Dog Rescues Can Do Better

10th October 2012 - in General

My first piece for this blog was an attempt to encourage breeders to do more with their pups, and encourage those who already are doing more to advertise this more widely and create more demand for the high quality 'product' they have.

I'd like everyone to know where to go to get a good quality, well bred pup and if alternatively they want a rescue dog I'd like people to find a rescue easily and find the process of getting a rescue dog easy to understand and a pleasant experience.

Much of the problem of unwanted dogs today is not caused by accidental litters, and it certainly isn't caused by reputable breeders producing a litter once in a blue moon or even every couple of years. It is caused by people being ignorant of their options, ignorant to the benefits of getting a pup or adult dog from a reputable source and therefore falling into the trap of free ads, puppy farms, the 'farm in the countryside with the sign by the gate' or the 'bloke down the pub'.

Rescues have a part to play in this too – we have more rescues than ever in this country and I am afraid some of them are doing more harm than good. I have some advice to the people who run and work in rescues on how they can improve their service.

Don't Alienate Customers

Yes, potential adopters are customers and should be treated them as such, treat them politely, and treat them patiently as they may not know all the things you know.

All too often I hear people saying that they did consider a rescue dog but:

  • The rescue they contacted was rude to them when they said they didn't want a particular breed.
  • But the rescue they spoke to were nasty when they said they wanted a puppy.
  • The rescue they went to had no time for them.

Then there are the people who actually did get a dog from a rescue, however:

  • The rescue lied to them about the dogs' health and temperament problems.
  • The rescue offered training and behavioural back up which never happened.
  • The rescue promised to stay in contact, and be there for them, but is never available on the phone and ignores emails.

When you alienate one person, regardless of the reasons why, that person spreads the bad news, so now that person's family, friends and neighbours are going to think twice about a rescue dog.

It doesn't actually matter that their questions appeared silly or the reason they didn't want a Staffy is because they saw the latest anti-bull breed diatribe in the local rag – bad news spreads and it spreads fast.

Be a people person or get a people person to do all your 'customer facing' work, because whilst you might well prefer animals to humans, its people who rehome dogs!

Don't Rehome Dodgy Dogs

I am sure this part will make me unpopular with some people – but every dog that goes out with more than a minor behavioural or physical problem, is a nail in the coffin for not just rescue dogs, but dogs in general.

I work in a rescue, volunteering my behavioural knowledge and training skills to help thoroughly assess the rescue's dogs, and form a training plan to work with them. So I am not someone sitting behind a monitor spouting off who is not involved first hand with difficult dogs, dogs with heart-breaking histories, dogs who plain just need a home.

I would love for all the dogs in every rescue in the country, to get their forever home, and if I have to say that I think a dog would be better off euthanized, it upsets me very deeply. However, the cold hard fact is, there are thousands of dogs in rescues who will never get a home, and each of those dogs is taking up a kennel that a perfectly well balanced easy going dog could use for a much shorter period of time.

It isn't fair, it sucks, and the dogs who probably shouldn't be rehomed have done nothing wrong, somewhere, some human has let them down badly. But for each dog rehomed who has a serious health problem, who is very dog aggressive, who can't be taken out without a short leash and muzzle, that dog puts the idea that 'rescue dogs have problems' and 'rescue dogs are difficult' and 'rescue dogs are dangerous' into the minds of at least 50% of the people that meet it.

Work with your Dogs

If you are rehoming dogs from kennels that have not had any training, have only been behaviourally assessed as far as 'is this dog food aggressive or people aggressive?' and the most you do is basic veterinary care plus spay/neuter of those old enough, then why are you any better than a pet shop that sells dogs?

Why should someone get a rescue dog rather than go to a pet shop or a puppy farm? Because it's morally the right thing to do? Sorry, that's actually not good enough.

You need to do more – and you need to make it clear to the public that you do more, and that in effect you offer a better product.

Train the dogs you have in your kennels. Teach them about lying quietly on the floor whilst someone eats their lunch, teach them to sit nicely in reception and not bounce on visitors. Train them to get up onto sofas when invited and off when requested, teach them what 'bed' means, teach them that a doorbell or a knock on the door means they should jump into their bed for a treat or sit nicely and wait patiently. Teach them to walk nicely on the lead, teach them to recall, to stay, to wait, to sit, down and stand.

Give these dogs the skills they need to live people's houses, and give each adopter a couple of pages on what commands a dog knows and what rewards he finds most motivating, what situations he has encountered and which will be new to him.

I appreciate that within the confines of a small rescue that uses kennels, some of these things will be awkward – but they should be achievable and if they are not possible at all with any dog, then seriously, are you really a rescue or a second hand dog shop?

Advertise Your Good Work

Some rescues will already be doing all these things I have suggested – so blow your own trumpets people, tell people why your dogs are excellent dogs, why they will easily fit into a person’s home, how much easier these dogs will be than one from somewhere else.

