Adopting A Rescue Dog, The First Seven Days

Welcoming a rescue dog into your home is an incredible experience.

These pups have so much love to give, and adopting a rescue will ensure an amazing companion to come.

While this is an exciting time that you should certainly look forward to, there are many ways in which you need to prepare.

By understanding what to expect during your first week together, you can ensure a smooth transition for your rescued canine friend.

Let’s discuss a day by day guide on how to care for your adopted pup, and some of the best ways that you can help them adjust to being in your home.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Table of Contents

What Should I Know About Adopting A Rescue Dog?

The choice of adoption is always an incredible one.

These pups deserve a loving family like yours, and they will reward you tenfold with love and companionship.

Find A Local Dog Rescue To Adopt From

While the experience of adopting a rescue dog will always be worth any struggles and adjustments along the way, there are a few things you should expect and understand from the start.

First, you should always understand that no matter how amazing of a home you are offering, it will still be an adjustment for your rescue dog.

These pups often come from an unstable past before they made it to the shelter or rescue, and this can make it hard for them to immediately trust in their new family.

It takes 3 days for a rescue dog to no longer be afraid of their new home, 3 weeks for them to finally feel comfortable in their new home, and 3 months for their true personality to shine. 

You should also expect to practice patience and understanding with your rescue dog until they get used to being a part of your family.

This means being patient about their potty training, sleep schedule, barking, triggers, and any other bumps in the road that come along.

They will adjust, but it will take time.

If you are choosing to adopt a canine friend from a rescue or shelter, we already know that you have the patience and understanding to care for these incredible pups.

Now, let’s go into the best ways to prepare for their arrival, and what you can expect for the first 7 days.

How To Prepare For Your New Rescue Dog

Before you welcome your new canine friend into your home, there are a few ways in which you should prepare.

Ranging from having dog supplies to an introduction plan in place, let’s list a few of the best ways to prepare.

Find A Veterinarian

Make sure you find a veterinarian ahead of time, as it could take weeks to get them seen once you adopt them.

Clinics are booked out 1-2 months in advance for new patients, so finding a vet and setting an appointment the moment you agree to adoption will decrease any waiting periods.

Dog Proof Your Home

Make sure your home is dog proof.

This means making sure all trash is secured, removing poisonous plants, covering any dangerous wires, securing any cleaning supplies or chemicals, and removing any other items that could be dangerous.

Stock Up On Dog Supplies

You will want to have a leash and collar, food and water bowls, a cozy dog bed, toys, treats, and a veterinary approved diet.

Have An Introduction Plan For Other Pets In The Home

Develop an introduction plan if you have any other pets in the home.

You will want to keep them separate for the first week they are in your home to allow for proper adjustment, then slowly begin to introduce the furry friends.

A typical introduction process typically involves:

  • Initial separation
  • Sniffing each other through a door
  • Meeting through a gate
  • Interacting on a leash
  • and finally interacting freely

Every timeline will vary, so always allow your animals to take their time. 

The First Seven Days With Your Rescue Dog

Now that you are all prepared for your rescue dog’s arrival, it’s time to enjoy your first week together.

Let’s break it down from day 1 to 7 on what to expect during your first week with a rescue dog.

Day 1

On day one of bringing your rescue dog home, there should be no major expectations.

You should simply allow your new pup to explore their new surroundings at their own pace, and show them that you will not force any interactions or experiences.

By doing this, you will be setting a sturdy foundation for the week to come.

If your rescue dog is especially nervous, they may do well with only having one room to explore.

Having an entire home to explore can be scary for some dogs, so confining them to one small space may allow them to calm their nerves during the first 24 hours in your home.

If you do offer your rescue dog any new snacks or toys, be sure to set them on the ground if they are too afraid to grab them from you.

Once they learn that you can be trusted, they will feel more comfortable with taking treats out of your hand.

Day 2

Your rescue dog will still be getting used to your home on day 2, but they may feel a bit more comfortable after their first night.

You may notice them exploring more and more of the house when given the chance, and some may even welcome interactions with you and other members of the home.

While this is wonderful, you should still remember to give your dog as much space as they need.

Having a calm and quiet home is essential for these first few days, so simply relaxing and allowing them to explore is always best.

By day 2, you should also begin to implement some structure that you will follow moving forward.

This means establishing meal times, potty breaks, walks, and any other routines you may want to implement.

Your pup may not catch on immediately, but it’s a good idea to start now.

