Adopting a rescue dog can be one of the most rewarding endeavours of your life. You’re giving a dog a second chance, and you’re forging the bond of a lifetime. But you may be feeling nervous and apprehensive about the whole process. There are a lot of unknowns about adopting a rescue dog, as each dog has a unique personality and history. You may be asking yourself several questions. Will my new rescue dog feel comfortable in my home? How will they interact with my children? Will they gel with my cat, or will they exhibit aggressive, hostile behaviour?
If you’re adopting a rescue dog, chances are your dog will come with some anxiety issues. Most rescue dogs have a history of neglect, so you may be exposing them to common anxiety triggers without even realizing it. But don’t fret. With a bit of patience and a little knowledge on canine behaviour, you can ease your new best friend into your home and develop a bond right from day one.
Why should I adopt a rescue dog?
When you adopt a rescue dog, you’re essentially saving a dog’s life, transforming their life from one of loneliness and neglect to one of joy and longevity. You’re also helping to keep the unwanted pet population down. It’s a win-win situation: a rescue dog brings you companionship, exercise, and a sense of community engagement, while you provide the dog with care, contentment, and a forever home.
An added benefit of adopting a rescue dog is that the dog is likely already past the very early puppy phase, saving you from at least some of the potty-training mishaps, chewed-up sofa legs, etc. If your heart is set on a dachshund or a labradoodle, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many dog rescue agencies dedicated to particular breeds.
Adopting a rescue dog is no small feat. Your dog may be difficult to handle as a result of anxiety. Put yourself in their paws. To go from being disowned, to settling in a shelter, to being moved out of the shelter (maybe more than once), can be confusing and scary. The responsibility rests on you to make the situation as comfortable as possible for them.
If you want to gain the trust of your rescue dog from day 1 and develop a strong bond, follow these 7 tips to make an easy transition for your rescue dog.
7 ways to make your new rescue dog feel at home
1. Create an atmosphere of calm and quiet in your home
One of the biggest anxiety triggers for dogs is loud noises. While your new rescue dog will be anxious about entering a new space no matter how tranquil, you can reduce their stress by eliminating loud noises. That means no loud music, no loud phone conversations, and no leaving the radio on full blast.
2. Get your whole household on board
Whether you have a family with kids or you live with roommates, make sure everyone in the household is on board with adopting a rescue dog, and brief everyone on how to act around the dog. Children (and even adults) will have the urge to play with the new dog, and may naturally become excited around it. After all, it’s exciting to get a new dog! But it’s important to give the dog some space and let them become acquainted with their new home. Get everyone on the same page about reducing noise in the home, limits on petting and playing, feeding schedules, etc.
3. Don’t leave the dog alone for the first week
While it’s okay to leave a dog alone for a few minutes to do a household task, avoid leaving the rescue dog alone in the home as much as possible for the first few weeks. Being alone is a common anxiety trigger for rescue dogs. If possible, take the first few days off work to be with your dog, or make sure a person in your household can be with them. Conversely, if your rescue dog whimpers in the night, avoid the urge to stay up with them all night to soothe them. You can pet them once, but it’s important for rescue dogs to learn how to self-soothe.
4. Keep the social circle small at first
While it may be tempting to show off your adorable new rescue dog to your friends and family, avoid overwhelming your dog with strangers. Confine the social circle to those in your household for the first few weeks. In addition, avoid walking the dog on routes where they may encounter lots of people and noises. Avoid dog parks at first as other dogs may be an anxiety trigger.
5. Reward good behaviour instead of punishing bad behaviour
Dogs tend to respond to positive reinforcement much better than they do to punishment. Communicating to your dog that their actions are good with rewards is a powerful training technique. People tend to only point out bad behaviour in dogs, leading to confusion. Rescue dogs may come with lots of quirks and bad habits, so it’s essential that you learn to communicate with your dog. Make sure to have lots of treats on hand to reward good behaviour, such as not pulling on the leash, lying quietly, coming when called, etc. And remember, lots of affection can be just as rewarding as a treat.
6. Buy necessary supplies, and dog-proof your home
Make sure you have everything you need before bringing a dog into your home. Purchase a leash, collar, water and food bowl, a kennel, and the proper dog food. In addition, dog-proof your house to make it safe for them. Store away any harmful chemicals, make sure your breakables are out of the way, and close any gaps in your fence. Don't forget to have fun, buy your dog some nice clothes, and maybe booties to protect their paws in Winter.
7. Be patient, and let your dog come to you
Give your new rescue dog lots of space in the first few weeks. Let your rescue dog come to you for playtime and attention when they feel comfortable. Don’t ignore your dog, but don’t overwhelm them with hugs and kisses, either. To understand how they feel, acquaint yourself with the 3-3-3 rule. Just like children in a new school or adults in a new job, dogs pass critical milestones of comfort after 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months. Help the process along by creating a predictable routine for your dog. Always have a time of day for meals, walks, quiet time, and play time.
Did you know that at Black Creek Coffee we donate 20% of our profits to dog rescues in Canada? Animal welfare is baked into our business model, and we want to use our profits to do good. Take a look at the long list of great organizations we donate to as a result of your amazing support. And don't forget to nominate your favourite rescue!
If you order some freshly roasted coffee from our coffee collection, we can continue to grow our donations to these amazing charities. We hope you join the rescue dog community!