Adopting a rescue dog? Ask yourself these questions first

7 September 2023 - 5 min read
Girl with long brown hair hugs her black and brown mixed breed dog with bow around neck

Thinking about adopting a rescue dog? It’s a wonderful thing to do. Not only are you giving one dog a new “leash” on life, but you’re also freeing up space in a rescue centre or foster home so they can devote their time and resources to other pups.

Before you em-bark on this journey, there are some questions you should ask yourself to be better prepared and avoid the “Puppy Blues” or even a painful rehoming experience.

A person high fiving a dog

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A person high fiving a dog

Can you afford a dog right now?

Here are some of the top expenses you might need to cover for your new furry bundle of joy:

Of course, a lot of expenses can be avoided or minimised. You don’t have to buy everything new. Accessories, toys, and beds can always be purchased secondhand.

Another way to minimise potential future expenses? Consider dog insurance, which is designed to reimburse you for unexpected illnesses and accidents, and save you the cost of hefty vet bills.

How do you plan to deal with behavioural issues?

Rescue centres often don’t know the backstory of their adoptable dogs. Some are victims of the cost of living, where pet parents can't afford to keep them anymore. Some have histories of abuse that may not have been disclosed to the rescue centre or foster family. Some lived perfectly happy lives but are now struggling to handle this new transition.

Whether your future dog spent their early years neglected or happily napping on a senior citizen’s lap, they can come with some behavioural issues.

However, depending on how long the dog has been in the rescue centre, or with its foster family, you should be able to get a rough idea of what you can expect. Sometimes, you might be pleasantly surprised by the dog’s level of training experience.

Here’s what to ask about:

Know which of these answers would raise red flags for you or might even result in you having to rehome a dog.

Your experience level with training and your current family situation, especially if you have young children, will largely dictate the type of dog you can adopt. Some dogs are extremely cute but just wouldn’t work well with your family.

Don’t let those heart-melting eyes or that fluffy, gorgeous coat overtake your common sense. If a dog is known to show reactivity towards cats—or children, or humans in general—there’s no guarantee they won’t go after you and yours, no matter how “chill” they all are.

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How much time can you dedicate to your dog?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you have the time for a dog:

  • Are you able to give your dog at least two daily walks, or can you afford to pay a dog walker to do so?

  • Are you willing and able to put in the time to deal with any behavioural issues that arise and potentially attend training sessions?

  • Can you dedicate some time to socialising your dog?

  • Do you have time to groom a higher-maintenance dog?

  • Will you have to leave the dog alone for longer than 6–8 hours at a time?

Notice that there are many trade-offs here for time vs. money.

If you have the money for doggie daycare or a dog walker, you may be able to avoid the time spent on dog walking and socialising.

But if you don’t have the money or the time, you’ll struggle to provide your dog with a high quality of life.

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What’s your ideal energy level for a dog?

There are two main factors that will influence your dog’s energy level: breed and age.

Herders and livestock breeds like Australian Shepherds might have the aesthetic you’re seeking, but they need quite a bit more exercise than a toy companion breed such as a Chihuahua.

If you can’t provide your dog with the physical activity they need to stay sane, they’re likely to act out in all sorts of unpleasant ways, from relentless barking to household destruction.

While you may not know exactly what breed a rescue centre dog is, they’re usually listed with their predominant breed online. Ask staff at the rescue centre if you’re not sure, and do your research on dog breeds before you start your hunt.

Now for age. Generally, a senior pup is going to have less energy than a puppy. Breeds still factor in (Labrador Retrievers seem to stay puppy-like well into old age), but it’s a general fact that we all slow down and lose mobility as we get older.

A potential bonus of adopting an adult or senior shelter dog is that it’s possible they’ll be housebroken and lead-trained, which will save you a lot of training time.

A rescue centre should be able to tell you a dog's approximate age, and your vet could tell you more definitively.

Get a rough idea of your ideal rescue centre dog’s breed and age before you wander into a centre.

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If something happened to you, who would take care of your dog?

You can’t plan for every possible life scenario. (If you can, please tell us your secret!)

However, there are some events that could impact what happens to your dog. Don’t ignore the possibility of a major life change happening within your pup's expected lifespan.

What would happen to your dog if:

  • You had to move to a different country?

  • You moved to a place that wasn’t pet-friendly?

  • You went to college far from home?

  • You had a job change that resulted in longer hours?

  • You suddenly had a longer commute, or could no longer work remotely?

  • You got deployed (military personnel)?

  • You had a child?

  • You could no longer physically care for your dog due to age or a debilitating accident?

None of these questions have to be deal-breakers—many people can take their dog with them to a different country, for instance. And many people experience even more joy when they introduce their new baby to their dog.

However, it’s a good idea to have answers to these questions ready before you adopt a dog so you’re not caught off guard.

Is your house set up for a dog?

There’s a lot you can do to prepare your home for a new dog and that doesn’t mean you have to move to a new home in a rustic paradise. The jury’s still out on the country vs. city dog debate, anyway.

However, there are aspects of a home setup that make things easier and may even be requirements:

  • A fully fenced garden

  • Access to a nearby park

  • A pet-friendly lease, if you’re renting

  • Ground-floor access if you live in a flat, especially for potty training

  • Wood or vinyl floors, not carpet making it easier for cleanup

Again, these may not be deal-breakers. Plenty of flat dwellers have had to make the march downstairs for pupper’s potty time in the middle of the night, and carpet cleaners exist for a reason.

Work out how to make conditions in your home as easy and safe as possible for your new dog, and you’ll be on the right track.

Adopting a shelter dog? How dog insurance can help

You can’t predict what’s going to happen to you in the future. That’s why human insurance exists and thankfully in the UK we have the NHS.

You also can’t predict what’s going to happen to your dog. That’s where dog insurance comes in.

When you decide you’re ready to adopt a rescue dog, pet insurance is designed to reimburse you in the event that your dog experiences an accident or illness. You may find it’s worth it for the peace of mind alone, both now and in the future.

Insurance built with your pet in mind