Adopting a dog from overseas has become very popular in recent years. One of the main reasons for this is because people want to adopt a dog but are unable to do so from the UK due to the strict rehoming requirements of many national rescue organisations. There are also more puppies available in overseas rescues than in national rescue centres, and with the price of buying puppies at an all-time high this is often an attractive alternative.
Adopting a dog from overseas can be extremely rewarding BUT it is a complete gamble and there are so many unknowns. You could choose one dog and never run into any problems, or you could choose a different dog and have a whole host of behavioural problems to contend with. We currently have three overseas rescues at Holistic Hounds; India, Oliver and Kira. Oliver was a street dog in Croatia and India and Kira were both from Romania. All three have worked through various issues, all of which stemmed from fear and insecurity, which is very common in dogs that have been on the streets. Kira for example, was too scared to leave the house when she was first brought over from Romania and was very fearful of people, particularly men.
1. A lot of overseas rescues come from countries like Romania and Bosnia and we must remember that dogs are not treated as pets in these countries, but rather they are considered pests like pigeons or rats. People do often not interact with them, and if they do it is unlikely to be in a positive way, such as to shoo them away. In addition, shelters in other countries are not usually the same as shelters in this country. There is often little human contact, and the dogs live in groups. Some shelters have dedicated fosters where dogs can get used to living in a home environment, but the majority of cases will never have lived in a home before. This means that at best your rescue will be unaccustomed to us humans and our way of life, and at worst very fearful. For example, when Oliver first came to the UK he was terrified of normal household items such as the washing machine, TV and interestingly, tinfoil. It is very easy for them to become overwhelmed with our way of life and so it is important to take things slowly when adopting an overseas rescue.
2. You often have no idea about their history and many rescues adopt straight into homes as opposed to taking the dog in and assessing them first before putting them up for adoption. Some charities allow you to foster the dog first, but as they rely on placing dogs in homes it is often difficult to give them back to the rescue unless there is another home willing to take the dog. This can be particularly difficult if the dog you adopt is very unsuitable for your situation, and you remain stuck with a dog that you cannot properly look after. You will often hear the term "honeymoon period" being used, and this refers to the first couple of weeks or even months after you have brought your dog home where is yet to show it's true personality due to not having settled in yet. This can lull you into a false sense of security, for severe behavioural problems to then surface.
3. Another thing to remember is that their first experience of transport is likely to have been when they were picked up as strays or when they make the long journey over to the UK, usually crated in a van with lots of other dogs. Overseas rescues can therefore be anything from unaccustomed to being in the car to being really scared of car journeys. In order to help them become comfortable in the car you can take them on lots of little short journeys so that they get used to travelling and it no longer becomes a stressful experience. The same goes for crates; some rescues may not like the crate due to their first experience of one being very stressful, but it is so beneficial to crate train your dog because it will reduce stress in situations where they may need to be crated, such as at the vets. We therefore suggest starting off by feeding your dog in a crate with the door open so that it learns that the crate is actually a nice place to be.
4. Overseas rescues are also unlikely to have been on a lead before. A lot of shelters abroad are areas where a large group of dogs can roam free, and so whilst they may be well socialised with other dogs, the dynamic is completely different when you put them on a lead. We often see overseas rescues with reactivity caused by either frustration of being on a lead or the insecurity of being unable to move away from a stressful situation. This can be the same when the dog is put in a tight space such as inside the house. Fight and flight are two instinctual behaviours present in all dogs. Many overseas rescues are typically more flighty dogs; they will run away from a scenario they are scared or uncomfortable with. But in tight spaces or on the lead, this option to run away is taken away from them and so they will be pushed into fight, which manifests as reactivity either towards other dogs or people. Knowing how to give your dog guidance and help them through this is key to ensuring a well adapted, socialised dog.
We love training overseas rescues here at Holistic Hounds. It is so rewarding to see their progress, particularly when we see a scared and shut down dog grow in confidence. However, there are a number of important factors that are often missed when considering an overseas rescue. They need a lot of patience and an understanding that they may never be like your typical pet dog, but also an appreciation of how extremely resilient and adaptive they are.
If you are thinking of adopting an overseas rescue we are more than happy to help you on your journey, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. We also have the lovely Kira up for adoption and you can read more about her story here: https://www.holistichounds.uk/post/rescue-case-kira
Here are just a few of the overseas rescues that we have helped recently!