5 Ways to Settle a Rescue Dog Into Your Home

Change can be stressful for dogs. We tell you how to ease the transition.

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There is something vital that rescue dogs need from their new families, and many aren’t getting it: a chance to settle in.

We often don’t know what our rescue dogs have experienced prior to coming to live with us. They might have had a rough puppyhood with little socialization. Conversely, they might have been well loved, but their owner passed away or found herself in a situation where she could no longer provide care. Anything and everything is possible.

If we don’t know their background, and even when we do, it is essential that we give them a chance to settle into their new happy lives with us. Here are five tips to help rescue dogs learn how to relax and adapt to the many changes in their lives:

1. Don’t do too much too quickly

Losing the home and environment he was accustomed to can be stressful. We know moving is one of the top 10 stressors on humans, and dogs are also social animals who form attachments. Please keep this in mind and don’t over stimulate your dog, even though he is undoubtedly cute and you’d love nothing more than to show him to all of your friends and family.

2. Keep stress to a minimum

Even if your new friend isn’t outwardly showing signs of stress in her new home, stress hormones can take a month to return to a normal state. If you have a puppy, she does need socialization while her young brain is still forming. Get her out and learning the ways of the human world before she turns 14 weeks of age, but please never force a puppy into a new situation, though. You can use the Puppy Checklist provided by the Pet Professional Guild as a guide. If you have an adult dog, consider allowing her to unwind and learn your house rules and routines for a month before you tackle the outside world together.

3. Connect with your dog

Dogs are social animals. So are we. You can and should show your dog you love him with affection and positive reinforcement training. Positive training is not permissive — we set boundaries and make it clear what we want from our new friend by reinforcing the behaviors we do want, and we remove ourselves or something the dog wants when he is doing something we don’t want. Using force, fear, or intimidation with your dog serves to ruin that connectivity. We can get any behavior we want from a dog without force.

A dog works a treat puzzle. (Photo courtesy nina-ottosson.com)

4. Engage your dog’s impressive mind

Dogs have the mental development of a 2- to 3-year-old child. Many dogs are bored beyond belief in their lives with us. We know to engage a young child’s mind, but sometimes we forget to do that for our dogs. Invest in quality time in teaching your dog new things. Obedience training should be fun for you both. You can also get your dog mind puzzles, play fun nose work games, and use feeding toys to deliver your dog’s meals. Engage in a rousing game of hide and seek where you hide in your house and call your dog to you, and then make a big deal out him finding you. Have fun while tiring your dog out without ever having to leave your house for those first few weeks.

5. Don’t rush exercise

Again, think of how overwhelmed we can feel when moving to a new house in a new town. We need time to learn where everything is. Give your dog a few days or weeks of downtime with you in your house and yard (if you have one), and then slowly begin to venture out into your dog’s new surroundings. Work on connectedness and relationship first, and once that is solid, then you can go explore the world together.

Always keep in mind that your new dog lost her first home but now has a new, wonderful lifetime one with you. Set your dog or puppy up for success by providing at least 30 days for your new friend to settle in and learn what you require of him.

Top photo: Woman with dog by Shutterstock.

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA

Annie Phenix is a Colorado-based professional writer and dog trainer. She is the Trainer in Residence for Dogster.com and she writes a column for Dogster Magazine and other publications. She is the author of a Spring 2016 book, titled The Midnight Dog Walkers (I-5 Publishing).


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