How Long Does it Take a Rescue Dog to Adjust

Last Updated on April 16, 2023 by Becky Roberts

If you’re planning to adopt a rescue dog, it is essential to understand an adjustment period may be required. You might be a lucky new owner, whose dog takes the entire family by storm, claims his comfy doggy bed, and adjusts to feeding and walking routines instantly. For that, we say—bravo, you hit the jackpot!—but there are other pooches who take longer to adapt. From a couple of days to a couple of months even.

The most important thing to have in this whole adventure is patience. As there are no two humans alike, the same goes for pets. Think about this. A rescue dog has a history. You could adopt a puppy, but in most cases, you will likely choose an adult dog. Their personality, however charming it may be after the accommodation period, will be a challenge in the beginning.

Entering a new environment is confusing—new place, new smell, new sounds, new people. This can all be confusing for a dog. An interesting theory we have come across in our work is the “magic of threes.”

This theory transcribes into “three days, three weeks, three months” principle Adopted by many trainers, it has become somewhat a rule of thumb in a rescue dog’s adapting period to a new household and owner.

Rescue dog

Three Days

A three day period is reasonable for your dog to adapt to the new environment. In these first few days, you will be faced with multiple signs of anxiety and nervousness. Your dog will likely hideaway in a comfortable, dark space, and avoid eye contact and petting.

Feeding him or taking him out for a walk could prove to be a challenge in this short period, but it also represents the period in which security settles in. If these days occur without any violent incident (the dog biting or damaging your belongings), it’s a sign you’re on the right path.

Three Weeks

This period is mandatory for you to establish a bond and trust relationship between you and your newly adopted dog. Use this period for training, even though you might feel that all he needs right now is love and cuddles.

It is recommended to use this period to establish house boundaries and a wireless dog fence is helpful for this purpose. He will learn house rules, feeding patterns. and the feared “potty training.” It can also be a period in which fun experiences overturn anxious experiences because the dog will associate them with your presence instead of the triggering stress factor.

Three Months

Most adopters bring back a rescue dog to the shelter before this threshold passes, and this is simply because they do not understand a dog needs time to give you his trust. The first three months are crucial in building a long-term relationship based on love and rules between you and your dog.

This period will be subjected to fear from your dog, especially if you are working. Remember that it is best to take a few days off to accommodate the arrival of your pooch. In these few days you should teach him, through short periods of absence, that no matter what, you will return.

Even though shelters can be traumatizing for dogs (for some, not as much as their previous environment), they did offer stability. They had a feeding schedule. Efforts were made so that each dog received the required attention, and walks were granted as often as possible.

This pattern made them feel safe. You need to offer your dog the same level of security, and we know it doesn’t happen overnight, but dogs are forgiving. If you’ve taken a look around the Internet, you probably saw amazing transformations in countless rescue dogs after being adopted.

Take your time, be patient, and help create the same transformation yourself!

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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