What is a rescue dog like?

Our work in dog rescue means we have all sorts of interesting conversations, both with those who advocate for rescue dogs wholly and would only ever welcome a dog into the family through a rescue charity, and those who would not consider rescue because a purebreed is preferred and surely rescue means ‘you just don’t know what you’re getting’?

Here at DogsnHomes, we are clearly big fans of rescue and wanted to share our top three insights about these beautiful pups, as well as debunk some myths, based on our experience over the years.

They come in all shapes and sizes (including purebred)!

When you hear the phrase ‘rescue dog’, what springs to mind visually? For many, it’s a dog of multiple breeds and, for the most part, this is absolutely correct. Personally, we think this is great! Why have one breed when you can have many, making one totally unique pup?!

This isn’t always the case though, a rescue pup really does come in many forms. Take a look at the photo on this page. Four beautiful dogs who we recently welcomed into the DogsnHomes family, all about to head off to their forever homes (L-R: Andre, Duncan, Bugsy and Pammy). Can you pick out any distinct breeds? No prizes for guessing that Bugsy is a German Shepherd, Andre a gorgeous terrier-type, Duncan is certainly more of a mixture, and then there’s adorable Pammy who is definitely giving off Dachshund vibes!

It is also of course possible that dogs are surrendered to us that have originally come from a breeder. We are sometimes contacted by people who have bought dogs and then decided it’s not going to work for them, most often because of underestimating the time, effort and training they will need to invest in the dog. When a dog is surrendered, it’s typically because of a change in the owner’s circumstances, not through any fault of the dog. Breeders do not always offer assistance in this situation and individuals then turn to the rescue sector to help find a new home. In this case, the rescue dog may well be a pure breed or designer crossbreed.

So whether an adopter is looking for a specific type of dog, or is searching for a truly unique looking canine companion, rescue will almost always be a great option.

Temperaments and behaviours vary, just like any dog, rescue or not!

For those not familiar with rescue, we often hear ‘I like the idea, but you don’t know what you’re getting’.

A dog’s personality and behaviours are heavily shaped by what they learn from their surroundings and how they are brought up. For a dog that finds him / herself in a rescued scenario, whilst they may have experienced some hardship, they have also had to be resourceful and think independently, which we often find results in a standout personality and big character!

Of course, a dog that has suffered at the hands of humans may be more wary and need more TLC and time spent to teach them we’re not all bad! That’s the truly magical thing about dogs though, their capacity to forgive their past experiences is incredible; with the right care and training, rescue dogs can become happy, content and wonderful additions to the family.

This is especially true of the puppies. At DogsnHomes, we work incredibly hard to ensure the pups we bring over are happy, well-balanced and sociable, able to fit into a blissful life in the UK. You may notice the majority we re-home are between the ages of 4- 8 months as this is an age when a pup is still in the earlier stages of learning and whose experience of life so far has been relatively stable; many DogsnHomes pups are born in foster after their pregnant Mother has been rescued, so have had no negative experiences. Once in our care, the dogs receive all of the time, love, medical care and fuss they can handle (!) as they are prepared to journey to the UK. They will be socialised and introduced wherever possible to cats, children, cafes, towns, people etc. which gives them a huge advantage as they learn to live in a UK home, they have already experienced so many of the sights, smells and sounds we will expect them to become familiar with.

A common misconception is that a dog bought from a breeder is guaranteed to act in a certain way, whereas a rescue dog will require more ‘work’. As stated, a dog’s character is heavily influenced by how he or she is brought up and trained, each dog (whether rescue or not, purebred or mega-mutt) is an individual with different likes, dislikes and personality traits. Over the years we have encountered dogs from all backgrounds and life experiences, they never cease to amaze us with their resilience, capacity to learn and ability to adapt to our human requirements!

A rescue dog can be a (very!) healthy dog

Having often had a trickier start to / period of life, it is true that a rescue dog that has been abandoned, for example, will not have received the level of care they deserved at all times. Whilst this hand they’ve been dealt is not fair, it is something that is addressed as soon as they come into our care; we have a wonderful team of rescuers and veterinary backup and we ensure every dog is brought up to speed with decent meals, health checks, blood tests, vaccinations, worming, flea / tick treatments (the list goes on!), to ensure they arrive in the UK fit and healthy.

