My husband, myself and rescue dogs

Having shared my home with a few rescued dogs, over the years, it never ceases to amaze me what people do to animals.

After all, no-one forces a person to take a pet into their home. If you do and find that being a pet owner is not for you, then the kindest thing is to look at the options you have, such as rehoming. However, if you find that owning a dog is not for you then why get another dog, then another and then another?

Unfortunately my experiences over the years have taught me that this is what some terrible owners do. Some out of ignorance feel that it is the dog's fault, and that perhaps the dog is untrainable, and the next dog will be better, whereas some people are just cruel.

Still I will not go off at a tangent here about animal cruelty, but rather will give you a little history of the two dogs I have at present, and then some advice from what I have learned over the years.

My dog

My lad came to us about four years ago. He had been taken into a local rescue centre having been found emaciated, weighing only seven kilos. He was about 18 months old at the time. He was found dying of hunger and thirst, on a hot August day, trying to lick some fluid from the hot tar on a road.

A driver almost ran over him, thinking he was a bundle of rags, and just swerved in the nick of time. As she treid to help him, other drivers just sped by. She kindly lifted him into the back of her car, laying him on a blanket, although she could see the fleas literally jumping on him.

I will not dwell on things but suffice to say he needed lots of love and care by the rescue service, until he finally came to Hubby and I. By this time he was a little chubby dog, partially because of the steroids he was having to take, and he had no fur at all.

The rescue staff had worked wonders on him. He had ears that were like leather when he went to them, a tail that looked as if it might need amputating and a small wound, which was possibly a stab wound. Obviously, if you are taking a rescue dog in, at that stage, the animal will need a lot of care.

He had to be bathed every few hours and could not be stroked, as his skin was too severley damaged and it would have been to painful for him. His ears were bathed over and over again to try and soften them and gradually get rid of all the infection.

When he came to us he was frightened of men, especially young men in baseball caps or crash helmets. He was terrified of back gardens, including ours, if it was dark, and he was very frightened and jumpy when out walking if a lorry or bus passed by. When he had been rescued, he was on a main road out of the city, in the middle of nowehere, so perhaps this is why.

My bitch

Our girl came to us after our lad. He had been with us just over a year. She arrived, a long leggy, rather skinny, sleek haired cross terrier. The lad, now that he is well again, is a very shaggy dog, much like 'pippin', from the kiddies programme, only he is white and black.

She arrived after being with the rescue centre for a couple of days.

She had been beaten, starved, suffered cigarrette burns and finally had been left tied to a tree in her owners garden, when they moved house. She was about 8 months old.

Whereas the lad had always been as good as gold and only seemed to want to please, madam was a fiery bit of bother. She proceeded to eat anything she could get her teeth into, be it stools, chairs, electric cables and more.

She had a poorly tummy for weeks and unfortunately there was plenty of mess to clean up. She too was a little frightened of many things but would try and brazen it out. She came to us as a foster five Christmases ago, and I guess she is going nowhere.

So finally here comes the advice:-

Training

We have been lucky with our rescue dogs, but madam was a little difficult.

Be patient and persevere. Do not expect everything to be plain sailing. Rescue dogs are usually scarred little creatures, in one way or another. Try different techniques and start small. Make sure you reward them fully for anything they learn and for good behaviour, and do not expect too much at once.

Part of the problem with our lass was she really was still a puppy. Add to this the fact that her owners had fought regularly, throwing her and the furniture out of the window, and you can see she needed to learn some rules.

History

Try to get as much history about the animal's past as you can. If you take a dog from the RSPCA they may have some history but remember the ex-owner may have lied.

Money

All dogs can be expensive and rescue ones are no different.

Unfortunately many rescue dogs will have ill-health before they are really old. You may be faced with regular expensive vet bills just for dental problems as teeth will have been neglected when the dog was young.

Bear in mind that this could be the case, especially if you take an older dog. Our lad has just been diagnosed with a heart condition and he is only 7 or 8. The vet assured it is treatable but only up to a point. However, our lad now needs expensive medication on a daily basis. Take out pet insurance, sooner rather than later, if you are able to.

Love, security and patience

More than anything, a rescue dog needs love, patience and security. They need you to be consistent and set the rules. Dogs respond well to a leader, being their leader, as it takes much of the pressure from them.

Diet

When you first take a rescue dog home you need to be careful with their diet. Often they have been starved or worse and their digestion is terrible. Introduce a few different foods, a little at a time. Plain boiled rice is good for settling a dog's upset tummy. Feed a low protein diet, once the dog is well, to prevent hyperactivity.

In the long term

Do not take a rescue dog into your home, unless you can give it a long term commitment. That is unless it is on a temporary foster basis.

There is nothing worse for a dog than just getting settled and ending up back in kennels. Ask for the dog to spend an odd afternoon with you to see how it settles and how the family get on with it, before you sign any adoption papers. Remember dogs can live many years.

Overall

There are so many dogs in rescue centres, especially after Christmas, that you will be spoiled for choice, but think carefully what you want.

Sometimes there may be an old dog, whose owner has had to go into residential care, or whose owner has just replaced it with a 'newer model' so to speak. There are usually puppies but we have always taken older dogs. Despite these dogs being mistreated they often are trained for certain things and pose other problems as they have emotional problems.

If you saw my two chicks nowadays you would not believe that they were the same dogs.

It has been great to see them grow in confidence. Despite the bitch pestering and bossing the dog at times, they do cuddle up together when sleeping. Seeing them content, happy with each other and their environment is the best reward you can receive.

I know they are happy as, if the front door opens they will go to it and have look around but not venture away on their own. They know where their home is, after all.