Bringing Home a Rescue Dog

Bringing home a rescue dog means you are welcoming a new member into your family. The first few days and first few months are a critical and confusing time. What does it take to welcome a new family member into your fold and routine?

One of the most essential things to keep in mind when bringing home a rescue dog is structure. This will help your new dog learn your routine and adjust to his new life. Structure and routine will help make a smooth transition.

How Long Does It Take a Rescue Dog to Adjust to a New Home?

There’s a timeline some rescue experts follow when determining how long it will take your dog to adjust to a new home. It’s called the 3-3-3 Rule and out lines the 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months.This doesn’t work for every dog, but offers a good guideline to follow. 

  • It might take your shelter dog 3 days for the initial shock of being in a new home to wear off. This might be considered a “detox period” and is essential for your rescue dog to transition from the animal shelter to your home. Your dog might sleep a lot during the first few days. Your dog won’t know what to expect from you — he doesn’t know he’ll get frequent walks, regular meals and the other perks of a loving home yet. Be gentle, speak to your new dog in soothing tones and be patient during the first few days. 
  • After 3 weeks of being in his new home, your dog is likely feeling more comfortable. He is learning the house rules, where to find the food and water bowls, and you are learning your adopted dog’s body language. Your pup is figuring out your routine and might start letting his guard down. You’ll likely start seeing your dog’s true personality around the 3 week mark. You also might start seeing any behavior problems around the 3 week mark. Now is the time to establish yourself as the pack leader. 
  • It will likely take your dog at least 3 months to finally feel comfortable at home. Over this time, you have earned each other’s trust and established a bond. Your dog is likely now set in your household’s routine. He knows when to expect a long walk, he knows to wait at the front door when it’s time to go out and he knows what to expect from his human.

Your mileage may vary with the 3-3-3 Rule. My rescue dog Polar Bear took an extra long time to acclimate to his new home. In fact, the first few days at home were so scary for him that he ran away. Your dog might, too. Learn how to stop your dog from running away. It all depends on your dog’s personality and your experience as a pet owner. Within Polar Bear’s first few days at home, he started crated training; switched from eating once a day to two smaller meals a day; and went from being part of a pack at his foster mom’s house to being an only dog at my house. It was quite the adjustment. While experts laud the 3-3-3 Rule, my experience suggests it might take 8 or 9 months before your dog is finally comfortable at home.

How Do You Introduce a Rescue Dog to a New Home?

There is an important factor that determines how you’ll introduce a rescue dog to a new home. This factor is whether or not your home already has resident dogs. If you bring your new dog into a home that already has dogs, you might experience extra complications compared to someone bringing home a new dog where he’ll be the only pooch. First impressions matter and you want everyone to get along.

One thing you can do to introduce a new rescue dog to the rest of the pack is to meet on neutral ground. Consider walking the dogs on a new path or meeting at an unfamiliar park and introducing the new dog there. This will allow the dogs to become comfortable with each other before running into someone’s territory.

The first few weeks your new dog is home, you might think about only letting the dogs interact under closer supervision. Give each dog their own area of the house to retreat to alone; you might consider sectioning the house with baby gates. 

If you have problems introducing a new dog to the pack, you might consider working with a dog behaviorist

What Do You Do When You Bring a New Dog Home?

One of the most important things you can do when you bring a new dog home is remain calm. This can be especially difficult for children, but is essential to your dog’s adjustment process.

Other things to do when you bring a new dog home include:

  • Go for a long walk.
  • Show the dog around the house on a leashed indoor tour.
  • Let your dog enjoy a meal in his new feeding area.
  • Show your dog where he’ll go to sleep.
  • Stay calm, yet assertive.

How Do I Bond with My Rescue Dog?

One of the best things about owning a dog is the close bond you share. You trust each other, enjoy each other’s company and share a deep connection. This relationship might seem hard to come by at first, but there are things you can do to bond with your rescue dog.

Here are 4 suggested ways to bond with your rescue dog:

  1. Take training classes together. What your dog is home and settled, maybe around the 1 or 2 month mark, consider signing up for training classes together. You’ll learn a lot about your dog and your dog will learn a lot about you as you learn basic commands together. In many cases, a well trained dog is a happy dog. 
  2. Give your dog a break when needed. Dogs are just like people. They get overstimulated and overwhelmed, too. If your new rescue dog has experienced a lot of new things in a day, consider giving him a few hours or downtime. After vet appointments where he gets poked and prodded, my dog Polar Bear enjoys some time resting in his crate. Accommodating his needs helps us bond.
  3. Take walks together. In “dog culture” the pack walk is important for bonding and staying connection. Dogs love to walk, sniff and explore the outdoors and sharing this experience with your dog can help you bond. Having you on the other end of the leash is comforting to your dog as you experience the sights, smells and sounds of the walk together.
  4. Groom your dog. For some dogs, the rhythmic motion of brushing their fur is relaxing and restful. Grooming your dog and brushing his fur involves physical contact and gives you a chance to enjoy each other’s company. Bonus: The more fur you brush out of your dog’s coat, the less fur you’ll vacuum off the furniture.

Bringing home a rescue dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. Make the most of the process and enjoy a great relationship by following the tips above.

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