What’s more, many veterinary professionals agree that a mixed breed dog, which is characteristic of many rescue dogs, tend to be hardier and less prone to genetic disease – this makes sense as there can be quite the genetic diversity!  They can therefore experience greater longevity than some purebred dogs and require less veterinary intervention during their lives.

Whilst any dog has the possibility of becoming ill and experiencing injury during their lifetimes, the rescue dog is a great candidate for a long, happy and healthy life.

So there we have it, a couple of key insights about the wonderful rescue dog, based on our experience over many years of rescue. We hope you enjoyed the read, learned a few new things and found it useful. For us, the overriding advantage of welcoming a rescue dog into your family (through DogsnHomes!) is knowing that you have saved them from a potential life of suffering, created space in foster to help another dog, and contributed towards tackling the issue of unwanted litters, as DogsnHomes pays towards spaying / neutering operations for every dog we adopt. In answer to the question ‘what is a rescue dog like?’ we think ‘grateful’ sums it up best. 


The very first step is to fill out an application form. If you meet our adoption criteria, you will then be contacted for a video interview and home check. Assuming this goes well, you will then become an ‘approved adopter’ and be automatically considered each time a new dog becomes available for rehoming. 

Please remember, you must fill out an application form. We will not consider comments or messages made on social media, or texts / emails, for offers of homes.

All money received by DogsnHomes goes towards the rescue and care of dogs in need. No salaries are taken by our team as the charity is staffed 100% by volunteers.

Your adoption fee allows us to ensure the very best care is afforded to the dogs we save, helping to cover their medical, domestic and transportation needs as they are prepared for and undertake their journey to the UK. Examples of what this money goes towards include:

  • Food and shelter in Portugal
  • Vet visits for: health checks, blood tests, vaccinations, and to ensure they are fit to travel
  • Any necessary medications
  • Flea, tick and worm treatments
  • Spaying / neutering if the dog is over one year old
  • Microchipping
  • Behavioural assessments
  • Transportation costs to the UK on the Happy Bus, including import duties and customs charges
  • A Passport
  • Socialising visits
  • Administrative fees

Additionally, for every dog we place for adoption, we make a further donation to our partners in Portugal which is used to spay / neuter other dogs to try and break the endless cycle of unwanted litters.

For some dogs, it will never be possible to leave Portugal and they will see out their days in the shelter system. Financial donations help these dogs to have their medical and domestic needs met to ensure they lead as comfortable and happy lives as possible.

Everyone who submits an application will receive an email from us confirming that we have received their application (we aim to confirm receipt of your application within 10 working days). Sometimes our emails end up in junk/spam mail, so please check there too. If we wish to take your application further, you will receive further correspondence from us via email to arrange a home check.

However, if you do not meet our adoption criteria, we will not be able to respond to your application to confirm this. We are sorry about this but DogsnHomes is run by a small team of volunteers and we must prioritise our resources.

We understand how frustrating it can be trying to adopt a dog and not hearing back soon. We are a small, volunteer-run charity and we have to split our time between multiple activities, so we thank you for your patience and understanding.

There are some common themes with applications that aren’t successful:

  • The dog you have applied for is extremely popular, like most of our dogs. We receive many applications for puppies and young dogs in particular, and it’s our job to pick the strongest application for each dog.
  • Your circumstances do not meet our dog’s requirements. This is not a reflection on your ability to care for a dog but it may mean that you are not a good match for the dog you applied for. This may be because they need a resident dog, a quieter household or environment, an experienced adopter, amongst other reasons. 
  • Your application form is not detailed enough. We receive hundreds of applications and have to make a judgement on which to take forward to the next stage based on your answers, so we recommend that you include as much detail as possible, much like a job application. Also if you have any physical or mental health issues that may help us decide on the most suitable dog, please include this in the application.

Please bear in mind that we receive between 150 – 300 applications a month and rehome between 10-15 dogs a month. With these numbers in mind, we hope you understand that it’s simply not possible to keep up with demand and some people will sadly be disappointed.

We prefer to adopt within a 60-minute drive of our base in Fleet, Hampshire so we can continue to offer support and guidance if required, after a dog has gone to his/her new home. 

