How to Help a Rescue Dog Settle In To Their New Home

It is common for rescue dogs to have experienced neglect, abuse, and loneliness in the past. If you have decided to adopt one, remember that it may take some time for him to feel comfortable in your home.

Did you know around 1.6 million rescue dogs are adopted by Americans each year? Patience and gradual interaction is key in making your rescue dog settle in. Here are some tips to make your pooch feel more relaxed:

1. Gather Essential Equipment

Before you bring in a rescue dog, make sure you are well-equipped. With the right tools, you can establish a consistent routine for your rescue dog since day one. Essential supplies include:

  • Crate

Crates provide your pet with a safe and comfortable environment. It also helps in housetraining by preventing them from chewing on household items.

  • Bedding

Create a cozy space for your pooch to snuggle. You can either buy a dog bed or simply arrange for a clean and soft comforter.

  • Leash

Select a durable and comfortable leash to take your dog out for walks. Steer clear of retractable leashes as they can tangle, snap or unspool.

  • Food and water bowls

Keep your dog’s food and water bowls where he can easily access them. Make sure the area you choose is relatively quiet and exclusive, so that your dog feels comfortable eating there.

Other important items include a flea comb, leash, food, toys, harness, collar, and good quality dog food. You can easily purchase these items from your local pet shop.

2. Keep Calm

You may be excited to bring in your new pet home, but keep in mind that a rescue dog may be initially stressed, anxious or fearful. Make sure you do not offer your dog extra stimulus during the first few days.

When you are around him, try not to be loud or lose your temper. Many rescue dogs have a traumatic past and an overdose of emotional expression can cause them further stress. Encourage your pet to approach you for interaction rather than initiating it yourself.

3. Dog-Proof Your Home

Remove items from your house that could prove to be toxic for your new canine companion. Make sure you keep alcohol, chocolates, coffee, grapes and raisins far from your pet’s reach. Household cleaning chemicals should also be secured well.

In order to keep your furniture protected, drape a cloth or cover over it before you allow the dog to sit on them. If you have a yard or a garden in your house, ensure that your dog is not able to surpass it by jumping over or digging underneath it.

4. Implement House Rules

Assess the floor plan of your house to determine some basic rules for your pet. Figure out where you want your dog to spend most of his time, whether some rooms would be off-limits for him, and where inside the house he would stay when you have to head out for a while.

Determine the space your dog will stay in by placing gates and barriers. You may decide to keep your new pet inside a crate until he is adjusted to the new surroundings.

5. Use Positive Reinforcement

The connection you feel with a person, thing, or experience is known as emotional association. Negative associations result in anxiety, such as when a dog with motion sickness is made to ride in a car. Positive associations, on the other hand, generate a sense of security which a pet dog may experience when going inside his crate.

Make sure your rescue dog has a “safe zone” where he can retreat when he feels overwhelmed. This is where you can place your dog’s crate, bowls and bed. When your dog enters this area, reward him with a treat to establish a positive association.

6. Establish a Routine

Try establishing a consistent daily routine to make your rescue dog settle and feel relaxed. Involving him in similar activities everyday will help him adapt to his new life quickly.

Keep your dog’s bed and bowls in the same place, maintain regular mealtimes, and take him for a walk around the same time every day. This will give your pooch a sense of security and prevent him from worrying about when he would receive his next meal.

7. Build Trust

Give your rescue dog time to adjust to a new space and new people. Restrict his movement to a couple of rooms in the beginning and stay nearby to supervise him. This will help him gradually adjust to his new home without feeling too overwhelmed.

Rescue dogs may have lived in hostile environments in the past and may tend to get scared easily. It is good practice to keep your dog’s crate door always open to enable him to return to his safe zone whenever he feels anxious.

8. Teach Basic Commands

Begin with teaching your pooch simple commands such as “sit” or “down”. Basic early interaction will help establish and strengthen your bond with him.

Don’t lose heart if your dog takes a few days to trust you enough to react to the commands. Offer him treats when he completes an action correctly to encourage him. Make sure the treats are not too large. One nibble for each correct action would suffice.

9. Deal with Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is common when a dog is placed in a new environment. He may get stressed out if you leave him alone at home for a while.

Indications of separation anxiety include urinating or defecating, crying, howling, destroying items inside the house, consistent pacing and attempting to escape from the area designated for him. To reduce the likelihood of separation anxiety, avoid spending most of your time with your dog so that he does not get too used to your presence.

Begin with 5-10 minute absences and slowly increase the interval to 40 minutes. You may toss him a treat or a toy so that he develops a positive association with your absence.

10. Visit the Vet

Take your new companion to a vet to get his health assessed. Ensure that he has had all essential shots and buy medicines if he requires any.

Make sure your dog does not develop any negative associations with the vet. Establish the veterinary team as friends and reward your dog with treats when you visit the practice with him. A healthy dog will be better equipped to adjust to his new surroundings.

Rescue dogs require extra care and attention considering they may have experienced cruelty, pain and punishment in the past. If your pet was moved to a shelter, he may have been overwhelmed by different scents and constant noises of other animals. As a result, your new pet may initially assume your home to be just another frightening environment. Adopt a gradual approach to help your rescue dog settle in and get accustomed to his new surroundings.

by Maria A Davidson || You can’t buy love, but you can rescue it™

Facts About Animal Homelessness:

  1. Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.
  2. The main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up, or animal control finds them on the street.
  3. Each year, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes. Act as a publicist for your local shelter so pets can find homes. Sign up for Shelter Pet PR.
  4. Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  5. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.
  6. 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.
  7. About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
  8. It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
  9. Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. Overpopulation, due to owners letting their furry companion accidentally or intentionally reproduce, sees millions of these “excess” animals killed annually.
  10. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.
  11. According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America.

Here are a some adoptions for consideration: