Last updated: 27 Oct, 2023
Published on: 23 Jun, 2022
Tips for bringing a rescue dog home
Yippee, a huge congratulations on your newest furry family member!
Even though it’s an exciting time for you, welcoming a pet into your home can be a stressful experience for them. The new environment, smells, sounds and new people may be a lot to take in.
You can tell if your dog is stressed by their body language. Stress signs include pacing or shaking, whining or barking, yawning, drooling and licking, panting or refusing treats. You may think they’re being naughty, but this behaviour can also be an attempt to self-sooth, like chewing and digging. Here you can find a helpful article about stress in dogs.
Below are some tips that can help make this transition as smooth as possible.
Create a welcoming environment
Create a calm space
A calm space is beneficial to make the transition less overwhelming. Be mindful of loud noises and try to keep things calm by introducing new people and activities slowly. Exercise can help lower their stress levels, however, avoid walks in the first few days if your new pal seems overwhelmed when out. Also, avoid dog parks or letting your dog off-lead until you’ve created a bond and you’re sure they’ve got a good recall.
Take it slow
It’s okay to take it slow. Give them time to get used to you and their new environment. It can be very stressful for your new dog to go into a new home with people they don't know. It would even be daunting for a human! If possible, take time off work or ask your employer if you can work from home to have some quality time with your new friend. During this time, focus on creating a routine and making them feel comfortable before going back to the office. Here are some great tips to get your dog used to being on their own while you’re at work.
The previous owner/carer may provide you with things like their bed and some toys. If not, ask if they have an old shirt they can give to you as the smell will create comfort and remind them of their old home. Find out if they are crate trained as crate access will provide them with a familiar 'safe space'. Stick to the same food and feeding routine they had in their previous home. Changing food suddenly can upset their tummies. You can adjust this gradually if needed once they're settled.
Stock up on the essentials
Avoid last-minute runs to the pet shop by preparing everything before your new pet arrives at your house. Ask the rescue organisation or previous owner about their dietary requirements and stock up with their favourite food and treats. Some essentials to pop on the shopping list:
A collar/harness and lead
One or two comfortable dog beds
Treats for training
A Kong or other enrichment toys
Lastly, remove hazards that could injure your dog, like cleaning products or chemicals and toxic plants. Put away things they can chew (like your favourite shoes!) just in case. Safety first, woof woof!
Now you're prepared and ready for their first 24 hours in your home. Every dog will react differently to this change, depending on their personality. In many cases, your new friend might be shy and may even whine in some instances.
Creating a special friendship
Get to know them
Not every pet will worry, and your pet might feel comfortable from day dot. But if they are a little nervous, they’ll let you know with their body language. Things like a tongue flick, whale eye, or yawning can be signs they’re uncomfortable and would like a little more space.
Find out more about what your pet is trying to tell you here.
Create a routine and set boundaries
Create a routine from the moment they come into your home. Dogs absolutely thrive in a setting where they know what and when something is happening.
Setting your boundaries and helping them understand the behaviour you like from the beginning will be very helpful for the future. Reward behaviour you like and ignore behaviour you don’t want. For example, if you don’t want your new pet to jump onto your bed, be clear about this straight away. If they sneak up there, calmly point to the ground with a command like ‘off’, followed by praise and reward. If you can, find out the commands they’re familiar with from the rescue group or previous owner.
Sometimes it can take a little longer for a dog to feel comfortable enough to fully come out of his/her shell. It all depends on personality and history. Patience is crucial, but you’ll be showered with love once you've created that special friendship. There are some fun things you can do to speed up the bonding process and it’s as simple as spending time with your new furry friend. Playtime, short training sessions with praise and treats and lots of pats are the way to their heart.
We also recommend talking to a professional, positive reinforcement trainer to help make your pet’s transition as smooth as possible and for ongoing training. The Pet Professional Guild Australia trainer directory is a great resource to find qualified trainers in your area.
For tips on introducing your new dog to your other pets, read how to introduce your new dog to your existing dog and how to introduce your new dog to the family cat.
Bringing a rescue cat home? Read about the essentials here.