Tips to Help Welcome Your Rescue Dog Home

Happy rescue dog
Make your new rescue dog's transition to your home a little easier by asking shelter staff if he has any behavioral issues you need to know about.

You’ve taken a thoughtful approach to adoption and found the right rescue dog for you. Now you can’t wait to open your home — and your heart — to your new four-legged family member.

It’s important to keep in mind that change — even good change — can be hard, and your dog will probably need some time to adjust to his new family and environment. However, there are things you can do to help make his transition as smooth as possible. So we asked experts for advice on helping a new pup get settled into his forever home. Here are their top tips.

1. Prepare Your Home

Before you bring your dog home, you’ll need to get your house ready. That includes getting essential supplies like bowls, a collar and ID tag, leash, crate, dog bed, toys and food.

After you have everything you need for your dog, be sure to properly dog-proof your home. “It’s a good idea to get on your hands and knees and crawl around so that you can see what your new dog will be seeing," says Joey Teixeira, senior manager of customer relations and communications at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Adoption Center. "It’s very important to make sure your home is safe, just like if you were to bring home a new baby.”

That also means ensuring your home and yard are secure so your dog can't easily escape. Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker warns that you can't assume your dog knows commands like sit, stay and come and will return to you if he gets loose. She recommends putting a long line leash on your dog while he's in your home that you can grab easily to prevent him from bolting out the door or trying to run away. Just remember: You should never leave a dog alone in a room on a long line.

You should also keep areas of your home sectioned off and introduce the dog to your home slowly, gradually expanding the space he’s allowed in. And, Becker adds, those techniques can also help with housebreaking since they don’t allow him full reign of your home right away.

Finally, Becker says it’s important to determine a schedule and routine for your dog ahead of time. You'll need to figure out if you’re going to come home on a lunch break and let him out, have a family member or dog walker let him out during the day or if you’re going to use a doggy day care.

2. Address Behavioral Issues

Before you bring your dog home, Mikkel Becker suggests asking shelter staff what behavioral issues your pup may have had in a prior home so you can begin addressing them as soon possible. For instance, if you discover he has a barking problem, which can be a symptom of many things, including separation anxiety or barrier frustration, you'll know to focus on curbing that issue right away.

There’s often a stereotype that dogs end up in a shelter because of something negative, but many issues — like barking or chewing — can be easily managed, Mikkel Becker says. “In a lot of cases, it’s because the dog wasn’t provided for or didn’t get the proper training.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that many common types of behavioral issues can happen regardless of how a dog has arrived in a new home, says Dana Ebbecke, an animal behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center. And adolescent dogs are the most common age group surrendered to shelters. “They tend to have their own special set of behavior issues, just as an adolescent human might.” However, depending on the dog’s history, you may see more separation- or transition-related issues, particularly in dogs who have had multiple homes.

Plus, it's unrealistic to expect a new dog to come in to your home and immediately be the perfect pet, says veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker.

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