Bringing home a shelter dog that you adopt may be a rescued stray or a dog that someone has voluntarily surrendered for adoption.
Whether he was born in the bushes behind the laundromat or an adolescent abandoned on the streets by his once-upon-a-time owner, the streetwise stray can be a real challenge to incorporate into your life. The famous “he followed me home, can I keep him, Mom?” canine is a special animal that needs time and space, patience, and understanding.
The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Setting up some clear structure with your family for your dog will be paramount in making as smooth a transition as possible.
Bringing a puppy home, they need more than just a bed and a food bowl to thrive. They also need constant care and attention. While a puppy’s first night at home may require a lot of work initially, it’s well worth the effort down the road. Establishing good habits in those first weeks will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness for you and your dog. Remember, you have a responsibility to help your puppy grow into a happy and healthy dog. Here are some tips for puppy care to help first-time dog owners get started:
Before You Bring Your Dog Home:
- Determine where your dog will be spending most of his time. Because he will be under a lot of stress with the change of environment (from a shelter or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy clean-up.
- If you plan on crate training your dog, be sure to have a crate set up and ready to go for when you bring your new dog home. Find out more about crate training your dog.
- Dog-proof the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months. This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates.
- Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly. Not sure which commands to use? Check out How to Talk to Your Dog.
- Bring an ID tag with your phone number on it with you when you pick up your dog so that he has an extra measure of safety for the ride home and the first few uneasy days. If he is microchipped, be sure to register your contact information with the chip’s company, if the rescue or shelter did not already do so.
- We know moving is stressful — and your new dog feels the same way! Give him time to acclimate to your home and family before introducing him to strangers. Make sure children know how to approach the dog without overwhelming him. Go here for more on introducing dogs and children.
- When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new. For more information about your dog’s diet, check out our section on Dog Nutrition.
- On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably in a crate. Some dogs find car trips stressful, so having him in a safe place will make the trip home easier for him and you.
- Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds can throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case. Need more housetraining tips? Check out our Dog Housetraining section.
- From there, start your schedule of feeding, toileting, and play/exercise. From Day One, your dog will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Don’t give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly (Source: Preparing Your Home For A New Dog).
- For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, but it will also give you more one-on-one time to get to know him and his likes/dislikes.
- If he came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled-up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs, and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expect. Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience on your part.
- Keep him off balconies, elevated porches, and decks. Keep all cleaning supplies, detergents, bleach, and other chemicals and medicines out of the puppy’s reach, preferably on high shelves.
- Remove poisonous houseplants, such as amaryllis, mistletoe, holly, or poinsettia, or keep them in hanging baskets up high, where your puppy cannot reach them.
- Keep toilet lids closed, unplug electrical cords and remove them from the floor, and keep plastic bags and ribbons out of your puppy’s reach.
- People often say they don’t see their dog’s true personality until several weeks after adoption. Your dog may be a bit uneasy at first as he gets to know you. Be patient and understanding while also keeping to the schedule you intend to maintain for feeding, walks, etc. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
- After discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure your dog has all the necessary vaccines, you may wish to take your dog to group training classes or the dog park. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to be sure he’s having a good time — and is not fearful or a dog park bully. If you’re unsure of what signs to watch for, check out this video on safety at the dog park.
- To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time, and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded in no time! For more information on creating a feeding schedule for your dog visit How Often Should You Feed Your Dog?
- If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with, ask your veterinarian for a trainer recommendation. Select a trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques to help you and your dog overcome these behavior obstacles. Visit Dog Training for more information on reward-based training.
- Bring your puppy to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Talk to your veterinarian about any signs of illness that you should watch out for during your puppy’s first few months.
- Ensure Your Puppy Receives Proper Nutrition. Your puppy also needs complete and balanced nutrition to help him grow properly. In fact, the first year of his life is critical in ensuring the proper growth of his bones, teeth, muscles, and fur. As a growing animal, he’ll require more calories than an adult dog. Read the labels, and find a food that has been specifically created to ensure the proper balance of protein and fat for a puppy. Check the food package for the recommended feeding schedule and serving size. Never feed your puppy bones, table scraps, or big snacks in between meals.
Responsibilities for the Parents of the Newly Adopted Dog:
Courtesy of Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc. (Sue Sternberg suesternberg.com)
- Never, ever leave a child alone with your new dog. Not even for a second to turn your head and answer the phone. The type of relationship we see on TV between children and dogs is a fantasy, and not a reflection of what real dogs can be like with children.
- No one in the family should be encouraging rough play, wrestling, or the dog to play with his mouth on human body parts or clothes. This is especially relevant when an adult member of the household plays with the dog in this manner, because when the child next excites the dog, the dog may be stimulated to play in the same rough manner, thereby putting the child at risk for injury.
