There have been plenty of difficult and emotional times over the last twelve months. The effects of COVID-19 are affecting everyone in some way and to some extent. One of the saddest revelations from lockdown was Dog’s Trust reporting a significant increase in people giving up their rescue dogs when lockdown restrictions were originally eased in August and owners realised they couldn’t fully commit to their dog, whether it was dealing with their allergies and needing hypoallergenic dog food, their unique behaviours, or needing socialisation.

Naturally, demand for puppies surged during lockdown, with ‘buy a puppy’ searches increasing 311 per cent according to Google search data from February, before lockdown to May, which saw the highest searches of 18,100 average searches.

The dog rehoming and rescue charity, who each year care for approximately 16,000 dogs nationwide, predicted last month that there could be 40,000 more stray or abandoned dogs who are in need of love and care. This is especially likely in the event that the UK’s economy worsens. For example, the financial crash of 2008 saw a 25.6 per cent increase in abandoned dogs the following year.

With restrictions tightening up again, it’s important we assess our needs properly. Here, we’ll explore the benefits of adopting a rescue dog—mutual benefits for both you and your furry four-legged friend.

Saving precious lives

Firstly, and most importantly, a key benefit is that when you rescue a dog from the shelter, you’re essentially saving its life. Depending on the animal shelter, some dogs may sadly be put to sleep if they aren’t rehomed after a period of time. If you are interested in getting a dog, rescuing one gives it another chance at a happy and fulfilling life. Although you could argue that the same could be said for puppies, there was actually a puppy shortage in lockdown. It is far more likely that puppies will be bought by interested potential owners.

You won’t be supporting puppy mills

We’re not saying that it’s unethical to buy puppies—after all, pups need homes too. But when buying puppies, you should do your own research to find out if you’d be indirectly supporting puppy farms. Dogs are kept in abhorrent conditions on puppy farms and puppy mills.

According to PETA, puppy mills are large-scale dog breeding factories that are overcrowded, dirty, and uncomfortable. These poor dogs don’t have access to adequate veterinary care, food, water, exercise, mental stimulation, and socialisation. Female dogs are constantly giving birth until they are unable to reproduce, when they are then put down. Profit is the sole aim, not the welfare of the dogs.

When you rescue a dog, this will be from an animal charity who put profit back into helping other dogs who don’t have a home. You won’t be lining the pockets of puppy mill owners and contributing to the increasing demand.

Get the breed you want

Got your heart set on a German Shepherd or a Hungarian Vizsla? Don’t worry about desperately searching rescue centres across the nation for your dream breed. There are breed specific rescue centres that can suit your circumstances. For additional information, check out these guides to the best breeds for city living and family life.

You can also look online to see what breeds are available at different Dog’s Trust rehoming centres. You can find out about their personality, what their needs are, what sort of home they’d need, and how much experience you’d need to accommodate their quirks.

You can skip the puppy days

Puppies are awesome—there is no two ways about it. But, depending on your situation, their energy and the amount of training and attention that needs to rear them into responsible young dog adults can be demanding. With older dogs, you’ll have a better idea of their temperament and can pick one to suit you and how your days are scheduled. For example, you’ll know if they should be in homes with other dogs or should be kept alone. These are characteristics you’ll be aware of and can jump straight into growing your relationship with each other.

You’ll have a friend for life

Now, we’re sure you’re no stranger to dog rescue videos on social media, and if you are, get searching on YouTube for the most wholesome content. Rescue dogs show visible differences and improvements in both their appearance and personalities after being adopted.

Rescuing a four-legged companion will gain you a friend for life—any strong bond between humans and dogs starts with quality time together. Change their lives and they’ll be your sidekick.

Improved mental health

A particularly important consideration given the current situation and restrictions tightening up again is the benefits on our mental health. But this goes for our new companions too, of course.

According to research, engaging with and stroking animals has significant effects on our moods, with animal-assisted therapy interventions used to help humans. Oxytocin, dubbed ‘the love hormone’ is released after stroking an animal, often released when people bond socially. The stronger the bond between human and dog, the more oxycontin is released.

You should only consider adopting a rescue dog if you’re serious about welcoming a dog into your life and family. Dogs are for life, not just for lockdown.