October 22, 2021
Welcome Home!: How To Transition a Rescue Dog Into A New Environment
Adopting a dog not only saves a life, but it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do! Whether they were surrendered, rescued off the street, or were born in a shelter, your new four-legged family member will be grateful for their new home and will be eager to please their new humans.
They will also need time to adjust to their new surroundings, get used to a structured day-to-day routine, bond with each member of their new family, and may also require some training.
No matter how excited or welcoming your family is, entering a new home can be a stressful time for a rescue dog. Here’s how you can help alleviate their anxiety!
Before you bring your new pup home, you’ll want to get a veterinary provider, shop for the essentials, and get your home prepped to welcome a new family member.
Identification And Safety
It’s important to have a leash and collar with you when you head to the shelter to pick up your dog, but you’ll also want to have an extra of each at home. Make sure you have up-to-date ID tags affixed to the collar. If your rescue organization hasn’t microchipped your pet, that’s something you’ll want to do as soon as possible.
Just like humans have primary care providers, you’ll want to pick the right veterinary provider for your new dog. Do your research, make sure your vet of choice is accepting new clients, and book an introductory appointment for your pup. Don’t forget to bring along any paperwork provided to you by the shelter or rescue. Your vet will want to review those to check if your dog needs any vaccines, flea, tick, or heartworm treatment. It’s also important to have a list of 24-hour emergency vets in your area, just in case.
Even if you already have a dog and a good deal of supplies, you’ll want to get your new pup their own necessities. Start by picking up a bed, bowls, toys, treats, and grooming supplies such as a brush, nail clippers, and shampoo. These supplies should all be in your home when your dog arrives. Talk to your vet and the rescue organization about what the best type of food would be to start your new four-legged family member out on. They’ll be able to give you the best idea based on age, breed, and previous medical history.
Prepare Your Home
In The Home
Even if your rescue dog is coming home with preexisting training, you’ll want to dog-proof the areas they’ll be in. It’s better to be safe then sorry. Determine where your dog’s crate, toys, and bowls will be, and keep them in that defined place until the dog is familiar with your home. Block off any areas of the home that you don’t want them to enter by closing doors or using gates. Also, consider covering any loose extension cords or wires to electrical appliance, and getting any plants you may have out of the reach of your dog.
When your new dog meets your family make sure to do it in an open area, preferably outside, and make sure it’s a calm, low-key affair. Don’t pass around your new dog for pets and cuddles, sit in a large circle and let the dog greet each person on their terms. Make sure each family member has a treat and offers them to your new pup when they get close, this will help create positive associations with the entire family!
Something also integral to a successful transition is getting your family on the same page. Each person in the home should be using the same verbal and physical prompts for commands. Also, make sure everyone is aware of off-limits areas and has a complete understanding of your dog’s eating and exercise needs, schedule, and designated potty areas. Consistency is key for helping your dog get used to their new home. You want them to know what to expect!
If you’re bringing your rescue into a home that already has a dog, check out this article!
Let’s Go Exploring
Before you head into your home, give your dog time to get use your yard. Lead them around slowly, allowing them to feel secure and safe in their new surroundings. Outside is also where your dog can greet family members, or any resident dogs, for the first time. When you first bring your dog inside, lead them around on-leash, letting them get used to the scents of your home. If you have a cat in the home, you’ll want to keep them in a secure room. Initial introductions to feline family members should be supervised and kept brief.
If you find that your dog cannot perform basic obedience commands, is food-aggressive, or has not been housebroken, you’ll want to create a training program or hire a professional trainer as soon as possible. You want to give them time to adjust first, but it’s best to start teaching a rescue boundaries and expectations soon after they’ve entered your home.
You may be tempted to invite friends over and go for excursions with your new pup, but the first few days they are home should be kept calm. They are most likely exhausted from the transition to a new home paired with all the stress of traveling and leaving their shelter. Keeping your home low-key in the first few days, and not straying too far away, will help your dog identify the space as their own and will allow them to settle in.
Establishing A Routine
If possible, it’s best to keep your new rescue dog on the same feeding schedule initially, slowly transitioning them into mealtimes that work for you and your family. Speak with your veterinary provider about your dog’s needs and how frequently they should be eating.
If your dog is coming from a shelter or a high-stress situation, there is a good chance they don’t have an established routine, or if they do, it’s very different from your family’s day-to-day. Use a crate to help your dog get used to their new sleep patterns, keeping the crate close to, or in your room.
Get your dog accustomed to exercising around your schedule. This could mean walks in before or after work or during lunch breaks, and hikes and trips to the dog parks on weekends. Whatever your schedule demands, make sure your new dog knows what kind of and when they’ll be getting daily exercise.
Proper preparation is a key to helping your rescue dog transition into your home. Rescue dogs require attention, compassion, and patience. In return, they give years of affection, companionship, and unconditional love. Remember that rescue dogs come from an innumerable number of different situations, so each transition will be slightly different. Give your new four-legged family member the time and understanding they need, and soon enough they’ll be comfortable and happy in their new home!