Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

How to Match Yourself with a Rescue Dog

How to Match Yourself with a Rescue Dog

Choose the right dog to set yourself up with a happy relationship for life!


Considering adopting a rescue dog? Here’s our quick guide on things to consider when matching yourself with a rescue!

With so many rescue dogs in need of a loving forever home, I always recommend that you adopt a dog from your local animal rescue shelter. Often the people that work or volunteer there will also be able to help assist you in making the choice about which dog will suit you best.

But here are my considerations to ensure the best match. So many issues with dogs stem from an innate mismatch between dog and owner (I have seen a young border collie causing trouble for an inactive elderly woman in an apartment, no surprises there!), so let’s avoid that from the start.

Do keep in mind that rescue organisations may not necessarily know what breed a dog in their care is. You can make a guess based on the dog’s looks, or feel free to email me if you’d like an opinion! 


Dogs have co-evolved alongside human beings for 30 – 100,000 years. This unique relationship is subtle and beautiful. The symbiosis and rapport is special.

The wonder of dogs is that there are 400 – 500 different breeds of dogs, and among them thousands of cross breeds and lines of breeds that all have different idiosyncrasies.

There are two major factors that will contribute to a successful relationship with your new dog: the correct training and bonding (this is the MOST important), and getting the right match with your dog’s breed attributes. 

The key is to combine your needs and wants with the attributes of the various breeds to get a great match. The better suited you and your dog are, the more fun you’ll have and the happier you’ll be together!

The key aspects to consider are:

  • Pure bred vs hybrid 
  • Exercise level
  • Environment
  • Size
  • Temperament
  • Trainability
  • Purpose
  • Physical traits

What was this dog originally bred for?

To get the best idea of what sort of traits a dog will have, consider what that breed was originally bred for. Working dogs like border collies will have high energy as they were bred for chasing sheep around huge farms and stations all day. Hunting dogs like terriers will be distractible by scents. Companion dogs like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will be more docile and cuddly.

Remember that with a hybrid/cross-breed combo of these breeds, you’ll get various traits from each side. So look at all the parts that make up the whole to get an idea of the dog you’re getting!

Pure Bred vs Hybrid 

Most rescue dogs will be hybrids. This is very advantageous! I generally recommend hybrid (cross-breed) dogs as you will benefit from hybrid vigour. The advantage of hybrids is that you often get the best of both breeds, and out-crossing like this improves general health, provides psychological benefits and can often result in higher levels of trainability (among other things) as an outcome. I personally like cross breeds.

Of course pure-bred dogs will need rescuing sometimes too, and they can be wonderful dogs. If you’re concerned about their health, a vet check can identify if there are congenital defects to be aware of.

Exercise Level

All dogs need exercise, but this varies greatly from breed to breed, so it is important to match the dog’s level with your own. You don’t want to deprive your dog of something as important as exercise, or it may manifest into other issues later on. Plus, a well-exercised dog is a relaxed dog that’s less likely to cause chaos! Different breeds are bred for different purposes like work, guard and companion so they vary in exercise needs too.


Consider your family size, house size, land size, other animals on the property and are you urban or rural? Dogs need a contained environment, especially in their younger years when they are curious and prone to wandering and following their nose. Obviously, a larger area is better for a larger dog, and a small toy dog will be quite content with a smaller area.


Do you want a very independent and self-sufficient dog, perhaps if they’re at home while you’re at work? Or would you prefer a very affectionate and loving companion dog? Do you want a dog that will be protective and alert you when people enter your property? Or do you have a busy household with lots of comings and goings, that will make it best for you to have a quieter dog that doesn’t make much of a stir? Do you want a dog that isn’t likely to want to chase other animals on your property, or do you need a dog with some hunting drive?


Do you want to spend a lot of time training your dog in agility and obedience, or would you rather a playful and cuddly dog? Do you want or need your dog to perform any specific tasks?

