Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Something which is often overlooked, and often not fully understood, is just how much work goes on in the background in order for a rescue to re-home a dog. It’s correct to assume that different rescue organisations are going to have different procedures, protocols and criteria in regards to re-homing, and that different organisations are going to operate in different ways and offer different levels of prior assessment, knowledge about the individual dog, prior rehabilitation and post adoption support.
I’m not here today to tell you who’s right and who’s wrong, but I am going to talk you through how WE operate, how we prepare our dogs for re-homing, what our re-homing procedure is and why we put each step of that procedure in place, how we choose each particular dogs re-homing criteria and what makes us decide that a dog is not suitable to re-homed.
WHO WE ARE & WHAT WE DO...
Firstly, let me tell you a little bit about who we are and what we do! We're Until Every Dog Has A Home, and we're a small volunteer ran, non-profit dog rescue. We're a little different to most other rescues because we only intake dogs with severe behavioural issues, and we specialize in working with dogs with aggressive tendencies and dog on human bite histories. There are very few rescues in the UK who can accept a dog who has previously bitten a human and we are one of them. We offer rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing for these dogs, and for those who are too troubled and don't manage to complete rehab and pass the necessary assessments, we offer lifetime sanctuary here with me. This means that they live out life as a part of our family. There are a few reason's which can make us come to the decision that a dog can't be re-homed, and we'll talk about them a little further on.
We are a small organisation, and everything is ran by just 2 of us.
There's myself, I'm the founder of the rescue and also the trainer for all the dogs. They all live with me on my farm with my 13 dogs and my daughter, who helps me with the general day to day care of all the dogs and also helps out on our stall at fundraising events, I also run my own training business here in Aberdeenshire doing one to one behavioural work with clients and their dogs.
We also have the very fantastic Ross, who is the General Manager of the rescue, and answers the majority of your messages on the Facebook page, coordinates re-homing, and is involved on all important decision making in regard to everything to
do with the rescue. Ross is also a professional in the dog world and runs his very busy dog walking business down the road and is always incredibly busy with all background things which keeps our rescue running. The dogs who come into the rescue all start out here with me on my farm. We have purpose built, standalone kennels for each of the dogs and a secure training and exercise area, then of course we have our big yards and permission to access the surrounding fields. Our kennels are all heated, secure and all have cctv so that we can watch the dogs at all times. We make the dogs a part of our family for as long as they're with us, they get to enjoy movie nights with us either in my house or out in their kennel, they have daily walks and training, they take it in turns to come out for day trips with me and my daughter, they enjoy picnics and BBQ’s with us, and some nights they even enjoy our company while we sleep out them. We try and make their stay as fulfilling and 'normal' as possible.
All the dogs which have come to us, have done so because they require professional handling and rehabilitation, some dogs come to us as owner surrenders where their owners felt out of their depth or unable to cope, and others come to us from other rescues who don't feel that they could provide the dog with what they need, either by way of accommodation, handling, training or because the dog is simply too dangerous to put into a foster home or a public access kennel environment.
WHEN IS A DOG READY TO BE RE-HOMED...
Something we're often asked is how long does it take to rehabilitate the dogs! I mean, How long's a piece of string right? We simply can't give a timescale; it takes as long as it takes is the answer.
It's not a fast process and the pace of learning and progress made is dictated by the dog in front of you, rehabilitation or behaviour modification in a regular home with the dogs regular care givers can take months, if not years. Behavioural work isn't a quick fix, and there are a hundred different variables and factors which come into play. So, this is the first reason why dogs are with us for so long, behavioural modification simply takes time. On top of that, the behaviours which we are trying to change aren't new behaviours which developed a week or a month ago, and they aren't low level. When the dogs come into us, often they've had these behavioural issues for years, some since puppyhood. The behaviours are deep routed and well-practised which again makes behaviour modification more challenging and a longer process.
The next factor which comes into play is decompression. The dogs we take in, are on a normal day to day basis, already under huge amounts of stress and anxiety, they are already sitting at or are above their coping thresholds, which is why they're displaying these aggressive behaviours and issues, and that’s BEFORE their world is tipped upside down and they are suddenly removed from the people and environment which they know. For a well-balanced rescue dog with no behavioural issues, it can take them 3 months to fully settle into a new environment and feel at ease, for our dogs who are already under masses amounts of stress, this can take a lot longer and can take up to 6 months for the dog to fully feel at ease. With our more difficult dogs like Charlie, this took us the best part of a year to fully decompress him.
Until decompression is complete, (decompression is the process of de-stressing the dog,) then the dog isn't going to begin learning. Dogs, like humans, need to be in the correct frame of mind to learn and to process that learning. Under stress isn't that time.
We also have to build a relationship with the dog and gain the dogs trust. Some of the dogs who come into us can't be handled right away, we can't leash them or put a collar on them and weeks sometimes months of work has to go into building the dogs confidence in themselves and us, others hop right out the van and bond immediately. It varies case by case, but this is another challenge which we have to overcome before behaviour modification even begins.
