This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer policy
It is a very exciting time after you have signed the papers and have officially been signed over a wonderful new rescue dog.
As rewarding as the experience can and will be, it does not go without its challenges, and you must know that it will take a while for your new dog to adjust and feel part of the family.
If it is your first rescue dog, it is best to do a bit of research beforehand so that you know what to expect.
However, every dog is different and its journey will be heavily dependent on its past experiences but this guide will give you the tools so that you can do whatever you can to make the adjustment for kennels into your home as smooth as possible.
What To Do Before The Dog Arrives
There are steps you should take even before you bring your new dog home.
This will ensure that you have a safe and comfortable environment for your dog that has everything they could possibly need waiting for them.
Dog Proof The Home
It is very likely that before you were given the all-clear to adopt the dog, you went through a ‘home check’ which is something that most rescue centers do so that they know the place that the dog is going to is suitable for them.
If you have passed this check then congratulations! But the hard work is not over yet, because there still could be things in your home that could harm the dog or could lead to them escaping.
When you are dog-proofing your home, you should think of it as babyproofing because they are vulnerable to similar things.
Firstly, you should move any wires out of the way as some dogs may chew on them which could lead to electrocution and possibly ingestion.
You can get plastic coverings for cables and outlets which can be a lot easier than trying to tie them up out of the way.
Next, you should invest in some locks to put on your cabinets even though some dogs may not be interested, some are inclined to rummage about and see what there is to eat.
Some dogs do this not because they are hungry but because it is a reaction to stress and anxiety but should still be prevented from happening.
This is dangerous because they may ingest something that is not safe for dogs such as washing up tablets or chocolate, but it is also dangerous because if you have a dog such as a labrador retriever then they are likely to eat more than their stomach can handle which can lead to many problems such as vomiting and bloat.
Investing in a bin that cannot be opened by a dog is also advisable for those who are extra sneaky.
Baby gates are also excellent to get especially if your home has stairs or rooms that are off-limits.
It can also be beneficial to have baby gates when you first bring your dog home so that you can introduce them to the home bit by bit to prevent them from getting overwhelmed.
However, if you live in a small bungalow then baby gates are usually not required.
Finally, go around your home and pick up any small thing that a dog may be able to swallow or choke on such as stray bits of rubbish or jewelry.
This step is essential if you also have young children as they tend to leave lots of little toys around which is an accident waiting to happen for some dogs.
Dog Proof The Yard
Once you have dog-proofed the inside of your home, it is time to dog-proof the outside.
This is a really important thing to do before bringing a new dog home because some dogs are more likely to escape than others because they have not yet recognized your house as their home and may even try to get back to their kennels.
Even after a while, there are breeds that are natural escape artists and if they smell, hear or see something exciting then they will do what they can to get to it.
Walk around the circumference of your yard and carefully check your fence for any holes or loose parts that your dog could get through.
Also, if the dog that you are getting is known for escaping it is best to invest in a fence that is 6 feet as this is higher than any dog can jump.
Setup A Safe Place
Setting up a safe area for your dog can make the world of difference with their confidence.
Get a crate that is the appropriate size for your dog which allows them to stand up and turn around in and drape a blanket over the top to help keep it dark and secure.
Then put some nice comfy blankets inside including any of the blankets that your dog had previously in the kennels as this can make their environment feel less alien.
It is important to note that you should not shut the door on the crate at any time unless they have been successfully crate trained.
This is the fun part about this whole process because it gives you the permission to go to any pet store and splurge on dog goodies such as toys, food bowls, leads, beds, and more.
Before you do this though it is important to know what your dog likes and what food it is on which the rescue center will tell you.
You can use this food to slowly transition them to a different food if you prefer but make sure that it is a high-quality one that does not have any harmful ingredients such as BHA and BHT.
Along with these essentials, you should get a dog tag with details that are up to date on it as it is not only the law but can also save your dog’s life if they escape.
Bringing The Dog Home
Do not expect much from your dog when they are first brought home as they will likely be anxious and stressed which is a very natural response to a change in environment and routine.
We would feel the same way if it was us and by putting ourselves in the dog’s shoes we can empathize better and understand why they may react in certain ways.
It is important to set the routine and boundaries as soon as the dog has been brought home because this helps them understand how things work and leaves less room for behavior issues.
Also, give the dog plenty of space and do not smother them with attention and commands because this will likely overwhelm them and confuse them, making them feel even more anxious.
There is a general rule that people follow when introducing a new dog into their home called the 3-3-3 rule.
During the first three days, your dog will be overwhelmed and will keep to themselves in their crate or somewhere else that they feel safest.
They will not behave as they did when you met them, won’t eat or drink much, and may even test the boundaries that you have set.
After three weeks your dog should start feeling a bit more settled and has gotten into the routine that you have established, they will be more open to affection and their personality may start to come through more.
However, at this stage, some behavior issues might crop up because your dog has gotten more comfortable and can think about more things than just being anxious about their environment.
Finally, after three months the dog should be much more settled and will feel more at home. They will start to bond with you and your family more and will be very familiar with the routine.
You can finally take a breath and enjoy the fact that your dog has officially become part of the family and is much happier all because of the hard work you put into them. It is an incredibly rewarding experience and is worth every moment.
Keep in mind that this adjustment timeline is for the average rescue dog but if you have adopted a dog that has come from a difficult past then there’s a chance they will take more time to settle and will have different challenges.
Reading Dog Body Language
The key thing to remember throughout this whole process is patience and keep in mind that the dog that you fell in love with at the kennel will likely act a lot different for a few days, weeks, or even months because it is not comfortable yet in its environment to truly relax and behave naturally.
It is very useful to know how to understand dog body language so that you know how to read what messages your dog is trying to convey which will make them feel more comfortable as they know they are being heard.
If your dog is worried, they will show:
- A lowered head when they are standing up, tail tucked between their legs and their ears are back. They may also yawn or lick their lips.
- When they are lying down, a worried dog will turn their head away from you and avoid eye contact as well as keep their ears back.
- If a worried dog is sitting, they will have their head low, ears back, and will not make eye contact. They may also keep one of their front paws slightly raised.
How to react to a worried dog is to back away and give them lots of space, they are telling you that they feel uncomfortable with you being near them.
If your dog is angry, they will show:
- A stiff body posture when they are standing, their weight has been pushed forward onto their front legs, their ears are up and alert and their hackles are raised which is the hair along their back. Their pupils will be enlarged, and their tails will be upright and stiff, if they are especially angry then they might wrinkle their noses and bare their teeth.
- If your dog is angry and is lying down, they will be in a cowering position with their ears flat and their tail between their legs.
If your dog is showing any of these body language behaviors, they are telling you that they want you to keep away as they feel threatened or anxious in your space.
If your dog is happy, they will show:
- When a happy dog is standing up their posture will be relaxed, their hair will be smooth, their mouth will be relaxed and open with their tail wagging.
- If a happy dog wants to play with you, they will bow and have their tail wagging, they might bark but it is out of excitement and should not be mistaken for aggression
A happy dog is comfortable in its environment and is enjoying spending time with you.
In conclusion, it depends on each dog on how long they take to adjust to their new home but by putting into practice the steps before they arrive, they will start off on the right foot.
Secure the inside and outside of the home and give them plenty of space to figure out their new space.
Always be mindful of their body language and react accordingly and before you know it you will have a dog that you couldn’t imagine not having as part of the family.