Congrats on wanting to rescue a dog! There are so many dogs out there who really need a loving home, but it’s best to know what you are getting into to avoid frustration and heartbreak. Adopting a dog in Toronto can be difficult, there are lots of costs, so here is everything I’ve learned in my first year with my rescue dog.

Did you know owning a dog is recommended by many women for women in leadership roles? For the routine and the unconditional love mostly.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.

Milan Kundera

My Dog Experience

We always had dogs growing up, but we also had horses too. When I started looking for a rescue, I was looking for one that I could put a little more work into, because I wasn’t really sure where to focus my energy in my life.

When I first got her, she would barely pee outside, and preferred concrete over grass. Our first few days together were just very long walks where I tried to outlast her balder to reward her for peeing outside.

The Application Process

If you live in an apartment and are looking to get a pet in the city you should inform your landlord. Most rescues will want to call them as part of the vetting process. But, in Toronto, it’s illegal to not allow tenants to have a pet, unless you’re renting in a Condominium with no pet rules.

Local Humane Society

if you’re looking for a new rescue dog to adopt, this s the best place to start.

I looked for months for a pup and went out of the city to find one that was up for adoption. By going to Pickering Animal Services I paid a smaller adoption fee and had my dog in a month.

The adoption fees are usually a few hundred dollars at city-owned rescues.

Local Dog Rescues

If your local adoption centre is all out of pups, you can still add yourself to a rescue waiting list for your local private rescues. Fees will probably be a little higher, and there may be the option to travel and bring your dog home.

Most rescues I looked at were between $500 – $1000 for the total adoption process.

General Dog Adoption Costs

So you’ve found your perfect pooch and your application has been approved! It may feel like a lot of work so far but the rewards are just around the corner.

Before you get here though, make sure you have enough saved for a vet visit (about $250). This will be necessary for getting your pet insurance ($20 – $70 a month). You may also need to get health and protection coverage for damages your dog does if you have certain (labelled dangerous…) breeds.

In Toronto, there is an annual pet license fee of $25 that you can get through the city website, and there are some store perks associated with it. You also may want to consider getting your dog microchipped, which costs about $70 plus taxes.

Finally, medications. Kora had large floppy ears, which are prone to infection. I clean them out regularly, and you can either buy a store-bought cleaner or use a homemade one. Dogs also go on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medication in the warmer months of the year. Below is a table on weight and general costs I researched with these medications.

< 4.5 kg$124 (Flea & Tick)6 Months
4.6 – 11 kg$131 (Flea & Tick)6 Months
11 – 25 kg$138 (Flea & Tick)6 Months
> 25 kg$145 (Flea & Tick) 6 Months
first day with me new rescue dog
my rescue dog is obsessed with looking out the window
the rescue dog loves to sleep on my chest
rescue dog rain gear canada
rescue dog in her winter sweater

New Dog Essentials Shopping List


The biggest factor for dog food is getting the right nutritional content. It’ll be hard to know if your dog has any allergies off the bat, so keep an eye out for itchy skin, red eyes and belly, or rashes when introducing new foods into your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that gluten allergies are rare in dogs, but some meat allergies are common. If you notice your dog experiencing discomfort, talk to your vet about elimination diets and allergy testing to find the culprit.

This also includes getting your dog a good food and water bowl. Choose something durable, and make sure it’s a non-porous (easier to clean and disinfect) material like stainless steel or ceramic.

Toys, Training & Stimulation

It took a while to get Kora engaged in active play. Balls scared her; when they made a noise and because they moved too fast if they went in an unexpected direction. She was also terrified of squeaky toys, but we took about 6 months to work through that.

One of the things I wish I had done earlier was get a toy subscription box. I Signed up for a few months, but they send high-quality toys and treats every month, which will give you less to think about in your early days. (super chewer pictures)

Other low-cost treats Kora really adores include fresh produce from my balcony garden. Strawberries, cucumbers, and carrots are all safe for dogs in controlled quantities. She’s also a sucker for ice cubes, as she seems to enjoy anything crunchy.

A Good Leash, Collar, & Other Walking Gear

In Toronto, you are not supposed to have a leash longer than 2m, so the extendable leashes can get you into trouble with larger dogs; though I rarely see the rule enforced.

When Kora came to me, she had been walking on a harness and pulled at the sound of everything. Bikes, cars, and leaves blowing by were all distractions. I should have made the switch to head lead sooner, as it’s a much easier way of controlling a dog a little over half your weight. The harness also rubbed her chest when she pulled, which aggravated her sensitive skin and caused a lot of ingrown hairs.

If your dog is confident, go ahead and walk them on a harness. It’s an easy extra thing to grab them by if you get into a sticky situation. Note that it is better to lift your large dog’s front legs off the ground to render them immobile rather than trying to push them to the ground.

Other walking gear includes a water bottle, poop bags (and some way to ensure you remember them), puppy-safe sunscreen (for white dogs – Kora came with her coat only half-grown), and bug spray.

