Written by Ella White
Rehoming a dog is a noble undertaking that allows pups in shelters a new lease of life. From unwanted puppies to older dogs in need of a loving place to live out their final years, you can adopt any kind of dog from a rescue shelter.
As anyone who has ever adopted, or tried to adopt, a dog will tell you: the process isn’t always easy. But it’s definitely worth it.
If you’re considering rehoming a dog, these are the top 10 questions to consider.
The process of rehoming a dog can be long and tricky, and can take weeks or months. But the obvious place to start is by visiting your local shelter. Taking a tour with one of their expert workers will give you a glimpse of the realities of rehoming a dog, and will help you understand the kinds of dogs they look after and their unique needs.
Usually, you will need to fill out an application form, complete interviews with representatives from the shelter, open your home to visits from people from the shelter and eventually your prospective new pet. These steps will help ensure you, your family, and your home are a well-suited match for the dog.
Depending on the individual dog, the environment you’re welcoming them into, and the specific requirements of your chosen shelter, this can take up to a month but may take longer depending on your dog and your family’s needs.
Choosing the dog that will best fit your family isn’t just about the one you find the cutest at the rehoming shelter. Of course you need to build a bond with a dog you can love, but there are other things to consider including:
From here, your shelter’s representative will be able to match you up with a dog that suits your needs – and vice versa.
Adopting a dog isn’t free. Most shelters expect a donation, and often have their own set prices for rescuing dogs. However, it is much cheaper to rehome a rescue dog than it is to buy a new puppy from a breeder.
This fee supports the shelter’s work, and since they’re usually a charity organization this money, alongside donations, is what allows them to run and help families to rehome rescue dogs.
After this initial fee, you’ll also need to buy all the things a dog needs at home like a bed, blankets, cage, toys, food, collars and leashes, treats, and medications.
Each shelter will have its own unique assessment process for families looking to rehome dogs. Usually, they will look at the lifestyle of the prospective owner and their family, their home and outdoor space, their work and school commitments, how busy they are socially and how many holidays they take, and whether there are any issues that would impede their ability to look after a dog properly.
You might also be interviewed about your knowledge and preparation for rehoming a dog, whether you’ve owned dogs or other pets before, whether your children are good with animals, and other specific areas related to the individual dog you’re hoping to rehome.
Each dog is unique and this is especially true of rescues, so you need to remember that the assessments are not personal. Shelters are dedicated to matching dogs with the best possible home, so if you’re turned down it’s simply because the dog you’ve picked isn’t a good match for your home in some way – but it doesn’t mean the perfect dog for you won’t come along!
Rescue dogs come in all shapes and sizes and with all different needs. Some are puppies that have been given up because they were unwanted or didn’t fit the owner’s lifestyle. Some are strays that have been rescued and their histories are unknown.
Many dogs are surrendered simply because their owners' circumstances have changed, and they’re no longer able to dedicate the time (and sometimes money) their dog needs. Losing jobs, getting sick, ending relationships all come with their own trauma and heartache and unfortunately, rehoming a dog can be part of that.
Some older dogs might have behavioral issues that their families were unable to deal with. Some older dogs are given up as their owners aren’t able to deal with or afford their end-of-life care, while others are given up younger because their owners grow too old to accommodate their needs and energy levels.
The reasons that dogs end up in shelters is so far reaching that you could visit a shelter where no two dogs share the same story. Which is why predicting their needs can be difficult, and should be guided by a shelter representative who already knows the dog and can help introduce them to your home.
Many dogs in shelters suffer with anxiety due to being separated from their families, and others have aggression or behavior problems related to their abandonment. While others are too young to know they’ve been given up and can be adopted like brand new pets.
But whatever kind of dog you rescue, you should be prepared to dedicate the first few months to training them – this is for behavior and obedience so both you and your dog can live a happy life together, but also to help them understand their new environment and where they fit into your home.
Your shelter will be able to provide you with advice and guidance about what your new dog will need to settle into your home. But it’s best to have as much prepared as possible before you welcome them in.
Pick a dedicated area in your home that your dog can consider their own space, and put their comfy bed there. Some dogs like to relax and sleep in a crate as it feels like a secure space to call their own, so many shelters will advise investing in one.
Food and water bowls, toys, a collar and leash for walks, and food recommended by a vet or your shelter will also be needed from day one. But most of all, what your new pet needs from your home is love, dedication, and a loyal new family that they feel happy and safe with.
Sometimes rescue dogs are anxious due to being abandoned and will need training to overcome their fears. This can take weeks or longer depending on the level of anxiety, but as long as you’re committed to teaching your new pup that you are there for them and won’t be giving them up, it’s something you can overcome together.
You’ll need to be patient with your dog peeing inside, barking, suffering separation anxiety, and potentially displaying destructive behaviors in their first few days and weeks in your home, as the transition can be incredibly stressful for rescue dogs.
All dogs need obedience training when entering a new home, so you will need to teach them where to go to the toilet, where to eat, where to sleep, and how they should behave in the house and garden – it’s best to have these ground rules set before welcoming your dog into your home.
Behavioral training can be useful for dogs with aggression or temper issues, but is also needed to ensure that your dog can interact with other animals and humans safely, and can behave well while out on walks.
All of these training processes will depend on your rescue dog’s age, needs, temperament, and prior experiences. If you’re struggling to train them yourself, a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can be very effective in helping a rescue dog settle into their new lifestyle.
All rescue dogs should be treated with your locally mandated vaccines, flea treatments, and a microchip. Your shelter will be able to advise whether the dog you’re rehoming has any specific medical needs, and you will be made aware of the requirements surrounding these needs before you rehome them.
All good shelters will have their dogs seen by vets on a regular basis, so you should easily be able to acquire a copy of your new pet’s recent medical records. You might also choose to supplement your dog’s diet with medications or ingredients that support their anxiety issues.
Introduce your new dog to your chosen vet as soon as possible after adoption so they can become used to visiting for check ups, and your vet can understand their needs from day one.
If your new dog has any allergies or special needs, your shelter should be able to let you know. However it’s recommended that you take them to your chosen vet as soon as possible to get an independent understanding of their medical situation, as this could affect their diet.
All dogs need a balanced and healthy diet made up of meat protein, minerals, and vitamins. The best way to deliver this kind of diet is with a diet of natural foods including raw, frozen, or air-dried options. Kibble is often made with nasty fillers and additives that can be harmful to your dog and cause mental and physical health issues that lead to illness and behavior problems.
You should also understand the amount of food your dog needs depending on their breed, age, and size and ensure that treats never account for more than 10% of their daily calorie intake.
While the short answer is yes, shelters will accept rescue dogs back if you feel you can’t look after them, you should never adopt a dog with the view that they can be returned if you don’t get on immediately.
Consider the adoption process of a dog like you would introducing a new child to the family: it takes time, energy, and dedication. And returning a dog from a family to a shelter can be an incredibly traumatic experience for them. This is why shelters put so much time and effort into the assessment process: to ensure that dogs are matched well with a family that is unlikely to find them too stressful to rehome.
Rehoming a dog is never easy, but your shelter will help you every step of the way. So you should only look to return an adopted dog if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.
To help keep your dog in peak physical and mental condition, or to help with any health problems including anxiety, try topping up your rescue dog’s diet with Front of the Pack’s The One supplement. Packed with eight natural ingredients, it’s an all-in-one solution for a number of health issues including joint and heart problems, nerve issues, and bad breath, teeth, and skin. Just mix it in with their meal and you’ll notice a calmer, happier, healthier dog in no time.