Giving a rescue dog a home can be extraordinarily rewarding but it’s not without its challenges. Our family has been through the process 3 or 4 times now in different circumstances and I’m happy to share our experiences and to pass on some tips that have worked for us. On two occasions we took in rescue puppies who were terrified but babies nonetheless and more recently, we rescued an 18 month Labrador.
1. Visit your new pet at least once before you commit to taking him or her into your home. If you have children it’s important to take your children with you on the visit. In our case, when we looking at rehoming a dog we looked at a few rescue centres online, made contact, passed all the tests and then arranged to visit one of the doggies that we saw online. The first lovely lady who was in need of a home was so excitable when we went to visit that she scared my boys. I had warned them that she might be jumpy and lively because she was in her kennel for a large part of the day but even though they desperately wanted a pet it was too much for them. We tried a few weeks later with another gorgeous boy that we had seen online and this time, while this dog was also very happy to see us he calmed down a lot quicker and my youngest son really made a quick connection with him. That day really changed our family life. Buddy came into it and was part of the family within about 48 hours.
2. So, what did we learn? Buddy had clearly been house trained but pulled on the lead so he needed training. He also marked his territory as he came into the house so a firm voice and a bit of training and he learned quickly not to do that again! He could be very excitable and responded to a firm and calm voice. I taught him quickly who was boss but in a kind way. He’d had enough misery in his life – months on his own and then in kennels waiting for a home for another 5 months.
3. Buddy hadn’t been neutered so he chased after every female dog in the park (and beyond) and so we arranged to have him neutered within a few months of taking him in.
4. Although he wasn’t a puppy, he acted like a puppy, chewing and eating shoes and clothing when nervous or left alone. We had to set the ground rules and within a short period of time we had overcome this problem.
5. Rescues do need lots of love and reassurance because many of them suffer from anxiety. Buddy still likes to be the first person into the house after an outing always worried about being abandoned after all these years.
6. Some rescue dogs can be aggressive/reactive out on a walk mainly because of fear. Buddy used to bark at other dogs in the park when he was terrified but he is not an aggressive breed or dog so would roll over and submit if attacked. Other rescues do need training to help with this type of behaviour and there are plenty of good people offering this service. Animals do respond to love and a caring family but it takes time. Remember, sometimes it’s impossible to know how much they have suffered or been impacted by cruelty.
Finally, there are so many healthy dogs desperately in need of a home. When we took in Buddy we were happy to bypass the puppy stage and we are the luckiest family to have such an amazing, loyal and special dog in our family. He makes our house a home and it feels empty without him. Before taking this step do the leg work, realise that taking in a dog is a big commitment, it changes your life in many amazing ways but your dog becomes your responsibility and is almost like having a child or another child. They live for 12 to 18 years depending on the breed and are totally reliant on you. It can also be expensive – they need to be fed a healthy, balanced diet, go to the vets for annual checks and when they are ill. They need regular walks, lots of love and you might think about investing in pet insurance.