- Your dog should be fed his meals in an area completely protected from and away from children, as much for a bit of peace and privacy as it is to prevent guarding behaviors. The dog should also be fed portions that are quickly finished, so there is nothing left in the bowl for the dog to linger over and guard. Empty bowls should be taken up and put away, so the dog won’t consider guarding the feeding area.
- Most children are not bitten by their own dog, but by a friend or neighbor’s dog. This means two things: watch your own dog closely when your child has a friend (or friends) over. Many dogs will tolerate a lot from their own family’s child, but not tolerate a visiting child. Visiting children often do not behave as well as, or may behave differently from your own children, and could bother or provoke your dog. Consequently, if your child’s friends have dogs, you need to, (as a responsible parent) go over and meet the friend’s dog BEFORE you allow your child to visit their house. It is a good idea to see the size and general nature of your child’s friend’s dog, and check to see if the owner of this dog will allow unsupervised interaction between the children and the dog, to ask where and when the dog is fed, and to check if there are any chewable toys or bones lying around, and then to either request that they be picked up and put away while your child visits, or ensure that their dog has no possessiveness problems.
When to Phone the Shelter for Advice:
- Any signs of physical rough play from the dog towards the child
- Any signs of displays of rough, physical strength from the dog towards the child
- Any growling (even during play)
- Any snapping or nipping
- Any humping or mounting of the child OR adults
- Any avoidance or resentment of physical contact (dog backs off or leaves the room when child hugs or pets or gets close to your dog.)
- Any signs the dog is afraid of the child (your dog backs away or tries to escape when the child appears or gets close.)
- Your dog seems “jealous” of intimacy or physical affection between parents or especially between child and parent (the dog barks or cuts in between people during intimacy.)
- Any signs the dog is guarding his food bowl, his bones, his toys, or “stolen” items (the dog may tense up, freeze, stiffen, growl, snap, show his teeth, snarl, or just give a ‘hairy eyeball’ to anyone approaching or coming to near his item.
- Your dog seems out of control or disobedient and “wild” with children who are playing or running around.
Remember that with proper puppy care, your new pet will grow into a happy, healthy dog — and provide you with love and companionship for years to come.
- Give Them A Guided Tour. On their first visit to their new home, keep your rescue dog in the lead and give them a guided tour. ...
- Make Your New Pet A Safe Place. ...
- Introduce Other Family Members Slowly. ...
- Create A Routine. ...
- Take Things Slow.
It can take a few weeks or even months for a rescue dog to adjust properly to their new family and surroundings. However, if you provide them with the love and attention they need, they should eventually feel right at home.How do you settle a rescue dog at night? ›
How to get a dog to settle at night. You may prefer for your adopted dog to sleep in the same room as or near your bedroom for the first few nights. If you are using a dog crate you can move this to your bedroom and then gradually move them to another area of the house as they become more settled.Do rescue dogs remember and miss their owners? ›
Most dogs do not simply forget about their previous owners when adopted by new ones, at least not immediately. The longer a dog lives with someone, the more attached they tend to become. Some dogs may seem a bit depressed at first when suddenly uprooted from their familiar surroundings.What is the 3 3 dog rule? ›
Whether you rescue an older dog or a puppy, a lot of dogs tend to follow the 3-3-3 rule when getting acclimated: 3 days of feeling overwhelmed and nervous. 3 weeks of settling in. 3 months of building trust and bonding with you.Where Should adopted dogs sleep first night? ›
Your Rescue Dogs First Night
Your new dog is most likely going to be exhausted the first few nights. If at all possible, I recommend having your dog sleep in his crate at night. A crate will keep them safe and out of trouble when you are sleeping.
The 'Rule of Three' means that you can gauge the time it might take for your dog to fully acclimate to his home in threes: three days, three weeks, and three months. Think of your new dog's first 3 days as their time to decompress as they transition from a shelter or foster home into your home.How can you tell if a rescue dog is happy? ›
If their tail is always wagging, you've got a happy dog.
The clearest sign a dog loves you: their tail is wagging everytime you walk through the door. Whether you've been gone for the day or just a few minutes, a dog that wags their tail when they see you has most likely bonded with you.
Dogs most commonly whine when they're seeking attention, when they're excited, when they're anxious or when they're trying to appease you.Do rescue dogs love you more? ›
They'll be intensely loyal
The bond you have with a rescue dog is truly special. This animal loves and appreciates you more than you know! Once they learn to trust and start to love you, nothing can come between you and your new pet. Rescue dogs are known for being fiercely loyal, no matter what.
“At most shelters, if an animal has a name you keep the name unless there's a good reason not to,” she says. Good reasons to change a pet's name include instances of past abuse. Shelters will also rename pets whose current name might prevent them from finding a forever home.How long will dogs remember you? ›
A dog can remember someone his entire life.
