How Long Does It Take a Rescue Dog to Adjust to a New Home?

how long does it take a rescue dog to adjust

Thinking of bringing a rescue dog home? If you’re like most first-time rescue dog parents wondering when your new special canine friend will finally get used to their “new normal,” you’re not alone. The huge concern over how long a rescue dog will take to settle in a new home is probably the number 1 question asked.

There is no hard and fast rule on how long it takes a rescue dog to adjust to a new home. All dogs are different so it will depend on the background and life experience of the rescue dog, plus the efforts you make. Some can take 3 months, others may follow the 3-3-3 rule, while there are those that might take longer to adapt. 

If you are concerned about how long it’s going take to get your new rescue dog to settle in your home then please read on. I’ve answered more questions you could also want to know about starting life with a rescue dog, including the all-important bonding.

How do I get my rescue dog to settle?

Congratulations! You’ve done it!

You’ve finally made the brave, life-changing decision to make a rescue dog part of your family. It takes lots of courage to bring home a rescue dog, knowing they’ve probably endured horrible experiences you can only imagine.

And as you fantasize about giving them the wonderful life they deserve, you likely have worries about how long it will take for your special canine companion to adjust to your lovely home.

Rest assured; your new rescue dog buddy will eventually adjust in your home – only that there isn’t an exact timeline since every rescue dog’s life experience is unique.

It’s said that rescue dogs with less traumatic experiences often follow the 3-3-3 rule of adjusting. This rule goes a little like this – the graphic below is from RescueDogs101.com (check them out).

how do I get my rescue dog to settle
Get a rescue dog to settle with the 333 rule from RescueDogs101.com.

The first 3 days

The first three days of bringing a rescue dog home is a period for them to decompress. New owners often say there is an initial honeymoon period… but it doesn’t always last long.

When your rescue dog finally comes home, their emotions will be all over the place. It may take around three days for them to be in a calmer state of mind.

But before then, expect to see worrying behaviors such as:

  • Hiding a lot in the “safe places”— like under the table.
  • Growling when you or anyone else approaches them and / or when picked up.
  • Wanting to be left alone.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Sleeping too much and refusing to eat (here’s how to encourage eating).
  • Trembling when you try to pet them.
  • Looking sad, as though beat down.

Within 3 weeks

Your rescue dog will appear more relaxed and will be starting to settle in the new home better. They will have an idea that your home is their new home and somehow get used to their routine.

Their appetite and sleeping patterns will also improve. Plus, they will be kind of willing to interact with you.

Things won’t be all rosy, though. Your rescued buddy will likely display inappropriate behaviors (like frequent potty accidents). You will have to train them into a well-mannered companion. Sometimes it might even get worse before it gets better.

And I hate to say this but lower your expectations. In fact, throw all your expectations out of the window.

Your special canine pal will test your patience in so many ways. Expecting them to adjust quickly, or to act their best at all times will only frustrate you.

Be patient with them and correct them positively. That’s the best way to avoid breaking the trust you’re working so hard to build.

In 3 months

Your rescue dog will feel fully secure in your home, and your relationship will probably be better than you imagined. Hopefully they will be socialized.

You’ll also be convinced your furry friend is genuinely happy in their new home because of how they act. For instance:

  • They will be full of life.
  • Their personality will blossom fully.
  • They eat quite well and sleep properly.
  • They are often wagging their tail when around you.
  • They have a relaxed posture when around you or other people.
  • They get along well with other household pets.

The 3-3-3 rule doesn’t necessarily apply to all rescue dogs. Some rescue dogs will take longer to adjust to a new home.

Some dogs adjust sooner than three months. If your new four-legged companion experienced neglect and suffering prior to their prolonged stay at the shelter, it could take several months for them to settle into your home.

Just be extra patient and kind and pamper them with love. While it may take a while for everything to fall into place, your efforts should be worth it in the end.

Handy Hint: Did you know that it’s very normal to feel regret and guilt when adopting a rescue dog?

Small steps to make a rescue dog settle and adjust better

Preparing for your rescue dog’s homecoming will ensure you focus on giving them your full attention from day one.

You won’t be up and down trying to sort out what you should have done before your dog’s arrival. That said, here are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your home is dog-proof. Get rid of anything that might be a threat to your new canine friend’s safety.
  • Have a cozy crate with soft beddings ready. Your rescue dog will likely need a safe spot where they can retreat if overwhelmed.
  • Buy a comfortable leash and collar tag.
  • Repair any damages on your fence or gate to ensure your new furry friend doesn’t try to escape
  • Develop a relationship with a vet and a professional trainer before your rescue dog comes home
  • Decide on the room where your rescue dog will stay and which areas, you’ll keep off-limits (at least for some days). Finding themselves in different rooms can stress them.
  • Buy enough food for them. In this case, it’s best to stick to the food brand your dog’s been eating at the shelter.
  • Buy many assorted dog-safe toys for your new furry friend

While your rescue dog will adjust to your home in their own time — no pressure — you can make it easier for them.

There are a couple of more things you can do to ensure your rescue dog adjusts and transitions into your home as smooth as possible:

  • Give them a tour of your surroundings to familiarize them with the new smells and areas on your property. After they explore the outside environment, you can introduce them to a specific room in your house (the room that will serve as their safe space).
  • Ensure that the “safe space” is in a quiet location. If your rescue dog proceeds to curl up in a particular corner in the room, place their crate in that spot.
  • Stick to a routine from day one as closely as you can. Make sure they eat, potty, take walks, and go to bed at the same time daily.
  • Keep your home environment peaceful for the time being. Avoid loud noises that may make it hard for your rescue dog to decompress.
  • If you have another dog, it’s best to let your rescue stay in a separate area from the other household dog during the first few weeks.
  • Don’t be too quick to introduce your special furry pal to friends or extended family. The many strange faces and different personalities can make them anxious.
  • Train them on basic commands from the start. You should also be ready to train them on proper manners when you notice they’ve started moving around the house.
  • You should only focus on positive training techniques — no punishments whatsoever. If you have difficulties curbing your rescue dog’s destructive habits, don’t hesitate to consult a professional trainer.
  • Try not to be too demanding of your rescue dog’s attention. If they seem like they want to be alone, don’t force the cuddles or petting.
  • Always keep in mind the advice and rules given by the rescue center.

Normally puppies socialize quicker. Their young minds are like sponges, with inherent curiosity about the world. An adult rescue dog may take longer to adjust as they will be a little world-wearier at best or traumatized at worst.

FAQs on rescue dogs settling into new homes

How long does it take for a dog to adjust to a new home?

As mentioned earlier, this mainly depends on a rescue dog’s past life experiences. There are rescue dogs that adjust fully in less than three months, others within three months, and some take longer than three months.

What is the 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months rule?

This is a general rule on how long it typically takes for a rescue dog to adjust.

In this case, it takes about three days for them to decompress, three weeks to begin getting comfortable, and 3 months to fully adjust to their new home.

Conclusion

Taking a rescue dog home is hard work. But if you work at it, there’s a better chance they will settle into your home sooner rather than later.

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Rescue dog image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/PcKhVNNyEio

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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