Dogs thrive on a structured routine, so this can even help them settle into their new life. 

Day 3

By day 3, you will notice that your rescue dog is much less fearful of their new environment.

Their nerves have likely settled enough to let their guard down, so they will begin to feel a lot more comfortable with you and your home.

You may notice your rescue dog being eager to be next to you, go on walks, eat treats, and explore their new surroundings.

You really want to focus on building trust at this point, so we encourage you to spend as much time with your new pup as possible.

Now that they know they are not in danger in your home, you will want to encourage bonding as much as possible.

Simple things like going on walks, playing fetch, and welcomed cuddle sessions will go a long way.

Also be sure that you are sticking to your established routine.

They will be more receptive to this structure now that they are not so afraid, so these rules will really begin to stick.

Day 4

Not much will change from day 3 to 4, but you will notice your new rescue dog getting more and more comfortable as each day passes.

While you will begin to bond with your pup and start making memories, you may also begin to notice a few bad habits.

If this is the case, it’s important to refrain from any negative reinforcement, as this is a crucial time for your pup to feel safe with you.

Any bad habits should be addressed with basic obedience training (if they know any), positive reinforcement for good behavior, and plenty of patience.

You wont fix these issues overnight, but you can help your pup understand that they do not have to fear you if they do something wrong.

Also keep in mind that your adopted dog is still learning the ropes, so try not to be too hard on them for things like potty training issues or crying at night.

They will grasp these concepts soon. 

Day 5

When day 5 rolls around, your pup should be well integrated into the family.

They are typically comfortable in the home, at your side, and even catching on to some of your routines.

You may even feel comfortable enough to take your new rescue pup on new adventures, whether this is on a long walk in your neighborhood or your favorite spot at the park.

Your pup should also be acclimated enough to have them assessed by a veterinarian at this point.

Most rescue dogs will be fully vaccinated and vetted at the time of adoption, but it is still important to have them assessed by your veterinarian of choice.

This not only establishes a veterinary relationship for the future, but it can also spot any underlying conditions that could have been missing in a shelter setting.

Day 6

Similar to day 5, you can typically begin to explore more of the world with your new rescue dog.

You are starting to really get to know each other and what your pup enjoys, as well as any triggers they may encounter along the way.

By taking note of these things as you see them, you can better help your pup address these issues in the near future.

Day 7

As you wrap up your first week with your beloved rescue dog, the two of you will be on the way to building a beautiful friendship moving forward.

At this point you may have a general idea of what they enjoy, what scares them, and any behavioral issues they may struggle with.

You can then confront these issues as the weeks go on, especially now that your rescue dog understands that they can trust you.

If you do have any other pets in your home, you can typically begin the process of introducing them at this point.

Just be sure to follow recommended socialization rules, as simply putting them together can be extremely dangerous.

Just remember that every dog is different, so you will need to cater your introduction plan to fit your pet’s needs.

Moving Forward With Your New Rescue Pup

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

As we mentioned above, it can still take up to 3 months for your rescue dog’s true personality to shine.

As long as you continue to strengthen the bond between you and your pup, follow a structured routine, and address any behavioral concerns in a positive way, your rescue dog will feel comfortable with coming out of their shell.

A beautiful future lies ahead for you and your rescued pup!

Final Thoughts

Adopting a rescue dog will require patience and understanding, but you will be rewarded with a loyal and loving companion in the long run.

Be sure to take this time to really get to know your pup and show them that they are safe in your home, and it will make all the difference for your future together.

— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article Adopting a rescue dog: 20 tips for the first seven days  from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

While you can find plenty of guides online about preparing to bring your newly adopted dog home, it’s not always easy to find information that focuses solely on how to understand your new family member.

What is he thinking? How is he feeling? What would he be telling you if he could talk?

The first seven days after adopting a rescue dog are crucial for building a bond with your new pup, so here are my top 20 tips to help make the transition go as smoothly as possible. These are based on my own personal experience of adopting rescue dogs over the years.

The two most important things you can do when bringing home your new rescue dog 

Let’s start with these because they will form the foundation of your and your dog’s entire experience.

  1. Make sure your dog is safe and that he actually FEELS safe.
  2. Leave him alone and allow him time to de-stress.

That’s it. Those were bonus starter tips, so let’s now get into the 20 I promised.

