Rescue a Dog: The Give a Dog a Home Checklistoogly

Rescue a dog to make a special dog’s day!

Offering a home to an adult dog is a wonderful idea, especially for a household where not everyone has the energy for a highly demanding puppy. Rescuing a dog can be highly rewarding, but there are always risks of picking the wrong dog.

Here’s some advice from The Upward Dog on how to choose your new companion.

A rescue dog in a kennel

What breed?

If you are going to rescue a dog, you will possibly end up with a crossbreed dog, but still think about what breeds of dog will best fit into your family. Chances are, if the crossbreed has the breed you’re looking for in him, he will display some of the traits you wanted. You need to consider all of the following to narrow down which dog is going to be right for you:

  • What do you want to do with the dog?

If you want to try running with your dog, you will want an energetic breed, a Vizsla perhaps. If you want to enter the world of competitive obedience, the ubiquitous and extremely intelligent Border Collie might be more appropriate.

  • How much time can you spend with the dog?

If you are at home all day, and able to get outside for lots of walks, a high-energy dog will be perfect.

  • Do you have children or visiting grandchildren?

Some dogs are more tolerant of youngsters than others, so – dependent on the age of the children – this will be something to take into consideration.

  • How much outdoor space do you have?

A larger dog will need more room outside the house: do you have a big enough back garden to accommodate him, or are there open spaces very close by?

How to rescue a dog? 

If you’re looking to rescue a dog of a specific breed, then you are likely to be limited on which centres to visit, since breed-specific rescues are few and far between. Try to find a rescue that has some affiliation with a wider body to ensure high standards of welfare, like The Dog Welfare Alliance.

Senior dogs make wonderful companions, especially for older people who spend their days at home, and many can be found on the Oldies Club website, which lists mature dogs available all over the country.

For general dog rehoming of all ages and breeds, you might think about a national organisation like Dogs’ Trust, the RSPCA, or one of the larger, independent dogs’ homes around the country.

A rescue dog gets a strokeVisiting the rescue centre 

Try to take along someone who is familiar with dogs, when you visit the rescue centre. They will be able to help you think through the options, and decide whether one of the dogs there is right for you. Whilst rehoming centre staff are always well meaning, they may have a different opinion about which dog is the best fit for you, so always get an independent second opinion from a friend or qualified professional.

It’s such a big decision, that we are happy to offer a service of visiting a rescue centre with you, meeting the dogs, and helping you to decide which dog best fits with your lifestyle. 

So many to choose!

When visiting the rescue centre to choose your new companion, there are a few things that you should look for and consider how they will fit with your lifestyle. Here’s a quick questionnaire of what to ask and do:

  1. Is the dog vocal? If he is barking incessantly or whining, it’s likely that he will carry that behaviour into his new home, and his new carer will probably need to work on this. It is common in dogs that have been in kennels a long time: the environment and other barking dogs turn them into dogs that bark as well.
  1. How much information does the rescue centre have? You should ask the rescue centre about the dog’s background, and how he has ended up at the centre for rehoming. Also ask whether he has been tested with other dogs, cats, and children (and what ages): if he has not been tested in any of these situations, it’s important to ask that he is before you rehome him, as – especially where children are concerned – you need to have reassurance before introducing him into your home that he will be a good fit. If no proper behavioural evaluation has been done of the dog (e.g. in the case of very small rescues), it might be sensible to enlist a qualified behavioural practitioner to visit the dog and give their opinion.
  1. Is the dog friendly? A friendly dog will curiously stand at the front of the kennel, and is likely to look quite relaxed. If he is nervous, he may cower or tuck his tail, and if potentially reactive, he’s likely to be looking at you face on and barking. Although there are owners out there for every type of dog, if you’re a new or inexperienced dog owner, you’re far better placed to offer a good home to a dog that’s friendly, calm and happy to see you.
  1. How does he respond to touch, attempts to play with him, talking to him, etc.? You must ensure that the dog is happy to do things with you, rather than so nervous he can’t face you, or reactive to the extent that you’ll be worrying about him hurting you. If you’re an inexperienced or first time dog owner (or someone who doesn’t want to put in lots of behavioural work!), look for a dog that doesn’t cower under your hand, and doesn’t refuse any games you try to initiate.
  1. Take the dog for a walk. Think about whether you might need a dog that doesn’t pull too strongly on the lead: maybe you have arthritis, or are getting older. Whilst he can learn better leash manners quite easily, if he only pulls gently, a heavy puller is not suitable for everyone. The walk will also give you an idea of how well he bonds with strangers.


Before you get your dog there are quite a few things that you should put in place.

  • Get your house in order.

Although adult dogs are likely to be calm and well-behaved in the house, it is worth putting away sentimental objects for now. During the settling in period, you will be able to tell when/whether it’s safe to return those objects to the places they were before!

  • Secure your garden.

If your dog is going to be allowed into your garden off-lead, ensure that it is secured. Dogs can turn into Houdini, when they find the smallest of gaps in a fence!

  • Buy a comfy bed, and place it somewhere cosy, out of any draughts.

A crate is a brilliant thing for a smaller dog to spend time in alone, when you can’t watch for housetraining mishaps, chewing, and so on. A crate keeps a dog out of harm’s way!

  • Find a collar and/or harness, and attach an ID tag.

Before you leave the rehoming centre, put the dog’s collar or harness on. Not only is ID compulsory by law, it and your dog’s microchip are the only things that will get him returned to you should he scarper en route to the car.

  • Keep the dog on the same food for a few days.

Find out in advance what the dog is currently fed on, and decide whether you want to stick to the same food. Either way, make sure you have enough supply to feed what he’s used to for the first few days in his new home.

  • A dog needs toys, but not a toy-box!

Let’s face it, we all love to buy toys for our dogs, but don’t overwhelm a new dog. Make sure that toys are appropriate for his size and are not so small they’re a choking hazard, or so big that he can’t play with them. Offer him a couple of toys at first, and introduce new ones as he starts to lose interest in the others.

  • Book a health check with your vet.

If the dog hasn’t been seen by a vet for a health check, it is important that you make an appointment, so that he can be checked over as soon as possible.

Enjoy planning for the arrival of your new companion: it’s an exciting time!