During this time of decompression and trust building we are assessing the dog, discovering the triggers to their issues, learning what motivates them, what they like, what they don't like.
We're also gathering a full history about the dog and this can include speaking with other professionals which the dog has worked with such as other trainers, dog walkers, pet sitters and groomers. When we intake a dog we also ask for a full vet report to be given to us, so we spent a lot of time going through the dog’s entire medical history too. A huge amount of work is going on in the background so that we can piece together the puzzle which the dog presents and begin helping them overcome all those challenges.
Then a rehabilitation plan is made and basic training along with behaviour mod begins, and we not only have to ensure that the dog is safe and rehabilitated when being handled by us, but we have to ensure that this training is transferable to other handlers, making things that little bit different again to if you'd called a trainer to your home for help. If the primary caregiver or handler has become the dogs 'safety net' then the dog can quickly relapse in a new home when away from caregiver, and this is the problem which Peter is currently working to overcome, so our dogs have that extended training of being handled by other people, once we feel that it is safe for them to do so.
Once we feel that the dog is ready, they are then put through various assessments which include meeting and being handled by strangers, tactile response, dog & cat assessment, livestock & wildlife, humans (including men and woman), public assessments, assessments in various environments, general handling and assessments relating to the dogs individual triggers or behavioural issues which they first presented with, these assessments aren't just one time events and they are repeated a number of times. Once they have passed all of this, then they are made available for adoption.
There's a lot of work for both us and the dogs that goes on to prepare them for re-homing and give them the chance at the life that we believe that they all deserve.
REHOMING CRITEA: WHAT IS IT & HOW IS IT DETERMINED?
Re-homing criteria is a list of requirements which needs fulfilled by the applicant in order to re-home that particular dog. For example, you’ll commonly have seen on posts for rescue dogs criteria such as “no dogs” or “no children”.
How we determine these is based on the dogs prior history, the assessments which the dog has gone through with us and our personal knowledge of the dog, we are lucky enough to know all of our dogs on a personal level because they do live as a part of my family for the duration of their time with us.
Dogs who come into us with a bite history or a history of aggression towards humans cannot be placed into a home with children, or a home with children who visit regularly. This is a safety issue, and to do otherwise would simply be negligent and irresponsible of us, so it’s something which unfortunately we simply won't do.
Other criteria which is set out such as no dogs or cats is because the dog has most likely failed assessment in this area, or it may be that the dog is happier and more comfortable as an only pet which may have been determined through prior history, assessment or both.
Fence heights is something which we're often asked about, and again this is dependent on the individual dog and their history. For example, a dog like Rhodesian Ridgeback Bert, due to his history and size would require a minimum of a 6ft secure perimeter, whilst little Jack Russel Terrier, Oscar
and his little short legs would require 4ft minimum. This is something which would be discussed at your home check, along with consideration such as if the dog can squeeze through gaps, is a digger and things like that.
If your home check is otherwise perfect, then we will advise on things like fencing, and give you time to make adjustments if needed and you're successful in your application.
Each of our dogs, and every dog, is an individual with an individual set of needs, wants and requirements in order for them to live their best lives.
ADOPTION PROCEDURE: HOW & WHY...
Our adoption procedure does differ from some other rescues, but it's been developed in this way for a few reasons:
Firstly, to ensure that we can make the very best choices in regard to matching dogs with their new families, Secondly to ensure that the adopter can be really sure that they want to commit to the dog for the rest of his life and so that the successful applicant can begin building a relationship with the dog to make transition into a new home as stress free as possible,
And to pass over any training or behavioural support required prior to handover to ensure that the adopter knows exactly what they're doing and can feel confident in settling their new dog into their home.
The dogs which we are re-homing do have bite histories, or histories of aggression and although rehabilitated, this is something which we still have to consider.
Our dogs also require ongoing behavioural management and training to ensure that they don't relapse and slip back into old habits which they've spent months or years working to change. We do give full and free behavioural and training support to all our dogs and adopting families for the whole of the dog’s life. I’m afraid you can't just rock up and adopt the dog same day, and meet and greets are by invite only due to this being a closed site and due to the nature of the dogs who live here, and because this is mine and my daughter’s home.
Every applicant will have to follow the same steps in order to be considered to adopt. We are really proud of our adoption procedure and it is there to ensure the compatibility, happiness, safety and welfare of not only our dogs, but you, the applicant, and the wider public.
So, I'm going to talk you through it and explain to you briefly why we have each of these steps in place.
OK, so once a dog is ready for re-homing, we will advertise them on our social media platforms and our website, you'll see 'adopt me' or something to that effect beside their picture.
If you'd like to adopt that dog then the first step is completing a written application, each of our dogs has a set of criteria which needs met for re-homing and this gives us basic information to see if you are a potential match.
