Labrador Rescue And Rehoming

labrador rescue

Labrador rescue centers are breed specific dog shelters. Throughout the world there are charities that focus on rehoming Labrador Retrievers. Most adult Labrador rescue focuses on mixed breeds as well as purebred and even pedigree dogs. Rehoming a Labrador is more risky than buying a puppy in some respects, but can leave you with more confidence in other areas. Adult dogs have a known and established temperament and might even already have been given some basic training. They are also often already past that intense biting and chewing phase.

Rescuing a Labrador from a dog shelter, center or charity group is a great way to find your new canine companion, but it can also save the dog’s life. Many rescue shelters are sadly unable to operate without a timed kill policy, where after a set number of days an unwanted dog has to be euthanized.

Finding dogs for adoption isn’t always as straightforward as you would think, so we’ll also look at how and where to a adopt a Labrador or other dog when you are ready. Finally, when you have found the perfect dog and taken him home, we will give some advice on how to settle them down once you introduced to each other.

Dogs For Adoption

Each year in, the USA and elsewhere, owners abandon hundreds of dogs or give them up for adoption because they are unable or unwilling to care for them. On a positive note, the numbers of pets being relinquished is diminishing. This is great news, but the bad news is that many dogs are still in desperate need of rehoming. The lucky ones end up in one of our many excellent “no kill” dog rescue shelters. Here they at least remain secure and fed until someone finds that they are the perfect dog for their family.

Very often dogs coming into rescue centers need veterinary treatment and ongoing care and attention. Some are underweight and need feeding, or need treatment for fleas, ticks, and other parasites. Other dogs need basic training, while others need therapy for behavioral problems before they can start a new life with a new family.

Most people are all too aware of the problems faced by some dogs arriving at rescue centers. Some have been starved, while others were abused or generally neglected. In times of economic hardship, some families give up dogs because they simply can’t afford to care for them and want to, at least, find their pet a good home.

Rescue Dogs And Ongoing Support

Whatever the reason they ended up in a center, many rescue dogs 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. We’ll also take a moment to mention the staff working in rescue centers, who do a great job in the most trying circumstances. Many of the carers are volunteers giving up their time to look after the fuzzballs we all love.

Before we start looking at how you go about adopting rescue dogs, why don’t we look at why they end up there. Knowing a bit about the background of the average rescue dog might help you make the right choice.

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. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to tell because owners are not always entirely truthful. For example, some owners claim that they have to move to a new home with no pets allowed. This is a common reason and, while it is true in most cases and we are not suggesting any different, sometimes the condition of the dog does not tally with this.

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. For some, 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 Policy found 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 ones, 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 later. This is where you come in. You can adopt a dog and give it a second chance. Let’s look at how you can go about it.

How You Can Save A Dog

Although fewer and fewer dogs are relinquished to shelters, many, many very unlucky dogs out there need a helping hand. One thing to bear in mind is that not all abandoned dogs end up on a no-kill shelter. Some healthy dogs are euthanized because they were relinquished to a shelter without a no kill policy and because the dog rehoming process took too long. In other words, every dog entering the shelter is on death row unless they find a kind new owner.

This means that there you have an opportunity to save a dog from an untimely death if you choose to rescue rather than buy a puppy. It’s certainly something worth thinking about, and some rescue dogs make great pets if you are prepared to put in some work on training and re-socializing.

Indeed, many experienced dog owners argue that the challenge of caring for and training a rescue dog is extremely rewarding. It can create a unique and lasting bond between you as you become firm friends. That’s just one of the benefits of rehoming a rescue dog. Trust us – there are many others.

The Benefits of Rehoming A Labrador?

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, fly ball, or another dog sport.

Some older owners prefer a sedate, older dog they can relax with, while others see something in the frightened dog cowering at the back of the cage. The beauty of choosing a rescue dog is that you can use your heart and your head. You do need to use your head because there can be downsides to adopting of course, and we do need to consider those. Therefore, it’s important to look at what’s involved in adopting a Labrador shelter dog in an objective way. This will help you decide if this is the right dog for you, and the right time for you to adopt.

Potential Problems with Labrador Rescue?

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 who 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.

While I do not share their opinion, I have some sympathy with it. However, I receive quite a lot of emails from people who got into deep difficulties with their rescue dogs. It would not be exaggerating things to say that caring for a rescue dog significantly reduced the quality of their lives. In some cases, their life was affected for years on end.

Of course, not all rescue dogs are problem dogs. Some dogs are in rescue centers 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.

Difficult Rescue Dogs – Everyone Has A Story

However, some dogs are in rescue centers for altogether different reasons. They may have uncertain temperaments, or they may soil repeatedly in the house. Others may run away when let off the lead, or obsessively chase rabbits, deer, cyclists, or cars. These are difficult problems even for experts to solve.