#1. The dog’s gear

When you are adopting a rescue dog, the dog should already be microchipped. If he’s not for some reason, you might want to get this done as soon as possible. The rescue organization or dog shelter will need to change his ownership and contact details with whichever microchip registry he is listed on. Or they may have you do this yourself.

Make sure the dog has a flat collar with his name and phone number on it, preferably embroidered. I prefer this to the printed option because I find it more durable.

If you use tags, make sure they don’t clang against each other. It’s a good idea to use a well-fitted harness and attach the leash to it. I prefer not to attach the leash to the dog’s collar to try to avoid risk of injury to the dog’s neck or throat if he pulls on the leash. He’s also less likely to be able to escape out of a leash.

Put the collar, harness and leash on him at the rescue before you leave for home. You can also use two leashes and clip one to the back D-ring and one to the front D-ring for extra security.

Once you get home, make sure he has the chance to go to the bathroom before you bring him inside. Take him for a short walk if he seems relaxed and not too scared. Let him sniff around his new area and start to get used to his new surroundings.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
After a few days spent settling in at home, we took Lennox for his first walk. We double leashed him as per our adoption contract with the rescue organization but also because we wanted to be safe if he got scared and tried to back out of his harness © The Cat and Dog House

#2. Setting up the dog’s environment

Inside the home, set up a safe space or room for him away from household noise and other pets. Include a cozy bed, food, water, toys, chew toys, and puppy pads if you think he might need them. Remove anything he might chew or swallow. Consider wires and blind cords, household chemicals, fabric, shoes, and plants (some plants are toxic for dogs).

Make sure the space is safe. If your new dog is in a bathroom or laundry room, make sure that cleaning products are removed or inaccessible and the toilet lid is closed.

Make sure the space is quiet and not in a busy area of the house. Be prepared for him to cry or whine if he is scared or lonely, especially on his first night. He may have abandonment issues or separation anxiety. In such cases, it may be easier to use a dog gate so he is not completely cut off. If you do this, it’s best to keep other pets away to begin with.

Don’t hesitate to go and sit in the room with him if he’s not too scared. Talk to him gently, avoid making direct eye contact, feed him delicious treats (you can place them on the floor if he doesn’t want to take them from your hand), and try to calm him. When you leave the room you can give him a Kong stuffed full of goodies, a safe chew toy, or a LickiMat to keep him busy and help him relax.

Note: in my experience gastro upsets are quite common in newly adopted dogs due to the stress and change in diet. So try not to overdo it with the treats!

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Lennox’s first night in his new home – he’s in his own room with a cozy bed, his blanket from the car ride that has his own scent, and a stuffed Kong to keep him relaxed and provide mental stimulation © The Cat and Dog House

#3. Should I crate my dog?

Personally, I would not. I have only once crated any of my dogs (when we lived in the US). It is actually against the law in Finland (where we now live) and is generally less common in Europe than it is in the US. A safe space or room works perfectly well and gives the dog more freedom of choice, which helps build trust and confidence.

If you do decide to use a dog crate you will need to condition the dog to it so he enjoys going in and spending time in there, rather than feel scared and stressed about it.

#4. Food and water

If possible, find out what the dog was eating and keep to the same food to start with. You can gradually change it by adding a bit of your preferred food to the initial food over a week or so until the dog has adjusted to the new food.

I prefer to feed twice a day to establish a routine and give the dog something pleasant to look forward to (the more “highlights” in his day, the better for his overall mood state).

Some dogs may be wary of stainless steel dishes, either because of the way they reflect the light or the way their tags clank against them. In which case you can offer a ceramic food bowl option. Ditto his water bowl.

This way, you can start to get to know your dog and find out his preferences so you can make him feel as safe and secure as possible.

Watch out for resource guarding behavior when he has food or treats (or also is in his bed or has a toy) and respect his warnings, such as growling, freezing, whale eye (whites of the eyes showing), stiffened musculature, ears back. You can work on the resource guarding later if you need to.

#5. Bathroom breaks

If the dog is confident enough to leave his safe area, take him outside on a leash for potty breaks every few hours. Don’t let other pets see him at this stage. If he doesn’t want to leave his room, that’s why you have the puppy pads as a backup.

#6. Downtime

If he’s extra nervous, you can try some relaxing music. If he’s relaxed, happy, and friendly you can of course move things along much faster. This is a good time to start building your bond with him, but the key is to work to his timeline and not yours.

