might have at home!)?
  5. What back-up does the rescue give to owners if they need help/advice?
  6. What food do they currently eat? (most rescue centres will give you some of the dog’s current food to tide you over till you can do some shopping)
  7. Does the dog have any medical issues?

Once you have done all of this, and found your perfect dog, you are ready to take them home and start your new life together.

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