Border Terriers: adopt or foster?

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I have already talked in the past of the differences between buying a dog and adopting one.  Today I would like to discuss further why you should adopt a dog instead of buying and how to adopt a dog from a rescue centre rather than from individuals.

Why should I adopt a dog

Since adopting our Indy, I have never stopped thinking Indy should have a pal to play with and to pass his legacy to. And our most immediate choice would be for another Border.  As a first time dog owner, living with a Border Terrier has been the most fulfilling experience of my life (along with having my child… ehm, a human one of course).  It is not a walk in the park, as like with children, you need patience and dedication.  But, at the moment the working hours of the whole family, combined with Indy’s age (13 this year!!), mean that it would be unfair for Indy and for a new dog to be introduced without any regular supervision.  Regardless, to this day, we have never considered buying a Border or any other dog breed for the future.  If and when that time came, we would solely opt for adoption.

This is because we are so aware that there are so many stray or unwanted dogs, or dogs that need immediate re-homing due to change in circumstances in their current family situation, that we cannot ignore their needs, and we feel they should be prioritised when we wanted another dog.

Our adoption attempt has not been the most successful when we tried to rescue Olive. But I still think with a bit more dedication and commitment, by now we would have two Borders rather than one only.

Adopting a dog may not necessarily mean that you are going to inherit a problem dog with his or her baggage of toys and behavioural issues. But you might.

Nevertheless, the motivational key should be knowing that, if that dog is not re-homed, it may end up dead.  It sounds harsh, but that is the reality of the matter.

A dog may present physical or behavioural problems as a result of trauma undergone in his or her past.  It is not their fault that they may be behaviourally ‘damaged’.  Rescuing a dog, with or without problems, means giving him or her a new home, the love and care of a family, warmth, protection, food, play time, walks, and all that makes a dog happy.  And, if you have even little experience of owning a dogs, you will know that your love and commitment will not go unpaid.  The unconditional love and affection a dog gives you back, no matter how wrong you may have done by him or her, is not something that human adult mind can even begin to comprehend.  It is deemed that the mind of a dog works like the mind of a toddler: alert, ready to absorb so much in terms of teaching, but never begrudging you for sometimes acting unfairly towards them.


Think before adopting a dog

I have mentioned the rewards of adopting a dog, emotionally and financially, if you will – as when rescuing a dog, you will be asked to make a donation, but you will never be asked to pay a full pedigree purchase fee.

But dogs are a commitment for life, hence it is really important that, before you consider adopting, you think carefully of what bringing a rescued dog into your family may mean to all of you.

And considering carefully the pros and cons of getting a dog is, if you wish, more so important with a rescued dog, as they may already have had a change of family before, or they may have to be subjected to trauma.  The aim with rescued dogs is to give them stability and a happy environment forever, as they may never have had a family, or they may have had to spend time in a kennel after loosing they family.

That’s why you and your family must be more so sure that you will be able to fulfil that commitment.

  • You may want to discuss with your family at length what entails to have a rescued dog.  A re-homed dog will need walks and play time, but depending on whether he or she has behavioural problems, they may also need re-training.  You must make sure therefore that you will be available and up for it, as you may be asked by the rescue home to follow a re-training program and classes which have been specifically designed for your dog.
  • Remember, you home must be safe for your dog – especially if you dog has escapist tendencies, you must ensure that your garden is dog proof and does not have any gap your dog may squeeze through and run away.  Borders are renowned for being escapists – not because they do not like where they are, but because they are curious of the surrounding environment.
  • Work out in advance a schedule of who is going to be in charge of what activity ahead of the dog arriving to your home: who is going to do the morning walk, who is going to prepare dinners.  Once, when I was away visiting my family, my husband gave Indy breakfast, and then my son fed him breakfast too, thinking my husband had forgotten.  Indy did not mind that at all – in fact I am sure he welcomed the lack of communication which led to double ration!  But it is such lack of organisation which can lead to incidents which may affect the well being of your dog.
  • Talk between yourselves about possible changes the family may have to undertake in order to preserve the safety of your dog as well as the safety of family members – the rescue centre may advise that your newly adopted dog needs time to get used to new people, or to new boisterous children.  Of he or she may have to get used to other pets in the family.  Or, if it is an untrained puppy, you may be advised by the re-homing centre that it is wise that you remove electrical items out of reach for fear your pup may end up chewing them.

