Lifestyle Guides

Rehoming a rescue dog

There are thousands of unwanted dogs in the UK looking for a second chance of happiness, and rehoming a dog can be incredibly rewarding

reading a book with a jack russell dog

There are many misconceptions about rescue dogs but, just like humans, they are all unique and it’s just a case of finding the right one for you. 

There are unplanned litters of puppies, young dogs whose owners couldn’t give them the amount of exercise they needed, loving family dogs reluctantly surrendered due to changes in circumstance and golden oldies who have lost their elderly owners. 

There are also dogs who have been cruelly treated in the past or who have a working background that will need a more experienced home. There really is something for everyone!

What you are looking for?

Before you start trawling through photos of potential best friends, you need to ask yourself some questions first as to what you are actually looking for from a dog and what sort of home you can offer. 

Be honest about what you can offer in the long-term or it could lead to heartbreak later down the line.

Consider the following questions so you’re prepared for what rehoming staff will ask you:

  • What’s your home like and how big is it? 
  • Have you got a secure, fenced garden? 
  • Do you have any young children living at home or visiting regularly? 
  • How often would a dog be left home alone? 
  • Could you take your dog to work with you? 
  • How much exercise would you be able to give a dog? 
  • How much time would you have for training? Grooming? 
  • Are there any breeds you particularly like/dislike? 
  • Do you have a preference on the sex or age of your new pet? 
  • What previous experience do you have with dogs?

It’s a good idea to keep an open mind as the perfect pet for you might not be the breed or type that you originally imagined.

Where to find a rescue dog

It’s not a good idea to rehome a dog from a private advertisement, regardless of how genuine it seems. Animal rescue organisations carefully match the right dog with the right owner, ensure animals are vet checked before rehoming and offer ongoing advice and support. 

Some of the big national charities you may already have heard of are: 

  • Dogs Trust
  • Blue Cross
  • Battersea Dogs & Cats Home 
  • PDSA 

There also many smaller rescue centres dotted around the country. If there’s a particular breed of dog that you are looking to rehome, you can find details of breed club rescues via the Kennel Club.

Finding your perfect pet – whether rescuing a puppy or adopting an older dog – can take time so be prepared to wait rather than rushing in and opting for an unsuitable dog. 

It’s also important to choose a dog with your head as well as your heart. You might fall in love with the look of a particular dog but if his character or needs don’t fit in with what you can offer, it could end in heartache for both of you. 

Rehoming staff can help you make the right decision as they will have assessed each dog in their care and should know something of their backstory.

older couple walking their dog on the beach

When you find a dog

The rescue shelter will set up a meeting for you to spend time with a dog and perhaps take him for a short walk. Everyone who is going to be living with the dog will need to attend, including any other dogs in the home.

This is your opportunity to ask staff as many questions as possible before you decide if a dog is a good fit for your family. They should be able to tell you a bit about the dog’s background and why he’s in rescue, what he’s like with other dogs, any training he’s had and any health problems that have been identified. 

Most animal rescue organisations will carry out a home check before you’re allowed to take your new pet. 

Many use a network of expert volunteers around the country to visit potential owners before adoption is agreed. They’ll mainly be checking that your home and garden are secure and looking for any potential hazards to advise you on. 

This is also a good opportunity for asking more general dog care questions as home checkers will all be experienced dog owners.

Bringing your dog home

If everyone in your home is happy with your choice and the rescue shelter agree you’d make the perfect owner, the adoption can take place. 

You’ll need to make sure that you have a safe way of transporting him – either in a dog crate or with a seatbelt harness – and if you are driving, take someone else to sit with the dog so you aren’t distracted.

Before you collect your dog, make sure you have everything you need at home ready for his arrival, such as a bed or dog crate to sleep in, food and water bowls and a supply of food and treats (preferably what he has been used to eating to avoid stomach upsets). 

It can take time for a rescue dog to feel at home, and how quickly he settles in will depend on his temperament and previous experience. Patience and consistency will be needed in those early days to help establish a routine and a feeling of security for your new addition. 

beagle dog rolling on the grass

Top tips for successful settling in

  • Agree a set of household rules before you bring your new dog home – such as which areas of the house are out of bounds and whether the dog would be allowed up on the furniture – and start as you mean to go on. Dogs are much happier when they know what is expected of them so choose your rules and stick to them! 
  • It’s usually better to collect your new dog in the morning so that he has the rest of the day to settle in a little before bedtime.
  • As soon as you get home, take your dog to the area that you would like him to use for toileting and let him spend time familiarising himself with it. If he relieves himself, give him plenty of praise so that he knows where to go in future. Be prepared for little accidents indoors as dogs who have been in kennels for a while will sometimes need housetraining. Frequent visits out to toilet will help with this.
  • It’s important that you give a dog space to explore his new home at his own pace and to provide a cosy, quiet place he can hide in if it all gets a bit too much. 
  • Although everyone will be excited about meeting your new dog, limit visitors so your new pet doesn’t become overwhelmed.
  • Any children in the home should be taught from the very beginning how to behave around the dog. It is particularly important they don’t disturb the dog when he is sleeping or taking shelter in his bed, or when he’s eating. 

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions regarding your rescue dog’s behaviour or care, do get in contact with the rescue shelter who will be happy to help and support you. 

By choosing wisely and with a little preparation and patience, you and your new best friend will live happily ever after.


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I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family. 

Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.

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