I fully appreciate that rescue is a difficult thing to do, its emotional, its heart-breaking, it is frustrating. But I also think that just taking in a dog from a pound or a public hand in, and putting it into another home is no longer sufficient, if it ever was.

Rescue dogs have a bad reputation, the country is becoming less and less dog friendly by the day, something has to change. I'd like to see rescues advertising heavily just how good their dogs are, promoting responsible dog ownership, positive training, and actively educating people to effect a real reduction in unwanted dogs.

Building more kennels, and more rescue centres is not the answer – making rescue accessible, people friendly and beneficial to dogs in general, is.

  • 10th October 2012 08:43 - Posted by : Lucy

    I think your ideas and thoughts are well placed and do ring true but the reality is rescue work is much more hard hitting on on the shop floor and is harder to deal with for many reasons.

    A lot of people enquiring about rescues are ill informed and like a good breeder if there is a sniff of the person isn't right they will be put off straight away and dismissed.People get rejected for many reasons and the ones that normally take umbridge are the ones for example that want a puppy but can't afford to pay full price or want a particular type of dog and want it fully trained. Life is not ideal and rescues are full off my types of dogs and unfortunately not all people are suitable for dogs. The reason for wanting a dog normally speaks volumes on whether a person is likely to turn out to be a good owner.

    Rescues also struggle to get funding and volunteers and not all people running or helping the rescues have the training or time to be the best rescue customer service representative of the year. The time wasters are an incredible frustration for many rescues and alot have to have the patience of a saint but even a saints halo tips on occasions when pushed too far.

    A lot of owners that hand in dogs to rescue in many cases lie about certain traits of behaviour. Human nature to advertised the best rather than the worst for fear of rejection.Even with the best behaviour assessments dogs do not behave the same in kennels or even foster homes because of different environmental factors eg number of other dogs/ animals types of experiences on walks they get. Not all dogs are perfect but people expect perfection.

    A rescue can provide support but what level of support is acceptable ? No support is not acceptable but constant support where they expect they should be a available at all hours is not acceptable. They should look at going to training classes and also paying ( yes getting a rescue dog doesn't mean to say the after care should be done on a small budget) for one to one assistance from a reputable behaviourist. A lot of rescues do give advice and also recommendations for this.

    Rescues are there because of the puppy farms and back yard breeders and so focus on stopping that practice and educate the general public that a dog is a long life and often expensive commitment . Maybe more people would get a more suitable pet or hobby and stop the need for the amount of rescue now dealing with unwanted dogs.

  • 10th October 2012 10:24 - Posted by : Kerry

    Great article.

    I was alienated by a rescue centre over 10 years ago. I allready had one rescue dog and felt it was time to take on another, but the disgusting attitude from the rescue centre I spoke to made my mind up - no more rescue dogs. So I ended up getting a pure-bred pup from a breeder and that's what I entend to do forever.
    Treating people like dirt is not a very good way to find homes for dogs or to cultivate a good reputation.
    10 years ago, my choice or advice for anybody wanting to take on a dog would be to take on a suitable rescue dog, since being spoken to like dirt by a rescue, my advice & choice would be find a suitable breed from a good breeder.

  • 10th October 2012 11:51 - Posted by : Jay Manchester

    Well said Lucy!

  • 11th October 2012 18:22 - Posted by : Emma Judson

    I don't disagree with anything you have said Lucy, but I do not agree that these things make it acceptable for rescues to do a bad job.

    There are some brilliant rescues out there, doing a fantastic job, but currently there are lot who aren't and an overriding attitude that rescues are somehow 'above question' and any failings are justified because its 'hard' or 'they don't have enough money' etc etc.
    I just don't agree and I do know first hand how hard rescue is and what the problems are, but it is not a valid excuse.

  • 4th November 2012 17:17 - Posted by : Lyn

    I agree with Emma, poor service can put people off for life. This means losing potential good owners so does not benefit the dogs.

  • 14th November 2012 21:02 - Posted by : Tim

    My friend runs a rescue and although they are doing an amazing job I see some on things that have been said at first hand. There are dogs that really shouldnt be rehomed and that is a very sad statement of fact.

    I also think that if a person ( like me ) decides they want a particular breed of a particular sex and age then we shouldnt be critiscised for going to a reputable breeder instead of rehoming a rescue. I have actually felt very guilty to the point of making up stories to apease the criticism of my friend. A dog will part of the family for hopefully a great many of years so I think I have the right to determine what dog I have. Having said all that,I also have the most wonderful rescue dog who came from a pound on death row, he is the kindest, loving sweetest dog you could ever wish for, god only knows how he ended up in a pound.

  • 13th December 2012 11:38 - Posted by : Miss Julia Craven

    A brilliant and well thought out article Emma - has put another slant on things. I did not know a lot about rescue homes - only that on three seperate occasiona a lovely familiy (that has since given wonderful homes to our puppies) have said that they were "force fed" staffordshire terriers when they kept asking for a Labrador. when they tried to insist that they had chosen their breed and could they wait for one to come in they were told that they were not suitable for rehoming as they were so single minded with what dog they wanted. Seems a shame.

