Rescuing dogs from abroad has become popular in the UK and saves the lives of so many foreign rescue dogs

We are a nation of dog lovers and many rescue charities around Europe and the rest of the world are helping dogs who face perilous lives on the streets or at kill shelters, get to the UK for a new life.

Thousands of dogs each year are now hopping on the happy bus and heading for a  new start.

The rise of the foreign rescue dog has increased dramatically in the last few years, with ease of transport and agreements between countries for dog rescue and adoption.  increasing numbers are being imported from Europe. In 2019, 19,487 dogs were imported from Romania alone.

Many dogs are in kill shelters or on the streets in these countries and adopting them can literally save their lives.

Rescuing a foreign dog does need careful consideration so that their needs can be met once they start their new lives.

shelter dog

Rescue dogs from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Bosnia and many other European countries are coming to the UK.

Adopting a rescue dog from abroad can be an incredible journey and an amazing experience for both dog and rescuer.

These beautiful dogs are given a second chance at happiness and a new life, where they can be loved and cared for with a family, a chance to get off the streets and the potential abuse that they face and transform into loving family pets.

rescue dog

There is lots to consider before rescuing a dog from abroad

Things to consider before rescuing a dog from abroad

Always remember, that taking on any dog is a huge decision and a long-term commitment. A rescue dog, especially a dog from the streets may come with extra issues and complex behavioural problems that may need long term work and rehabilitation.

Consider whether you can commit to these needs and be there for your rescue dog even when times get tough. Not all rescue dogs will come with issues, some will be absolutely unscathed by their past experiences, particularly if they came over as young puppies with no past trauma but it is always best to keep in mind that a rescue dog will need some extra time, attention and patience.

All dogs need training, mental stimulation and support, but a rescue dog coming from a foreign country may have a whole host of issues that will need special care, careful training and attention.

Will a foreign rescue dog fit into your life?

Always think about how a dog will essentially fit into your life and the commitment you need to make.

Rescue dogs from abroad will need lots of time to adapt to their new surroundings and feel comfortable, safe and secure in a new home. Some dogs may never have been in a house before, which could be terrifying and unsettling. Many of these beautiful souls have spent their lives on the streets, fighting for scraps and living in awful conditions, or have even been rescued from hideous kill shelters.

The smallest things may trigger fear, such as the sound of the hoover, a morning alarm clock or the bin men making crashing sounds. Take everything slowly and ease your rescue dog into its new life with empathy and patience.

foreign dog

A foreign rescue dog is coming from a totally different world.

Getting the right information

You should have received as much information as possible from the rescue or shelter that has the dog in its care.

However, remember that many shelters that have lots of dogs won’t have been able to do very accurate assessments of how a dog gets on with cats, or children or how they act in specific situations.

This may have to be a learning process, as you start to expose your dog to different situations or triggers.

By preparing yourself and your home adequately for your new dog’s arrival well beforehand, you’ll be in a good position for a smoother settling in period.

Keep in mind, that a dog from abroad won’t have experienced lots of early socialisation or general handling and affection from owners and will have to get used to this love and attention.

Again, this isn’t true of all rescue dogs but the majority will have been either on the streets or in charity shelters with many other dogs and won’t have had a huge amount of one on one attention and affection.

Try not to smother your new rescue pup. Let him or her take his time to get to know you and don’t crowd your dog at first.

Always make sure they have a safe space, a crate or basket to go to so they can decompress and have some time out.

rescue puppy

Adopting a dog or puppy from abroad is hugely rewarding

Keep bad behaviour in mind

Some rescue dogs can become defensive by growling, snapping, or even biting to avoid contact, especially if they aren’t used to it.

Give your new rescue dog the space he or she needs and let them form their relationship in their own time.

Dogs who have been rescued often know that you have helped them and the bond that grows can be beautiful and so rewarding!

If your dog is still showing behavioural problems, it is always best to contact a qualified trainer who can help with rehabilitation and specific behavioural issues

Beware that foreign rescues can be escape artists

When picking up your new dog, always be sure to use a slip lead so the dog can’t escape.

Dogs from the streets are especially sensitive to dog catchers and can be flighty and nervous. When they arrive on new soil they will be flighty and nervous and maybe looking to make an escape at any time.

Once you get home, always take extra care to make sure your dog can’t make a run for it- they will be looking for ways to escape and maybe in fight or flight mode.

Every year, many rescue dogs from abroad panic and escape their new owners and are killed on busy roads or train tracks within hours of arriving in the UK. You have saved these sweet souls from some awful circumstances so be sure to take extra precautions when they are in your care in their new home!

Once your new dog is indoors, be extra careful or loose fencing in the garden, open gates, open windows and people going in and out of the front door! 

Adopting from these terrible conditions is one of the most amazing and rewarding things you can do but it’s often a project and need time and ultimately patience.

beautiful rescue dog

Rescue dogs from abroad are beautiful souls


Remember that all puppies and dogs imported from abroad will need to have had their rabies vaccinations and jabs. Good shelters and charities will make sure your precious pet has all of their vaccinations and has their passport ready to travel too.

Cantinho Da Milu

Bark & Birch has partnered with Cantinho Da Milu in Portugal, a rescue shelter housing around 750 dogs at any given time.

As this is a privately owned shelter they have no funding meaning that Bark & Birch are supplying them with food, medicine, beds, etc, but also bringing over our dog trainers from the UK and Ireland on a rotating basis helping many of the dogs here find a new home faster.

Cantinho da Milu and Bark & Birch will continue to rehome dogs to countries including Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK.

Contact us via if you want to help these precious souls.

If you choose to adopt a foreign rescue dog you are doing an amazing thing and with careful training, time and care, the bond you will make and enjoy will be beautiful and rewarding. Good luck with your new rescue pup!

Does your foreign rescue need some extra help?

Bark & Birch provide many different training courses and programs, as well as rehabilitation for dogs who need extra help. Get in touch to discuss your dog's needs!
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