A puppy having a first visit to a veterinary practice

Adopting a dog: what to expect when rehoming a rescue dog

Adopting a rescue dog is an amazing step towards reducing the number of homeless pets in the UK.

Once you’ve chosen your new canine companion, you’ll want to welcome them home and get them settled in quickly and easily.

Dog adoption: you may need to know...

Adopting a dog from a rescue centre or shelter is very different to bringing home a young puppy. It can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying, but your rescue dog may have behavioural issues, and may require a lot of patience and kindness.

The rescue centre/shelter should provide details of your dog’s history and an assessment of any problematic behaviour so you know what to expect.

Problems that stem from the previous owner's lack of guidance should be easy to overcome with lots of care and attention. Other deep-rooted issues, especially those your dog picked up in their early years, will be a lot more difficult to overcome.

Common behavioural problems with rescue dogs

Bringing home your rescue dog

Take things slowly at first. Let them know they can feel safe and secure in your home and with your family - this will help establish their trust.

Spend the first few days bonding with your rescue dog, but allow them space if needed. Speak in a calm, reassuring voice. Set out your house rules (making sure the whole family applies them consistently) and in certain situations, use treats to reward good behaviour.

As you establish their daily routine, stick to a schedule for walking, feeding and interaction - consistency is key.

Begin training the moment your dog comes home, but be patient. Start with toilet training; work on basic commands when you’re out walking. Progress can be slow, so remember to stay positive and encouraging.

Looking ahead to the future

If you need to, speak to your rehoming shelter for advice on behavioural therapy. It’s also important to introduce your new dog to your vet early on - they're the one person you’ll need if you run into problems, or have concerns about your dog’s health or wellbeing.

Of course, there’s no way to know how your rescue dog will behave at home, and it may take several weeks for them to settle in. With patience, kindness, consistency and understanding, you should be in for a long and happy life with your canine companion.

Need more info?

For expert advice on adopting a rescue dog, have a chat with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

Unsure if you're ready for a dog? Why not try BorrowMyDoggy instead!

borrow my doggy promo 'love dogs? borrow me'