This is a guide to dog rehoming in general and Labrador rescue in particular. We’ll look at the pros and cons of rescue dogs vs puppies that are purchased from breeders. And give you a helpful list of Labrador Rescue Shelters.
Finding dogs for adoption isn’t always straightforward so we’ll also look at how and where to a adopt a dog when you are ready.
And at how to settle in your shelter pup when you’ve been introduced.
Before we start, let’s take a look at dogs for adoption and find out what the current situation is.
Dogs for adoption
Each year in the USA, and elsewhere, hundreds of dogs are abandoned, or given up for adoption by owners that are unable or unwilling to care for them.
The numbers of pets being relinquished is diminishing. Which is great news. The bad news is that there are still many dogs that are desperately in need of rehoming.
The lucky ones end up in one of our many excellent no kill dog rescue shelters
Very often dogs coming into rescue need veterinary treatment. Some need basic training, and some need therapy for behavioral problems, before they can start a new life with a new family.
Some have been starved, some abused, some just generally neglected, and many need time to adjust to their new situation, and to the loss of their families. Even abused dogs may miss their previous owners very much.
These dogs need help and support to make a new start in life
Why are dogs relinquished to animal shelters?
Several studies have looked at the reasons people give up their pets and hand them over to strangers at an animal shelter.
The reasons people give (moving to an house where no pets are allowed is a common one) and the problems that shelter workers observe in these dogs don’t always tally.
The mismatch is probably partly down to embarrassment on the part of the person handing over their dog. After all, many people are not willing to admit that they messed up and failed to train their dog.
Or that the behaviors they thought were cute in their puppy are not quite so appealing in a 70lb adult dog. Saying that they can’t keep their dog any more is a natural default response
A study commissioned by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policyfound that the majority of dogs given up for adoption had been owned for less than a year and were under three years old.
In other words, many were at that tricky teenage stage where dogs, especially large powerful dogs, can be quite challenging
Perhaps the most important statistic to come out of that study, is that 96% of dogs relinquished to shelters had not had any obedience training. We’ll talk a bit more about that in a moment
How you can save a dog
Although the numbers of dogs being relinquished is falling. There are still many very unlucky dogs out there that need a helping hand.
Bear in mind that not all abandoned dogs end up on a no kill shelter.
Some healthy dogs are euthanazed because they were relinquished to a shelter without a no kill policy and because the dog rehoming process took too long.
This means that there are opportunities for you to save a dog from an untimely death if you choose to rescue rather than buy a puppy.
Dog rescuers – rehoming benefits
Quite apart from the wonderful feeling of having done something worthwhile, there are many benefits to adopting an older dog from an animal refuge, rather than buying a puppy from a breeder.
With an adult dog, and most rescue Labs are young adults, you have some idea of the temperament and personality of your dog. Although he or she may grow in confidence under your care, a bouncy friendly dog is likely to stay that way.
Taking on a young adult will enable you to skip the puppy stage. With luck you’ll avoid the potty training and night waking too.
Puppies are time consuming and while adorable, they are also quite challenging. With a young adult you’ll also be able to dive straight into the fun stuff such as long walks together, or having a go at agility or another dog sport.
There can be downsides to adopting of course. And we do need to consider those
It’s important therefore to look at what’s involved in adopting a Labrador shelter dog in an objective way, so that you can decide if this is the right dog for you. And the right time for you to adopt
Rescue dogs – potential problems
For some people this choice between buying a puppy and adopting a rescue dog is a no brainer, they would take the rescue dog every time and do whatever it takes to make things work.
There are also many people that believe sincerely believe that as long as dogs are left in shelters, it is irresponsible for anyone to breed or buy puppies. In a poll on the Labrador Site Facebook page, about a third of those responding held this view.
And whilst I do not share their opinion, I have some sympathy with it. However, I receive quite a lot of emails from people that have got into deep difficulties with their rescue dogs. It would not be exaggerating to say that the quality of their lives has been significantly reduced. In some cases for years on end.
Of course, not all rescue dogs are problem dogs. Some dogs are in rescue because their owners’ died. Some are there because their family got divorced, had kids, or moved and no longer have the time or interest to take care of them.
Many of these dogs will make good pets for a family like yours.
But some dogs are in rescue for altogether different reasons.
They may have uncertain temperaments, they may soil repeatedly in the house, they may run away when let off the lead, or obsessively chase rabbits, deer, cyclists or cars.
These are difficult problems for even experts to solve.
These dogs may not be ideally suited to you, especially if you have small children, or are inexperienced in dealing with dogs that have challenging behaviors.
