Helping Rescues Adjust

Posted by Cory Deppen on Mar 1, 2023, 11:53 PM

Congratulations, you have decided to foster or adopt a rescue dog. Naturally when you bring the dog home you can expect him to need food, water, toys, and a bed. What can you expect from the dog’s behaviors and how do you help him adjust?

There are some typical reactions rescue dogs demonstrate when entering a new home. In fact, the first few days in the new environment can be very stressful, while you are excited to share your love and to play with the dog you need to be aware that this is all new to the dog and that newness is very stressful to the dog, some of the rescues have been exposed to a multiple new environments prior to coming to your home and that inconsistency has created insecurity and mistrust because they do not know what to expect and he needs time to adjust.

So, whether your dog is a foster or adopted, the 3-3-3 Rule is a common adjustment framework to follow for a rescue dog’s adjustment to his new environment.

Three days: The first three days, your dog may be shy, quiet, even mistrusting. During this time the dog may cower under a table, avoid or appear uncomfortable or growl when petting, startle easily from common household sounds, may even refuse to eat or go for a walk. These are not signs that they won’t work in your household, it just means they need time to get comfortable.

Three weeks: Your dog will have started to settle in and will begin revealing their personality a bit. During this time, you will notice your dog demonstrating behavior patterns, if these are behaviors that need to be corrected redirect the dog to the new behavior or schedule. Do not expect to change all the behaviors or start a new schedule all at once, go slow and redirect the dog to the desired behavior or schedules replacing the old ones.

Three months: You can expect most dogs to have adjusted to living with you. At this point they should be used to you, your family’s patterns and schedules, rules of the house for the dog to follow and know how to interact with you. Some signs your dog is happy and trusting you include, they bring you their toys, they look for eye contact with you in unfamiliar situations, and they eat/ drink properly. Please keep in mind that these are guidelines, some dogs may take longer than three months, they may at times still react to unfamiliar sounds or people. Patience, consistency, and love will eventually win.

To help the dog adjust and feel more comfortable in your foster home or as an adopter, there are some simple rules to follow:

  • Temper your expectations, this is a new situation and a new environment and the dog needs to become familiar with everything before he can feel comfortable.
  • Give your dog a safe place, a place where they feel they have come control over what’s happening, i.e., a crate or a room or quiet space in a room.
  • Establish a routine with the dog; this helps the dog know what to expect which builds his confidence.
  • Don’t overwhelm your dog with new stimuli or introducing new people or other pets all at once. Introduce one person or pet at a time. Provide two or three toys, more than that can overwhelm the dog.
  • Provide praise to encourage and reinforce a routine or desired behavior.
dog hope

Congratulations on your new foster or adopted rescue. We hope everything goes smoothly and comfortably for you and the dog. If you have any questions, please reach out to the Canine Behavior and Training Team.

Additional information on helping rescue dogs adjust to their new environment: