How to Acclimate a Rescue Dog to Your Home & Family

by Sarah Dray
Patience and love go a long way with newcomers.

Patience and love go a long way with newcomers.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Rescue dogs often come with a lot of baggage. They've been abandoned, maybe even abused, so you can't blame them for being cautious around new people. Especially if you're bringing home an adult rescue dog, you might have to play the role of therapist for a while. Helping your new doggie find his place in your new home can take some work, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Step 1

Find out as much as you can about the dog's previous life. Any signs of abuse? If he was living with a foster family, they should be able to tell you how long it took Fido to adapt to their homes and a new routine. Coming straight from a shelter? Ask about his history: how long he was in the shelter, how did he get there and what his life was like. Some shelters walk their dogs regularly, while others are understaffed and keep dogs kenneled most of the time. This will give you an idea of what to expect and how to treat the new arrival.

Step 2

Take Fido for a walkthrough of the house. If he naturally follows you around, then do it that way. Otherwise, put him on a leash and take him along. Don't worry -- this doesn't have to be an official "this is the bedroom, this is the kitchen" tour. It's just a way to help the dog get acquainted with his surroundings. If you've already set up a crate or dog bed and bowls for him, show him where they are.

Step 3

Bring the dog home on a weekend if possible. That will give you time to get to know each other before you have to go back to work. It will also ease anxiety Fido might have about being in a new place, surrounded by new people. If you drop him home on your way to work, not only will you confuse him and scare him, but you might come back home in the evening to a very unhappy dog -- and a house that reflects his unhappiness.

Step 4

Talk to him constantly over the first few days he's in the house. Is Fido walking around with a look of confusion? Make him part of the family's daily activities so he feels less lost. Don't push him too hard if he doesn't want to run around playing -- he might just be trying to figure out what's going on and not ready to relax just yet.

Step 5

Get Fido into a routine right away. Start feeding him at the same time every day, take him for walk at regular times and create a "couch time" or "play in the yard" routine that the family can share with him on a daily basis. Dogs thrive on a schedule -- especially rescue dogs, who might hold on to the routine to get some sense of security in their new environment.

Tip

  • Keep in mind that the dog you bring home might not be the "real" dog you adopted. According to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue Group, the first couple of weeks is usually the "honeymoon period," where rescue dogs are on their best behavior because they're cautious and not sure if the new situation is permanent. Once things calm down, their real personality will start to surface.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

About the Author

Sarah Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including "Woman's Day," "Marie Claire," "Adirondack Life" and "Self." She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.

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