The best way to welcome home your rescue dog

By Suzanne Gould
Rescue Dog Ranger

High paw to you if you are planning to adopt or have just adopted a dog into your family! It’s an exciting time with equal parts of nerves and stress thrown in for good measure. It is a confusing time for you and your new furry family member, so it is best to set off on the right foot and paw.

This is my overview of how to get the best out of your first day together and life beyond! Just remember that each dog is different, don’t rush your new dog but be mindful of the stress that they could be going through or have been through before they have even crossed your front door.

Before you pick up your new dog

Here are a few things to consider and arrange before you set off to collect your dog. I always think it’s better to be prepared for everything rather than wait to see what happens.

The dog schedule

When will they be walked, fed, trained, toileted? What will happen when you go out to work or to the shops? Who will be responsible for dog walks, feeding and clearing up after them?

Supplies & Equipment

Collar, Lead, ID Tag, Bed(s), Crate or dog gates, food bowls, Poop bags, Cleaning supplies, towels (Old human ones are fine), Blankets, Toys – although no need to overdo this at the beginning, Chews think Antlers and Nylabones, Food (The rescue center should be able to tell everything you need to know about their current diet), training treats and Grooming supplies.

Dog Proofing

It’s a good idea to go through your home and remove anything that you don’t want your dog to get their mouth around, e.g. tie up cables/wires. In short, move anything you consider valuable/essential. Get down to dog eye level just to double-check you’ve moved everything.

The Dog's Area

This is the time to decide where your dog’s bed/crates will live i.e. the living room, or maybe it’s one in the kitchen and one in your bedroom. Where will their food be kept? Where will their water and food bowls go?

The Dog Rules

Decide what your dog rules will be before your dog comes home. Will they be allowed on the sofa? Will they be allowed in every room or just a select few? It’s best to stick to these rules, its no good allowing your dog on the sofa for the first couple of days then getting frustrated he’s still getting on a week, month or year later. Ensure all the household members agree to and follow the rules too.

“It’s normal for your dog to be a little aloof so don’t expect big playtime, cuddles and good manners right away.”

The First Day

It’s so important to get this right and not to overwhelm your dog, you may want to show off your new dog. But if you can ensure a quiet first few days, then you’ll be helping your dog more than you could possibly know.

Plan where your dog will ride in your car on the way home. Will they be in your boot, in a crate or in a crate on the back seat. Ensure it is comfy with blankets and bring a couple of towels in case of travel sickness.

Head straight home. Don’t pop into the coffee shop or visit family. It is best to avoid making the trip longer than needed so no nipping to the shops on the way home. Remember that although you may have met your new dog a few times before now he will still be confused about what’s going on.

When you arrive home, take him straight to the garden/yard or street area where you’d like them to do their business. You may have to wait, but as soon as they ‘go’ praise them and reward with a treat.

Have outside meetings for people who you live with ensure they come out to meet you and your dog first. Keep it calm and low-key. Let your dog be the one to approach, sniff and control the interaction. Respect your dog’s space so NO hugging, kissing, picking up, staring at, or patting on the top of the head. No welcome-home parties, friends and family who don’t live with you can wait a few days to meet your new arrival.

welcoming home a rescue dog - a dog between the ankles of a person

Bring your dog into your home on their lead, show your dog around their new home but initially keep them in areas they will be allowed in, i.e. kitchen, dining room. If they aren’t going to be allowed in a particular room then keep the door closed. Keep calm and relaxed, don’t rush your dog and let them sniff his way around.

Show them their bed, ideally bring a blanket they have just been lying on in the car and place it on their bed. This will help them settle.

As for toilet breaks, your new dog may be house trained, but in a new home, they may need a little refresher. For the first couple of days give them frequent breaks, then get them into your routine, i.e. they go out first thing, then maybe a few hours later, after a meal and so on.

Finally, just relax. You should go about your normal routine. It’s normal for your dog to be a little aloof so don’t expect big playtime, cuddles and good manners right away. Instead let your dog relax and take in their new home which includes the sights, smells and sounds.

Day Two and Beyond

The best way to set you and your dog up for success as you start your life together is to remember that setbacks may happen but you should just carry on as you mean to do. There is no time-line for a dog to become settled in his new home, each dog is an individual so go at your dog’s pace.

You’ve already placed their bed/crate(s) in the areas you’d like your dog to sleep at night, so get in the habit of putting them to bed with a treat, in that area. This will become an established routine, your dog knows this means sleeping time. Don’t get stressed if your dog sleeps elsewhere like on the carpet and not the cosy bed you bought them.

For meal times try to follow the same feeding schedule as the rescue center which should be 2 meals a day, you can slowly adjust this to suit your timetable. Again follow the same diet as the rescue center and if you want to change it then do this slowly over a few days. Always seek the advice of your vet if you aren’t sure about which food or amount.

Chew toys are a great way to direct your dog’s attention to appropriate chews, and away from home items that you don’t want your dog to destroy. Antlers, Nylabones, Olive Wood, Root chews are all great options.

Interactive food toys such as Classic Kongs are a brilliant way to work your dog’s brain providing mental exercise. Mental exercise will tire your dog out quicker than physical exercise.

Start practicing your usual daily routine ASAP even though you’re on holiday while your dog settles in, still act like it’s your normal working day. Which means if you will be going out to work Monday to Friday for example then you need to get up at your usual time, practice going out for short periods and coming back several times a day, have meals when you normally would too. Don’t make a big fuss of coming or going. Even if you work from home there are still going to be times when you go out to the shops, to lunch, to meet friends so you still need to practice leaving your dog on their own.

Physical and mental stimulation are necessary parts of your dog’s well-being. Training will not only help you and your dog bond, but it will help your dog settle into their new home and teach your dog confidence to fit into their new life. Try going to dog training classes once your dog has settled in your home.

For the first couple of days do not take your dog for walks, only to go out for toilet breaks, this will help your dog get over the stress of moving. Once you can go out for walks stick to local walks only to start with, a walk routine in an area you are familiar with is best.

When you are familiar with your dog’s behaviour, you can venture further afield. Playtime is also a good form of exercise, bonding, and training so don’t forget this part can happen on your walks or before you leave the house. Initially don’t go for long walks, keep them short and sweet, then build them up over time. Avoid interaction with other dogs and unfamiliar people until you and your dog are comfortable with each other.

Remember you need patience and positivity to help your dog, they have gone through a big change and it’s easy to only see the bad stuff. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed take a step back and think about things from your dog’s point of view. It isn’t always plain sailing but adopting a dog is worth it.

Edinburgh Holistic Dogs is a dog walking and training service set up in 2017 by Suzanne Gould, 37. The business aims to provide Calm Confidence for Nervous and Reactive Dogs. They provide Unique Adventure Fill Group walks for Edinburgh’s hounds.

Specializing in training for Rescued/adopted Dogs which is inspired by Suzanne’s personal history of adopting her Old English Sheepdogs, she currently lives with dogs Erick and Ally.

Suzanne also noticed there is an increasing number of adopted dogs, whose owners are struggling as their dogs are considered reactive, don’t listen or are scared by people. This has earned her the name of The Rescue Dog RangerTM

Suzanne shows owners how they can transform their lives with their dogs, the training she provides isn’t your typical obedience style instead she focuses on confidence building, strengthening communication and how to handle stressful situations.

She is known for her relaxed and friendly approach when working with dogs and their owners. She always shares her own experiences with her dogs both the good and the embarrassing.

The Rescue Dog Rangers Road Map – How to transform your rescue dog into a calm confident canine, is Suzanne’s new dog training book. Released in print on 27th July 2020.

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