#7. The dog’s background

You may not know anything about your new dog’s background. I would avoid trying to guess and make assumptions and just work with what you see.

Note that your dog may have negative associations with certain words (including his name if you elect not to change it) or certain objects.

Pay close attention and always talk to him calmly and quietly.

#8. Avoid eye contact and trying to touch/hug

He probably isn’t ready yet for hugs and kisses and I would also avoid backing him into a corner or approaching him unless he has an option to move away if he gets scared.

#9. Build up time spent with the dog and always watching for signals

Be aware of the dog’s body language. Yawning, tongue flicks, ears pinned back, low tail carriage or tucked tail, and turning away can be signs of stress or a desire not to fully engage. Just take your time, there’s no rush.

Conversely, if the dog is super happy and excited to come to greet you when you go into his room or area, give him all the attention he wants and start building up your bond right away!

#10. Understand how the dog feels

Remember this is all new for the dog: new environment, people, pets, scents, sounds, food, daily routine… His emotions may be all over the place. Let him adjust in his own time.

#11. Don’t rush it

There’s no need to rush straight out for a walk or to the dog park or to play with other pets. And there’s no rush to start training new things either. The dog is, most likely, already in a state of emotional overload and may struggle to focus on learning or retaining new information.

#12. Open the door and replace it with a dog gate

As the dog starts to get to know you and is more relaxed, you can use a dog gate so he can see out into the house. Keep other pets at a distance and reward calm behavior with treats.

#13. Introducing other pets

Manage the home environment carefully, and always put safety first. You can use a dog gate or baby gate, leashes, and long lines to make sure nothing goes wrong.

To start with, your new dog will already be separated from the other adult dogs (or resident pets) in his safe zone. When you notice indications that he’s beginning to relax and feel more at ease, you can start letting them see each other at a distance and pairing the interaction with yummy treats, making sure both pets remain calm and relaxed before gradually moving them closer together.

You might need to do several of these controlled introductions over a period of days or even weeks before the dogs (or cats for that matter) are ready to meet face-to-face without any barriers between them.

Keep interactions short and positive. It’s important to go at the pace that is right for both dogs and not rush things. It makes life much easier in the long run!

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Lennox (left) and Esme during one of their earlier off-leash meetings. You can see Lennox is demonstrating a tongue flick as a sign of stress. He is, however, free to move away as he wishes © The Cat and Dog House

#14. Introducing family members

Depending the on the dog, different family members can take the dog his food or offer him treats. If there are children in the house, never leave them alone with the dog – or any dog.

Read more  How Can I Remove Skunk Odor from a Dog?

#15. Going outdoors

If the dog is interested in going outside, start doing short outings in your yard. Keep the dog on a harness and leash if you don’t have a fence.

If you do have a fence, make sure the dog isn’t trying to jump over it or burst through the gate.

And don’t have him loose with other dogs yet. Feed him treats so he learns that being with you is a good thing.

#16. Introduce the dog to his new home

Remove other pets and let the dog out of his safe zone to explore the house. You can keep him on a long line for safety.

Let him sniff areas where other pets have been. Once he’s finished exploring, take him back to his safe place. If he wants to go back there at any time, respect his decision.

If you can engineer it safely, you can have other household pets go in and sniff around your new dog’s area when he’s outside or in another room.

Let them get used to each other’s scents and reward for calm behavior.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Newly adopted Lennox is sniffing his new yard and learning all about his new canine siblings from the scents they’ve left behind, while the other dogs remain safely in the house © The Cat and Dog House

#17. Walks

Keep walks short to begin with. Your new dog is still getting to know you and learning to trust you.

Use a long line or leash if necessary so you don’t have to stand too close to him and take treats with you so you can encourage him to go in whichever direction you want him to.

Use both a harness and flat collar and two leashes if you feel the dog may be a flight risk.

#18. Continue to work on building trust

#19. Build up exposure to other pets

Keep your dog leashed in the house until you’re sure he can safely be around other pets. You don’t have to hold the leash, but it’s there ready for you to grab if you need to intervene quickly.

Walking dogs together can be a good way to build up their bond through a shared positive experience. A confident, established dog can also be a huge help for the new arrival if they are scared.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
This is Lennox’s (right) first walk with resident dogs Roman and Florence. We started walking them together at a distance to help build up positive associations in a neutral environment © The Cat and Dog House

#20. The 3-3-3 Rule

The 3-3-3 rule is intended as a general guideline for what owners of newly adopted rescue dogs can expect in the first three days, the first three weeks, and the first three months after bringing their new pet home.