If your application ticks all the boxes, you'll then be invited for an interview which will be held either over video call or you may be in person depending on your location. The reason we hold face to face interviews is so that we can go through your application with you and gather more information where we need to, this is also an opportunity to put a face to paper and get to know you a little better, you'll be asked various questions and will be invited to ask us any questions which you have too. During the interview we'll also discuss your chosen dog in more detail with, going into history, medical etc.
After the interview, if we think you may be a good match then we will arrange a home check. This is done by the majority of rescues and involves our home checker visiting your home.
They will have a form to fill out and will have several questions which they’ll ask you about your circumstances, family, and things like that. You'll be required to show the home checker around your home and external areas so they can assess the suitability for the dog. If you pass the home check, then next you will be invited for meet and greets with the dog.
You will need to be able to travel to Aberdeenshire and you will have to attend several meets and greets with the dog. Why several meets? One reason is novelty, a lot of dogs can be absolutely fine the first time they meet someone because it's new and exciting, but sometimes on the 2nd or 3rd meet this novelty wears off and potential issues can be flagged. Identifying potential issues before the dog moves into the new home is essential, and we believe the key to successful re-homing. We would much rather identify an issue BEFORE an incident rather than afterwards. Another reason is that you can get to know the dog and have time in-between meets to process, the problem with us humans is that our heart often over rules our head and leads us to make decisions which aren't too smart, which is why it's important for you to have time after meeting the dog to go away, and have a proper think. We also have this step-in place because it gives time for the dog and their new human to begin building a relationship.
Our dogs have come from difficult pasts and have worked hard to overcome their troubles,
re-homing is stressful for any dogs, but for our dogs, because of their behavioural histories, it's even more important to remove as many stressors from that process as possible. When moving to a new home the dog already has to get used to a brand new environment, and they may not have lived in a house for many months if ever, so by already having built that relationship with their new human, this is one massive hurdle which we have removed for them, and for you! It is a lot easier to settle in a dog who has an element of trust in you, than a dog who's unsure of you.
And lastly, if you're successful, then this gives us the opportunity to pass on any training or handling techniques, give you support in any areas which you need so that you are fully prepared for your new arrival.
Next comes the exciting bit, the foster period. This is where your chosen dog comes home with you. During the foster period you are the dog’s carer however the dog is still under ownership of the rescue. This is kind of like a trial period and is a minimum of 4 months but could be extended for various reasons such as adopter illness, or the dog having settling issues. During this time you will be able to return the dog to us at any time if you don't think it's working out for any reason, and in the same way, if we are concerned for the safety or welfare of the dog, or feel that the home isn't working out then we reserve the right to remove the dog, however all the above steps we just talked about are in place so that hopefully everyone is 100% certain before the dog leaves the rescue, but there are always unexpected things that can happen, which is why we have this safety net in place.
After the foster period, if all parties are happy and content then adoption paperwork will be signed, and the dog becomes a fully-fledged member of your family.
You'll have to sign paperwork and agree to all the terms of adoption, the agreement is then signed by the rescue and ownership of the dog is handed over.
Your dog will receive lifetime rescue back up which means that at any point in the dog’s life, should you no longer be able to care for them, then the dog is contracted to come right back to us. And we also offer full behavioural and training support for the whole of the dog’s life!
WHEN A DOG ISN'T SUITABLE FOR RE-HOMING...
For some dogs, unfortunately re-homing isn't possible which is why we offer lifetime sanctuary. This means that the dog is not re-homed and that they live out life with me and my family, here where they are happy and comfortable. There are a few reasons which may influence our decision NOT to re-home and instead give them sanctuary, the first and main reason is safety. Some dogs are simply too damaged and too troubled to safely place back into the general public, and this is usually due to the severity or unpredictability of their aggression or the intent behind it, or it may be due to the severity of the bites which they have previously dealt out. We may also give sanctuary to a dog who's not suitable for a pet dog home due to their natural drive, or due to long term medical issues which we feel will escalate behaviour at a later date.
Deciding that a dog is not suitable for re-homing isn't something we take lightly but if we do, it's for the best interests of the dog and the public.
Unfortunately, not every dog is suited to every home which is exactly why we have the procedures that we have, and why we are so thorough in gathering histories and in our assessments. Please remember that if you aren't successful in re-homing one of our dogs, it doesn't mean that you aren't suitable for any dog, just not that particular dog and we are always happy to discuss these reasons with you, if we feel that you would be suitable for a different dog in our care then we will also discuss this with you too.
Re-homing isn't about statistics, or timescales (or at least it shouldn't be). It should be done with both the short and long term welfare and happiness of the dog in mind, it should be done with the aim of the dog not just being ok, but thriving in their new environment, and it should be done with the welfare, happiness and safety of the adoptive family, and the surrounding community, in mind.
UNTIL EVERY DOG HAS A HOME
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