Q&A with Channel 4’s The Dog House

Wood Green, The Animals Charity – features on Channel 4’s ‘The Dog House’, offering a glimpse into how they match homeless dogs with hopeful new owners

As well as featuring on the popular Channel 4 TV show, Wood Green also rehabilitates and rehomes thousands of cats and small animals each year, as well as providing free advice and hands-on support to pet owners in need.

Sue Ketland, Dog Behaviour & Training Specialist at Wood Green answers our questions about why people should consider a rescue dog:

Why should people consider a rescue when deciding on a new family member?

Rehoming a dog from a charity like Wood Green is an incredibly rewarding experience. A good centre will guide prospective new owners through the selection process, to ensure the right match, and support them not only during the settling in period, but throughout the dog’s life. Dogs that end up in rehoming centres don’t always have the best start in life, so it’s wonderful to offer them a second chance at happiness.

As experts in rehabilitating and rehoming dogs, Wood Green are completely transparent and up-front about every dog’s medical and behavioural condition, as well as any ongoing needs they may have. Each dog is vaccinated, microchipped, wormed and neutered, and receives four weeks’ free pet insurance, so new owners have everything they need.

If you’re considering getting a dog, the first step is to think about exactly what you’re looking for in a new family member and how they will fit into your life. Check your local charities to see if they have anything suitable, but please bear in mind that many charities receive hundreds of enquiries for each available dog. If you aren’t able to rehome from a charity, it’s still possible to get a dog responsibly – just make sure that breeders are reputable and registered with The Kennel Club, or that you’re asking all the right questions in a private sale. At Wood Green, we’re happy to support people in their search for a new pet.

How important is it to find the right owner for the right dog?

Finding the right match is essential, as getting it wrong can result in huge emotional upset for both parties. We rehome around 700 dogs every year, and we’re really proud that 98% of these matches are successful – because we take the time to get to know every dog and new owner. The Dog House captures that magic perfectly. Not everyone gets matched with exactly the dog they expected, but in most cases it’s even better. On the other hand, it isn’t always meant to be – and it’s important to be honest and realistic when this is the case.

What are the key things the team look for when pairing up a dog with new owners?

We look for people who are patient, empathetic and listen to what we have to say about an individual dog. Many dogs at Wood Green have quite complex medical and behavioural needs, so they can take time to settle in and build trust with their new owners. It’s really important for us to find people who will embrace kind, positive training methods, and that people will remain in contact with us – either to keep us posted with their progress, or to allow us to help with any issues.

As for the rest, it completely depends on each individual dog and their age, breed type, prior training and prior life experience. We don’t exclude anyone based on blanket policies. Some dogs enjoy the company of children and other pets, whilst others don’t. Some dogs need lots of space and secure gardens to run around in, whereas others will be happy living in a flat with a daily walk to stretch their legs. Some are already quite well adjusted, but others need ongoing training that will impact the owner’s lifestyle. The personality fit is fundamental too. The perfect new home for a lazy Greyhound will be very different to a bouncy Border Collie puppy!

How do you prepare the dogs before they go to their new homes?

When any animal is brought into Wood Green’s centre in Cambridgeshire, our top priority is their health. We give them a thorough assessment for any medical issues or injuries, which could mean life-saving surgery or urgent treatment. Some pets arrive with us very anxious or scared, or with other behavioural needs. This is where the training specialists step in, to see how we can help.

We work together to map out an individual plan for every pet’s care – which can include diet, medical treatment, exercise, enrichment, training and fostering – to get them back on their paws. We don’t want to keep any dogs, cats or small animals at our centre for longer than necessary, but we need to make sure they’re ready before we start to rehome them. This could take days, weeks or even months.

How has the pandemic and restrictions changed the way you re-home pets?

Whilst the logistics are a little different, with conversations happening over the phone or email rather than face-to-face, the core rehoming process has remained the same during the pandemic. Prospective new owners get in touch with information about their set-up and what they’re looking for, and we’ll see which of our dogs, cats or small pets they could be a good fit for. If there’s a potential match, we’ll get in touch to discuss the pet in more detail and give the prospective owner the opportunity to meet the pet, and ask any questions they may have, before making a final decision. Throughout the past year, we’ve also continued to provide pet owners with free one-to-one behavioural advice, online training classes and a host of other services. These are available to all pet owners, not just those who rehomed from Wood Green.