While there’s no real “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to animals and your shelter dog should never be rushed into doing something he’s not comfortable with while he’s still adjusting to his new life, the 3-3-3 rule can provide a helpful benchmark for managing expectations and understanding the dog’s perspective during the adjustment period.

What if my dog has behavior issues?

Fear, stress, anxiety, or other behavior issues may sometimes arise as a dog settles in and feels more comfortable “being himself” so to speak. This is the fun time when your dog’s true personality starts to come out. Be patient and stay calm, and contact a qualified, positive reinforcement trainer if you need help.

Final thoughts

This is not intended to be a step-by-step guide. Many of the things I’ve talked about here will overlap or occur in a different order. Things don’t always go according to plan and you may need to adjust on the fly.

I recommend you take all your cues from the dog and become a master at reading his body language and signals. And never rush it – let him set the timetable for his first week, first month, and so on to ensure a smooth transition.

You have plenty of time to get to know each other, for him to get to know his new family, go on fabulous walks, and meet fun new people and other pets. Wait till he’s ready and let him make his own choices. This way you’ll build confidence and trust in you. By empowering him to make his own decisions, he’ll feel more in control of his own life, so he’ll be calmer and more relaxed.

And forget all that old stuff about dominance and being the alpha dog, it’s completely outdated and inappropriate. You and your pup are a team!


  • 3-3-3 Rule Of Adoption – Winnipeg Humane Society
  • Plants Toxic to Dogs – ASPCA
If you need more help dealing with a training or behavior issue, please find professional help from a force-free dog trainer who can consult with you either in person or remotely. The COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers, the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe, the International Companion Animal Network, the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, and the Pet Professional Guild are all good places to start. All dog owners deserve to have successful relationships with their canine companions!

— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article Adopting a Rescue Dog: Tips For Surviving The First Seven Days from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

So you’ve decided you’d like to introduce a dog into your family and have settled on rescuing a dog. Congratulations! Adopting a dog tips rescue can be a tough transition, so check out these helpful tips for surviving the first seven days with your new doggo.

By adopting a rescue dog, you are giving a new lease on life to a dog that may have been mistreated in the past but is still deserving of a loving foster home.

There are many benefits to adopting a dog bed, but they will also need a lot of rehabilitation and maybe even renaming.

The first week is a really important time to establish good routines, create a safe and loving space for your new dog, and make a bond that will last for years to come.

The first few days need to be approached with care and intention to make sure that the foundation of your new family dynamic is set correctly for everyone, including your new dog.

Preparing To Adopt Rescue Dogs

Before you bring your dog home, you’ll need to make sure your house is completely puppy-proof. This means looking out for anything that could be dangerous to them and either removing it or making it safe.

Puppy adoption is exciting, but puppies are notoriously too curious for their own good. You have a think about the things that are accessible to them; kids’ toys, household chemicals, and any wires or electrical equipment.

You’ll also need to do the same in your garden – make sure there are no gaps in the fence and be aware of plants that could be dangerous for your new dog.

After you have made sure your house is safe, you’ll need to buy all the equipment you need for your dog. As a bare minimum, you’ll need a bed, dog food and bowls, a collar, a leash, some toys, and a crate.

Check out our new puppy checklist to make sure you have the right tools to get your new rescue dog started off on the right paw. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Day 1: Bringing Your Dog Home

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

The first day with a foster dog will be full of a lot of firsts for you and your dog. Before you go to collect your dog, make sure you have a safe space set up for them at home, like a crate or a bed that is just theirs. If you’re collecting them in the car, think about a safe way to transport them home too.

Don’t go overboard on the first day. Keep everything as minimal as possible. Try to create a calm environment for your dog with plenty of downtime so that they don’t get overwhelmed.

Avoid introducing too many new toys or family members to them all at once. If possible, take children and other pets out of the house for the first few hours while your dog settles in.

Try and minimize the amount of space they have to explore to just a couple of rooms so they don’t feel unnecessarily overwhelmed. After the first few hours, you can introduce your family members to your new dog nice and slowly.

Wait until they are calm and relaxed, and let your dog meet them one by one. Always allow the dog to go up to new people and pets if and when they want to. This will help build confidence with each new experience.

For the first night, you should ensure that dogs sleep wherever their designated sleeping place will be. Perhaps it’ll be in a crate downstairs or maybe at the foot of your bed in a basket.

