Tips to Help Settle your Rescue Dog into Their New Forever Home
There are countless homeless dogs in need of forever homes around the world. Adopting a dog from a rescue organisation like Blue Cross for Pets (https://www.bluecross.org.uk/rehome-pet) or the RSCPA (https://www.rspca.org.uk/) will not only save a dog's life, but it will also change your life for the better.
For many, adopting a dog from a shelter can be scary. It is a common misconception that rescue dogs have behavioural issues and that adopting a puppy will be easier.
But, before dismissing adopting a rescue dog, remember that there are numerous reasons dogs end up at rescue shelters, most of which have nothing to do with the dog. For example, the death of the dog's owner, financial constraints, difficult landlords, owners moving and sadly, in some cases, dogs outgrow their puppy phase and are no longer considered cute or manageable.
Recent reports show that one of the most common reasons dogs become abandoned is because their owners are moving or emigrating and cannot take their dogs with them.
These are dogs who are in desperate need of a second chance and if given the opportunity, will show you unconditional love and gratitude.
One of the most important things to remember about adopting a rescue dog is that you might not necessarily know their full history.
Dogs generally display behaviours based on their past experiences. In the case of rescue dogs, some of these experience might not be pleasant and this may result in the dog being scared or untrusting. For example, dogs who were previously abused will often be anxious, fearful or even aggressive towards humans they do not know.
You should not let this deter you from adopting a rescue dog though. In most cases, with a bit of time, lots of love and patience, your rescue dog will settle seamlessly into your family.
Bringing your new rescue dog home is a wonderful experience. It can, however, also be daunting, especially if you do not have experience in homing rescue dogs.
We have put together some advice on how to help settle your new rescue dog into your home.
Before diving in, be sure to check out our guide (insert blog link) on what to expect when you bring home a new dog for some handy tips and tricks.
What is the 3-3-3 rule and how does it apply to rescue dogs?
Chances are if you are considering adopting a dog you have heard of the 3-3-3 rule.
This rule suggests that rescue dogs experience milestones in three phases. The first phase being at three days, the next at three weeks and the last at three months.
A rescue dog experiences a lot of the same emotions we do when we undergo big life changes like moving to a new country or starting a new job.
At first, everything is unfamiliar and rather overwhelming. This is especially true for rescue dogs who come from abusive backgrounds or who have been at the dog shelter for most of their lives.
While you might have taken the time to prepare your home for your new dog, he or she may be too overwhelmed to take in their surroundings and enjoy all the comforts of their new home.
During the first three days, this type of behaviour is completely normal. Your dog may not have much of an appetitive and may prefer to curl up in a safe space rather than getting to know you and their new home.
The best thing you can do to help make your rescue dog feel comfortable in the first few days is to be patient.
Do not force your dog to partake in any activities or playtime. Go slow and take it one step at a time.
If you will be crate training your dog, it would be good to have your dog's crate set up when they arrive at their new home. This way, they will have a safe space where they can adapt to their new environment. Alternatively, make sure your dog has a comfy bed or spot to call their own.
At around three weeks you will start to notice that your new rescue dog is settling in a bit more and starting to feel more secure in their new home.
At this point, your dog has started to adjust to their new routine and feels comfortable in their new environment.
You may notice that your dog is now more playful and excited about getting to know you. It is usually at this stage that your dog starts to realise that this is their new forever home.
This is a bit step for your new rescue dog. During this phase, it is important to reaffirm your dog's sense of security by maintaining a routine or schedule. For example, sticking to regular mealtimes and going for walks at the same time in the same area.
It is also around this three-week mark that your dog may start to display some behavioural issues as they become more comfortable showing their true personality.
Again patience is key here. First, try to understand the root cause of your dog's behaviour.
Your dog may be acting out because of past trauma or lack of stimulation. For example, dogs who were abused may nip or snarl when you try to show them affection. Or a dog with a lot of energy may start to chew or dig up your garden as a way of trying to tell you that they need more stimulation.
By understanding the root cause of your dog's behaviour you can help address it. If you find yourself struggling to manage your dog's behaviours, we would recommend working with a behaviourist or taking your dog to puppy school.
Your new dog may also start to act out because they are experiencing separation anxiety which is fairly common among rescue dogs. They have only just started to settle into their new homes after a lot of change and uncertainty and may not feel secure being left alone.
