When we applied to adopt 5 years ago, we were made aware that as we had a large breed dog (who was a Heinz57) that we would need to have a dog assessment and think about parenting with a dog and how that would work.
Well, that was me in panic over drive (as usual, I’m a panic first then think kinda girl!).
My main worries were that we would have to rehome our dog who was (and I know they shouldn’t be) my baby. She was my baby when I wasn’t allowed one and she became my baby when I couldn’t have one. I am well aware she was ( I say this in past tense as sadly 5 years from our adoption assessment she passed away) a dog. She knew she was a dog, but that didn’t stop her being a huge part of our family.
When I heard that there would be a chance (even a small chance) I would have to rehome her I really worried. I can now 100% understand why there is this need during assessment (but that doesn’t make the thought any easier) and I wanted to help you understand this need too.
(there are many reasons why you may have to rehome a pet, here are just a few:
• If your child is allergic
• If your child shows aggression towards the pet
• If your pet shows aggression towards the child )
At the time of our assessment there were 5 breeds of dog that needed an assessment. Rottweiler’s, Doberman, German Shepherds, and I can’t remember the other 2 breeds.
They would also assess you if you had 2 or more dogs, and those who have rescue dog(s).
Juno was an English Pointer crossed with a Doberman and Rottweiler, so we needed an assessment by a dog behaviourist to make sure where possible her temperament was suitable to be around children.
Fortunately for us Juno was a pretty great dog, she was used to children and their toys being around as I was a childminder for 4 years. We also were very protective over her and made sure she had her space (even in the garden she had a space away from the children which was fenced off, this was because I was childminding we don’t have that now) We proved that we would have space for the child to play without the dog being around and that Juno had her own space away from the child if she needed it.
Also, when we went to approval panel we were asked what we would do with Juno if our child was allergic, showed aggression towards the dog or Juno showed aggression towards our child. We robotically (and fighting back tears) said that we would re-home her, we had already asked Grandparents if they would take her from us. However, we knew that this could also pose a risk when visiting. At the time I knew we were agreeing to protect our child, but when you have no idea who your child is at this point in time it’s really hard to feel protective over them enough to imagine rehoming your family pet.
(I will talk about life with a dog and then adopting in another blog.)
When we had the dog assessment we were asked to borrow some children if we could, and to have some snacks out! The assessor wanted to see what Juno was like around children and them playing. She also wanted to see us feed her then remove the food, take toys away from her and have children eat near her. She was amazing, as we thought she would be, and went with the flow. I do remember a train flying over her head and either she wasn’t bothered or didn’t see it, but at the end of the assessment she passed with flying colours. She basically lay down the whole assessment and ignored us. I know our puppy we have now would not have done this at all and is a little bugger around food. So it would have been down to our behaviour management and how we controlled him around the children that would have also been assessed.
(See my blog about adding a puppy into the house after adopting!)
What happens if my dog has some difficulties?
If your dog has some difficulties with behaviours, such as jumping up, resource guarding, over excited etc, it would be worth seeking support to help you train your dog to be calm around children, share toys and learn manners. It might be a simple case that when ever there is food around your dog knows and is happy with being in their crate or safe space. This is something you can practice pre-children.
Putting training and boundaries in place before the adoption could be the difference between you being able to keep pups if you want to continue with the adoption process or having to re-home them. It's much easier to train them pre-children than when you have children (trust me!) There are some great free resources out there to help with training. One website we recently consulted was the Dogs Trust, which has helpful tips and training videos click here for the link.
It does sound drastic, but the last thing you want is an accident to happen and either your dog or child gets hurt. Also it will be much easier for you to parent if you know your dog is happy with the boundaries set and knows their expectations.
How much was the assessment?
We paid £170 but it can vary depending on if your adoption agency has a link with a dog psychologist, often you may pay around £230 for a private assessment.
Once you are approved and have your little one home you will still have work to do with your dog and child to make sure all are happy and safe. I will write a blog about how we have found life post adoption placement with a dog and child.
Why do they assess dogs? What are they looking for?
Well the main reason the Social Workers want to assess the dog is to see if they are going to be safe as a family pet.
This list is not extensive and may vary between adoption agencies but it gives you an idea of what the social worker might ask you.
+ They will want to know about your dog, their breed, behaviour and personality and any training you are doing with them. Are they a pet or working dog.
+ They will want to know their condition, their background and any health problems. They will also want to know about regular medication and I they are up to date with their jabs and flea treatment etc.
+ The social workers may check to see if the dog has their own space, where they go to the toilet, and where they eat and how much exercise they need.
+ They will want to know what support you have around you to care for the dog if you aren’t able to take them for a walk during the introductions and early placement.
+ They will want to know how well you care for the dog and if you are in control of them.
There will be many other things they are looking out for but a lot of these are easy for the social worker to answer with visiting you and general conversations.
All of these questions are to safeguard your child(ren)-to-be and your dog.
If you are at all worried about your dogs behaviour is it something you think you can change with training? Have they been around children? If not do you know children who could come and visit to get them used to noises? Could you borrow some annoyingly loud toys to put around the house and get them used to the sounds and movements? Could you walk your dog near the parks to get them used to the sounds.
You may need to have an honest conversation with yourselves to see if you think your dog will be able to cope with sharing you and your house with a small child.
I don’t want this blog to scare you at all into not applying to adopt. I wanted to know all this before we adopted but couldn’t find any information about it and actually I wouldn’t have been as anxious about the whole assessment knowing already that Juno was fine around children (however we were always cautious and never left a child on their own with her, for both their safety).
As always these are my thoughts and experiences, I hope you have found them useful. I would love to know what you thought and if you have gone through the same experience and have any advice for others.