Don’t forget to take them out to go to the bathroom before bedtime, and make sure they are comfortable.

Don’t be surprised if your dog whimpers throughout the night; this is normal behaviour for a dog who is scared and in a new place.

When your dog whimpers, gently reach over and give them a little stroke for the first couple of times in an attempt to calm them down. If this doesn’t work, you will likely have to ignore the behaviour until they learn to self-soothe and relax.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Day 2: Get to Know Each Other

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Day two is the first day your dog will wake up in their brand new home. Day two should be spent getting to know your dog and allowing them to get to know you.

Keep the space that they are allowed to explore limited to just a few rooms for the second day too, they already have a lot of new experiences to process so don’t overwhelm them.

If you work, it would be great to take the first few days off so you can spend this time getting to know your dog and helping them adjust to their new life.

If possible, you should spend the whole day with them. Allow them to come over to you if they’d like to. Try out a few tricks to see how much they might already know (or not know).

Take them for a walk to let them get accustomed to your neighbourhood and usual walking routine. Make sure you keep them on a leash while you’re getting to know them and their behaviours.

These first few days are vital in establishing a positive bond between the two of you and other family members if they will also be a significant presence in your new dog’s life.

Day 3: Develop Trust

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

On the third day, you can start to expand the amount of space they have to explore in the house.

You will still need to keep a very close eye on them, and at any point that you can’t be with them, limit the area they have to explore to just one room, or even better, a crate or ex-pen.

If there are children or other pets in the home, encourage them not to approach the dog unless she comes over to them for attention.

This will ensure that your dog doesn’t feel overcrowded and can adjust to their new life in their own time, without any pressure.

To develop trust between you both, never shout or use any kind of punishment. Dogs respond well to positive training methods rather than an alpha male approach.

Day 4: Start to Create a Routine

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Now that your dog is beginning to trust you and you know them a little better, you can start to introduce a routine that will help to ensure they feel safe and secure.

For their routine, you’ll need to work in meals, walks, time for training, rest periods and brain games, which will keep them mentally stimulated.

You can use a crate to encourage periods of rest. A good routine will help your dog to settle in quickly; an inconsistent daily routine can lead to anxiety in your dog as they will be worrying about what to expect next.

Dogs like to have a predictable routine, especially those dogs that have been in a shelter and haven’t had the best start to their life.

Day 5: Begin Training

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

It can be challenging to train your new pup because the likelihood is that they’ll be bringing a lifetime of bad habits with them.

You’ll need to have lots of patience and an abundance of treats and toys!

Try not to expect too much from your dog in the first few weeks, they’ll need to build up their level of trust in you before they start to want to please you.

Start off with basic obedience training such as sit. Always carry out any training in an area free from distraction. Make the session positive, and never shout or get cross. Keep the sessions short but frequent throughout the day.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Day 6: A Visit to the Vets

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Ideally, you will have already found a vet before bringing your dog home. Bringing home a shelter dog might even be able to offer suggestions of a veterinarian in the local area.

Your dog will need a checkup within the first week of your bringing them into your home. This can be quite a stressful experience for your dog, as the clinical environment might remind them of the rescue center in which they used to live in.

To prepare your new pet for this visit, you can take a look at your dog’s ears, mouth and paws at home to get them used to this type of interaction.

It might help to just have a visit to the vets as a social call, and perhaps give him a treat while you’re inside chatting to the vet. Then leave and return a few days later for her checkup.

Your vet might be able to offer help on their diet and nutrition and recommended exercises as well as tend to any medical needs they might have.

Day 7: Dealing With Destructive Behaviors

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Now that your new dog has had a few days to settle in, you might start to see some destructive behaviours coming out.

Many dogs that come from challenging home situations and shelters will have behaviour problems stemming from fear and anxiety about their previous experiences.

It’s even possible that the reason they ended up in a rescue center was that their previous owner wasn’t well equipped enough to train them adequately.

Some of the most common behaviours you may see can include; “accidents” in the house, chewing, excessive barking, pulling on the leash, jumping up, no recall and sometimes even aggression.

Each of these things will need careful retraining, but here are some quick tips for each one.

Accidents in the house

If your dog isn’t house-trained, you’ll need to treat them very much like a puppy and retrain them. Watch your dog constantly and look out for any signs that they have to pee. Sniffing, whining and circling are all signs that they might need to go.