It's safe to say that your dog will not forget you after two weeks, a month, or even if you are gone for many years.
But dogs (and other non-human animals) are missing something we take for granted: Episodic memory. Dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow. In defining episodic memory, Endel Tulving argued that it is unique to humans.Do rescue dogs know you love him? ›
"Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.How traumatic is it for a dog to change owners? ›
In general, re-homing is a very stressful experience for dogs. It's common for dogs to undergo bouts of depression and anxiety, especially if they're coming from a happy home. They will miss their old owner and may not want to do much at all in their sadness over leaving.How long does it take for a dog to bond with another dog? ›
It can take up to one month for an old dog and new dog to really settle in and accept each other's position in the pack. If you want a second dog, you need to be ready to commit to this process and not panic.How do adopted dogs feel at home? ›
So keep things as quiet and consistent as possible for the first week or more. Feed and walk your dog, and come and go from work around the same times each day. When you do leave home, consider leaving your dog with an enrichment item, such as a stuffed treat toy or puzzle food bowl.How do I bond with my rescue dog? ›
- Give them time to adjust. It's important to remember that adult rescue dogs had a history before you, with personalities, expectations and routines that might be different from yours. ...
- Stick to a routine. ...
- Invite them into your life.
Put the crate in your bedroom or close to it when you start crating your dog at night, at least for a while. Rescue dogs are particularly vulnerable to feelings of isolation and fear, which they can experience if you put the crate too far away from you.How long does it take for a rescue dog to trust you? ›
It is normal for it to take some time for rescue dogs to adjust to their new homes. You should expect it to be challenging for the first week or so. However, you'll start to see major progress after three weeks, and they will probably be fully settled in after three months.
It is very normal to have second thoughts about getting a dog. It takes patience and time for both you and the dog to learn to trust and love each other.Do rescue dogs personalities change? ›
It's very common for rescue dogs to display varying behavior while transitioning to a new home. Your dog is likely stressed in her new environment simply because it's new and she is afraid of the unknown. Rescued dogs go through three stages of adjustment, sometimes called the honeymoon period or the 3-3-3 rule.What are signs that your dog trusts you? ›
- A slightly open mouth, with a relaxed, lolling tongue.
- Rolling over for a belly rub (this shows they trust you)
- Soft, relaxed facial expression.
- Blinking eyes.
- Tail wagging side to side.
- A “bow” to invite and encourage play.
Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!What should a dog do all day? ›
Your dog likely spends the day playing with their favorite toys and napping, eagerly awaiting your return. There's evidence to suggest that your dog's sense of time is actually an acute awareness of your scent! As your signature smell fades throughout the day, your dog may use it to estimate when you'll return home.What should you not do when adopting a dog? ›
- Trying To Do Too Much Too Soon. ...
- Going Straight To The Pet Store. ...
- Not Setting Aside Enough Time To Bond. ...
- Waiting To Train Them. ...
- Not Having The Right Food. ...
- Failing To Correct Bad Behavior. ...
- Introducing Them Immediately To Other Pets.
If your dog is whining just to get your attention, ignoring her is the best way to stop the behavior, training experts say. When the whining starts, avoid eye contact by turning away from your dog. Don't touch or speak to her, and that includes no scolding — she just sees that as a form of attention.How do dogs say thank you? ›
Puppies lick their mother's face to ask for food, or it can be a way for your dog to show affection, appeasement or solicit attention. Licking your face (akin to giving kisses) is a way dogs show their love and gratitude to you.Why does my rescue dog stare at me? ›
Just as humans stare into the eyes of someone they adore, dogs will stare at their owners to express affection. In fact, mutual staring between humans and dogs releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone. This chemical plays an important role in bonding and boosts feelings of love and trust.Does my rescue dog remember being abused? ›
Some dogs do remember abuse due to associating surroundings, smells or behaviors with their troubled past. So, look for signs that a dog has been abused and be very cognizant of how your canine responds to certain surroundings or stimuli.