Physical traits

Do you want a dog with a woollen coat for anyone in the house with allergies? Also, consider any breed-specific ailments – certain breeds are prone to various congenital, medical and psychological problems, such as cleft palate, blindness, hip dysplasia, fearfulness and deafness, to name just a few.

My analysis of some common breeds

In this blog article, I delve into the nature and qualities of many popular breeds such as labradors, border collies, chihuahuas, greyhounds, jack russells, schnauzers and many more! Give it a read if you’re thinking about getting a dog, it will help you start to consider what qualities you can expect from any dogs you’re looking at. Read it here.


The age of the dog I would recommend depends on your experience as a dog owner.

If you’re a first time owner, I’d recommend getting a rescue puppy if possible (with the absolute ideal age being between 7 – 8 weeks). This is the beginning of the critical formative period (8 – 16 weeks) and is the most important time in a dog’s development. It is the time when pups naturally leave the den and start to meet the rest of the pack. You and your family are in essence “the pack” and building that relationship during the formative period is very helpful to ensure a well socialised, well-rounded dog. You will be able to do your training and socialisation from scratch to prevent behavioural issues occurring.

If going for an adult dog as a first time dog owner, perhaps steer clear of those with considerable challenges to resolve.

If you are a more confident dog owner with experience with dogs, then you can certainly choose an adult rescue dog (and we absolutely need people who will!), see note below.

An elderly dog is a great option for a person who perhaps cannot commit to 15+ years of dog ownership, or someone who is not particularly active themselves. Many people find great joy in giving an elderly dog a few happy, loving years before they pass. 


No sex is better than the other, however if you are getting a male dog, I would strongly recommend desexing as it will make behaviour much more manageable (most rescue organisations will desex a dog before you take them home, anyway, to avoid unwanted litters).

If you already have a dog at home, then I highly recommend you get your second dog of the opposite sex. Aggression and fighting is far more likely to develop between two female dogs or two male dogs than one male and one female. 


The staff at your rescue organisation will likely have evaluated the temperament of the adult dogs they are fostering, so can help you work out which might be a good match for you in terms of your experience level – some dogs will be well socialised and robust, others may be more sensitive or reactive. Some dogs will not be suitable to go into homes with children, other dogs or cats, for example.

99% of dogs are trainable with the right methods though, as long as you are confident and have some time to invest into re-wiring their brains into better responses!  There is hope, it can be done and yes, old dogs can learn new tricks.

Our Dog Zen Virtual Dog School covers the most common behavioural challenges along with basic training, so that would be the best place to start for issues such as: lack of basic training and manners, hyperactivity, poor recall, human aggression, dog aggression, separation anxiety, excessive submission, barking, noise phobias, house training and destructive behaviours. 

If the dog has more serious issues such as resource guarding, predatory aggression, dominance aggression (aggression towards members of the household) or child aggression, then you will likely need assistance from a professional behaviourist so keep that in mind and set aside some budget if adopting a dog with any of these challenges. 


If you’re getting a pup, my Puppy Zen Virtual Puppy School will guide you through everything you need to know to raise and train a puppy into a beautifully well-behaved dog that is bonded to you for life!

If your pup is a little older (5 – 18 months), our Virtual School for Teenage Pups has techniques specifically for pups this age with their different hormonal drivers. It still covers all the basics and goes through treatment for emerging stubbornness or behaviour issues too.

If you’re adopting an adult dog or older rescue, you may find they have a couple of behavioural challenges, but don’t worry, you can teach an old dog new tricks. My Dog Zen Virtual Dog School will guide you through how to train your dog and correct any behavioural issues in a way that achieves amazing results, lovingly.


If you’re not sure what’s right for you, feel free to get in touch with me via Facebook, Instagram or email Happy to lend some advice about what sort of dog you should perhaps look out for, or give an opinion  on whether a dog you’re looking at is a good choice for you.

Good luck with finding your new family member!

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