For staff and volunteers at Dogs Trust Shoreham, the worst thing that can happen is if a dog is brought back.
With approximately 130,000 dogs accepted to rehoming charities every year according to Dogs Trust, it’s clear finding the perfect home for each pet is the top priority.
There are two ways pets make their way into the centre, with dogs sent over from Dogs Trust Ireland and others being taken in after owners decide they cannot look after them, or following a bereavement.
After being accepted into the centre, each canine is assessed by the behaviour team to see whether it will be good with other dogs and what they think the dog will be like.
Chris Barnard, assistant centre manager at Dogs Trust Shoreham, said: “The worst thing is if a dog has to come back. If the dog is a bit defensive or snappy, you just have to think worst case scenario, it’s more a precaution. Every dog is different and there’s still a lot to learn.”
With more than 50 kennels and 40 acres of fields at the rehoming centre, a wide variety of people have to be involved in the process, from canine carers to volunteers to visitor hosts.
Chris said: “We’re all like a big family, everyone is here for the same thing, we all have a common goal which is to find these dogs great homes. That’s what I love about it.”
Cleaning kennels, making up food and exercising the dogs are the main roles of the centre’s canine carers.
Each carer is also given a project dog which needs a bit more training, so they build a bond and help the dog socialise with others in the centre.
Eloise Chitty, whose project dog is crossbreed Sheba, said: “It’s not like a normal job: the days are all really varied, no two days are the same.”
Sheba is quite independent but will be really affectionate after you have built a bond, with a huge love for water and swimming.
Eloise added: “I think she would be lovely in a home because I often go in her kennel and she just flops on my lap for a cuddle. She’s one I would definitely have if I didn’t have another dog.”Once a dog has been fully assessed by the centre, it is the job of visitor hosts like Kate Gavin to match each pooch to a perfect home.
Matchmaker Kate will talk prospective owners through a home-finding questionnaire, which provides a springboard for discussion about the right kind of dog for you.
Kate said: “We’re not assessing you but want to get to know you so we understand what’s going to work for you. A dog will choose you through your circumstances or your lifestyle.
“We try so hard to match people up. We never reject anyone but can decide that this particular dog isn’t right for you long-term.”
A crucial part to the process is the invaluable role of volunteers, doing everything from meeting and greeting visitors to washing hundreds of towels and blankets each day.
After 18 months, volunteer Derek Davis still takes pride in his role and enjoys meeting all the people who come to find a dog.
Derek said: “It’s nice when you see people coming back when they have found a dog they’re interested in.
“It’s nice to see the end result, you get the reaction from them that they’re really chuffed to take them home.”
Donations help a great deal to keep the centre running, Derek said, and he collects plenty of toys, blankets, towels and food from supporters.
Volunteers also take on roles you would not expect, like canine myotherapist Donna Taylor who assesses the posture and gait of rescue pups and massages them for relaxation and to improve their mobility.
Donna said: “Since coming here I always think I would want a rescue dog, my view has totally changed. They’re such characters, the dogs here.”
Each member of the team is quick to sing the praises of others, with each person having their own special part in helping the dogs.
Derek said: “I get on really well with the staff and they do work hard. It’s not just one job for them.
“Foster care is so important because some dogs struggle going from a home environment to a kennel environment.”
For dogs who struggle to adjust to the kennels, there are 30 active foster carers who give extra support in their homes.
Paul Barton started fostering for Dogs Trust Shoreham in 2016 and is currently on dog 20, a Yorkshire terrier named Scampi.
Paul said: “The house was a bit empty and my waistline was getting bigger because I wasn’t doing any exercise, so we decided to give it a whirl with fostering.
“It gives us the flexibility of doing what we want when we want without having to worry about what we do with the dogs.”
The team works tirelessly to ensure dogs like Scampi and Sheba live a long and happy life with a family which loves them.
Derek said: “It’s all about making sure the dog is really ready to go into a home environment. The dog is the priority.”
Matching dogs and families based on lifestyle
With frequent horror stories coming to light detailing the mistreatment of pets, it is clear Dogs Trust has a huge part to play in making sure each dog goes to a good home.
In its annual Stray Dog Survey 2017/18 the charity showed in the Meridian TV area, which covers Sussex, there were 4,598 stray dogs, 872 of which were passed to welfare organisations.
These figures showed the Meridian area has a higher-than-average amount of stray dogs, so plenty of these will pass through adoption centres like Dogs Trust Shoreham.
Statistics indicate that of all the dogs that reside in any given shelter at one time, around 20 per cent of those dogs had already been rehomed once and then returned.
One consideration when matching dogs with homes will be the amount of time each pet will be left on its own during the day due to the owner’s commitments.
Research suggests that 45 per cent of owners leave their dogs every day, and 28 per cent of dogs are left for more than four hours.
This is clearly a big factor which must be considered when choosing adoptive homes, particularly for nervous dogs, so this statistic shows why it may seem difficult for some families to adopt if they work long hours.
Hundreds of dogs make their way through Dogs Trust Shoreham every year, and the staff try and find a match for all of them, encouraging prospective adopters to keep trying until they find a pet which suits their lifestyle.