These dogs may not be ideal for you, especially if you have small children, or you 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 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. If you are, you then have to make sure that you adopt the right Lab for your family. Let’s find out where you stand, mentally, physically, and economically before we move on to ‘how to adopt a dog’

Are You Ready For A Rescue Labrador?

The first step to take is asking yourself if you are ready to adopt a Labrador, any Labrador, and bring it into your life. You’ll find the answers in this article: 6 things to consider before getting a Lab. The main thing is to be honest with yourself, because dog ownership is not something to take lightly. What will happen if your financial circumstances change, or you are out at work all day?

If, after looking at our article, you are certain that life with a Lab is for you, the next decision to make is whether to rescue or buy a puppy.

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. They will be diligent in finding a good match between each dog and his next family, making sure that you and the dog are suited and ready to enjoy many years together. As we have seen, rescue Labradors adopted into the wrong homes can cause untold heartbreak, and will often end up being rehomed again and again.

When you start the search, make a list of the dog rescue homes in your area. You’ll find Labrador rescues listed below, and you can send 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.These may seem to be personal and even intrusive questions.

How to adopt a dog from a dog rescue shelter

They’ll want to know if you go out to work. If you do, they may ask what care arrangements you have put in place for your dog. Some won’t allow you to adopt their dogs if there is no 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 check that you have taken on board what is involved.

Why Dog Rescue Questions Are A Good Sign

All of this may seem a bit much. But, bear in mind that any shelter that makes these kind of demands is the sort of organization that will give you the support and back up you need. They will be there for you not only during the adoption process, but for a long time afterwards.

Such a dog rescue home is also the sort of organization that will be honest about your dog. They are unlikely to send you home with a dog that has a hidden behavioral problem. Just to clear things up – we are not suggesting that you shouldn’t take on a dog with problems, of course. You can resolve many problems with kindness, patience, and good training, especially if you are an experienced owner. You have a right to know, in advance, what you are getting into so that you can be sure you are equipped to deal with it.

Well, if you want to avoid dogs with behavioral issues and few bad habits, what about puppy adoption. Surely, that is a great option, isn’t it?

What About Adopting A Puppy?

Sometimes, whole litters of Labrador puppies come up for adoption. People usually snap these up very quickly, but you should be a little cautious if you go down this route. Labrador Retriever puppy rescue is tempting and can be very rewarding, but make sure you ask the right questions.

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 may be no ‘paper trail’ to verify any claims. Labradors are prone to a number of inherited diseases. Reputable breeders screen their breeding stock for these, but less scrupulous owners, or those simply unaware, may not be as meticulous. If you are tempted by Lab rescue puppies, you really should look at pet insurance as an essential part of ownership. Diseases like hip dysplasia can cost you a small mortgage in veterinary treatment.

Anyway, after out small diversion into the world of puppies, why don’t we get back to adopting adult rescue dogs? How do you find the right Labrador Retriever rescue dog.

Getting The Right Labrador Retriever Rescue Dog

If you want to make sure you find the right Labrador Retriever, here’s a few handy tips. 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 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. Labrador Retriever puppy rescue needs careful consideration before taking the plunge.

Take Time To Think

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. Lab rescue puppies are adorable, but they will eventually grow into big, energetic adult Labs! It is heartbreaking to leave a dog unchosen, but your family must come first. Plus, the dog will not be truly happy if you don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to help. Sometimes, Labrador adoption is not for the faint hearted!

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.

How to adopt a dog - A guide to dog adoption from The Labrador Site.

Help Your Dog Rescue Organization

Most rescue organizations are completely dependent on charitable donations and voluntary workers for their survival. Rescue societies are well known for finding new forever homes for the dogs in their care. But, many people are not aware that modern rescue centers often rely heavily on a network of dedicated dog foster homes

If you want to help a rescue society or animal shelter, then fostering a homeless dog might be just what you are looking for.

What Does Fostering Mean?

A foster parent is a person who takes over the care and day to day responsibility of dogs temporarily, before the dogs are placed in permanent homes. Fostered gives a dog a chance to live in a loving family environment while undergoing assessment when he waiting for his permanent home.

At one time, abandoned dogs tended to be housed in large kennel blocks. These are costly to maintain, and the level of emotional care given to dogs in distress is minimal. The move towards dog fostering is a win-win situation for many small rescue societies. They avoid spending their scarce resources on building and maintaining residential kennels, and the dogs benefit too.

If you are still interesting in becoming a foster carer for dogs, how do you go about it? What do foster carers do?

What Do Dog Foster Parents Do?

Dog foster parents play a very important role in dog rehabilitation and rescue. Not only do they care for a dog, and comfort her at this sad point in her life, but they also provide valuable feedback to the rescue organization about her needs and personality.