You would prepare for the arrival of a new dog even when purchasing a dog.  But, when buying a dog, you may already have information about his or her breed, and their peculiarity.  An adopted dog may be a mix breed, or just a mongrel, and as such it may be more difficult to establish their personality.  Allowing your dog to get used to new people and the new safe home environment with time is vital to his or her happiness.


How to adopt a dog safely

Ideally you may want to consider adopting from a rescue centre.

This is because the rescue centre will, hopefully, have medical details of your dog, his or her history, and will have assessed your dog’s personality, and whether (s)he has issue settling in with a family with younger children or a cat, or whether (s)he is scared of other dogs.

Again, we went with our heart, we came across Indy when he could no longer be looked after, and he stole our heart.  We did not rescued him from a re-homing centre.  And, if we could go back in time, we would still adopt him.  But, we do not have his actual age, and at the time we rescued him, we did not realise he had bad teeth till a few months later, when dental surgery led to Indy re-discovering the pleasures of food.

A re-homing centre will be able to support you in your choice of a dog to adopt.  If the dog is pure bred, he or she will have specific personality traits that may make them more or less suitable to your life style.  A centre will invite you to visit the kennel more than once, so that the potential adoptee may become used to you and to you family.  And many adoption centres will encourage you to take your potential dog for walks before deciding on whether to go ahead with the adoption or not.  And that, again, so that dog and family can acquaint and so that the transition is not too traumatic for either party.

Finally, but possibly most importantly, without the vetting process of a rescue centre, I could end up adopting a dog knowing that I am going to leave the dog on his or her own for 12 hours every day.

And a rescue centre will facilitate the introduction of a new dog to a pack of dogs already living in the family.

 If adopting is too committing, you can foster instead

A less committing way to contribute to the welfare of a homeless dog is through fostering.  Rescue centre are happy to have as many volunteer families on their books for fostering, as it is through fostering that they can establish whether a dog is ready for re-homing.  Vitally it is also through the fostering family that a dog can be trained or re-trained on his or her basic ‘life’ skills.

Fostering entails a family being given a dog to look after for a period of approximately 3-4 weeks, or for as long as it may take for the dog to be re-trained or until the centre has found a new permanent family for him or her.

The advantage of fostering is that you can have a break between looking after dogs, during which you can do things that you would feel limited in doing by the presence of a dog in the household.  However, fostering is none the less committing for the period that you look after the dog, especially as the dog that is assigned to you may need 24/7 care.

Another advantage is for dogs themselves.  When given up for fostering, they free space in the rescue centre kennels whilst integrating nicely in a familial environment.

But steer clear of fostering if you don’t like to say goodbye.  A foster dog will never stay with you permanently unless you decide to adopt him or her.  So, unless you start adopting each and every dog you look after, be prepared to have your heart broken to pieces when your lovely 4 legged fur ball is taken away from you.


Why adopt a Border Terrier

Finally, and most importantly, why adopt a Border Terrier?

The answer is in the nature of Borders itself.  Borders are possibly the most ‘terrier’ terriers of the category.  They are inquisitive, can be territorial, and sometimes they can be argumentative with other dogs.  But Borders are never problem dogs.

Borders do have a most placid demeanour about themselves.  They are the funniest and most adaptable breed I have ever encountered.

My judgement is of course clouded by the fact that my Indy is a Border – as in fact I am a dog lover, full stop.

Indy, a happy dog
Indy, a happy dog

But the fact that not many Borders are available for adoption may be testament to the fact that they integrate well with family life, and with children and other pets alike already in the family.

My biggest concern with our Indy is that, even at his older age, you could leave him with a total stranger for the next 2 weeks, and he would quite easily adapt to the new person and environment.  Yet, his loyalty is second to none, and he would never resent you possibly having abandoned him.

Nevertheless, Border Terriers Welfare does need our help, as they are the specialised charity rescuing and re-homing Borders.  If my many words have not persuaded you so far, have a chat with them – they will be more than happy to tell you what a beautiful dog a Border is.


