What to Know Before Getting a Rescue Dog

What to Know Before Getting a Rescue Dog

In November 2020 my family decided to get a rescue dog. We’d previously had two hamsters, and we thought we were ready for it! Now, at that time, we were in a strange place with Covid where things were open, but not 100%. We weren’t able to go to our local shelter and pick out our new family member, we had to pick from photos online and apply for all the ones we thought would fit us best. Then after an interview on Zoom, they brought the dog to our garden and basically just left her with us! It was an odd experience, and now things are back to normal it probably will be a different process. We have learned so much in the three years we’ve had her, so here’s some things to think about before adopting a rescue dog.

What Can You Give to a Dog

It’s all well and good thinking about what a dog will bring to your family, but what can you give? Are you willing and able to take it on several walks a day? Are you up for doing additional training with your dog? There are some breeds that we might love the look of, but won’t fit in with our lifestyle. Are you able to take in an older dog, or one with special needs?

You also need to think about additional costs related to the dog. Larger dogs have higher pet insurance rates, eat more food, and usually higher vet bills for the same procedures. If you’re adopting a pure breed dog, make sure you do your research on what conditions are most likely to affect that breed. Also – grooming costs. Will you be able to do the necessary grooming yourself, or will you need to pay for a groomer?

How Will the Dog Live in Your Home?

It’s a good idea to discuss the rules you’ll have for your dog before the dog arrives. Will they be allowed on the sofa? Are certain rooms out of bounds? Will the dog sleep on your bed? We didn’t talk about this before our Lola arrived, and the first night when she jumped on the bed we looked at eachother like “is this ok?”

Unless you adopt a puppy, rescue dogs have lived a life without us in someone else’s family. They might have never met children, they might not like men, or get on with other animals. While this might be OK for you now, think about it in the long term. If you don’t have kids now, do you want them in the future? Or do you have close friends or family whose children often visit?

What Are You Going to Feed Your Dog?

There are so many options for dog food these days! While the traditional options of wet or dry dog food might be perfect for your dog, these don’t suit all dogs. We started by feeding Lola a mixture of wet and dry dog food, continuing with how she was fed in the shelter, but most days she didn’t finish her portion and some days turned her nose up at it entirely. On the advice of our trainer, we tried a frozen meal subscription that she really likes, she eats the whole portion every time and we don’t worry about her!

It’s also a good idea to research the treats you’re giving your dog. We find Lola gets sluggish if the treats we’re giving her aren’t mostly natural ingredients. Treats with high percentages of meat, fruit, or vegetables work best for her.


Before getting the dog, decide who will be responsible for what. Who’s feeding the dog? Who will take the dog on walks? Who will be responsible for checking you’ve got enough dog food or treats? Which person will do the de-worming and anti-flea treatments? My top tip here if you’re forgetful is to see what you can get on a subscription basis. We have our dog food delivered every 3 weeks, set up automatically so we can’t forget to replenish it. I also set our Amazon account to send the anti-flea treatments and de-worming tablets so they would arrive the day before they need to be administered.

If you want to use your dog to teach your kids about responsibility, ensure there is a way you can track whether they have completed their dog-related chores to avoid doubling up on meals or forgetting the basics.

What About When You Go Out?

Some dogs are quite self-sufficient and can be left alone for extended periods, like when you’re at work. But some aren’t, and need to be supervised. Which of these would most support your lifestyle? Lola is comfortable being by herself, but refuses to eat or drink while we’re out. We try to only leave her alone for about 4 hours maximum, which works for us as we are homebodies, we mostly work from home and socialise at home. My mum is a dog lover, and is my dog’s favourite person, so we usually arrange in advance for her to pop in or dog sit if we’re going out, and she’s even stayed at ours when we’ve gone on holiday.

Lola has some reactivity issues with other dogs, so we don’t feel comfortable with her going to a kennels or doggy day care, and she’s not able to go out and about with us to dog-friendly pubs and other venues. If you don’t have a lifestyle that suits staying at home with your dog, or bringing your dog to a dog-friendly office and social spaces, dog-sitters and doggy day cares can really add up additional costs.

Behavioural Issues

While most dogs up for adoption have been surrendered by no fault of their own, many have some small behavioural issues you may need to work on together. These range from toileting, to recall, to separation anxiety, to pulling on the lead, to reactivity or aggression. Are you able to deal with this? Are you financially able to see a dog trainer or go to a training group? Be honest when you’re at the shelter about what level of training you are able to take on.

What other things do you need to consider before getting a rescue dog?

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