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If you haven’t owned a street dog before then the decision to rehome one is not a decision you would have taken lightly. With that comes the excitement of giving this new pet a chance of love and happiness, good food , health and security. Something that dog may never have known before. Over the years having met many, and owning an extremely nervous one myself.

What I have realised is from the start they need calmness, routine and a safety structure in place.

These dogs have often been abused, starved and sick. In their own countries they are rescued by charities, held in kennels or in large packs of other dogs. Then flown, shipped, and driven over to the UK and put in more kennels or handed straight to new owners. Their lives change drastically from once having lots of freedom, to then suddenly confinement in a small area. Many adjust very quickly but some don’t and it’s the extremely nervous ones, or ones that have one eye on the door we have to take more care with.

We must go at their pace and encourage, not force, and never to expect too much.

Before bringing a dog into your home there are a few things you can do to make it as safe as possible.


Check your garden area first:

  • the fence needs to be high at least 6ft ( some dogs will even jump that)

  • There must be no flower pots or objects at the bottom, a dog can easily stand on these to give height.

  •  I would remove any trellis unless covered in bushes and plants as this is like a ladder.

  • And check there are no holes that can be easily dug under or gaps.

  • Gates should be locked and not used if the dog is in the garden.

  • And for the first few weeks I would use a long line lead until the dog is familiar with the garden space and doesn’t see it as an open place to run from.


The home should be a safe haven and if your new dog is very frightened then keep loud noise at a minimum.

  • Put child gates up in doorways, but if opening the front door, close the door of the room the dog is in first. As many dogs are lost by running out as soon as the front door is opened. It may be hard to remember at first but it’s a habit you will soon be remembering, until then put a note on the door as a reminder!

  • Keep the doors locked when you are inside, my dog will paw away at a handle until it opens the door so this is a must in keeping them safe.


  • Before walking your dog I would always recommend a harness that has a neck collar and 2 body straps, a Houdini harness. These keep the dog safe as it cannot back out of them if spooked.

  • Or if you cannot for some reason get one of these at least double lead using a clip on and slip lead. So many nervous dogs are lost because a collar came over their heads.

  • These dogs will have to get used to all different noises in your area, and some noises that may remind them of where they came from and hold a frightening memory.

  • Take it slow at first and don’t expect too much from them. Little and often is better than expecting them to do a long walk through town! Smells and noises are all different, the climate surroundings and the language!

  • Personally I wouldn’t let a nervous dog off leash for a few months, and in this time work on their recall using a long line. And don’t be sad if like mine, you cannot ever let them off. My dog used to love having a run but after the first firework night any loud noises since just make her run for her life, once was enough, and now that’s not something we can do anymore. She still gets great pleasure in her long walks.


Ruffwear Webmaster.

As well as having the all important extra belly strap, the Ruffwear Webmaster has a soft handle on top which can help to steady senior dogs and help them up stairs, into a car etc. With 5 points of adjustment they are great for dogs of all shapes and sizes and they are also useful for tri-paw dogs. RRP £69.95

Trixie Stay Harness

A lower cost option. £11.99-£26.99

For more harness options and tips check out - Caring For Street Dogs Facebook post


If taking your dog out in the car, it’s important to clip or tie their lead to either their crate or something secure.

Because once that door / boot is opened that’s an escape route and again many dogs are lost this way.



All these precautions will give you peace of mind and therefore help you to feel more at ease when rehoming a street dog.

Sadly everyday many of these dogs escape and many dogs do not make it home. We as rescuers take on these dogs to give them the best life possible, and sadly there will always be lost dogs. But the rate at which street dogs are being lost is extremely high now, so we have got to try harder to protect them and keep them safe. As that is the whole point after all.

By doing a few simple things, they will have a happy safe life and learn what it feels like at last, to be loved. I’m not claiming to be an expert, just someone that has worked with street dogs and nervous rescues and helped in their recovery if lost. Also owning a very terrified Romanian rescue too, who keeps me on my toes with her scatty unpredictable behaviour! But brings so much joy, which makes it all worthwhile.

The majority of foreign rescues go on to have wonderful lives and owners never have a problem. But if this advice helps keep just one or two of those safe from the start, then that’s all I could ever hope for.

Clare Sibthorpe - – rescuer, dog lover, experienced rescue dog mummy, lost dog search volunteer.

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