Rehoming an Abandoned or Surrendered Dog

Rehoming an Abandoned or Surrendered Dog

Rehoming an Abandoned or Surrendered Dog

Up and down the country dog rescue centres of all kinds seek forever homes for 1000s of dogs that have been abandoned or surrendered into care. Social media campaigns spearheaded by armies of well-meaning volunteers and high profile celebrities encourage us to adopt rather than breed, and there is an argument for this.

In this article we shall outline the things that you should consider when adopting a dog and the reason that these considerations are so important.

Abandoned Dog

So What Should We Consider

It is absolutely true that many dogs that emerge from rescue centres make fantastic companions, there are many success stories published daily on social media that support this view. Yet it is also true that there are many extremely difficult dogs with serious behavioural issues passing through rehoming centres and on to unsuspecting new owners.

Just consider when you take on a dog from a rescue centre that you may also be taking on a dog with deep rooted issues and considerable emotional complications (that maybe the reason for its abandonment). Avoid rushing in and taking the first dog that catches your eye, take your time and visit the dog several times before agreeing to take it home. If the rescue are not willing to wait for you and use emotive language to encourage early acceptance it just might not be the right dog for you or certainly not the right rescue centre to take a dog from.

Ask the right questions and check carefully the terms and conditions of the dog rescue centre from which you are adopting. It is in your best interest to do this before you look at the choice of dogs, there is a strong chance that if you look at the dogs first you will be heart led by the dog whose eyes reach into your soul and before you know it you’ve fallen in love.

Always consider the following:

  • Personal experience and knowledge of the breed
  • Function and purpose of the breed (this includes mixed breed)
  • History and background information
  • Individual handling ability
  • Future environment
  • Living conditions
  • Family circumstances
  • Experience of dealing with behavioural problems
  • Experience of dealing with complex behavioural problems
  • Amount of time required and available to dedicate to a dog with issues
  • Financial demands associated with a dog with issues
  • Emotional demands associated with a dog with issues
  • Seeking expert assistance in choosing your dog.

What Exactly are You Taking On?

At The Way of the Dog we have thought long and hard about abandoned or surrendered dogs, especially those with behavioural problems, and how best to describe them.  It is our view that some dogs – with little or no known history – are best summed up as complex jigsaw puzzles.  The puzzle might be a 5000 piece jigsaw with no picture box displaying what the image should look like.  There may also be missing pieces, the more missing pieces the more complex the puzzle and the greater difficulty in trying to make sense of the remaining pieces.

Start to view an adopted dog as a complex jigsaw puzzle and you will understand the difficulty in trying to modify inappropriate behaviour when it is unclear from where that behaviour originates. When adopting a dog – with or without details about its background – one thing is for sure, you are unlikely to ever truly know the full range of environmental triggers that may ignite an emotional outburst.


Triggers that relate to its past and are the hidden motivators behind a fearful, defensive, or aggressive response.  It is unlikely that a rescue centre will subject a dog to every possible trigger, either due to a lack of knowledge and awareness or simply due to the impracticality and a lack of resources.  It is just not possible to reproduce every conceivable environmental situation and provocative stimulus that may elicit an emotional response, despite what some may claim.  Even if it were possible the fact remains that the dog’s general behaviour may very well be suppressed when residing in a rescue centre for a whole variety of reasons.

The lack of a clear history and knowledge of a dog’s environmental triggers make modification of behaviour difficult. It is for these reasons that our points to consider should be contemplated.

Give a Dog a Chance

This article is not intended to deter anybody from rescuing a dog; in fact the opposite is the case. We want to raise awareness and help people make informed choices to support both the dog and prospective owner to achieve a successful outcome. We want to support the reduction in the number of cases where there is a real risk of serious harm. Avoid further upset to the dog and subsequently the new owner due to having no option but to return the dog to the rescue centre. It goes without saying this cannot avoid causing further distress to the animal, unavoidable upset for the adopter, and possible inconvenience for the rescue centre. All the above advice applies to dogs being re-homed under private arrangements from adverts or between friends.

Whatever your personal view on rehoming and adopting a dog it is not always a straightforward practice and sometimes not a perfect or pleasurable outcome. By all means give a dog a chance, but do your groundwork first and know exactly what you are taking on or at the very least be prepared for the unexpected. If you have found yourself in that unfortunate position of falling in love with a dog that has behaviour issues of any kind please consider contacting The Way of the Dog, we can support you with a behaviour modification programme.

In the next article we will look at where rehoming has gone horribly wrong.

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