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Your guide to adopting a rescue dog

Speak to any dog owner and a common theme is likely to emerge; dogs are loyal companions and much-loved members of the family.

From reducing blood pressure levels and stress, little can beat snuggling down on the sofa with your four-legged friend at your feet or seeing their tails wagging excitedly when you walk through the door. Come rain or shine they offer a valid reason for us humans to exercise and spend more time in the fresh air.

Searching for your perfect partner

Whether you admire the intelligence and loyalty of a Collie or the cuteness of a Pomeranian, you likely already have a type in mind. Each breed has its own characteristics and it’s at this stage that you need to be entirely honest about your capabilities. Certain breeds can quickly become unruly without adequate physical or mental stimulation, particularly if the owner is timid. Likewise if you are an active person who dreams of taking your pooch to agility classes, getting a lapdog with a stubborn personality will be far from the perfect match.

If you have a member of the family with allergies, you might want to consider a low allergenic breed such as a Poodle.

Taking all this into account, your next consideration is deciding where to look. Breed associations and web directories might seem like an obvious choice, but the benefits of adopting a dog from a rescue center are plentiful. 

Finding a shelter in Canada 

There are numerous reputable organizations and shelters in Canada. Always do your research and try to seek recommendations where possible, but remember the majority of centers are run by those dedicated to matching dogs with the right owners. After all, it brings great upset to animals to be rehomed continually, especially when they desperately need love and stability.

You will usually be required to complete a questionnaire or application form so that the organization can assess your suitability as a potential adopter. This is usually followed up with an interview, and then before you can take your rescue dog home, a home visit will be conducted. As a general rule, the stricter the procedures, the greater the emphasis will be placed on the care and welfare of the animals.

While it may sound like a lengthy process, the beauty of many rescue centers is they usually provide ongoing support, which should help to minimize any teething issues. Each animal will also have a health check and behavioral assessment prior to being rehomed. The assessment will cover various factors including what type of environment is most suitable (whether it can be housed with young children or other pets), and what type of owner is preferred (for example an experienced handler or someone who is retired and lives alone). 

There’s a misconception that many of the animals from rescue centers are difficult or untrustworthy. The truth is that you’ll find all sorts of breeds and sizes available for rehoming, from Pedigrees to mixed breeds, all with different personality traits. Dogs can be rescued for a variety of different reasons and on many occasions the dog itself was not at fault. Changes in circumstances, such as divorce or moving away, are common reasons, but sadly so is abuse or neglect. 

The center will give any potential adopters as much background information as possible along with information on how the dog's behavior since arrival at the center.  If a dog was mistreated,  it may display nervous or aggressive traits and it’s in these cases that an experienced and patient handler is sought. It can take a while for some animals to develop trust, but given time and the correct care, pets can overcome such issues. 

Reasons to adopt

Besides giving a dog or cat in need a loving home, you may also save money since adoption fees can be considerably cheaper in comparison to the amount you would pay a breeder. What’s more, each dog will undergo a veterinary examination at the center, be fully vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and may also be dewormed and micro-chipped. Those who work at the shelter should also help identify and address any behavioral issues when possible.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are many benefits for choosing an older dog over a newly-purchased puppy. At the very least, the issues of chewing and sleepless nights should (in theory) be distant memories, and there should be few surprises when it comes to their size and temperament: what you see shouldn’t change too drastically. 

It’s important to be realistic with your level of experience and the amount of time you can dedicate to remedying any issues. Don't try to bombard your adopted dog with too many new things at once. It’s at this stage that you need to build the foundations of trust and confidence, and this is where inconsistent training can easily lead to new or unwanted behaviors. 

Many shelters provide pet insurance coverage for a few weeks, but after that it's up to you to have coverage in place. Find out how we can help cover your rescue dog today. 

Bringing a dog into your home is not a decision to take lightly. For one, it’s a huge commitment; if you have a hectic lifestyle working long hours at the office, socializing most evenings, and heading off at weekends, you’ll need to look into alternative arrangements and make a few lifestyle adjustments. 

If finances permit and you can dedicate the necessary time and care, you are about to embark on one of the most rewarding experiences. 

Dog shelter directory

We’ve put together a small list of dog rescues and shelters in Canada. Please note this is not an exhaustive list and when possible, research and look into shelters on your own before finding your new pet.

Calgary 

Calgary Humane Society 

Pawsitive Match Rescue Foundation 

Montreal 

SPCA Montreal 

Rosie Animal Adoption

Ottawa 

Friendly Giants Dog Rescue 

Ottawa Humane Society 

Vancouver 

Dogwood Rescue 

BC SPCA 

Winnipeg 

Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter

The Winnipeg Humane Society