Are you considering welcoming a new rescue dog into your family? Congratulations! While this is an exciting time, the adoption process can be a challenging one. Be prepared to help your dog transition to its new life with the 3-3-3 Rule for bringing home a rescue dog!
The process of adopting a rescue dog starts long before bringing your new best friend through the front door.
It starts with the research involved with finding your perfect shelter dog including the right age, breed and temperament for you and your family. This includes searching for a reputable rescue organization to adopt from.
You dedicate your time to carefully puppy-proofing your house while carefully working your way through a checklist to ensure that you have everything, he/she will need.
However, what many new dog owners fail to recognize is that the ‘heavy lifting’ is what comes when you bring that adorable rescue dog into your home.
Rescuing a shelter dog is truly a rewarding experience, but you have to be prepared for the adjustment phase (and it’s not always easy).
Place yourself in the shoes of your potential rescue dog for a few moments, and it’s easy to see why you need to be prepared to approach this time with patience and understanding.
Many of these dogs have lost a family member in some way (including potentially having been abandoned by the one that they trusted most). Some have experienced unimaginable abuse or neglect, while others have run the streets fending for themselves for far too long.
It is going to take time for these dogs to adjust to life in a happy, loving home.
This process may not go as smoothly as you would like, but with time and patience, you can develop a bond with your new dog that is built on trust and love.
The 3-3-3 Rule is a general guideline that is used by many in the world of animal rescue to explain the adjustment process and create realistic expectations for those bringing home a rescue dog.
NOTE: This guideline is NOT a guarantee. No two dogs are the same and no two dogs will react in exactly the same way. This is a solid starting point to prepare yourself for the first few months with a new rescue dog.
Stay open-minded and pay attention to the queues from your dog to determine how quickly they work through each of these stages.
The 3-3-3 Rule for Bringing Home A Rescue Dog
The first three days are incredibly overwhelming for your new dog. Everything in their life is changing all at once which can create feelings of anxiety and fear.
It is NOT uncommon for a dog to shut down in the early days, retreating to safety in a create, under a table or behind a couch.
Try to be patient as your new dog learns to navigate your home, schedule, family, and surroundings. It is a lot to learn and take in all at once!
Remember, he/she doesn’t know yet where they are permitted to go to the bathroom or what they are allowed to touch. For this reason, they may break some of your ‘rules’ or have accidents in the first few days. They are still learning.
It is not uncommon for a dog to refuse to eat the first day or two in a new atmosphere.
The best thing that you can do for your dog at this stage is to provide a ‘safe space’ that they can retreat to when they feel that it is necessary.
This could be a crate (with the door kept open) or a quiet room that has little to no traffic. To create a feeling of comfort in this space, try to include something familiar in this space such as a blanket that they were sleeping with while in the care of the rescue or a favourite toy.
Fear and anxiety aren’t the only common responses at this stage. There are also many dogs that will be overwhelmed with excitement for their new life.
Your new rescue dog may simply be SO excited that he/she doesn’t know what to do with it. They are surrounded by new scents, sounds, sights and experiences.
This can cause unpredictability, bursts of high energy and even out-of-character destructive behaviour.
Take a deep breath! Whether you’re dealing with fearful behaviour or extreme excitement, this will get better. Bringing home a rescue dog can be a challenge, but you can do this!
Try to establish the start of a routine by feeding and walking your dog at specified times as well as creating a predictable bedtime.
This will give your dog the structure that they need to start getting used to life in their new environment.
After you have worked through the initial shock and excitement, it’s time to start the process of adjusting your dog to his/her new life.
It is during this phase that you will start to see your dog’s true personality coming out.
If your dog has been hiding, they will start coming out and wanting to spend time around your and your family. On the other hand, if they have been overly excitable, they will start to calm slightly and settle into their routine.
This is the time when you really start to implement rules for your home and how their life is going to look moving forward.
Will your dog be allowed to get up on the couch with you? Will they be sleeping in your bed, in your room on their own bed or in a crate?
Not only do you need to have the answers to these questions, but you need to be clear about what is acceptable in your home and set some boundaries for your dog.
Related: ‘Top 10 Reasons to Adopt A Senior Dog‘
Pay careful attention to any behavioural issues that remain consistent throughout these first few weeks.
While many personality quirks from the initial adjustment will start to fade away, those that remain will likely require training and even professional assistance to overcome.
If at any time you are feeling overwhelmed by this process, contact a professional dog trainer for assistance!
By this stage in the adjustment process, your dog has likely accepted the fact that they are officially ‘home’.
They have an understanding of the basic routine in your home. This includes not only when they will be fed and what times they will be taken out to go to the bathroom, but also when you will be coming and going.
Throughout the first 3 months, you have built a bond with your dog and he/she knows that you can be trusted and relied upon.
In addition to feeling comfortable with you, they are also starting to be comfortable around others in your life including friends and family.
This level of comfort means that you should have a clear understanding of your dog’s personality.
If you are still dealing with any behavioural issues that have not been resolved in the first 3 months, it is time to consult a professional for assistance.
Already working with a professional? Continue following their advice and working towards a solution.
Have you ever heard of the 3-3-3 Rule for bringing home a rescue dog?
Rescue parents, what tips/tricks do you have for those that are looking at bringing home a rescue dog for the first time? Share your advice in the comments below!