Take them outside immediately if you spot any of these signs. It will also help to stick to a regular feeding schedule and frequently take them out to use the bathroom.

Don’t get angry with them or scold them; always try to stay positive, even when there are accidents.

If your new dog is still having accidents after the first few weeks despite a consistent effort to house train them, take them to a vet to check for any medical reasons behind this.

If bringing home a rescue dog needs a little more help quickly learning the ins and outs of potty training, check out our Puppy Potty Training Tips. 


Something that not everyone thinks about before they adopt a rescue dog is the damage they can do to your house. Rescue dogs often need a little time to adjust to their new home, and some come with anxiety from abandonment or abuse issues. No matter how young or old your adopted dog is, destructive chewing is something you need to be prepared for.

Any destructive behavioral issues, such as chewing, need to be positively redirected. If you spot them chewing the leg of a chair, give them an appropriate toy instead. Don’t leave things on the floor that they can chew and puppy-proof your house.

Make sure they have activities and distractions to prevent bored and destructive behaviours while they are settling into their new environment. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days


If your dog is barking a lot, there is usually a reason behind the barking. Your dog might bark if they are lonely, bored, not getting enough attention, stressed or feel the need to protect the house.

You’ll need to figure out which one of these behaviors is the root cause and then tackle that reason. For example, if your dog is bored, you can try to mentally stimulate them more and play brain games such as a treasure hunt or hide and seek.

Pulling on the leash

To train how long should i  walk my dog patiently alongside me, treat training a rescue is often the best method. Each time your dog is walking, how you want them to, reward them with a treat.

If they are struggling with this concept, standstill each time he tries to pull, and when he stops pulling, reward him. For more tips on loose-leash training, check out How to Stop Your Dog From Pulling on Leash.

Jumping up

If your dog tries to jump up at you, ignore him and turn your back. Without any attention, they should soon tire of this behaviour.

Practice introductions often, and reward them when they approach correctly. This won’t happen overnight and will require a consistent approach from you and everyone else in your house to help your dog understand the appropriate behaviours for getting your attention. 


Depending on the level of aggression, you might need to seek professional guidance from a dog trainer. If they bite or snap at you, growl or snarl or do anything that makes you feel afraid, then it is an excellent time to seek help.

The longer the behaviour is allowed to go on, the harder it will be to fix it. Your dog is only reacting out of fear or anxiety, so a trainer can help you isolate the issue and find safe ways to help your dog feel at ease.

If your dog’s aggression is isolated to meeting strangers on your daily walks, then you might be dealing with leash aggression. Learn how to build your dog’s confidence and break this intimidating behaviour in Tips for Overcoming Leash Aggression in Dogs. 

One Week Onward – Adopting a Rescue Dog

It can take up to six months for your new dog to fully settle into your home and their new life, so don’t be disappointed if, after the first week, they aren’t perfectly behaved and fitting in well.

Deciding to adopt a pet of any kind is a huge commitment, and you should be prepared to invest a lot of time and love into your dog. Rescue dogs often come with some behaviours and routines that you will need to train them out of, so don’t expect a perfectly trained dog just because he’s not a puppy anymore. 

You need to consider all aspects of your new dog’s health and needs, including diet, training, routine, exercise, and don’t forget fun!

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Have you struggled to acclimate your new dog into your home? Share your rescue stories, successes, and tips with us in the comments below!

— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article Bringing Your Adopted Dog Home – The Critical First 7 Days from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

Bringing home your newly adopted rescue dog is super exciting. You are starting a new life journey with your dog, he is now forever part of your family! Let’s ensure the first week goes well and without issues.

The first few days and even weeks can be confusing for you and your rescue puppy. Learning what to expect this first week can help ease your worries.

As a foster family we get to experience the joy of bringing home a new dog several times a year. Even though we only have our fosters for an average of a month at a time, the first seven days goes the same each and every time!

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

What to Expect When Adopting and Bringing Home a Rescue Dog 

You have just adopted your new pup and he is now in his forever home, but your dog does NOT understand that yet. Your dog may have been in a shelter, foster home or bounced from shelter to foster home several times. He is most likely confused, stressed out, and unclear of his future.

Hopefully, you prepared before bringing your new dog home, but now is a good time to review to make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Each experience with each dog is different. Every dog is unique! I’ve learned something new with every new dog we’ve fostered and adopted. I hope my experiences can help you make your dogs transition to his new home as smooth as possible.

