Adopting a rescue dog

Find out if adopting is right for you and how you can make the most out of the experience.

If you are in the market for a new dog, you should definitely consider adopting. When you adopt a rescue dog you are doing more than just saving a life. You are gaining a companion who will return the favour a hundredfold.Shelters and rescue organisations throughout Australia are housing thousands of dogs of every shape and size who are just waiting for the right owner to come walking through the door. That means with a little patience, you’re sure to find a dog that suits your lifestyle. You’ll probably save a few bucks too!

If you think adopting a dog is on the cards, this guide will help you navigate the adoption process.

Why adopt a rescue dog?

Assuming you’ve already made the decision to get a dog, adopting a rescue dog is almost a no-brainer. The tremendous number of upsides include:

You get to save a life. When you adopt, you are giving a dog a second shot at life. There’s no better reason than that!

The price is right. Typically you won’t pay anything for the dog itself. You only pay for the essential services provided by the shelter (vaccinations, desexing, microchipping, etc).

They’ve got their papers. You’d have to pay for those essentials no matter where you got the dog. With a rescue dog, at least you don’t have to organise them yourself.

You’ll have a friend for life. A rescue dog knows it’s been rescued and will shower you with gratitude (and licks).

You’ll have lots of choice. Rescue dogs come in all shapes and sizes. You might just come across the most perfect, original and charming mixed breed you’ve ever seen.

Your dog will be trained. Many rescue dogs will have some level of training. You’ll still need to develop your own repertoire of commands, but the foundation is there in many of the dogs you’ll see.

What should I consider when adopting a rescue dog?

There really aren’t many drawbacks to adopting a dog. If you’re concerned about the dog’s health and behavior, don’t worry: most shelters won’t give you a dog you can’t handle. With that in mind, here are some drawbacks you should consider.

  • You can’t be choosy. If you go in with loads of requirements, you may be disappointed when you can’t find the exact breed, age and/or gender you wanted.
  • You have to be sure. You don’t want to end up considering your dog as “used goods”. You have to be doubly sure you want to adopt as opposed to buying outright.
  • Bureaucracy. Most shelters will make you go through a rigorous vetting process and it can take a bit of time and paperwork. After all, the animal’s welfare is their number-one priority.

Are rescue dogs good pets?

A rescue dog is no more or less likely to be a great pet than a dog you’d get from a breeder or a pet store. It’s a common misconception to associate rescue dogs with only strays, abused pets and aggressive animals. Sure, some rescue dogs fall into those categories, but many more are just victims of bad luck.

Maybe that retriever turned out to be “too much dog” for the apartment dweller who failed to do the research ahead of time. Maybe the elderly women who owned that terrier could no longer take it out for walks.

Just because it’s a rescue dog doesn’t mean it has behavioural problems. A rescue dog can make a great pet, even more so when you consider the gratitude it will show you for saving its life.

Are rescue dogs free?

In a way, rescue dogs are free. But you’ll probably have to pay a nominal fee to cover any treatments the dog received. After all, a shelter will not leave the pet’s health up to chance for a second time in its life.

So you need to cover the shelter’s cost for things like:

  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations
  • Spay or neuter
  • Parasite treatments
  • Food and shelter
  • Extras like collars and toys
  • Additional medical expenses

All up, a rescue dog could cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 depending on the breed, size and age of the dog. That’s not much to ask considering any responsible dog owner would need to pay for those treatments regardless.

Tips for coming home with a rescue dog

So you’ve decided to adopt. Congratulations! Now it’s time to introduce your furry friend to its new life. The first few days with your pup will be especially important as it slowly gets used to a different owner and surroundings.

Here are some tips that will set the stage for a wonderful future with your pup:

  • Give yourself some time. Make sure you take a few days off so you have time to help your dog settle in before you leave it alone for long periods.
  • Give the dog some space. Let your dog explore its surroundings at its own pace. Avoid busy environments and wait a while to introduce it to new people.
  • Keep the same food routine. Ask the shelter what they fed the dog and when. Keep the same routine for a few days and slowly transition to a routine that suits you better.
  • Drive safely. A bumpy car ride could spook your already stressed-out pup. Make sure it is properly secured and comfortable.
  • Watch its reactions. Observe how it reacts to your actions, commands and physical items. Avoid exposing your dog to situations that cause anxiety, at least until you can work on those learned behaviours.
  • Take it for a walk. If your dog is restless upon leaving the shelter, let it burn some energy on a walk before going home.
  • Monitor other pets. Pay close attention to your other pets. Separate them if necessary and introduce them slowly.
  • Protect it with pet insurance. Every pet needs pet insurance, adopted or not. Vet bills can get costly and insurance will protect your pet without breaking the bank.

Should I be a foster parent for dogs?

Acting as a bridge between the shelter and the adoptive family, foster parents play an important role in preparing certain pups for adoption. There are three main roles foster parents play in the adoption process:

    • Provide a nurturing environment. Some dogs, including newborn puppies, dogs recovering from illness/injury and dogs with behavioural problems, need a more nurturing environment at first.
    • Handle overflow. Foster parents can house pets if there is no room in the shelter. Some rescue organisations don’t even have a shelter and rely completely on foster parents.
    • Provide a place to transition. Some shelters will use foster parents to help adopted dogs slowly transition to a home-based environment.

Rescue organisations are always looking for volunteer foster parents. Contact your local rescue organisation if you’re the nurturing type and you think you can handle the responsibility.

The rescue organisation may offer a stipend or pay a reimbursement for your expenses, but don’t expect this to be a money-making operation. It is truly a labour of love.

Why do rescue dogs need pet insurance?

It’s a good idea to get insurance for your pet, rescue dogs included. The shelter or rescue organisation will take care of any urgent medical problems and vaccinations, but no dog is immune from future injury or illness.

Here are some reasons why pet insurance is a worthwhile investment.

  • It could mean life or death. If your dog needs life-saving treatment and you can’t afford it, insurance can save you from having to make a very difficult decision.
  • Genetic conditions can be costly. If your rescue dog is purebred, it will be vulnerable to genetic conditions common to that breed. Treating these conditions can become costly without pet insurance.
  • Accidents happen. No dog is immune from snakebites or auto accidents. Insurance can ease the financial burden if your dog is injured in an accident.
  • It gives you options. Pet insurance can open up a range of treatment options that might otherwise be unaffordable. That way you won’t have to settle for substandard treatment.

Want to protect your rescue pup?

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Last verified

Updated October 21st, 2019
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How to cover your rescue dog

Insurers don’t treat rescue dogs differently than other dogs, but you could have a trickier time supplying historical records that just don’t exist. You may be asked to provide information like:

  • Your dog’s breed
  • Its date of birth
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions
  • Medical records

Luckily, information gleaned from the vet and the shelter will be enough for the insurer to process your policy. The vet will approximate the breed, date of birth and pre-existing medical conditions, while the shelter can supply medical records from the time they received the pup.

The “rescue” status won’t affect your premium, but the information from your vet and the shelter will. Make sure you understand your dog’s needs and research your policy in detail to make sure you are getting the right cover for your pup.

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