A Handful of Experiences

I believe in always looking at rescues first when considering a new dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult you’re looking for. I have bought a dog before, which in some ways I do regret, but for now I will focus on the dogs I and my family have had through our doors.


I grew up with this mutt, a miniature german shepherd with full sized ears. My parents got her as a puppy, from the Blue Cross, and were promptly berated for being so irresponsible when my brother was on the way. Obviously, they didn’t abandon this lovely dog, and we had sixteen (nearly seventeen) lovely years with her. As first time dog owners, my parents were honestly pretty useless, and she didn’t have much training to speak of, and some of their methods were rather archaic. But, she was a lovely dog that never had an ill day in her life, or a bad bone in her body.


Frank was the second family dog, born in 2006. He was another rescue puppy that came home when I was 12. My sister and I did most of the training with him, and it resulted in the birth of my obsession with all things doggie. Frank was always a nervous dog, which was partly down to inheritance from his mother, but was exacerbated by circumstance.

First of all, I strongly believe that the beginning of his issues came from the independent charity we got him from. They forbade us from handling him and did not do any socialisation with him at all. When we got him home, he was scared of the grass. For all intents and purposes, he may as well have come from a puppy farm. In addition to this, we were also still wrapped up in the idea of ‘alpha’ rubbish, and this made him even more nervous. As I changed my approach, unfortunately it took longer for others to do so, which only compounded the problem.

Now, had he come from a reputable rescue, I think we would have had a whole different story, as Frank really was a loving, intelligent and very trainable dog. For many years he was a perfect dog, but thanks to our mistakes, and that of the ‘rescue’, he never really understood how to behave socially, and it all culminated in him attacking me. He’d gone for me before, but always with some logic to it, but my parents deemed that as this attack had been utterly unpredictable, he had to be put down. This was in no way because he was a rescue, but because he had been subjected to a plethora of unfortunate circumstances.


This dog is perfect. End of. Moving on…

Or not.

Lizzy is the only reason I am alive today, but she is by no means perfect. I rescued her when I was 13, after writing a report on why I should have a dog. It was love at first sight, and within a week she came home. This dog had spent all her life up until this point going from home to foster home to kennels, so really I shouldn’t have been surprised that I wasn’t getting the well adjusted dog I had been told I was rehoming.

I’m not blaming the Blue Cross for this, as kenneled dogs only have a limited capacity to express their true character, and staff can only do so much assessment. I knew that she was untrained, which was fine, but what I didn’t know was that she had been quite traumatised in the past.

Lizzy had no idea how to behave around other dogs, and as a result she has to charge in to play, rather than greet properly. This isn’t really an issue, as it can be managed, along with her obsession with watch reflections and the like (most likely down to kennel stress), attention seeking (by stealing shoes etc. and parading with them) which I assume was the only way she got attention in her old home, and the way she had no idea what toys were or how to play with them.

She now knows that she’s a very good girl, can (sort of) play with toys, and her attention seeking that used to result in a very fearful dog, is now just another game or part of the day. I’ve not been able to stop her reflection obsession, but this is easily managed.

The really difficult issues are her aggression towards postmen. When I first got her, she would react violently to bikes, hi-viz, people carrying bags or parcels, people coming out of houses and the actual postmen. It was not good. She flies into a panic any time she sees a postman, and has bitten them. Through alot of patience and desensitisation, she is now comfortable around everything but postmen, and the issues is managed by keeping doors locked and only walking her in the afternoon.

She also hates anything that looks like a german shepherd, although she doesn’t attack them full on, only charges them before running back with her tail between her legs. Obviously, we keep her on a lead around these. She is also distressed by people hugging or dancing, as well as newspapers, we can only assume because she thinks these are violent acts.

Now, on to the really important bit. Despite all this trauma, Lizzy is exceptionally well behaved, and laps up all the training she can get. It took her over a year to really settle into her home and trust that she wouldn’t be abandoned again, and she still gets worried if someone goes away. Lizzy is one of the most loving dogs I have ever known, and her empathy is unparalleled. She is particularly good with children, and used to work as a PAT dog with autistic children. In addition, she saved my life on more than one ocassion, often picking up on my intentions to harm myself and either pinning me down and refusing to move, or going to retrieve someone else and bringing them to me. I kid you not.

What I’m trying to say about her, is that if you rescue an adult dog, it may have scars and difficulties, but they will give you back more than any puppy could. It’s only my opinion, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

Loki and Piggy

Loki was rescued when he was six months old, having spent a while as a stray before coming into Battersea, while Piggy was rescued from the council before she was destroyed at 2 years old. Both of these dogs were pretty much perfect. Yes, they were boisterous, mostly thanks to being bull breeds, but they loved training and any slight bolshiness was put to bed within a few weeks of coming home. I honestly have nothing bad to say about these dogs, or the rescues they came from.

Unfortunately, they were both put down a few months after coming home, down to neurological issues that were causing them pain and potentially making them dangerous. This could happen whether you rescue a dog or buy one as a puppy. However, if you do buy a puppy, always insist on health tested parents, as this is the only way to at least knowing they will not have the ailments their breeds might be prone to, although of course there is no way to be sure of health in general.

I have also bought one dog, after losing Loki, and I wanted to have the best chance of a healthy dog. There are upsides to a puppy, but I can honestly see no reason not to rescue a puppy from a reputable rescue, rather than purchasing from a breeder. Roger was also bullied and attacked by other dogs, which has resulted in alot of nervousness and some aggression in him, which one might usually associate with a rescue dog. I haven’t given up on him, as I will not see the same happening to him, as has happened to Lizzy. I manage his problems, and he wears a muzzle when off lead, which is just fine.

I know this post is rather rambling, and although it just chronicles my experiences, I really just want to say that anything can happen with a dog, wherever you get it from, so why not give one a second chance?


What interesting stories - thank you for sharing them. They illustrate how useful it is to have experience when rescuing a dog with issues. Sometimes you have to accept what they are (as you have done) and work with that rather than against it. In some ways I can understand why people prefer to have puppies as it is like a fresh start and hopefully there won’t be difficulties with behaviour. However, it is not guaranteed. I just think it is sad that there are so many dogs in rescue, damaged or not. :frowning:

Totally agree. Unfortunately, I can’t see the situation changing any time soon.

I read your post with interest as I foster occasionally for Many Tears. This rescue take a lot from puppy farms including pups. I had Jim from Little Dog Rescue although he is a medium sized dog, colllie x lurcher I think. Due to being shut in a shed as a puppy, he lacks meet and greet instincts and reacts to new, excited dogs at training classes and to unexpected male strangers. I have a strong feeling that stress may affect the growing brain in kids as well as dogs. There is interesting research around seratonin and insulin and trytophan which may be the chemistry involved in this behaviour. Exploring the carbohydrates eaten might help. It may be that a lower rather than higher amount of good protein with carbs might enable the trytophan to be absorbed better.
I have had a bad year, having a Jack Russell run over in April and losing the second with lymphoma ten days ago. In between I adopted a tripaw from Cyprus, sadly she had had just too much for her immune system and we lost her after two months. In her memory I adopted another Cypriot hound who is beautiful, healthy well balanced young girl.