  • 16th March 2013 08:31 - Posted by : Linda Burns

    I have tryed since Christmas to foster for my local rescue only to be told that one dog I asked about is unsuitable to share a home with my resident dog.Only to see on the Facebook pages the self same dog being touted as suitable to be adopted by an owner who has a resident dog.
    We had a day with a prospective foster dog who had obviously been neglected for weeks if no longer, she got excited and nipped my boy, we were told by the lady from the rescue not to tell them of this .Then got a message via Facebook to say we couldn't have the dog as she had bitten.Seems they dont know the difference between an excitement nip and a bite. Weve had dogs for near on 30 years.

  • 29th September 2013 10:52 - Posted by : M. B

    Well said! I also think that the public in general needs to be better educated on the breed of dog they sometimes foolishly choose. I am remaining anonymous for fearvof a backlash but feel my experience should be shared as a severe warning to others. While in a state of deep depression I foolishly bought a Rottweiler bitch. I had no experience of owning this breed whatsoever. Within weeks of having there were problems I wasn't prepared for how bolshi this breed can be and also how challenging in terms of behavior & needs they are and I found myself in a very difficult position. Equally we did research prior to buying her so ended getting a poorly bred pup from what turned out to be a puppy farmer! She does have temperament issues which after a long period of time has resulted in my hand being bitten yesterday...thankfully not badly. I am at my wits end as yes it is my fault she is with us but on the other hand I wish there had been more advice around at the time to have drummed it into mybhead that maybe given my lifestyle a Rottweiler was not a good idea. On the subject of sheltersvand rescue centres I can only speak as I have found and sadly they have an appalling attitude. I desperately need my Rottie rehomed it's the best thing I can do for her I have explained my position so many times to a number of these organisations just to be told get lost. I feel rubbish enough as it is I do care for my dog and have spent a fortune in vets bills for her but I cannot cope anymore and it sickens me to think that the only way she would get safely rehomed is if I dumped her! Now there's no way I could ever do that but you do have to wonder when you do see a dog left tied up somewhere how many times did the owner try to reach out for help just to be ignored! As for me I have no idea what I'm going to do I'm rapidly becoming distrustful of her and I fear she will end up being put down, I have health problems, I have children and I can't cope but as I've said I have tried hard to get her rehomed safely and not one of these charities will help. In closing can I just say to anyone who had read this and may be thinking of getting particularly a large breed please go to a bonafide breeder and think very very carefully before

  • 30th September 2013 18:09 - Posted by : Miranda

    Comment removed

  • 30th September 2013 21:34 - Posted by : Tony

    Comment removed

  • 1st October 2013 11:03 - Posted by : M B

    Just re-reading my comment I realise it makes me sound like a cold hearted selfish moron who thinks the world owes them a living. That's not how it was meant to be I was just trying to say maybe badly that yes there are far too many dogs ending up in rescue centres but some of the reason for this is poor education on the buyers part and quite often greed on the sellers part. There is a lot more to my sad story than I wanted to share on here it really isn't a simple case of oops made a mistake now can't be bothered; I was however trying to make a point that I am trying to get my beautiful dog rehomed responsibly and so far no one and no rescue is willing to help and I WOULD NEVER ABANDON my dog. Hope this clears up any misunderstandings anyone reading my previous post may have

  • 2nd October 2013 13:07 - Posted by : Sandra

    @M B While I think your intentions were well meant in sharing what you did you might have been better off posting in a different blog. It is a hard and life time job raising a dog, I don't know what your personal circumstances are....I do however agree with you that a lot of the problems begin with poorly educated buyers not being properly matched to the right breed and equally too many breeders just out to make fast money with no real interest in what happens to the dog after sale.
    Sadly this is why there are rescue centres packed to capacity, things go wrong and the dog gets dumped and I'm not saying that this is true in your case but it certainly is for some people they have no sense of responsibility or duty to the poor mutt they were so keen to take in but a few months previously.
    This all said I too have tried to adopt and been refused on the grounds of actually being savvy enough to say that I have a preference for certain breeds. Bottom line is attitudes need to change all round from breeders & sellers to buyers and the law, maybe then we'll see a decline in the amount of unwanted dogs & cats ending up in shelters and perhaps it would be easier also for those members of the public who genuinely find themselves in a position where they can no longer care for their canine pal being able to get the assistance they sometimes genuinely need!
    But good balanced article

  • 2nd August 2016 19:45 - Posted by : lynne

    we recentley had our 10mth old dog deliberately run over one night when out for a run(he was wearing an LED collar)the driver did not slow down or stop he just sped up and drove off.We went to a rescue center in Wimberdon fo a rescue dog.A female attendent was extremely rude and insensitive.When told what had happened her reply was,"you killed your dog"she was pure hostilitY.We were so stunned and just left.We were made to feel like criminals.Our dog was very much loved and was a vey obedient and affectionate fellow loved by allwho knew him.