How to settle a rescue dog into your home

The decision to adopt a rescue dog, rather than buy a puppy from a breeder, can be incredibly rewarding. The knowledge that you are giving a dog, who perhaps has had a difficult past, a second chance at a forever home is extremely enriching.

Once used to their new loving surroundings, an incredibly strong bond can form between the two of you which can be hard to find anywhere else.

However, due to their often-unsettled background or previous bad treatment, a dog that you have adopted from an animal rescue shelter may take longer to settle into your new life than other pets might. To make the process as easy as possible, we’ve put together a few tips on caring for a rescue dog, to ensure that your new furry friend feels happy and comfortable in their forever home.

Set aside enough time

A dog who has recently been adopted may have come directly from a shelter and may not have experienced a typical home setting for a while, or ever. This can mean that they could easily become anxious or act differently at first.

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.

Be prepared

Making sure you’re prepared and having everything you need can help keep your dog feel comfortable and content as they get used to their new home. Being prepared also means you won’t have to head out on any last-minute trips to the pet shop to stock up on supplies!

Neutral introductions

If you have existing pets, introducing them to your dog takes careful consideration and prior planning. If you have a dog already, try to introduce the two in a neutral place like a park or garden, rather than indoors.

Introducing your new canine companion to an existing cat shouldn’t be rushed as forcing them to interact when they are not quite ready can cause stress to everyone involved and reinforce negative emotions. You’ll want to keep their first introductions as calm as possible while providing a safe space for both to retreat to if needed.

Don’t leave them alone for too long

To earn their trust and reassure them that they are in a safe, loving environment, it is best to set a few days aside to spend time with your new pet and ensure that they don’t encounter any issues.

During the first few days after bringing your pet home, try not to leave them alone for more than a few hours at a time. This will help to avoid separation anxiety and help establish a routine for them, which will keep them relaxed.

Be patient

As with most pets, a rescue dog’s behaviour may not be what you expect straight away. As a result of potential mistreatment in the past, a rescue dog may act aggressively around food or become protective over things they might see as theirs. Understandably, they will need time to adjust to their new environment and family.

Dog being stroked

So, patience and a watchful eye are important qualities to have when welcoming an adopted dog into your home.

Losing your temper by snapping or punishing your pet can sometimes exacerbate the behaviour even more or cause fear and anxiety, which could lead to further problems. It is best to be patient, and use positive reinforcement to train your new pet and reward good behaviour.


It is possible that your rescue dog has already received house training. However, some dogs will have been taken into the rehoming shelter before this was possible.

Even if your new dog has been house trained, it may be useful to invest in a small number of newspapers or puppy pads and spare bedding to help keep your house clean while you set up a routine.

Establishing a regular schedule for feeding and letting your dog out will help them to become house-trained while allowing them to settle into your lifestyle.

Dog ripping up paper

Give them their own space

Giving your dog a space that is theirs alone gives them somewhere they can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed or scared. This safe space should be clean, confined, and comfortable, like a crate in a corner of a quieter room or a bed under the stairs.

If you notice that your dog prefers to sleep in a specific area of the house, then try moving the crate or bed there.

The 3-3-3 rule

The 3-3-3 rule or the Rule of Threes represents the phases or common milestones your new dog or puppy will go through as they get used to their new home with the hope that you can work together through any unwanted behaviour and give enough time for you to bond together.

The first 3 days

It’s likely that your dog might find the change in their surroundings overwhelming, especially if they spent a long period of time at the rescue centre, waiting for their forever home. Now that they’ve found it, it can take some time to get used to the change.

No matter how much you plan ahead, you won't know how your newly adopted pet is going to react in their new environment until they’re home, so don’t be alarmed if they’re not quite the dog you met and fell in love with.

After 3 weeks

After the first three weeks, your dog might be feeling more comfortable in their new home as they get used to the routine you’ve set. You should start seeing their true personality as they play with toys, look for cuddles, and find their favourite spots around the house.

Behaviour issues may start showing as they test boundaries so it’s important to be consistent in your training so that they understand what they are and are not allowed.

After 3 months

After about three months, your dog should feel comfortable and secure at home having built a bond of love and trust with you and anyone else they live with. Training is still key to their comfort so don’t stop and remember to ease your dog into any changes in your routine.

Each situation is different, and every dog’s experience will be unique so it’s important to be patient as they get used to their new surroundings and adjust to a new routine. If you have any concerns about your new companion, try speaking to the staff at the rescue centre or contact a vet for advice so that you can come up with a plan to help.

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