Finding forever homes

When working dogs get too old to work the hills, or just don’t want to, they need a new home. Rebecca Greaves reports.

In Dog food guide4 Minutes

Man’s best friend can get a second chance at life, beyond retirement from the rigours of farm work, thanks to the team at Retired Working Dogs NZ Charitable Trust.

Working dogs are integral to life on farms, but what happens when they are ready for a slower pace of life, or if they simply aren’t interested in working? These dogs can make wonderful pets, or enjoy assisting on a smaller block as they head towards their twilight years.

For many farmers, when a dog that has provided many years of loyal service starts to slow down, it can be difficult to leave them behind. These dogs can go on to bring joy to a new owner, and enjoy the retirement they deserve.

Set up in 2012 by Natalie Smith, who was a vet nurse in the Tararua district at the time, the trust has been working hard to help our four-legged working dog friends, including hunting dogs, find loving forever homes ever since.

Since inception, the trust has placed 1549 dogs in new homes.

Most rehoming is done by advertising on behalf of farmers. These dogsgo straight from farm to their new homes, and farmers talk directly with potential owners to decide the best fit for their dog.

Natalie says many of the dogs the Trust is asked to re-home are not retired in the sense that they are old. A good proportion are young dogs that simply couldn’t, or didn’t want to, work. They make great pets, as even a ‘failed’ working dog knows basic commands and they generally have fantastic recall.

“Many of them have been outside dogs, but they soon adapt to living indoors and tend not to be hard to house-train. They love attention and cuddles and, as a rule, can be trusted around stock.

“Some of the dogs that we rehome come from large stations and are unable to keep up with the demands of a busy working life, but would suit a smaller farm or lifestyle block. Others are referred to us through vet clinics, after they have sustained career ending injuries. These latter dogs are taken into our foster programme, receive the surgeries and medical care they need, and are then re-homed.”

All the dogs that come through the foster service are vaccinated, microchipped, treated for fleas and worms, and (with the exception of the very young and very old), de-sexed.

The trust is a registered charity, which means donations qualify for a tax credit or a tax deduction.

Do you have a dog looking for a new home or want to know more about the Retired Working Dogs NZ Charitable Trust? Find them at or email

Farmers wanting to list a dog for adoption can visit this link: