Getting an older dog: what you need to know

We want to help people find the right dog for them, so more pets stay well cared for and in loving homes for life.

If you’ve decided to give an older dog a new home, we hope we can match you with one we’re caring for. But we don’t always have the right dog for everyone who comes to see us. If you’re thinking of expanding your search beyond Wood Green, we can still help you make the right choice – and support you whenever you need us.

It’s important not to rush your decision to get a dog or your search for one. Here are some tips on how to make an informed choice.


Make sure you can give an older dog what it needs

There are plenty of older dogs looking for loving new homes. Even though some may already be house-trained they may have other more specific needs, depending on their history. For example, some may not cope with other pets or children. But they can still be a great addition to the family.

On top of their specific needs, you also need to think about the five main duties a dog owner has. Read our guide on what to think about before you get a dog

Try Wood Green and other reputable dog rehoming centres

Lots of dogs arrive with us, and other centres, every day. So if you don’t find the right dog first time, it’s always worth visiting again.

Many centres, like Wood Green, will match you with a dog that suits your specific needs and lifestyle. We can also:

  • provide a full character and health assessment
  • neuter and vaccinate your dog
  • treat the dog for fleas and worms before you take it home
  • give you information and the paperwork about your dog
  • give you support and advice whenever you need it.

If you’ve already considered our rescue dogs, you can use the Kennel Club's 'Find a Rescue Dog' search to find other centres in the UK. You can also check for reputable centres at the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes members website. 

Be very careful online

There are many pets for sale online. If you choose this route, be very careful who you buy from. Many people are genuinely trying to find their dogs loving new homes. Others are not. Some advertisers are less honest, and don’t include important information about the dog’s history or behaviour. This is often when they’re selling a dog because of behavioural reasons.

There are also many internet scams. For example, people asking for money for couriers or deposits upfront when you haven’t yet seen the dog – which might not even exist. So check every detail thoroughly, and do not part with any money until you have your dog and its paperwork.

If you’re going to use the internet to help you find a dog, look for websites that follow the Defra-endorsed minimum standards set by the Pet Advertising Advisory Group. These include:

  • Gumtree
  • Preloved
  • Pets4Homes
  • Friday Ads
  • VivaStreet. 

How to spot a genuine seller or owner

Genuine sellers and owners will know all about their dog. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – they will be happy to tell you what you need to know.

They will also:

  • be keen to meet you and ask you plenty of questions
  • show you where the dog lives
  • often not want or expect you to take the dog on the first meeting
  • be happy for you to visit the dog several times, spend time with it and walk it before you take it home
  • provide all the paperwork and medical records.

Warning signs to look out for

There are various signs that can help you decide if the seller or owner is not responsible and trustworthy, like:

  • anyone who says they can get you any breed
  • advertisers who seem to have dogs constantly for sale
  • multiple adverts with the same mobile number or description of the dog – google the information to see if it’s been used in lots of adverts
  • advertisers reluctant to give out their contact information
  • advertisers who want to meet at unusual times or places – like a car park or lay-by
  • a seller who doesn’t have the dog’s paperwork available or says they will post it on to you
  • an unusually low price for a popular dog breed – this could indicate a stolen dog.

What to look for when you visit a dog

When you visit the dog, check:

  • where it lives is suitable and clean – with things like food and water bowls, bedding and toys
  • how it interacts with people and other animals – if it shows signs of nerves or aggression this could be a cause for concern
  •  it appears alert and healthy – for example, look for:
    • active, friendly behaviour – they shouldn’t be afraid
    • clean, clear and bright eyes
    • clean ears
    • clean, dry bottom
    • cold, clean, slightly wet nose
    • clean, dry skin and a soft, shiny, flea-free coat
    • clean white teeth and pink gums
    • any problems like laboured breathing, limping or visible ribs
  • its medical records, including the vaccination certificate and flea and worming treatment record – ask the seller or owner for them
  • all other paperwork to confirm the owner or seller is the right person to pass the dog to you.

You don’t have to decide to take the dog there and then. If you have concerns, say you have other dogs to meet before you decide. Please call us on 0300 303 9333 if you’re worried about the dog’s behaviour or anything else – we can help you work out if the dog is right for you.

If you’re worried about the dog’s health, you can also speak to a vet, but you may prefer to look for another dog. 

Spend time with the dog before you decide

Try to spend as much time with the dog as possible before you take it home. You must see it inside and outside the home, so go out for a walk too.

Find a walking area similar to where you would walk the dog. If there will be dogs and people on your daily walks, see how the dog reacts to dogs and people when you walk it near the current owner’s home. This will help you find out more about how it behaves and whether there are any fears or other issues you will need to help it with.

What to ask the owner or seller 

Take this list of questions with you when you go to see the dog, so you can get all the information you need. If you need help interpreting the answers, just call us on 0300 303 9333.

  • How long has the dog lived there? Is there information about any previous homes?
  • Can I see the vaccination, flea and worming details and other medical records? Does the dog have any previous or existing medical conditions? Is the dog neutered?
  • Can I see the microchip details and paperwork?
  • What is the dog currently fed on? Does it have any allergies?
  • What sort of training does the dog understand? Does it need any more training?
  • How long is the dog left home alone? How does it respond?
  • Has the dog lived with children? What age were the children? How does it interact with them?
  • Has the dog lived with other pets? How does it interact with them?
  • How does the dog interact with animals outside the home?
  • Is the dog walked? What is it walked on? How does the dog behave off the lead?
  • Is the dog scared of anything?
  • What fencing does the garden have? Has the dog ever escaped?
  • How does the dog react to strangers and visitors at home?
  • Has the dog ever growled, snapped or bitten anyone? If so, what were the circumstances?
  • Does the dog play with toys? If so, what kind of toys?
  • Is the dog house-trained? If so, has the dog had any accidents?

We can help you make the right decision

Wherever you get your dog from, we’re here to support you.

If you have any questions about getting a dog, where to get it from or information you’ve been given about the dog, just call us on 0300 303 9333.

More helpful information

For extra information about getting a dog, go to: