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Adoption : Everything you need to know

dog in the arms of his owner advice
© Unsplash

Many people agree that there is nothing like the feeling of bringing home a dog that was once mistreated, abandoned, or neglected, an animal who didn’t have a home – but that you are now providing it with. 

By Justine Seraphin

Thousands of dogs are living in small kennels as we speak, dreaming of having a family, and some of them wait for years before they are adopted out. Now that you know how to go about it, why not head over to your local shelter, and do a good deed? 

Where can I find a dog to adopt? 

The UK is one of the best countries when it comes to animal welfare. There are plenty of registered charities out there that take in hundreds of abandoned or stray animals every year. Some great organisations you can check out are:

  • Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
  • Dog’s Trust
  • Blue Cross
  • RSPCA
  • Wood Green
  • Greyhound Trust

Usually, each of these organisations will have several locations, making it easier for you to find a location near you. 

Although you can usually view animals on a shelter’s website before even going on-site, you will have to register with the adoption centre before you can do anything else. You can usually do this via phone or through their website. Shelters may ask for proof of identity and/or proof of address, as well as your landlord’s permission to own a dog, if you live in a rented property. 

Some shelters may go even further with the registration by asking to carry out a home-visit. During this process, re-homers want to see what kind of home you live in and what kind of lifestyle you would be able to offer a dog. This is all in good faith – to make sure they can match you with the best possible dog!

When adopting a dog, ask the shelter the right questions! 

Good shelters will have experienced re-homers who can help you choose your dog. Truly think about what your lifestyle is like so you can help your re-homer find the perfect match for you. Some questions you could ask your re-homer, if it applies to your situation of course, are:

  • Do you have a dog that is good with children?
  • Do you have a dog that is good with other dogs? And/or cats?
  • Do you have a dog that could live in an apartment?
  • Do you have a dog that doesn’t require too much exercise?
  • Do you have a dog that could suit a first-time owner?

The next step is to meet your (maybe) perfect match! All members of the family should meet this dog, as well as any other potential pets. 

If you like the dog, and vice-versa, you can adopt! There are usually some costs to adopting a shelter dog (although they’re nowhere near the cost of a purebred puppy). These costs will have included vaccinations, neutering, and micro-chipping, to name a few.

Once you have adopted a dog, here's the next step

Before bringing your new best friend home, make sure you puppy-proof, rescue dog style. Although not all rescue dogs have been through traumatic past experiences, all of them have spent some time in a shelter, which can often be a stressful environment: lots of noise and smells, lots of coming and going, small spaces and little time outside of their kennel…

The comedown from such an experience may take some time. Your dog will probably be quite shy, maybe even nervous at first: he’s never been to your home before, and doesn’t know who you are! 

So when you get home, give him some space. Let him sniff around and explore the house. Although you may be tempted to immediately introduce him to the rest of your family and friends, keep it to the very inner circle at first. Make sure you are calm, quiet, and relaxed, as dogs tend to mirror our behaviour.

Don’t feel bad if your rescue dog doesn’t warm up to you straight away, this will come in time. Many people tend to anthropomorphise animals, and believe that rescue dogs know they were saved. Dogs do not understand this concept, so be patient! Your rescue dog will love you unconditionally in due time, as any dog would. 

Experts say that while it may take as little as 3 days for your rescue dog to settle into his new environment, it can take him up to 3 months before he starts to take his guard down and reveal his true personality!  

Over the next few months, as you get to know your rescue dog better, you will have to adapt to his personality when training him. Again, you must be patient. While some dogs have received training from previous owners, some of them never lived with a family, and others were simply not trained at all. In any case, it is very likely that your rescue dog may have picked up some bad habits at the shelter (e.g. toilet training mishaps, barking, jumping at the door, etc.). Understand where your animal is coming from and work with him through the re-adjustment.

Rescuing a dog is one of the most fulfilling things you can do in your lifetime. And your rescue dog will repay you for your kindness a thousand-fold. Now that you know what you have to do, and what you can expect, why not go change a life today?