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Operation Save A Shelter Dog

How can I help my rescue dog adjust to their new home? 


It takes at least 3 DAYS for your dog to decompress.

It takes at least 3 WEEKS for your dog to learn your routine.

It takes at least 3 MONTHS for your dog to feel at home.

PATIENCE - Be patient! This is the most important and loving thing you can do for your new dog!! 

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS - Don’t expect too much, too fast. It’s reality, not a TV show version.

  • It is easy to expect an instant connection, an immediate unbreakable bond, or behavior resembling other pets you have had or seen, but this is not fair to either of you.
  • Just like you have had life experiences that have shaped who you are and how you respond, so has your new dog.
  • Unfortunately, some rescue pups have had a difficult past & humans have not always been kind.
  • Allow time for both of you to establish a strong new relationship. It will be worth the wait!

ROUTINE - Establish a routine that the dog can expect & depend on. They need & crave structure!

  • Feed at the same time every day.
  • Walk at the same time every day.
  • Go to bed at the same time/place every night.
  • Whatever you and your new dog will be doing, do it together and do it regularly.

RESIST - Resist the urge to feel bad & give full run of the house to try to “make up” for their past life.

  • We highly encourage crates/kennels for the first few months to help rescue dogs adjust.
  • Keeping the area confined prevents them from reaching items/areas they can get into trouble in.
  • It assists with potty & basic manners training, keeping them close by for positive correction.
  • Give them a treat & favorite toy every time they go in, to create a positive association w kennel.
  • Crating makes your rescue dog a better dog, and helps ensure successful behavior.
  • Never use the crate as punishment. It should be the dog’s safe space.

PLAY - Play with and talk to your new dog.

  • While your dog is adjusting, they will need time and space. However, they will also need periods of learning and connecting with you. Try to find a balance between the two, using your dog’s behavior and responses as a gauge.

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT - Is key to building trust and respect from your new dog.

  • Use for training new behaviors and commands.
  • Use to encourage repeat good behavior & set your new dog up for success.
  • Use to correct unwanted behaviors, such as jumping, chewing, biting, etc.

BE CONSISTENT - Your new dog will be unsure of their new surroundings, so they will depend on you to give them queues that they are safe, of what is acceptable and what is not. Inconsistency leads to confusion and longer training time.

SAFE PLACE - Provide a place they can call their own. This will be your new dog’s “safe place” as they are getting to know their new environment. It can be a dog bead, blanket, mat or open crate in a corner or quiet area of the room, so they can be near the family, but also have a place to retreat to when needed.

SAFETY - Please don’t let your dog off leash, even in your own yard, until they are comfortable & feel safe in their new environment.

  • This could be days, weeks or months, depending on the dog’s background.
  • Many rescue dogs will look for (and find) a way out of the yard until they are comfortable.

TRAINING - We do recommend a basic obedience course for all dogs, which can help every dog become an even better dog. Search for the most highly recommended trainers in your area.

How should I introduce my new dog to my existing dog(s)?

Introductions are KEY to a successful relationship between your pups!

  • STAY CALM – If you are anxious, your dogs will feel it and can become anxious as well.
  • MAINTAIN CONTROL - Maintain control of both (all) dogs. This often requires another set of
  • hands.
  • GO SLOW - Never bring your new dog immediately into your home. Your current pet(s) may not
  • understand what is happening & may feel threatened or protective of you and/or your home.
  • LEASH - Leash both dogs & bring them to a neutral area (inside a fenced area, like the backyard).
  • The larger area also reduces tension, giving the comfort of more room to move around & “escape” an uncomfortable situation if needed.

  • AVOID HOLDING - Avoid holding one of the dogs in your arms. If the existing dog is being held, it can feel the need to protect you from the new one. If the new dog is being held, it can feel trapped and unable to “escape” the situation.
  • SNIFFING - Allow the dogs to “sniff” one another. It may seem strange to humans, but this is how dogs get to know each other. They get a “brief biography” of each other “written in scent pheromones”.
  • GROWLING - A little growling can be normal, as they communicate with each other & set boundaries.
  • WALKING - Take the dogs for a walk together, keeping several feet between them, so they cannot greet each other face to face or stare each other down. The idea is to get them used to each other’s presence on neutral turf, while reducing tension & energy levels at the same time.
  • LEASHES DRAGGING – If it seems to be going well, you can allow them to continue greeting and explore the yard together with leashes dragging (still attached). It will allow you to quickly separate if there are any signs of disagreement or aggression.
  • INSIDE INTRODUCTION – When moving on to an introduction inside the home, bring the new dog in first. The existing dog should be brought in second, so it lowers the instinct to guard or protect the home as a stranger enters it. Leashes are still recommended.
  • PROCEED WITH CAUTION - Progress should be based on the dogs’ reactions, not your own timeline. Be prepared to TRY AGAIN LATER or the next day if the initial introduction is less than desirable.
  • SEPARATE AREAS – Overnight or when a break is needed, use separate areas, but with visibility to each other. It allows them to get used to each other’s presence & scents, but still interact safely. A secure dog/baby gate to confine new dog into a smaller area, and crates/kennels usually work well.
  • CAREFULLY MONITOR – No matter how well the introduction went, you must continue to monitor carefully & keep the dogs separated when you are not there to supervise. Each new situation can cause a different and sometimes unexpected reaction from either pet.
  • MULTIPLE DOGS – Repeat the process above, one dog at a time. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO HELP MY DOGS GET ALONG?
  • FEEDING - Food can be a major source of conflict, especially when the rescue dog may have been starving/malnourished due to neglect or being homeless. Please always feed the foster dog(s) inside of their crate/kennel & pick up all food bowls to remove this potential conflict source. Monitor all food interactions very closely even treats, bones, toys, etc.

OTHER - Toys, treats, bedding & even interaction with you can be a source of conflict. Consistently correct aggressive behavior, reward friendly behavior, and manage the environment & interactions.