Re-homing a dog
There are hundreds of dogs out there which, for many different reasons, require new homes. This can be due to a change in the owner's circumstances with work or family, breakdowns in relationships, abandonment because the dog has behavioural problems, puppies which have been rescued from puppy farms, neglected dogs which have been taken away from owners in order to protect the dog's welfare, and dogs brought over from abroad (ex- community dogs). The list is endless.
It is very easy to fall in love with many of the dogs desperately needing a loving home. However, please take care and time in choosing your rescue dog, and do your research. Re-homing a dog should not be taken lightly. These dogs have already had a traumatic start to life, and do not need to suffer any more upset.
There are many things you should take into consideration when re-homing a dog.
Firstly you need to consider your own set up at home, and your daily routine, and family life in general. This is crucial as it would not be appropriate for you to re-home a dog which has anxiety or separation issues when you and your family spend most of the day away from home. Likewise, it is not safe to place a dog with any form of aggression, whether it is mild or severe, with a family with children.
Consider how much time you have to commit to the dog. Many of these dogs come with some sort of behavioural issue, whether it is a lack of confidence (making them slightly nervous and anxious around new people and environments), or whether it is dog-dog aggression due to a lack of socialisation at the core age. You need to be prepared to put in any training or behaviour rehabilitation which is necessary to help the dog enjoy what life he has left with you and your family. A good re-homing centre will have picked up on any behaviour issues the dog may have and will supply support and training with their in-house behaviourist.
Cost also has to be considered - many rescue dogs have health problems. Whilst many of these are treated by the rescue centres and cause no further complications to the dog, some dogs may have an illness which requires them to be on medication for the rest of their life. This can be costly.
Consider also the breed and age of a dog you rescue: even when obtaining a puppy, re-homing is no different when considering which breed would suit your lifestyle best. A high energy working breed such as a spaniel or collie will require an energetic family that can provide the dog with the correct amount of exercise and mental stimulation; a Bichon Frise would suit an older couple or a family who cannot provide long walks. The same applies to the age of the dog: a puppy is going to have a lot more energy than an adult. You will also need to consider all of the development stages a puppy goes through, which can provide you with extra work as an owner such as toilet training, mouthing, chewing etc.
Once you have given some serious consideration to which type of dog would suit your family, then you can start looking. At this point, I would like to warn you. Although there are many responsible dog rehoming centres out there such as Dogs Trust and the RSPCA, unfortunately, there are some re-homing charities which, due to either lack of knowledge or experience, do not provide good practice. Acquiring a rescue dog from these places can leave you with a dog which has not been fully vetted or observed from a behavioural aspect, and you may find yourself with a dog which is not suited to your family and is nothing like the profile advertised on the charity's website. This also has a danger aspect as you could end up with a dog which has aggression issues, putting your family at risk.
So how do you know you are re-homing a dog from a reputable re-homing centre/charity?
Here are some things to look for:
1. The centre/charity should have a good knowledge of the dog's history.
2. Any behaviour problem should have been noticed and recorded. A good centre will provide you with ongoing behaviour and training support from their in-house behaviourist or be able to recommend a local behaviourist which can help you to carry on the training.
3. All the dogs should have been health checked, wormed, and treated for fleas. Neutering is done by most re-homing centres. However, the practice of neutering is up for debate and many smaller dog charities are now opting to not neuter their dogs.
4. Expect the re-homing charity/centre to vet your home and ask you lots of questions about your life- style: how many in the family including other pets, children etc. If they do not ask these questions, then this is a warning flag.
5. Meet and greet - you should be able to go and see the dog as many times as you need to before agreeing to re-home him. If the charity/centre are trying to rush the re-homing process, and suggest bringing the dog to you straight away before you have even met him, then this is also a warning flag indicating bad practice.
6. A good re-homing charity/centre have the dogs placed in a foster arrangement or kennels for a period of time so they can assess them and provide the necessary health care needed. Only once they have completed this would they then advertise the dog for re-homing. If the charity/centre has nowhere for the dog to go, and give this reason for them rushing through the re-homing process, then they should have never taken that dog on. Again, this is a warning flag as you can not be sure they genuinely have vetted the animal and its characteristics.
7. Cost - many re-homing centres and charities require a donation for the dog you adopt (after all, they need to have a way of financing their centres). The general cost of adoption is around £100-£200 depending on the area and the size of the charity/centre. Anything above this is also a warning (be very careful of fraud). Check the charity's registration number to ensure that they are genuinely a charity and that the money is going where it should be.
8. Look at a handful of dog profiles and see if the write-ups are similar. Every dog on the re-homing site should have a completely different write up for their profile, as all dogs are individual. If all the write-ups sound similar, and in some respects too good to be true, then this is also a warning flag. Does the centre/charity know, or have they even met that dog?
9. Ongoing support. Whoever you adopt your dog from, they should provide you with ongoing support and be at the end of the phone whenever you stumble upon a problem or question.
By doing your homework and checking all the above, you can hopefully avoid the heartbreak and upset of when rehoming goes wrong. Also, you ensure you are supporting the right set up without detrimental results to the dog or indeed your family. Re-homing a dog can be the most rewarding and satisfying thing you can do as a dog owner. There are so many dogs desperate for homes - just be careful where you adopt yours from.