Helping Your Newly Rescued Dog Adjust

In a new home environment, the first two weeks for a rescue dog are a critical time. This is true not only because you and your new dog are getting to know each other, but because those first days and weeks are laying a foundation for your new life together.

Imagine living for days, weeks, even months in a shelter where your home is a kennel surrounded by rows of other kennels. It’s loud, you are afraid, and you have had to struggle to survive. The dog may have been abused, neglected, fearful, and, then all of a sudden, they are in a new home. All the surroundings, the people, and perhaps other pets inside the new home are new and confusing. The routine is completely different for your new dog.
Simple things, like petting them, can feel stressful to the dog.

“Who are you?”
“Where are we going?”
“Am I safe?”
“What is expected of me?”

These are all thoughts the dog may be having in their new home. The best thing a new dog owner can do is allow the rescue dog a bit of time to heal, mentally and physically, decompress and learn that they are safe.

By “shutting down” the dog, typically for two weeks, it gives them the time they need to see you, get to know you, and take in their new environment.
Below are elevent tips that will help your new family member adjust to their forever home:

Leash the dog right to your belt so the dog knows the new safe zone and becomes comfortable around you and others in the home. It also alleviates any potential conflict as they are constantly by your side.

  1. Avoid obedience training. Stick to fun exercises (like tossing a tennis ball) and letting the rescue dog experience the fun of being a dog.
  2. Do not leave the house with the dog (except for needed vet appointments). This allows the dog to become comfortable with their new home and yard and establishes their safe zone.
  3. Don’t go crazy petting and handling the dog. It is all new to them. Allow the dog time to absorb their environment and come to you for affection. This is far less stressful and helps the dog acclimate.
  4. Exercise in your yard. Let the dog explore your yard, its boundaries and make it fun for them.
  5. Avoid walks in the neighborhood or time at a dog park for the first two weeks. You have not learned how they will react in a stressful situation, and this can increase the dog’s anxiety in yet another new situation.
  6. Teach your new dog that by doing the shut down period you are the one to look to and that you are there for the dog. He/she will be able to trust you and will look to you as their leader.
  7. After a play session, allow the dog alone time - whether it is in their crate or in a room. It allows the dog time to relax, to unwind, and to recuperate.
  8. Ignore bad behavior. If you run to the dog every time they bark, cry or do something “bad” they are getting your attention. If you ignore them, it reinforces they do not get attention for this behavior as well as help them learn to be secure on their own.
  9. Praise good behavior gently with a soft tone and a gentle touch. Let the dog know you appreciate their good behavior. It reinforces that they only get attention for positive behavior and are ignored for bad behavior. Gentle praise also assists the dog in adjusting quicker to you.
  10. The more time and patience you allow your new rescue dog, the more are giving them a chance to show you who they can really be.


By following these eleven tips, you’ll quickly find your newly adopted dog morph into a confident, happy member of your family!

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