Thinking of getting a rescue dog? Beware!

And I’m not talking about beware of the dog, but the people behind the “rescue” organisation. 

I have recently been involved with two families coming a cropper with a very disreputable organisation bringing a litter of 5 month old pups over from Romania and placing them in very unsuitable environments.  The families admit to being naïve to the process as a whole but they are not to blame, it is the organisation who are bringing dogs over without adequate and considerate procedures who is to blame.

These two extremely kind and loving families were given puppies who were terrified.  They cowered away from all people, too frightened to venture out of their crate, way too scared to go anywhere near the garden, and following very poor behavioural advice from this dubious organisation, the relationship between families and puppies deteriorated into a cycle of fear from both sides, with the puppies beginning to defend themselves when they felt threatened by the well-meaning families.

Talking to the families and looking back over the build of issues they now recognise there were some red flags.  I wanted to highlight these so that more and more people will avoid organisations such as these…

  • There should always be a thorough homecheck and you should feel like you are being interviewed – the people responsible need to be able to make the best decision for the rest of the dog’s life. I was amazed to find out that they were not home checked in-person!  I do home checking on occasion on behalf of some fantastic dog rescue organisations and it is such an important part of the process to understand the environment, the space a puppy would be in, the layout of the home, the security of the garden as well as the personalities of the dogs, cats and people already in the house.
  • It is normal for the process as a whole to take time. One of the families had a dog reserved within a matter of hours of applying!  How does that work?  There is absolutely no time to properly understand the family and match them up with a suitable dog.
  • You should be able to trust in the organisation you are working with, and trust that they will have the skills to match you up with a suitable dog. One of the families was sent videos of a dog that was supposed to be theirs… turned out to be one of the other litter mates, a more confident out going one!  This is highly unprofessional. 
  • And there appeared to be no level of assessment of any of these puppies either before they were brought to the UK nor when they arrived. One of the pups was taken from the transport vehicle by someone he didn’t know and dropped directly at the family’s home.  No effort was made to find homes that suited these terrified puppies who would have been so much better with other dogs to learn from.  
  • It is essential to have access to quality behavioural advice by people who know the foreign rescue dog processes. Some of these dogs brought over have never lived in a home before or have never had a relationship with people.  What this kind of dog needs most of all is time and space.  NOT “enrichment exercises” nor activity nor lots of attempts to stroke them nor generally give them attention.  They have just gone through the most traumatic event in their lives so far and have been thrust into a situation where everything is different and totally unrecognisable.  Of course they need kindness and safety and food and water.  But they really need the space and time to suss out that they are safe, and these new people only have kindness to offer.  My first advice is always to stop looking at the dog, stop “doing” and just let him see you “being”.  All rescue dogs need time and space to figure things out but particularly the frightened ones.

I was involved more closely with one of the families and I reached out to one of the lovely rescues I do some work for who were brilliantly able to give us an amazing contact who was able to place the dog in a lovely foster home with two other Romanian rescue dogs, and where he is now thriving.  This contact has sadly had to get used to taking on dogs in emergency situations similar to this.  Situations created by the lack of due care and attention of people in the guise of “rescuing” dogs.

Getting a dog is a huge deal.  We all need to be ready to create space and time if we decide to apply to bring a rescue dog or a puppy home.  And we all need to feel comfortable with the organisation we are dealing with.  If you have any concerns about their procedures, take a breath, do some research, try and speak to someone in the organisation to get a feel for them.

And remember: moving homes creates huge anxiety for dogs.  By giving them space and time, you can create a safe and peaceful place giving them their best chance for respite and recovery.


A huge thank you goes to Lisa and Sarah at Saving Balkan Boxer Dogs for the advice and putting me in contact with Alex at Active Animals Rescue and Rehabilitation. Awesome rescue people helping out people and dogs who have been let down.


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Toileting Guidance for Nervous Rescue Dogs!

Did you know it’s not only puppies who need teaching about toileting?  A new rescue dog will also need time to learn the toileting habits that you would like because squatting motionless, even in the garden, can make any dog feel too vulnerable.  This is often the reason why the new rescue dog poops on the floor the moment he comes back into the house!

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