There needs to be a good fit between rescued and rescuer, or things can go badly wrong. It is not just the welfare of dogs that is at stake here. It is the welfare of people too.
For that reason you need to ask yourself if you are in the right place in your life, right now, to adopt a rescue Labrador, and if you are, to make sure that you adopt the right Lab for your family. Let’s find out where you stand before we move on to ‘how to adopt a dog’
Are you ready for a rescue Labrador?
The first step to take is to ask yourself if you are ready to bring a Labrador, any Labrador, into your life.
You’ll find the answers in this article: 6 things to consider before getting a Lab. If life with a Lab is for you, the next decision to make is whether to rescue, or buy a puppy.
If you like the idea of competing in AKC or Kennel Club competitions, Hunt Tests, Field Trials, Obedience Trials or want to have a go at showing your dog, you need to make sure your dog has pedigree papers or proof of registration with the relevant Kennel Club.
Most rescue dogs do not come with papers, even if they are purebred so this is something to consider. In addition, training a dog to a high level for competition is generally easier if you start with a puppy.
If you are simply looking for a family pet, finding the right Labrador rescue dog will not only save a dog, but may also give your family a great deal of pleasure. Especially if you can spare some time each day for training.
Young Labs (under 3 years old) can be very boisterous, so if you have toddlers, elderly relatives or anyone else that’s a bit unsteady on their feet, a young rescue Lab might not be a good idea.
A calm older dog that loves children, on the other hand, may be perfect.
How to adopt a dog
The key to successful adoption lies in finding a good rescue organization that will be honest about the characteristics of the dogs in their care and diligent in finding a good match between each dog and his next family.
As we have seen, rescue Labradors that are adopted into the wrong homes can cause untold heartbreak, and will often end up being rehomed again and again.
Make a list of the dog rescue homes in your area – you’ll find Labrador rescues listed below, and send out an initial email telling them you are interested in adopting a Lab
A good dog rescue shelter will then ask you a LOT of questions.
They may seem personal, even intrusive, questions.
They’ll want to know if you go out to work. And if you do, what care arrangements you have put in place for your dog.
Some will not allow you to adopt their dogs if there is not an adult at home for at least part of each working day.
Your shelter will want to know that you have a secure fenced area in your yard or garden, so that your dog can’t wander off or get involved in a road traffic accident.
Most dog rescue shelters will want to visit your home to make sure it is suitable for a large bouncy dog and that you have taken on board what is involved.
All this may seem a bit much. But bear in mind that shelter that make these kind of demands are the sort of organizations that will give you the support and back up you need not only during the adoption process but afterwards.
And such a dog rescue home is also the sort of organization that will be honest about your dog, and not send you home with a dog that has a hidden behavioral problem.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take on a dog with problems of course, many problems can be resolved with kindness patience and good training. But you have a right to know in advance what you are getting into, and to be sure that you are equipped to deal with it.
What about adopting a puppy?
Sometimes whole litters of Labrador puppies are up for adoption. These usually get ‘snapped up’ pretty quickly, but some caution is required.
With a rescued puppy you will probably have no idea what kind of genetic health your puppy has inherited. The parents are unlikely to have been health checked and there will probably be no ‘paper trail’ to verify any claims.
Labradors are prone to a number of inherited diseases that reputable breeders screen their breeding stock for.
If you decide to adopt a rescue puppy, insurance is essential. Diseases like hip dysplasia can cost you a small mortgage in veterinary treatment.
Getting the right Labrador Retriever rescue dog
When you have been to visit a dog that is up for adoption, ask for details of any behavioral problems or training issues that the dog may have.
Unless you are an experienced dog trainer, be cautious about taking on a Labrador with absconding or chasing issues. These can take months, if not years to resolve.
An absconding problem can leave you restricted to lead walking for the foreseeable future, and you will need to commit to an intensive and regular program of training.
Be cautious too about dogs with severe anxiety, reactivity to other dogs, or resource guarding issues. These kinds of problem may need skilled help from a behaviorist and can be time consuming and challenging to resolve completely.
Whatever you do, take your time.
If you are not sure that you can cope with the dog in question, give yourself breathing space and look at some more dogs perhaps in a different home.
It is heartbreaking to leave a dog unchosen, but your family must come first.
If you want to help a dog with problems, you may be better off donating some money to the rescue centre to pay for therapy from a professional behaviorist or trainer.
Labrador rescue work & volunteers
The rescue organizations below do an amazing job of restoring neglected dogs to good health, providing them with veterinary care where necessary, and finding them permanent, loving homes.
Most of these organisations are completely dependent on charitable donations and voluntary workers for their survival.
