National Dog Adoption Day: Tips for choosing and caring for a rescue dog

Dog ownership has increased by 38% during the pandemic, with many families choosing to add a new member to the family.

However, there are still many dogs in rescue centres across the UK that are in need of loving homes.

To mark National Dog Adoption Day on Monday 25th October, a day of spreading positive messages about responsibly rehoming dogs from rescue centres, the experts at Pets at Home have shared their advice on how best to choose and settle in a new rescue dog.

Karen Heskin, Head of Pets at Pets at Home, said: “Rescuing a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you could ever do but that’s not to say it doesn’t come without its challenges. The first few weeks can be a demanding time for both the pet and owner but with time and effort, together you can overcome most things.

“It’s so important to choose a dog that’s right for you and that you feel you have a connection with. Once at home, being calm and reassuring will help to build your bond and get them settled into their new surroundings.”

If you’re considering rescuing, Pets at Home has provided some tips to help with that decision and prepare you for taking care of your new pet:

What to consider when choosing a rescue dog

 It’s important for both you and the dog that they end up with the right owner, and that there’s a bond which can be built. If you don’t feel a connection when meeting a new dog, try not to feel pressured to take them on even though they might be in real need of a new home.

Rescue dogs come in all different shapes, sizes and breeds, so make sure you choose one which is going to suit your home and lifestyle. Do your research, speak to the experts, and consider factors including how many people and other pets you live with, how often you’re out of the house and how much walking the breed tends to need. Most rescues will try to match you with the right dog for your lifestyle, so keep an open mind.

Understanding dog behaviour

Rescue dogs can be wonderful companions and make a loving family pet. But because they may have an unknown past, spent a long time in the rescue centre or have received varying levels of training, some rescue dogs may have developed challenging habits and attitudes. These can often be resolved with the right understanding and training, and will also help them settle in their new home. Keep an eye out for:

Anxiety and fearfulness – It’s possible that your new dog’s world may have been turned upside down more than once, so it’s only natural for them to feel anxious and scared at first. Be calm, patient and gentle with them while they get used to their new home – this will also help your pet build trust in you too.

Guarding things / food aggression – This may be the result of your dog having to share things in the past, so if your new pet growls or snaps when you go near their food, toys or even people, don’t be alarmed. You can feed them in a separate room / crate or remove whatever they’re guarding until they realise they don’t need to be protective.

Separation anxiety – Rescue dogs can often form a very close bond with you, and separation anxiety can follow when you’re not around. To help reduce this, slowly build up the amount of time you’re away from your dog and don’t make a fuss when you leave or come back. While separation anxiety usually goes away over time, you may need to consult your veterinary surgeon for referral to a behaviourist if it continues.

Urinating indoors – There’s a chance that your new dog might urinate in the home when they first arrive. This doesn’t mean they aren’t house trained, it’s generally down to them scent marking their new territory, especially if there are other dogs in your home. It could also be due to anxiety which should reduce as they become more settled in your family.  However, if the urinating continues, we advise you to seek advice from your veterinary surgeon to rule out any medical issues.

Integrating your rescue dog

It’s likely that it’s going to take some time for your new dog to settle in, but every dog is unique, and some can take longer to feel comfortable in their new surroundings than others. Don’t be concerned if it takes a few weeks, or even months.

Try to avoid any sudden changes to their surroundings or daily routines. Make sure they get plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. As well as looking after your dog’s health and happiness, this will also help with building the bond and earning your dog’s trust. Make introductions tot eh rest of the family or existing pets in a gradual, controlled way.

If you ever have any questions or need some extra support with settling in your rescue dog, the pet care advisors in store at Pets at Home are always happy to help.

Find out more tips and advice here: https://www.petsathome.com/pet-talk