8 Tips for the First Month after Bringing Home a Rescue Dog

We’re so excited for you and your newly adopted rescue dog! The day you’ll be picking them up from the shelter is coming up, and we’re here to help make the experience easier for you and your new furry family member.

Chances are you’ve already read the first two articles in this three-part series about bringing home a rescue dog. If not, you can check them out below!

Done with those? Time to read on!

A. The day you pick up your rescue dog

1. Be prepared when going to the shelter

Bring necessary items such as an ID tag with your phone number, collar, leash, food, water, a crate and bedding, a poop pouch, and some toys and treats that your dog loves.

  • If your rescue dog is microchipped, update the chip company with your contact information.
  • We know this day would be very exciting but keep introductions calm upon picking your dog up from the shelter.
  • We recommend having someone with you during the drive home, so that there would be another person comforting your dog in the crate if one of you would be driving.
  • If you’ll be alone during the drive home, a chew treat might provide good distraction for your pet.

2. Move slowly around the house

Just before taking your dog into the house, you can take them for a short walk around the area or the front/backyard. This will burn off some of your dog’s energy and give you an opportunity to start bonding with your furry friend. This will also allow your dog to have a wee or poop to minimise toilet accidents inside your house.

When going around the house with your dog, keep them on a leash to provide guidance and move slowly through the dog-friendly spaces. Doing so will also help you to step in to prevent potential accidents.

  • For a reward to be effective, it should be given within 3 seconds of a desired behaviour so having treats with you, especially during this time could help build your relationship with your pet.
  • Be very patient as all the new sights, sounds, and smells can be overwhelming for your pet. Even though your dog might have been housetrained before, they might not exhibit such during this transition.
  • Let your dog sniff and take in things at their own pace as sniffing is a form of mental stimulation and has a soothing effect on dogs.

3. Let your dog decompress

After all that new stimuli, it is vital to calm down your pet by allowing them to decompress in an area where they cannot be disturbed.

B. The first few days of the transition

4. Take your dog to a vet for a check-up and vaccinations if needed

Even if the shelter provided a clean bill of health for your dog, we strongly recommend that you still bring your newly adopted pet to the vet for a complete check-up.

  • This will help check and rule out any underlying pain or illness that might not have been noticed before.
  • Bring a copy of your dog’s health records including vaccine records so that the vet can perform the appropriate tests, administer any needed vaccines, and schedule routine visits.

5. Create a consistent routine and set boundaries

Because the transition can be quite stressful for your dog, providing as much structure as possible through a set routine will help them figure out what your expectations are and what they can expect from you.

  • Begin establishing a routine by making a schedule for play, training, toilet, and walks from the first few days.
  • It is recommended to retain the same food and feeding routine that your rescue dog had at the shelter during the first few weeks as changing food drastically can upset their stomachs. If ever you want to eventually change this, do so gradually.
  • To help avoid creating separation anxiety, start leaving your dog by itself for short periods such as when you get mail or take the bins outside and then increase the alone time gradually. If your dog starts whimpering or barking, wait for them to stop before reentering the house.
  • Your rescue dog’s ‘true’ personality may not show itself until a few weeks into the transition so managing your expectations can help prepare you for unforeseen happenings.

6. House train with positive reinforcement

Even dogs with prior house training may initially experience accidents when introduced to a new setting.

Employing positive reinforcement and consistent cues or commands can facilitate the process of house training. We recommend closely supervising your dog when not confined, interrupting accidents without punishing, and promptly rewarding your dog after they eliminate in the designated area.

For more detailed tips on potty training and housetraining, check out this article by Petfinder.

C. The next weeks of the transition

Similar to humans, both physical and mental exercise play a vital role in maintaining good health for your furry friend. It is advisable to consult your veterinarian for exercise recommendations because the amount of exercise required for your dog may vary based on factors such as breed, age, and other considerations.

8. Slowly introduce your rescue dog to resident dogs or pets, if any

Introducing your newly adopted furry friend to your existing dog or pets requires a careful and gradual approach, rather than a single event. It is crucial to prioritise the safety of both dogs and to consider their individual histories, personalities, and body language.

Your rescue dog is experiencing stress, and introducing them to another dog or pet during this period adds further stress that may lead to a potential dogfight. This applies whether or not your dog is known to be extremely friendly or if the dogs have met previously. Bringing a new dog into your home is a different situation from a casual encounter, and dogs often react differently when it comes to their territorial instincts.

  • Avoid leaving your newly adopted dog unsupervised with your current pets. It is essential to closely observe and manage their interactions for a specific duration before considering leaving them alone together.
  • If either dog exhibits signs of fear or aggression, it’s important to halt the interactions and retry when they have settled down.
  • Opt for a neutral location, such as going on a walk, for the initial meeting between the dogs.
  • Incorporate breaks between interactions to give the dogs time to relax and adapt.
  • Refrain from leaving the resident dog’s toys scattered around the house during the initial interactions.

Again, congratulations on making this great decision about adopting and giving a second home to your rescue dog. We hope for only the best for you and your doggo!

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