This is perfectly natural and there are a lot of ways to help your dog cope with its separation anxiety. Check out our blog for some advice on how to help your dog manage their separation anxiety.
The great news is that by month three, your new rescue dog will feel completely comfortable in their new home.
Around the 3 month mark is where your new dog will be properly settled in and secure in their new environment and routine.
It is around the 3-month mark that your bond with your new dog will really start to flourish. At this point, your dog will not only feel secure with you, but they will also trust you and genuinely love spending time with you.
It is important to understand that in cases where dogs have experienced extreme abuse, the road to recovery and trusting humans again maybe a lot longer.
In these types of situations, it is best not to put a timeline on your dog's development, but rather take it step by step. For example, the first tail wag or the first time they willingly come to you for affection.
Each dog is different and has had to overcome different challenges. Just be patient and let your dog set the pace.
How positive reinforcement will help your new rescue dog settle in
Your rescue dog may be feeling very stressed at all the new people and places when they first come home.
The stress your dog is feeling can manifest in different ways, for example, pacing, chewing or excessive barking.
Your new rescue dog may also act out as a way of testing your boundaries.
It is important to use positive reinforcement when dealing with these types of behaviours.
For example, if you see your dog doing something you like give them a treat and lots of affection as they do it. This will show your dog that their behaviour has made you happy and earned them some yummy treats, which will encourage them to repeat this behaviour.
If your dog does something 'bad', you can try to ignore them unless their actions require your intervention, for example chewing the furniture.
By ignoring your dog's bad behaviour and instead focusing on and praising your dog's good behaviour, they are more likely to stop committing the bad behaviour.
This can sometimes be a lengthy process, but in the long run, it will help strengthen your bond with your dog and build a relationship based on love instead of fear.
Be careful not to reward any behaviours that could be bad in the long run though as this can confuse your dog.
How to bond with your new rescue dog through basic training
A great way to bond with your newly adopted pooch is to start some basic training with them.
This will allow you to slowly start bonding with your rescue pup.
Start slowly with lots of treats and focus on the basics, like 'sit', 'stay' or 'down'.
Training also helps with setting boundaries for your dog, which makes it easier for them to settle into their new home.
Remember, is very important to start as early as possible to prevent any bad behaviours from turning into hard-to-break habits.
Pro-tip: when you start training your rescue dog, start from scratch even if your dog has had some previous training. Going back to basics will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog and it is the perfect excuse to give them tonnes of extra love and treats.
How to introduce your rescue dog to their new home
When bringing your new rescue dog home, it is good to have a plan in place.
Think about how you are getting your dog home, what area your dog will use as a bathroom, where your dog will sleep and where you are going to feed your dog.
Below are some tips and tricks to help you prepare for the process of bringing your new rescue dog home:
- Bringing your rescue dog home is best done with two people.
This way one person can drive, while the other sits with your dog and comforts them during the drive home. It is also best to plan to go straight home and avoid any detours that could potentially stress your new pooch out.
- Keep the welcome party as small as possible.
We know how exciting bringing a new dog home can be, but too many people will make the situation more stressful for your new rescue dog.
Try to let your new dog meet one person at a time instead. Remain calm and let your dog approach the person and give them a good sniff. Let your dog decide whether they would like more attention or if they would prefer to retreat.
Remember to take it slow, there is no rush.
- Keep your new rescue dog on a leash and give them a tour around their new home.
Let your dog sniff around the outside of the house too. If you have a designated spot that you would like them to use as a bathroom, be sure to let them sniff this area.
Take your dog outside as often as possible in the first few days so that they can learn where the bathroom is.
Remember to reward your dog each time they use the bathroom in the right spot. This will help make potty-training (insert link to blog) a lot easier!
In the first few weeks, try to keep your dog's walks close to their new home. This will help them become familiar with the area. After that feel free to expand the walks even find new areas to explore together.
- It is important to establish a routine early on and remain consistent.
This means your new dogs mealtimes should ideally be around the same time each day.
Similarly, try to establish a set time for walks, bathroom breaks or playtime. This will help your dog settle into their new home and feel secure in their new surroundings.
Adopting a new dog is an exciting experience!
There will naturally be a few bumps along the way, but within a few weeks of bringing your new rescue dog home, you are bound to have made a four-legged friend for life.
We would love to hear about your rescue pup's journey! Comment below and let us know how they are settling in.