If you have found this article helpful, or simply want to make a contribution, do pick out one of the charities below and make a small donation. It will be greatly appreciated.
Most rescue organisations are also very grateful for voluntary help, with a range of activities.
From caring for dogs, providing temporary foster homes, to carrying out homechecks for prospective adoptive families.
Extra help is often badly needed. Dogs always need feeding and walking, even at weekends or during the holiday season.
If you can offer a little help to your local dog rescue, it will be truly appreciated.
Okay, here is that list for you now. If you know of an organization that is not listed here, don’t forget to tell us and we’ll add it on
Labrador Rescues in the United Kingdom
- Black retriever X rescue
- Labrador Retriever Rescue North West
- Labrador Retriever Rescue Southern England
- Labrador Rescue South East and Central
- The Labrador Rescue Trust
- The Labrador Lifeline Trust
- Labrador Rescue Kent
- Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland
- Labrador Welfare (North East)
Labrador Rescues in the United States
- Southern Skies Rescue & Adoption (Alabama)
- Labrador Friends of the South (Alabama, Georgia)
- Arizona Labrador & Giant Breed Rescue
- Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue (Arizona)
- Monterey Bay Labrador Retriever Rescue (California)
- Retrievers and Friends of South California
- Indi Lab Rescue (California)
- Fetching Companions Retriever Rescue (California)
- Labrador Rescuers (California)
- Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue (California)
- Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue
- Central California Labrador Retriever Rescue
- Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue Group (California)
- Mile High Lab Mission (Colorado)
- Retriever Rescue of Colorado
- Safe Harbor Lab Rescue (Colorado)
- New England Lab Rescue(Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
- For the Love of Labs Rescue (Connecticut)
- Labs4Rescue (Connecticut)
- North East All Retriever Rescue (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida
- Atlanta Dog Squad
- Metro East Lab Rescue (Illinois)
- Love of Labs (Illinois)
- Fortunate Pooches and Labrador Rescue (Illinois)
- The Lab Connection (Illinois, Wisconsin)
- Great Lakes Lab Rescue (Illinois)
- Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue
- LEARN (Illinois, Wisconsin)
- Lucky Lab Rescue & Adoption (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio)
- CILRA Lab Rescue & Adoption (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota)
- Great Lakes Lab Rescue
- Love of Labs (Indiana, Ohio)
- Happy Labs Rescue (Indiana)
- Heartland Lab Rescue (Kansas, Oklahoma)
- Kentucky Lab Rescue
- NOLA Lab Rescue (Louisiana)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
- Lab Rescue of the LRCP (Maryland, Massochusetts, Virginia, Washington)
- Michigan Labrador Retriever Rescue
- Save a Lab Rescue (Mississippi)
- Las Vegas Labrador Rescue
- Brookline Labrador Retriever Rescue (New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
- Lab Rescue of North Carolina
- Peak Lab Rescue (North Carolina)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue of Cincinnati
- Lab Rescue Oklahoma
- Southwest Pennsylvania Retriever Rescue
- Lowcountry Lab Rescue (South Carolina)
- Labrador Retriever Rescue of East Tennessee
- Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue
- Dallas/Fort Worth Lab Rescue
- Heart of Texas Lab Rescue
- Lab Rescue of Greater Richmond (Virginia)
- Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association (Washington)
- Labs N More Puppy Rescue (Wisconsin)
Labrador rescue – summary
Making the decision to adopt a dog is a life changing moment and taking an abandoned Labrador or Labrador cross, into your home is an act of great generosity.
One that should reward you with years of enjoyment
There are many Labradors in rescue that have the potential to be fantastic family pets. There are also some with behavioral problems that can be tough to solve. Choosing the right Labrador rescue dog is just as important as choosing the right breeder if you are buying a puppy, so take your time.
It is great that you want to offer an abandoned dog a home. Many people have had a wonderful experience in adopting their dogs and would never have a dog any other way.
The right dog for you will be out there somewhere. He may not be the first or even the tenth dog you visit. But with time and patience you will find him.
When you do, remember to read our comprehensive guide to ‘Bringing Home A Rescue Dog‘. It will support you through those first few weeks with your new friend
If you are involved with a rescue centre, tell us about your organisation in the comments box below. We would love to hear about your work and your dogs.
If you have a rescued Labrador, or Labrador Cross, tell us your story. In fact, we love all rescue stories, no matter what breed, so whatever your dog, we’d love to hear about them.
Don’t forget, if you know of any Labrador rescue organisations we may have missed from the lists above, please let us know in the comments section below! We’re also happy to list organizations in other countries too.