Monday 8 March 2010

Top 5 misconceptions about Dogs Trust and rescue dogs

I've been at Dogs Trust nearly two years now, and in that time I've learned a few things about the animal welfare world that have surprised me. I now know a lot more about rehoming and the way that animals are handed in and found new homes, and also a lot more about dogs (I hold my hands up: I have cats!). So it doesn't surprise me that a lot of what was new to me is also new to our supporters.

I thought, therefore, I'd take the time to clear up a few myths and misconceptions that seem to hang around Dogs Trust and rescue dogs. If you have any to add, please comment away!

1. A visit to a rehoming centre is depressing

Certainly there'll be at least one resident who tugs at your heartstrings, but - and I can only speak for our centres here, but I expect it's the same at most organisations - rehoming centres are not, essentially, depressing places. They're light, airy, positive spaces. Some of our older centres do have the old metal bar type doors, but for several years now we've moved to glass doors as these are more calming for the dogs. The newer designs are often at an angle, too, so that people can see lots of dogs at once but the dogs can't see each other.

All kennels are heated, and most contain two dogs which keep each other company and are littered with beds, toys and other comforting bits and bobs. They have freely accessible indoor and outdoor areas for wandering about and there are big outside spaces and training areas for their full daily exercise and play. Yes, there's no doubt about it, it does move you to see so many dogs in need of a new home. But the stickers and pictures attached to the kennels, friendly staff, bright yellow surroundings and general well being of the dogs mean that it's not the distressing event it sounds.

My husband had never been to a centre so I took him along for an afternoon in Harefield. "I didn't realise it was going to be so lovely," he commented. "It's a really positive place, isn't it?". It's not the first time I've heard that from a first-timer at one of our centres!

Oh, and if you'd like to see what Harefield is like for yourself and can't visit, check out Sarah-Jane Honeywell's video about rehoming that was filmed on the site.

2. All rescue dogs have problems

Dogs come to Dogs Trust for a huge variety of reasons. Common ones include financial crisis, a change in family circumstances which means that the dog won't get the attention he / she deserves and moving with no possibility of the dog coming along. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but shows that very often the reason dogs come to us is nothing to do with the dog or the dog's behaviour.

We also get strays and lost dogs handed on from Local Authorities and other organisations. But being a stray doesn't mean that the dog automatically has problems. Hubble, the so-called ugliest dog in Britain, was abandoned but also had the sweetest, friendliest and most trusting temperament of any dog you could hope to meet.

On the flipside, of course some dogs come with attendant issues, some easier to train out of them than others. Some dogs are nervous of newcomers so show themselves off badly in kennels, or bark anxiously. Dogs referred to as special often need a bit of extra care as they've been with us for six months or longer, and of course our Sponsor Dogs are generally dogs that find it tricky to get a home. No matter what, we'll never put a healthy dog down.

Because every single dog is different, all rehoming at Dogs Trust is done on an individual basis. We try to find the right home for that dog, matching them to the owner that suits them best. If you're a first time dog owner that needs that extra help to choose, we'll be there for you. And all owners of Dogs Trust dogs get access to support from our staff for the rest of that dog's life.

3. You can't get puppies from a rescue centre

For obvious reasons, puppies are in high demand. We sometimes have people thinking we don't have any because not many appear on our online search; it's simply that they come and go rather quickly! We do take in litters of pups and we have looked after many a pregnant dog that has given birth in the centre (and been promptly neutered when the pups are weaned).

Puppies are, however, a big undertaking. There is a lot to consider when rehoming a pup and we'll be just as careful to match the right dog to the right owner when they're tiny as at any other age.

4. You can't rehome if you have young children

That, as with most things at a rehoming centre, totally depends on the dog. Dogs Trust has no blanket policy on younger children as every dog is assessed individually for their suitability with children. The search might take that bit longer in some cases; however, there are plenty of dogs that come in from families who have children and have lived with infants and toddlers. Assuming they're otherwise suitable for the home, they will be considered.

In some cases - where otherwise appropriate - the centre might recommend the family goes for a puppy, that can be socialised around young children from the start. Your best bet is always to give the centre staff as much detail as possible so that the right choice can be made.

5. The dogs are free!

They're not, but here's why not. Our rehoming fee is around £80-£100 (it varies across the UK), but there are good reasons why we ask for it. All dogs that come from a Dogs Trust centre go home with the following benefits:
  • They're neutered (or have a voucher for neutering at no further cost if they're too young)
  • They're microchipped
  • They're vaccinated and vet checked
  • They're insured for four weeks with PetPlan
  • They come with lifelong support from the centre when it's needed
You even get a collar and lead and a pre-adoption talk to help you get started on the right footing.