Additionally, local adoptions mean adopters and their dogs have the opportunity to meet up and socialise, keep siblings in contact, attend DogsnHomes events and support local businesses, all of which contributes to a thriving and sustainable canine community near to DogsnHomes HQ.

Approximately 75% of the dogs available for adoption are puppies, but we do sometimes rehome older dogs too.

At present we do not have premises where you are able to visit the dogs as most go directly out to their adoptive homes on arrival from Portugal, straight off the Happy Bus! 

Sometimes, some will go to local foster homes, in which case there may be scope to meet them, should you be considered for adoption for the pup in question.

The majority of the dogs we rescue come from Portugal. 

We have formed close relationships with the fosterers and private rescue shelters there, who provide us with lots of information about the nature of the dogs they have rescued and how they are developing. They continually assess the dogs as they grow, and those that are most suitable will make the journey to the UK when they’re approximately 4 months old (or older if a dog is rescued at an older age). 

Whilst in Portugal, the dogs are introduced to lots of different people, other dogs, other animals (e.g. cats) and sometimes children. They’re also often taken to public spaces such as the beach, the local villages, and cafes too, which means they generally come to us as well rounded dogs with a high level of positive socialisation (although please be aware they are in a rural part of Portugal and the places they visit will not be as busy as they are in England).

No, we will keep your application in our files. This means we can contact you directly if we think we have found a dog that meets all of your requirements (and if you meet theirs too!). 

However, if anything changes on your application, including the type of dog you are looking for, please let us know and we will update your application. Alternatively, you can submit a further application.

Please be assured that, in line with GDPR, we will not share your information with any third party and we ask that you email us if you decide you don’t want further contact from us.

Most of our dogs are rescued from Portugal where they may have been handed in, found as strays, abandoned, or born in our private shelters. What we know of their backgrounds will vary, but every dog will be assessed so we can match them up with the best family for them, and ensure you are the best match for each other.

It depends entirely on the dog.

None of the dogs come to us directly from the public kennels. Most are in foster homes in Portugal or live in what we call ‘private shelters’, where people have numerous dogs at their homes. so there is no need for them to be in foster in the UK and they can go straight to their forever families. However, some are placed in foster local to DogsnHomes HQ, to be given additional time to decompress from travel.

We do not currently have premises or kennel facilities, so when the dogs arrive they are either placed into foster homes or go straight to their adopters. If a dog goes into foster, it may be possible to meet them prior to adoption. 

At DogsnHomes, priority is given to households where all members are over 10 years old, or where another dog(s) is already in residence if the children are under 10.

Children and dogs can often be a fantastic combination and our aim is always to try and match the right dog with the right home, ensuring both the children and dogs’ welfare is carefully considered. In our years of experience in dog rescue, we have found the most successful pairings are with households with slightly older children.

When you submit an application form to us, this is where you should provide details about the people in your household, including children, so we can take this all into account when making rehoming decisions.

Please note: unless you already have a dog in the home, we are not able to consider households with children under 10 years old

Absolutely. Another doggy buddy to play with and learn the ropes from can be a great thing. Before we place a dog with you, we would invite you and your existing dog(s) to meet your prospective new pup, where they could be introduced to see if they’d be happy to live together. We would also need to ensure your existing dog is fully vaccinated and neutered if of the opposite sex.

Many of our dogs are cat tested before they come to the UK. If they haven’t been cat tested or they’ve shown aggression during the cat test, we will not allow them to be rehomed with other cats or small animals. However, many of our dogs pass their cat test with flying colours so don’t be put off from applying if you have a feline friend!

Please bear in mind that, even if the dog has passed their cat test, there is no guarantee that your cat will like the dog and vice versa. They are animals and not all will get along, just like humans!

Should you be approved as an adopter and you have small furries in your house, we ask that you ensure introductions are done as soon as possible after adopting and that you use positive, reward based methods when managing the introductions.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a garden then you are not eligible to rehome a dog from us. 

Prior to making the journey to the UK, our dogs have enjoyed lots of access to outdoor space and this is something we believe is important to their continued wellbeing.

Additionally, if adopting a puppy, we ask all adopters to take them outside every 30 minutes to ensure they are properly toilet trained.