Puppies can learn their names quickly (most can pick it up within 1-3 days!) but generally, you'll want to practice using their name regularly. A good way to start teaching your puppy their name is to use it to gain their attention by saying their name and rewarding them when they look at you!.What colors can dogs see? ›
Human eyes have three types of cones that can identify combinations of red, blue, and green. Dogs possess only two types of cones and can only discern blue and yellow - this limited color perception is called dichromatic vision.Can dogs smell their owners from 11 miles away? ›
How far dogs can smell depends on many things, such as the wind and the type of scent. Under perfect conditions, they have been reported to smell objects or people as far as 20km away.Do dogs recognize themselves in the mirror? ›
The behavior of the dogs in both experiments supports the idea that dogs can recognize their own odor as being from “themselves.” Dogs may not recognize themselves visually in a mirror, but by changing the self-recognition test to a sense that dogs rely on more strongly, their sense of smell, it looks like they pass ...Do dogs miss people? ›
But does your dog miss you back? Studies show that dogs form positive associations with their favorite people, and they don't like being separated from you for long. Dogs can handle alone time, but they do miss you when you're gone.Why do dogs lick owners? ›
Dogs use their tongue to understand the world through scent and taste. Licking people and objects is their way of touching things like we do. They're grooming themselves. Dogs' tongues contain some antibacterial properties that clean their fur better.How do dogs say sorry? ›
Dogs say sorry by expressing physical signs like the tail-between-the-legs pose, dropped ears, wide eyes, reduce panting, rubbing their face against the paw or wagging the tail. Usually, it's the dog's way to accept that they made a mistake and it is a submissione expression rather than saying sorry.Do dogs know we kiss them? ›
According to Animal Behaviorists, 'dogs don't understand human kisses the same way that humans do. ' When kissing a young puppy, you may not notice any signs of recognition at all because they have yet to associate kisses with affection.What do dogs think when you kiss them? ›
When you kiss your dog, you might notice signs suggesting they recognize a kiss as a sign of affection. However, as puppies, this is not something they would understand. But, as dogs age they may associate kisses and cuddles with their owners being happy with them — as petting and treats often follow.
- Your dog seeks eye contact in unfamiliar situations.
- Willing to work with you during training.
- Brings you lots of toys to play.
- Eats his food and drinks properly.
- Seeks out places to sleep close to you (or even on you)
- Comfortable body language when you approach him.
- Give and Take Games. When bonding with your adopted dog, it is important to identify and address any toy or food reactiveness, as well as preventing such problems, by playing give and take games. ...
- Bath Time. ...
- Come for Treats and Hide and Seek. ...
- First Walks.
Some basic preparation can help your dog to feel more relaxed. Make sure you buy a high-quality dog bed (memory foam is a great choice), plenty of fun toys and other essential items. It's also a good idea to find a quiet space to put their bed, so your pet has a place to rest without being disturbed.What is the 3 Day 3 week 3 month rule? ›
The 3-3-3 rule is the first 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months after bringing your dog home from the shelter. So think about it, if you've ever started a new job or moved to a new school, you know the feeling; that sense of being in an unfamiliar place, new surroundings, new people, new rules.What are signs that your dog trusts you? ›
- A slightly open mouth, with a relaxed, lolling tongue.
- Rolling over for a belly rub (this shows they trust you)
- Soft, relaxed facial expression.
- Blinking eyes.
- Tail wagging side to side.
- A “bow” to invite and encourage play.
"Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.How long does it take to bond with a rescue dog? ›
Time to Adjust
You can gauge the time it might take for your dog to fully acclimate to his home in threes: three days, three weeks, three months (Drs. London and McConnell)1. We think of that first 3 days (at a minimum) as the initial “detox period” as the dog transitions from the shelter to your home.
- Tucked tail, flinches at human contact.
- Unexplained fractures or limping.
- Unprovoked aggression, whining, or whimpering.
- Overly submissive (rolling onto back, tail tucked, urinating)
- Suddenly avoiding any physical contact.
- Attempts to bite or scratch when petted.
In general, re-homing is a very stressful experience for dogs. It's common for dogs to undergo bouts of depression and anxiety, especially if they're coming from a happy home. They will miss their old owner and may not want to do much at all in their sadness over leaving.Do rescue dogs get more attached? ›
Rescue Dog Loyalty Begins With Trust and Safety
Rescue dogs often become quickly attached and loyal to kind people who treat them well. Simple things like going on walks or getting treats can warm the heart of a very, lonely dog.
It might take time, but there's no such thing as a dog being too old to form an emotional relationship with a new person. Here are a few tips to help you build the foundation to an unbreakable bond with an adult rescue dog.Should I walk my new rescue dog? ›
Don't Walk Too Soon
Rescue dogs deal with a lot in the first few days after being adopted. Going on walks is one more thing for them to worry about. They're already forced to adapt to a new indoor environment, and for some, being introduced to new outdoor surroundings at the same time is too much to handle.
“At most shelters, if an animal has a name you keep the name unless there's a good reason not to,” she says. Good reasons to change a pet's name include instances of past abuse. Shelters will also rename pets whose current name might prevent them from finding a forever home.Do rescue dogs personalities change? ›
It's very common for rescue dogs to display varying behavior while transitioning to a new home. Your dog is likely stressed in her new environment simply because it's new and she is afraid of the unknown. Rescued dogs go through three stages of adjustment, sometimes called the honeymoon period or the 3-3-3 rule.