Over time, this helps the rescue society choose the most appropriate home for the dog Depending on their own skills, dog foster parents may also be able to provide some basic training and help the dog with her rehabilitation.

How Long Does A Foster Dog Stay?

The duration of a dog’s stay in a foster home will vary. It depends upon the organization and on the dog. Some dogs will take longer to assess or place than others. Typically, fostering lasts for no more than a few weeks, and may only be a few days. Some fosterers specialize in looking after Lab rescue puppies until they are old enough to go to their forever homes.

Do You Get Paid To Foster Dogs?

There is no wage for becoming a dog foster parent, and it is a voluntary role. Don’t worry, as you won’t be out of pocket either. The rescue society ultimately responsible for the dog provides all the supplies that the dog will need and pays for any medical treatment. All you provide is your love and your time.

Foster Dog Care – What’s Involved?

The care needs of foster dogs vary. Many foster dogs are just average dogs in good health, but they have fallen on hard times. They need basic care, a good diet, daily exercise, and often a little basic training

Quite a few foster dogs will be malnourished and need building back up to good health. Some are infested with parasites or sickness, while others have been abused and may be fearful. You’ll be matched with dogs that meet your own skills. If you have medical experience, you might be asked to care for a sick dog until he is well again. People who have dog training or behavioral experience may be allocated dogs that have become unruly or been abused

If it is your first time, the organization will probably give you a dog with few issues until you get the hang of things.

Who Is The Ideal Foster Carer?

Ideally, rescue charities want fosterers who are knowledgeable about dogs and use modern positive training methods to educate and rehabilitate the dogs in their care. However, most are also grateful for anyone with basic knowledge and experience of keeping dogs safe and happy.

They are looking for people with secure dog proof premises, and with the time and space to devote to a strange dog that could be challenging to begin with. They are likely to be people who are capable of teaching basic house manners to adult dogs, and who are in a position to be a constant companion for their foster dogs whilst they settle in.

Different Types Of Foster Dog

Many rescue organizations specialize in a particular breed of dog. Accordingly, requirements may vary depending on the characteristics of the breed. For example, rescue charities that rehome a lot of guarding breeds may prefer fosterers without any other dogs. Those who specialize in high prey-drive dogs, like sight hounds and terriers, will prefer carers without cats or any rodents.

Labradors are born-and-bred gun dogs, so they come with bags of retrieving instincts and lots of energy. They are generally very tolerant at home with other dogs, but their interest in cats will vary on a case-by-case basis depending on their temperament and past exposure to them. Many dog rescue organizations follow certain rules for homes with children and other dogs

Foster Dogs, Children, And Multiple Dog Homes

The presence of an existing dogs in a foster home is not necessarily a problem. Some rescue organizations, like the Black Retriever X Rescue society, even prefer to foster  Labradors in homes with other dogs because it offers them support and a positive canine influence.

Most rescue societies would rather send dogs to homes without very small children, so that they can assess the dogs for compatibility safely. This is better than throwing them straight into an environment that may make them at risk from unwanted behaviors.

We’ve given you a few tips about fostering, so is dog fostering right for you?

Should You Foster A Dog?

No one can tell you whether fostering will be right for you and your family. It is a decision you will need to think through carefully and discuss at length with the rescue society of your choice.

Fostering puts some people off because they know that they will become attached to their foster dogs and may be sad when the dog has to go to their new home. But, most fosterers agree that it is worth it for the joy of sharing a home with them. They take pleasure from knowing that their life has been improved and enhanced by their time together.

Dog fostering - how to foster a dog and what's involved

Labrador Rescues in the United States

The Right Labrador Adoption

Why don’t we take a little diversion into the different types of Labrador, each of which can make great pets.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

American Lab Rescue

American Labradors can make great family pets, although they tend to be very energetic. They were bred more for hunting than appearance, so they tend to be slim and agile, and with long legs. Because breeders tended to select traits that made them good hunting dogs, they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

English Lab Rescue

Traditionally, English Labradors were selected as show dogs and breeders emphasised physical characteristics to fit the best ‘conformation’ that would win shows. They tend to be stockier and shorter than American Labradors, with an overall appearance close to the breed standards set by various kennel clubs.

Because English Labradors are less likely to be working dogs, they are more docile and less energetic than their American counterparts, although they still need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

yellow lab waiting for rescue

Labrador Rescue

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. Whether you go for an older dog or Labrador Retriever puppy rescue, it’s an act that should reward you with years of enjoyment

Many Labradors in rescue centers have the potential to be fantastic family pets. Others have 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, keep the faith because, 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 organization 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.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. We’ve had a great experience with Lone Star Lab Rescue in the DFW area. Please include them in your list of Lab rescues.