Getting a Rescue | What to Expect
By Jeanne D’Barc, Rescue Volunteer | Sentience | Rescue & Rescue Dogs | August 3, 2020
Congratulations for thinking of, or adopting, a rescue. Whether you adopt locally or from elsewhere, you are contributing to the welfare of all dogs. That’s one dog less in the shelter or street. That’s one dog less that will reproduce into poor conditions. That’s one dog less who will not have to suffer from hunger, disease, injury or cruelty. And if you take the time to nurture this relationship, the rewards will be priceless. Rescue volunteers collectively thank you.
The happy ending doesn’t start with the day you choose which dog to adopt – this is the beginning of your journey. There will be bumps and victories. You may have to work very hard to bring out the best in your dog, but you will also bring out the best in yourself.
When you start this process, it can be quite daunting.
There are so many rescues out there and so many dogs. There are no regulations regarding the standards and validity of rescue groups. Some are large organizations, some are one or two person shows, running on donations. Like anything else, there are good and bad rescues regardless of the size or number of people running them.
A good rescue intakes dogs that have been properly evaluated for adoption. Those that are excessively feral, unsocial or fearful are too much work for the average family — though, exceptions of course can be made with the right set of circumstances. Expect that rescue dogs will have some quirks, but they should be of the kind that can be resolved through training and relationship building. A good rescue has a detailed application form that includes references, vet and home checks. It also asks for details, such as how long will the dog be left alone, how many children of what age are in the household, how many other animals reside there, whether allergies are an issue, etc. Ensuring that the home and family are a suitable match for the individual dog points only to the dog’s well being. Because the dogs have already been through so much already, the rescue groups want to make sure that they find their forever home on the first try.
There should be a contract to sign containing a clause indicating that if there is a problem, the dog is to be returned to the original rescue so it does not end up in a shelter or re-homed inappropriately. Sacrificing quality for volume indicates that the organization does not make the dog’s best interests a priority. It takes volunteers, time and money to get a healthy dog to you. This investment is not meant to end up anywhere other than a loving home.
As a side note, rescues are generally run by volunteers and are often understaffed. They may not have the resources to respond to every application. Be aware that you may have to follow up and you may not meet the requirements for the dog you requested—you might, however, be suitable for another dog. Keep an open mind when choosing a dog. Don’t take it personally if you are not selected for the first dog you choose. Fit is the important criteria for rescues.
The dog should be fully vetted and spayed/neutered. All proof of vaccinations and tests should be provided. Any other health or behavioral problems should be fully disclosed. Ask questions. Rescue dogs come from a range of backgrounds and it’s important to match the dog’s needs with what the family can provide.
Always Choose a Dog by his or her Requirements
When choosing a dog from a good rescue site, ask yourself if this dog will fit your lifestyle, given his breed, personality, and energetic level. Do you want a family companion dog? Are you a reader or a runner? Do you live in the busy city or the quiet countryside? Do you want to participate in competitions like Agility or Flyball? Can you tolerate drool, sand/mud and fur? Some dogs may appreciate other animals, children and men in the household and some may not.
The answer to these questions may not be readily available. More often than not, a rescue dog’s true personality doesn’t show until the dog is comfortable with its new surroundings – this can take a few weeks to a few months. There are no guarantees as to how the dog will develop.
As you consider getting a rescue, or any dog, there are things you will need to be prepared for:
• Time for training, relationship building, socializing exercise and working through issues.
• Expenses for vet visits, food, vaccinations, emergencies, toys, bedding, leashes, collars or crates.
• Adjustment in your daily routine for extras such as exercise outings, pee breaks and cleaning of both the home and dog.
• Have you considered where your dog will go if you cannot take him/her on vacation with you?
When you have chosen a reliable rescue and a potential dog, you might have the opportunity for a trial period. This can be helpful to see how everyone, including the dog, feels about a new home.
When finalizing an adoption, a fee may apply which covers part of the cost of vet care, transportation and/or the training required to ready the dog for adoption. Ensure you have a copy of the transfer of ownership and an agreement that states the dog is returned to the original rescue, should anything unforeseen happen.
Bringing Your Rescue Home
Welcoming the dog home should be done with all members of the household involved. If possible, keep the activity at the household to a minimum to allow the dog to adjust.
A clean, quiet spot should be reserved for the dog’s bed/crate. A collar and body harness should be fitted properly as rescues have a tendency to bolt out of fear and/or confusion. Please keep in mind that in the case of street dogs, they have had minimal time inside a house. They don’t know what stairs are, they may have never seen or heard a television. They most probably have never played with a toy. Never leave the dog unattended outside. Ensure all doors are secure, using baby gates, where required. Let the dog come to you and explore the new surroundings slowly. Restricting access to a few rooms to begin with and slowly increasing freedom may help the dog from feeling overwhelmed. Never confine a dog to a basement, unless it’s also your main living space.
Now that you have rescued a dog, s/he has a bright future.
You can’t change the past but you can provide structure and security, going forward. Feeling sorry for the dog or showing pity does not benefit anyone. Love and patience is the way forward.
Once the dog has become familiar with its new setting and people, you will want to consider training. There are two basic types: Basic and Behavioural.
Basic training is ‘sit, stay, come etc’. This training is required to keep your dog from harm and to learn what the human world expects from him/her.
Behavioural training covers things like excessive barking, jumping, fear and reactivity, socialization, resource guarding and separation anxiety, among other issues. A Certified Trainer can help with reshaping response behaviours to better behaviours.
Please do not consider adopting a dog unless you are willing to follow through with whatever training is required.
If you’ve made it this far, you are in for a beautiful experience that will change your life. Resources are available to support and guide you on your journey.
Maintain contact with your Rescue organization and, for any question at all, you can always Ask the CDWA.
Learn more about how Rescue organizations work.