Treat Bag

Dog treats can flake and crumble, and if it rains they tune to mush. I like to keep a little cloth sack in my purse with dog treats to contain them, but my best friend d has an adorable Fanny pack.


If you have a dog with hair that doesn’t shed, then you will need to ensure they make it to the groomers regularly for trims, and maybe baths. But, If you want to wash your dog at home, there are so many shampoos available.

My rescue dog was terrified of water when I first got her. To get her comfortable with the tub, I got her to explore it with treats with the water off. Then I got her to stay in the bathroom while the water was on in the tub, and worked up to her to get in the tub while the bath was running but unplugged.

I remind myself frequently when training my rescue dog that I don’t fully know what she faced in the past, and her feeling like she has the choices instead of being forced to do something allows her to feel safe and confident. She gets overwhelmed easily, so adding only one new stimulant allows us to achieve a lot more in a day than throwing her into it and trying to get her to calm down.

Doggie grooming also involves oral care. I brush my dog’s teeth about once every two weeks, she tries to chew on the toothbrushes pretty hard, so it’s a process that takes time to be effective. I also offer her dental chews every few days to help with her breath.

If your dog has white nails, it’ll be easy to cut them yourself, but consider having a styptic pencil on hand to stop bleeding if you do cut a nerve. Most grooming places offer paw cleanups or puppy pedicures.

Cold Weather Gear

If you live in Canada like me, you know how harsh our winters can be, and not every dog has been built for the cold weather! Dogs in the city face a lot of salt on the sidewalks, so choose a paw balm or booties, and if your pup has short hair, a sweater or jacket may be needed.

Preparing for her Homecoming

Dog Crate

Even if you plan on letting your dog sleep in your bed, and there are many advocates against that, your rescue dog will want their own space.

Purchase a grate that is the right size, a rescue-dogs current weight may not be their goal healthy weight, but they will want it to be cozy. We keep our dog crate covered with an old curtain and line it with a pillow and blankets that are just for her.

If she is ever scared of something, or she’s barking at something outside, she’s now been trained to go into her crate. This allows us to shut her in if we need to answer the door for deliveries, but we’re still working on keeping her quiet.

Doggie Towels

It’s going to rain, get muddy, dusty, or your dog will get into something you don’t want. Best to have two towels on hand, one you can leave by the door and a spare, for your pooch after walks.

Kora the rescue dog headshot

First Month Routines With my Rescue Dog

Kora came un-potty trained. We actually think she might have been raised in a concrete run, as she would hardly even walk on grass, let alone pee on it. She was also scared of doors, bikes, men in hats,

I was told that Kora might have some resource guarding problems and that’s something I wanted to train her out of right away, so all of her meals were hand-fed for the first week, then I progressed to feeding her in a bowl, giving her a release command for her food, and trained taking it away from her, so this was a little over an hour every day for the first month working just on meals.

She is now very good around mealtimes, and we work brain exercises into her eating schedule. She was extremely food motivated, so it is really easy to train her, but she was so overwhelmed at first that she could only focus in quiet environments. Taking her to a park to sit and watch the world go by while I read emails helped her get less reactive in public spaces.

My rescue dog didn’t make much noise when I first got her. She wouldn’t whine to go out, which made it hard to know when she needed to pee. She was too scared to use bells because they moved. Regular walks and treats immediately after they use the washroom outside worked wonders for us.

Week 1 Schedule with a Rescue Dog

7:30Wake up and take the dog out
8:00Hand Feed Kora while I make coffee and bagel
9:00walk Kora for 45 min
10:00Give a potty break every 45 min
13:00Take Kora for lunchtime errands around the neighbourhood
14:00Give a Potty break every 45 min
19:00 Hand-feed dinner and train after-dinner walk
22:00Last pee break of the night

Week 2 Schedule with my Rescue Dog

7:30 Wake up and take the dog out
8:00Train Kora on food release command and eye contact over breakfast
8:30 45 min walk, sometimes to a quiet trail where we could work on recall
9:30 Give potty break every hour and a half
13:00Lunchtime walk and errands
14:00 Potty breaks every hour and a half
17:00 Search and find exercises – increases confidence in new spaces
19:00 Work on food release commands (sit, stay, wait, eyes) over dinner
22:00Last potty break of the evening

Weeks 3-4 Schedule with my Rescue Dog

7:30Breakfast Routine
8:00 Take Kora on a neighbourhood walk or slowly start introducing her to parks and trails
9:00 Give potty breaks every hour and a half
13:00Lunchtime walk and errands
14:00Potty Breaks every hour and a half
17:00Training – varies by day and ability to focus
19:00Dinner routine – sometimes puzzle
22:00Last potty break of the evening

Where we are now

Kora and I are still working together, and if you plan to get any dog, new or rescue, the training will never really end. She is less shy, but when we moved, we had to start again with her reactivity in common spaces.

She is a lot smarter than I anticipated, and regular brain games and exercise are a must. If you can’t commit to providing these yourself, ask your community for help or budget for a dog walker.