If your motivation to adopt is based on a desire to improve a health condition, or you’re not sure about how having a dog would affect a particular condition, please do not submit until you have very carefully considered the impact of dog ownership.

Dogs are wonderful companions and family members but can also be hard work, especially during the early days as you get to know each other and adjust to your new lives together. Many compare the demands of having a new puppy with the demands of a newborn baby (think sleepless nights, constant vigilance and cleaning up!).

We ask that you only submit an adoption form if your desire to adopt is based on wanting to provide a first-class home for a dog, primarily for the benefit of that dog, for life.

We acknowledge there are many dogs abandoned and neglected in the UK. Fortunately, we live in a country that prides itself on being a nation of animal lovers and, as a result, there are a large number of dog rescue organisations that focus solely on rehoming dogs located in the UK. 

We have worked with the local dog warden and have dogs surrendered to us, but these dogs typically come with issues.

Whereas in Portugal, there are significantly fewer animal welfare rights and protection for dogs and they just aren’t treated with the same level of care. Every dog deserves a chance at living a happy and healthy life, regardless of its origin, and so it’s our passion to rescue these dogs and give them the opportunity to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Before we are allowed to export a dog from Portugal they have to pass a rigorous process, which includes

  • A minimum of two vet visits prior to arrival, the last within days of leaving checking they are fit to travel
  • Microchipping
  • A full course of vaccinations
  • Treatments for fleas, worms and ticks
  • Screening for infections with a blood test
  • Dogs over a year of age will also be spayed or neutered

Of course, you will need to register your dog with a local vet to ensure their vaccinations remain up to date and health needs are met (as with any dog).

Once you have adopted your new dog, you are their legal owner, trainer and carer, responsible for meeting their daily needs and addressing any issues as they arise, as you settle into your new life together.

We do however love it when our adopters stay in touch so we can see how you’re getting on, and we will always provide advice and guidance where needed.

We also have a private Facebook page where you can ‘meet’ other adopters, become a part of the DogsnHomes Rescue online community and discuss your pups!

As a condition of adopting, you are required to insure the dog and train them to be well behaved inside and outside of your home, seeking professional advice to help you do so if ever required.

Whilst we also rehome UK dogs too, in our experience the majority of UK dogs that we’re asked to rehome tend to have behavioural or health issues. For any UK dogs we do rehome, we carry out a full behavioural assessment, attain all medical records from the vet and request proof of ownership from the individual surrendering the dog.

Please be aware that the dog will need to remain in the owner’s care until we have found them a new home.

We are not able to rehome aggressive dogs.

As a non-profit organisation run wholly by volunteers we are always grateful for offers of support. You can help us in the following ways:

Donate money. You can find out how to donate by clicking here . We are grateful for every penny, but regular monthly donations are extra special as this provides greater financial security; if you sign-up to a monthly donation you will become a DogsnHomes Top Dog and will receive a certificate from us. Every penny donated goes to help the dogs and support our rescue operations.

Fundraise. It can be as simple, quick and easy as doing your online shopping via EasyFundraising or get creative and do a cake sale, sponsored silence, charity walk or run, or you could even jump out of a plane!

Donate old or unused doggy items (must be clean and in usable condition please). If you have spare dog toys, leads, harnesses, collars, bowls or food, please consider donating to us at one of our drop off points. Unfortunately, we cannot accept duvets, pillows or quilts.

Become a volunteer. If you have spare time and skills you think could assist us, get in touch! We are always on the lookout for people who can use WordPress and Photoshop. We sometimes have practical roles available for events such as Happy Bus arrivals (i.e. when the dogs arrive with us from Portugal), as well as at fundraising events, such as manning the DogsnHomes stall at community events. Please email fundraising@dogsnhomes.org.uk to find out more and register as a volunteer. Regrettably, we are unable to accept volunteers under 18 years of age for insurance reasons.

Promote our social media pages. We are active on Facebook and Instagram, so please give us a follow and spread the word! The more you share, like and comment, the more engagement and support we receive.

Our adoption fee varies depending on the dog, further information is provided as applicants progress through the rehoming process.

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Our mission is simple, to rescue dogs from Portugal and the UK and find them their forever home

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