Is rehoming a dog right for me?

Owning a dog can be an enriching experience. When deciding to get a dog, you might consider visiting an animal shelter to find your new pet.

Our tips talk you through what you might need to think about if you’re considering rehoming a dog and why some people give up their dogs in the first place.

Why would an owner rehome their dog?

Dogs are taken to animal shelters for lots of different reasons. In its 2018 annual review, Dogs Trust said it had cared for more than 15,000 dogs during the year and that more than 12,600 dogs had been rehomed.

The top two reasons given to Dogs Trust by owners thinking about giving up their pet were that:

  • They no longer had the time
  • They had health problems and were struggling to look after their dog

As well as dogs given up by their owners, lots of animals also come from stray pounds or rescue charities.

The experts at a shelter may be able to tell you where the dogs in their care came from. They’ll also be able to discuss the characteristics of the dog’s behaviour.

When dogs are brought to a shelter, they’re given a behavioural and temperament assessment. This helps to determine the personality of each dog and can uncover any problems they might have, as well as any underlying causes.

There is no standard check. The techniques used can range from seeing how the dog reacts when brought into contact with other animals, to placing it with a foster family for a period of time.

What do animal shelters do? Where can I find one?

Animal shelters look after dogs (and often cats as well) while waiting to find them a new owner.

Prospective owners are usually people who have visited the shelter’s website or who have been to the shelter itself.

Many of these organisations exist throughout the UK, and some have several branches in different regions. Researching online can help you find one in your area.

Some larger institutions include:

Many shelters have a website with details of dogs waiting to be rehomed, often listed by breed. This can be helpful if you have a particular breed in mind. It might also include details of each dog’s behavioural assessment.

When you take a dog home, some shelters might ask you for a fee. For example, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has a rehoming fee of £135 for dogs (over six months of age) or £165 for puppies (under six months). Dogs Trust has a rehoming fee of £150 (£140 in Ballymena).

The fee is to help cover the costs of looking after the dog while it was in their care.

These costs could include:


What kind of things will shelters ask me?

Most shelters have a process in place to help ensure that both the dog and prospective owner are a good match for each other. This can involve filling out some forms about your living situation and any plans you might have for the near future.

Some questions you might be asked are:

  • How many adults live at your address?
  • What are their professions and working hours?
  • Does anyone there suffer from asthma?
  • How would you describe your home? e.g. a flat, a bungalow
  • Do you own your home or is it rented?
  • If it is rented, can you provide evidence that pets are allowed?
  • Do you have a garden?
  • If so, is it private or shared?
  • If you have a garden, is it securely fenced?
  • Is everyone in your family keen to adopt a dog?
  • In the next few months, are you planning to:
    • Move home?
    • Change your working hours?
    • Have a baby?

By asking these questions, the shelter can make sure the dog will be moving into a stable new home it can thrive in.

Explaining why shelters go through this process, Dogs Trust says:

“Our rehoming team will go through a questionnaire, designed to help us find out more about you, your lifestyle and the home you can provide so we can see which dogs you may be perfect for.

We often find that when you visit, the dog chooses you and not the other way around, so grab a coffee and take your time. If you don’t find a dog on the first visit, you can pop in as many times as you like until you do.

We also find that people come in with an idea of the dog they want and end up with something completely different. Whatever happens, our brilliant teams have rehomed hundreds of thousands of dogs over the years and know just the perfect fit.”

The adoption process can also involve a home visit from a representative to ensure that a potential new pooch will be happy there. They can also offer advice on any changes to the home that might be beneficial to your new pet.

If your home is too far away for a visit, they might ask a local vet or another rescue centre representative to conduct the visit on their behalf.

Some places won’t give a dog to someone under the age of 18 or 21, so make sure you read their requirements thoroughly. Each shelter is different, so it is best to speak to someone there if you have any questions.

The adoption process can also involve a home visit from a representative to ensure that a potential new pooch will be happy there. They can also offer advice on any changes to the home that might be beneficial to your new pet.

If your home is too far away for a visit, they might ask a local vet or another rescue centre representative to conduct the visit on their behalf.

Some places won’t give a dog to someone under the age of 18 or 21, so make sure you read their requirements thoroughly. Each shelter is different, so it is best to speak to someone there if you have any questions.

Other considerations

You’ll also need to take any other pets you have into consideration. A reputable shelter should discuss any possible issues with you and help you find a dog with the right temperament to suit your situation.

What about allergies?

You might also need to consider whether you or members of your family have any allergies. There are many breeds that may be more compatible with those who tend to sneeze and get watery eyes when furry friends come near.

Smaller dogs with thicker coats may shed less dander (dry skin cells, which is where many allergens are found) than other dogs, so it might be worth keeping that in mind.

There are other ways to control your allergy symptoms, such as keeping your bedroom pet-free and having hardwood floors instead of carpets, as these can trap dander in the pile.

Grooming your dog outside rather than indoors can also help lower allergen levels in your home.

Taking your dog home

A rehomed dog may have different needs to one that you select from a breeder. It’s possible they may have formed habits and behaviours that they need support to solve. Your choice of shelter may be able to advise on these.

It’s important to ask yourself if you’ve got enough time to devote to settling a new dog into your home. You need to make sure you’re prepared and able to provide the right kind of training.

Approaching a dog for the first time

Meeting a dog for the first time should be a positive experience for both of you. These tips will help make it more likely your first meeting is a happy one.

  • Keep calm and give the dog space. Walking parallel to them is a good approach
  • Don’t over-excite them or encourage them to jump up
  • Keep your behaviour calm and low-key
  • Don’t bend down to the dog or put your face too close to them. Stay standing at a respectful distance
  • Allow them to come to you rather than approaching them, and be guided by instructions from the handler

Returning a dog

It’s rare, but sometimes things just don’t work out between new pets and owners. Even if every care is taken to match you with a dog that fits in with your lifestyle and environment.

If this happens to you, having a conversation with your shelter about this sort of scenario can help give you peace of mind.

Should you feel that things aren’t working out, contact your shelter and they’ll be able to guide you on the next steps to take.

Insuring your rehomed dog

The process for taking out pet insurance for a rehomed dog is as easy as for one from a breeder.

Insurance policies tend to be available to dogs that are over eight weeks old and under ten years of age , but once you have a policy in place you can extend cover beyond that limit . For some breeds, the age limits vary so be sure to check.

Have a look at our guide to pet insurance made simple for more information.

A new life together

The rewards of rehoming a dog are numerous. There’s the satisfaction of helping a pooch in need, to a sense of fulfilment as your new friend flourishes in your care.

Choosing to take in a dog from a shelter can result in a new family member that provides you with joy and gratification, as well as unconditional love.

Information to help you care for your dog

Owning a dog can be very rewarding for you and your family. Our handy guides are bursting with tips to help you build a close bond with your dog and keep them safe and healthy.

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