Preparing to bring your new pup home is a busy time. You’re likely excited to start bonding with your new companion, building the kind of friendship that can only be shared between dog and owner. However, your first night with a rescue dog can also be a stressful and overwhelming time, especially for first-time dog owners. Let’s look at what you can expect that first night and how you can make this experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible!
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As excited as you are to bring your new rescue dog home, it’s important to remember that this can be an incredibly stressful experience for your new pup.
Everything that he has known up until this point is now changing as he moves into a new house with a new family.
This kind of change and adjustment is going to take time.
Often, a new dog will shut down or retreat in the first few days that they are in their new home.
This is a response to feeling overwhelmed as they learn how to navigate their new space, schedule, family, and rules.
The following tips will help you set your pup up for success, but they don’t mean that you won’t encounter any bumps in the road.
As you get ready for your first day with the new pup, make sure that you are setting reasonable expectations for the early days.
Your dog will be learning the rules in their new home, but he isn’t familiar with them yet.
What Do I Need to Know for a Safe Car Ride Home?
Before even worrying about how your dog is settling in at home, you need to make sure that you can bring him home safely and without innocent.
There are a few different factors to consider when it comes to the first car ride home.
If your dog does get loose, he is going to be lost and scared in an area that he doesn’t recognize.
While you can’t guarantee that there is no chance that he will get away, you can take every step possible to minimize the chance of a problem.
Dogs that are a known flight risk should always be attached to two separate leashes during the trip, either to two different collars or to a collar and a harness.
This will ensure that your dog can’t bolt if one leash or collar fails.
While in your vehicle and travelling, make sure that your dog is secured safely.
One option of securing your dog for travel is through using a dog crate.
If your dog is a smaller dog or puppy, this crate should be held in place using a seatbelt to prevent it from flying around the vehicle.
Another popular often is the use of a pet seatbelt.
These are products that are designed to secure your dog to the seatbelt of the vehicle, preventing him from being thrown from the vehicle in the event of an accident.
This should be used with a crash-tested dog harness and never with just a collar.
What Should I Do First When We Get Home?
It may be tempting to immediately bring your new dog into the living room and huddle around him as a family, but you need to start slow.
The first thing that you should do upon arriving at home is bring your dog immediately to the designated bathroom spot in your yard (or a pee pad indoors if that’s what you plan on using).
There is a good chance that your dog will need to go to the bathroom with the combination of high excitement and the car ride.
When he does, be sure to praise him. This will help to establish a baseline for housebreaking.
After you have given your dog a chance to go to the bathroom and calm down from the trip, bring him into his ‘safe space’ in the house.
This is an area of the home that has been fully puppy-proofed to prevent any accidents.
By limiting how much space he has access to, you are giving him a chance to adjust and acclimate without overwhelming him.
Hold off on any major introductions in the beginning until your dog has had a chance to settle into his home environment.
This includes both introductions with children and other animals that live in your home.
Make food and fresh water accessible to your dog, but don’t stress if he is showing no interest in eating.
Often dogs will skip meals when they are feeling anxious and stressed out.
It is not uncommon for a new dog to refuse food for one or two days after moving to his new home.
Related: ‘How to Safely Contain Your New Dog Indoors‘
How Long Will It Take My Rescue Dog to Settle?
There is no easy timeline that you can follow when it comes to helping your dog adjust to his new surroundings as every dog is different.
However, many in the rescue world (myself included) will recommend that you follow the 3-3-3 rule as a guideline.
The 3-3-3 Rule states that:
It will take approximately 3 days for your new dog to decompress and stop feeling scared, anxious, and unsure in his new home.
It will take approximately 3 weeks for your new dog to learn your schedule and routine and start to reveal his true personality (including any quirks and bad habits).
It will take approximately 3 months for your new dog to feel fully comfortable and at home.
The length of time that it takes your dog to adjust will depend on several different factors.
This includes his past experiences, his age (puppies tend to adjust quicker than older dogs that have had more experiences in life), and the home atmosphere that you have created for him.
When Should I Introduce My Dog to Children and Other Pets?
If you should avoid introductions on the first night with a rescue dog, when should you make these introductions happen?
There is no firm timeline that you need to follow.
Instead, allow your dog to determine when the time is right to start introducing more into his already changing environment.
When you notice that your dog is starting to feel calmer and more comfortable, you can start slowly introducing the rest of the family.
Keep your introductions short in the beginning to avoid overwhelming or stressing your pup, limiting it to one child or pet at a time.
During this time, your dog should be on a leash, allowing you to quickly regain control if necessary.
Avoid including treats or toys, focusing instead on allowing your dog to adjust to their new family member.
Teach your child(ren) to move slowly and calmly when they are around the new dog to avoid spooking him.
Have your child(ren) approach the new pup from the side and stop a short distance away, giving your dog the opportunity to willingly close the distance and initiate the meeting on his own terms.
This same approach can be used when introducing pets to one another, allowing for some time at a short distance adjusting to the smell and presence of their new ‘pack member’.
After a short time, remove your new dog from the situation and give him a break.
It won’t happen overnight but taking the time to do introductions properly will set you up for a well-adjusted family in the long run.
Related: ‘12 Easy Ways to Save Money on Pet Food‘
Where Should My Rescue Dog Sleep?
One of the biggest questions that many new dog owners have when considering their first night with a rescue dog is where their new dog should sleep.
There are many different answers to this, however, here on Shed Happens, we advocate for crate training.
This could mean a traditional crate or a pen set-up that safely contains your pup.
During the night your dog will be unsupervised while you sleep.
By keeping your dog contained, you are creating a safe environment where he is unable to get into anything that could cause him harm.
This isn’t to say that your dog will always have to sleep in a crate or pen!
Each of our three dogs was crate trained when we first brought them home, some for longer than others depending on how their personality.
However, all three of our dogs sleep with us in our bedroom today without any concerns.
This even includes our soon-to-be 6-month-old puppy that has recently made the transition from the crate to having the run of our room at night.
We do keep the crate available for the dogs in our room with the crate door open.
They see this space as their ‘safe zone’ and often we will wake up during the night to find one or more of the dogs curled up inside, fast asleep.
In addition to helping contain your new dog in the beginning, keeping him out of harm’s way, crate training also offers other important benefits.
By teaching your dog that the crate is a ‘safe space’, you help to eliminate the anxiety that comes from having to spend time in a kennel or crate during an emergency.
This includes the use of a crate during travel, at a grooming appointment, or if he is required to be hospitalized at the veterinarian’s office for any reason.
Each of these situations can be stressful for your dog, especially if there is a medical condition involved that may be painful or distressing.
Helping your dog see the crate as safe will eliminate one of the anxiety factors making it all that much easier.
Do you remember your first night with a rescue dog? What advice do you have to share with new dog owners?