Feeding a dog in a centre for a week costs £2.50. You can probably imagine what the other running costs like heating the kennels, vet care, staff etc add up to. So the adoption fee helps us keep helping other dogs long after you've taken your lovely new addition home.

I hope that helped answer a few questions and maybe made you think about coming to visit one of our centres soon! There's lots more information about rehoming on our website, too.

By the way, 'me' in this post is this person here. I write most of the posts at the moment, but you'll sometimes see Lo pop up and we're hoping for some more folks writing soon, too.


Andrea said...

Blessings and prayers,

nialdavies said...

What a fantastic article. I personally found adopting our youngest little terrier the most rewarding experience in the world.

Having had our First jrt as a puppy from a breeder and our spaniel from a friend who needed to re-home her, I can quite honestly say that having Lily from the Dogs trust has been by far the most heart warming experience.

Very little was known about her when we met her, just that she was about 6 months old and found astray in Scotland.

She was quite timid when she first came to us, and needed house training which is understandable considering what we do know of her past. She did however in no uncertain terms let us know from the very start that she is happy and grateful to have a home and family of her own.

She fit straight in with our other dogs and 1 year on is well and truly part of the family.

My whole experience with the dogs trust was wonderful, I was more than happy to pay the adoption fee and am now an avid supporter.

I personally would only ever consider rescued dogs to join our family from now on, they all deserve a loving home, I'd have them all if I could.


Dogs Trust said...


Thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to let us know about your experience; it's great to have your feedback.

Please give Lily and friends a friendly ear scratch from us! (Or belly, if preferred!).


emma m said...

We have just adopted our second dog from a rescue centre, and would never consider buying one from anywhere else.
Obviously it is stressful for the dogs being in unfamiliar surroundings and kennels, but I think that all the people who work so hard for these animals at the Dogs Trust are brilliant. Sadly, not all rescue shelters are as well run, but the Dogs Trust is probably the best we have in the UK.
Please, please people - Rehome. It is a very rewarding way to find a loyal friend.

Shalini Austin Metalsmith said...

Fantastic Article!

I will touch on "All rescue dogs have problems"

We got our eldest, Bullet, from a local rescue centre. He had been in a cage by himself for 10 weeks when we got him. Why? Because he used to fight with other dogs. And that was why a young, handsome Border Collie - GSD cross had not been re-homed when most around him were adopted very quickly. Nobody wanted him because he fought with other dogs! The lady at the centre had no history about him and he did not even have a name - he was about 18 months.

We brought him home and he is now a totally different dog. Yes he still growls at other dogs but no fighting. All he needed was love and attention.

What I am trying to say is, Even if they have some problems they need a chance and with a little understanding, patience and firm but loving care dogs are the best possible companions anyone could hope for.


What a great work you all do at Dogs Trust throughout the country, it is wonderful to know that each dog is being so well looked after and that they often have the opportunity to find their forever home.

We adopted our lovely boy Gio, a pointer crossbreed from Dogs Trust in West Calder in 2003, he had had 2 previous homes and had been a stray for 6 months of his early 18 months, so had a few issues which we knew about. We knew he was going to be a great dog and we were absolutely right, he is fun, loving trusting and such a wonderful part of our family, we just love him to bits. At first he did have a few little problems, but we just persevered and showed him that we loved him and we weren't ever going to give him away. He learned to trust us and responded to us by giving us his love in return. We have since gone on to adopt 2 other rescue dogs (2 lovely springer spaniel girls) and we have a great time together as a family. I just wanted to urge anyone who is thinking about owning a dog, to think of the many thousands of dear rescue dogs looking for love and companionship. We have found our experiences have been so positive and would never be without our 3 now,

Thank you Dogs Trust for all the wonderful care you give in finding the right owners for your lovely dogs.

Kind Regards
Lorraine & Rene Huber
from Livingston in Scotland

Chris McGrath said...

It's two years since we adopted our first Oldie from Dogs Trust,and have to say I agree with the above comments. The staff don't seem to mind how much time it takes to make sure you adopt the right dog for you. They also don't turn down a dog just because it may be getting on in years.

As Alex says - Don't be put off by the word 'stray'. Our latest old one (Ted from Leeds, was Winston) was a stray and is the most loving cuddly dog you could wish for and fitted in with our two dog/one cat household straight away.

Don't be put off by the age of some Oldies either - they can be the most lovely placid pets you could ask for. Ted is our fifth Dogs Trust dog (two died last year), but I doubt he'll be our last!

Anyone specifically wanting an Oldie would be well advised to try Dogs Trust first - you could be as lucky as we've been with all of ours!