  1. // Reply

    Thank you so much for writing a piece on one of the most important problems and decisions people go through in their lives, a lot of the time with out even thinking. Having rescued more than one pup in my life and being a huge rescue advocate, it is nice to see other people sharing that passion. It is so important that people think about things like the activity level of the breed, who will take the pup to play, for walks, or who will feed him/her. Sadly, a lot of people do not and then you hear about “bad” dogs or dogs that “can’t be trained”. Not true, the people are untrained. You can get a dog that has been abused and has issues and work with him/her and end up with the best fur baby you can imagine, I have! I’ve loved all my little babies! I love the one I have now, but she wasn’t a rescue. I feel odd about that sometimes because there are so many dogs dying every day or in no kill shelters suffering in cages. Sometimes I think she would like a friend, but she is quite spoiled. 🙂 If I do get her a friend, I will go to one of the local rescues and foster what I hope will become a permanent fur baby because I love puppies like other women like babies, the googoo gaga talk and all! Anyway, thank you for your piece and I hope everyone reads this and truly thinks about the problem and obvious solution!

    1. // Reply

      Keli, thank you ever so much for your support! I am glad to hear I am not the only one making baby talk to her dog. Indy has now officially become The Baby of the house, even if he is 13. My son keeps reminding me he is The Dog – but that’s one of the few battles he looses with me when it comes to mollycoddling the Baby.
      And yes, I could not agree more. So many times you hear about ‘bad’ dogs, and that saddens me. You need patience with dogs, as you do with children. But like with children, the rewards outrun the sacrifices by far!!

  2. // Reply

    Hi Giulia, thanks for your very heart-warming article. As a fellow dog owner, I’m actually a breeder too, it gives me immense joy when I start giving my “babies” for adoption. Before, I used to think that breeding can be a possible business venture, however, I realized that sharing my babies to loving families will be more responsible socially and I am able to keep the good line of my pedigree. I presently own 4 breeds (Miniature Pinscher, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua and a Pug). Oh and I am an “adopter” too. I got it from my dad who loves dogs. It came to a point that we had almost 16 dogs at home and half of them were either re-homed to us or we rescued it. It was quite challenging because the re-homed babies and the rescued ones have their own personality already. But as a dog lover, our patience persisted and eventually, they were able to adopt with the family. Now, for the Border Terriers, I’ve never owned one, but I absolutely adore them too. I have a friend who owns one and his Border Terrier used to be part of our walking group. They are absolutely cheerful. All in all, I really appreciate your article. Carry on and may we all spread love to our fur babies =)

    1. // Reply

      JR, I must be honest, I envy your position a little bit for being surrounded by so many dogs at all times. But, on the other hand, I count my blessings for having my lovely Indy. And, I don’t think I am breeder material, as I am not sure I’d be able to give babies away, albeit to wonderfully caring families 🙂

      1. // Reply

        Thank you Giulia. Though I am surrounded by a lot of fur babies, the amount of anxiety separation multiplies too so that’s one “bittersweet” moment for me. It’s like you saw them from birth till their 3rd month then you had to share them with loving families. I had hesitated initially but it came to a point that knowing that they will be taken cared of, and you would know where they are, the feeling of joy supersedes. But of course, I keep the original babies, their moms, they are my pride and happiness =)

        1. // Reply

          That’s lovely to know that you are a loving and responsible breeder. On one hand, I think I’d find it difficult to foster as well, for the same goodbye problem, but on the other hand I too think I would be helping a dog to be re-homed and to make another family happy. Sometimes dogs are needed by families for actual support. It’s amazing how much these bundles of fluff can give in terms of affection, unconditional love and assistance to humans that may need to overcome mental health issues, traumas or disabilities.

  3. // Reply

    Hi Giulia, first of all great article and thanks for all the info. Our family has always rescued dogs and we feel the same as you do. I think there are way too many strays already and we only ever had minor issues with re-training being the key to success. We could never foster a dog, it would be too much to part company and we would never be able to cope with the emotional drain.

    I had a look at the Border Terrier Welfare site and it has a wealth of information including upcoming live dog shows and garden parties. Thanks for highlighting.

    Best regards,

    1. // Reply

      Thanks for your support Craig. And yes, I am with you regarding fostering. But, my husband believes there is a good program for labrador pups that are put in foster to get them used to a family environment whilst being assessed to see whether they can become blind guide dogs. It would be really painful to say goodbye, but knowing they are going to help somebody else would make it – I’d like to think – a little less sad.

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