Deciding to adopt or rescue an adult dog that needs a new home in favour of buying a dog or puppy is a very laudable decision, and thousands of dog lovers every year find their new forever friend in rescue centres and dog rehoming shelters up and down the country.
There is never any shortage of adult dogs needing homes at any time of the year, and by choosing to adopt, you can help to take the pressure off rehoming charities that are almost invariably always at full capacity with dogs in need of homes.
Choosing a rescue dog is hugely rewarding and enables you to give a dog a second chance at life – and these days, it is often entirely possible to find pedigree dogs of all sorts of breeds available for adoption, as well as of course lots of lovely mixed breeds and mongrels, so there is a lot of choice.
However, adopting an adult dog and making a success of things requires you to have a good understanding of the challenges that both you and your new pet will face as they settle in with you, begin to get used to the new status quo, and start to develop a bond with you as their new owner.
As you might imagine, changing from one home and owner to another or going from life in a rehoming shelter to a new home is a massive upheaval for any dog, and one that can be stressful, upsetting, and anxiety-inducing for even the most confident and outgoing of dogs.
It takes time and patience to settle a new dog into your home, and you may face some teething troubles along the way. However, by knowing how to get a dog used to a new home and learning some tips and tricks to ease the transition, you can make the whole process easier for both you and your dog, and help them to settle in more quickly.
In this article we will look at some of the factors that dictate how long it takes an adopted dog to settle into their new home, and share some advice on how to make things easier for both of you. Read on to learn more.
Before you collect your new rescue dog and bring them home with you, you should have met and interacted with the dog enough times to get a good feel for them and ensure that they are the right fit, and to allow the dog in question to begin to get to know you.
The more time you can spend with the dog before you bring them home, the easier the transition will be for them – whilst the dog probably won’t have begun to form a bond with you by this point, having some familiarity with you before you get them home will help to ease the transition.
Try to meet the dog a few times with their familiar handler, take them for a walk, and give them some treats so that they get to know you a little before you get home.
In a perfect world, your new dog will already have visited your home and have met the other residents (both human and canine) either at the home or at the shelter that they came from. This too can help to ease the transition and help the dog to settle in more smoothly.
If this is not possible, manage introductions to other dogs carefully (particularly as you will be bringing the new dog into the established territory of another dog, who will probably have some opinions on the matter themselves!) and ensure that they can get to know each other at their own pace, and establish their relative positions to each other in the pack hierarchy.
Try to ensure that the new dog isn’t overwhelmed with other dogs and people bombarding them with stimulus during their first few days; keep everything calm and monitor interactions, allowing the new dog to begin approaching other family members in their own time.
Often, the presence of an existing dog that is friendly and happy to meet a newcomer can ease the transition for an adopted dog, but you do also need to enable the dogs to get used to each other and build up a relationship between themselves without undue interference.
Try to provide a sense of familiarity and consistency to your new dog to help them to find an anchor and get more comfortable with you and your home, by keeping as much as possible the same for your dog as it was before.
Feed them the same food they are used to when you first get them, and try to ensure that you also bring their own bed, familiar toys, and whatever else may help the dog to feel secure and settle in.
Dogs thrive on having a routine so that they know what to expect from their day to day lives, and this helps them to feel safe, secure and settled. This refers to things like the sort of times of day you feed the dog, take them for walks, and generally, plan your dog’s day-to-day life.
Naturally, the routine of your own household will have its own pattern and over time, you will be able to adapt your new dog’s routine to match it, but in the first week or two when they are just finding their feet, try to maintain their old routine as far as possible.
Bringing a new dog home with you is the start of a steep learning curve for the dog as they begin to get used to what is and is not allowed, what is theirs, and what you want from them. Keeping to the dog’s old routine can help them to settle in – but when it comes to the household rules for the new dog, begin establishing these as soon as possible.
If your dog isn’t allowed on the furniture, if they have a tendency to jump up at people or otherwise manifest behaviour that you will wish to curb, begin to correct and redirect the dog immediately, so that such behaviours don’t become established.
This may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to provide a sense of familiarity for the dog, but dogs need limits and rules in order to understand their role and feel happy and secure, so start as you mean to go on and retain consistency in how you handle the dog and correct their behaviour.