Recommend Reading Just For You: Bringing Your New Dog Home and the 3-3-3 Rule

Day 1: Bringing Your Adopted Dog Home

Let Your Newly Adopted Dog Decompress

  • Before you bring your dog inside your home, take him outside to where you want him to go potty and take him for a long walk.
  • The first day your adopted dog comes home should be uneventful. Keep things quiet and calm, as tempting as it may feel, don’t invite all your friends to meet him.
  • It’s important to give your new dog space to decompress. Set up an area of your home that he can chill out for a while. A crate with a bed or blankets in the room is a great start. You don’t need to shut the door to the crate, just have it as space for him to retreat if he wants.
  • Sit back and observe your new best friend. Let him come to you, if you have kids, don’t allow them to hang on the dog, hug him, put their faces to the dogs face, etc. In other words, explain to your kids they need to give the new dog some space for a little while.
  • Learn to read your dogs body language. It will help you bond and understand your dog so much better!
  • When we first bring in a new foster dog, she is on a leash next to me, in my home office while I work, or in their crate. I never give a foster dog free roam of our house. I learned my lesson pretty quickly on this… too many potty accidents and personal items chewed upon.
Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Bringing Home a Shelter Dog and Other Pets

If you have other pets in the home, keep them separated for the first 24 hours. Remember, your new dog is stressed; meeting another dog just ads another layer of stress and can result in a dogfight. This goes for even if your dog is the most friendly dog ever or if the dogs have met before. Bringing another dog into your home is different than a casual meeting and dogs reactive differently when it is in their territory.

Whenever we bring in a new foster dog, they are separated from our dogs for a full 24 hours. The 24-hour rule is actually required by the rescue I work with. I will admit, the first few times we brought in a foster, this was very hard.

It’s so tempting to want to bring the dog in and let everyone play. Our home is an open concept and it’s hard to divide any spaces, but I use a baby gate and a room divider to block off our kitchen. This is where our foster dogs stay the first day in our home.

Recommend Reading Just For You: The Best Way to Introduce a Second Dog Into Your Pack

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Your Rescue Dog May or May Not Want to Eat

Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t want to eat the first few days, this is completely normal. Try to feed the same food he was eating in his foster home or shelter, to alleviate any belly aches. You can wean him to a new food next week, but the first week keep things simple. Make sure he is drinking water; you don’t want him to get dehydrated.

This is a little gross but look at his poop for the next few weeks. Even if the shelter or foster home gave him a clean bill of health, sometimes worms and parasites can creep up under time and stress. Any signs of abnormal poop warrants a visit to your vet.

Which reminds me, you should make an appointment to have your vet take a look at your new dog. Again, even if he’s gotten a clean bill of health through a rescue or shelter, I recommend having your own vet take a look at your new dog and give them a copy of his health records.

Read more  Why is My Dog Limping? 6 Possible Causes.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Your Rescue Dogs First Night

Your new dog is most likely going to be exhausted the first few nights. If at all possible, I recommend having your dog sleep in his crate at night.  A crate will keep them safe and out of trouble when you are sleeping. We put a crate in our bedroom for our new foster dogs to sleep, this helps the dogs feel more comfortable in the crate if they are not already crate trained.

Day 2: Getting Your Dog Comfortable

The second day your dog may want to explore his surrounds more. Every dog is different; so don’t be concerned if your newly adopted dog prefers to hide under the table or in his crate. This is perfectly normal and part of the decompression processes.

But if your dog wants more attention, then give it to him slowly. Do not give your newly adopted dog full access to your home. Keeping his freedom to a minimum will help keep unwanted behaviors at bay.

I know, you look into those puppy eyes and wonder what could he possibly do that would be unwanted! Well, when a dog is stressed and in a new environment, there is a lot of trouble to be found. Potty accidents, chewing, male dogs may mark, trying to claim their territory, and who knows what else! Learn more about How to Potty Train a Dog Fast & Easy.

If you have other pets, you may introduce them now. If it is another dog, make the meeting outside in a neutral area. Take them both for a long walk together before entering the home again. If you have a cat, then I suggest keeping the introduction on the cat’s terms. Using a baby gate to give the cat a space to escape if desired.

Remember, your new dog may have never seen or experienced things you take for granted. Stairs, television, kids, bicycles, etc. can all be strange to a new dog. It’s always interesting to me with every foster dog we bring in, each one has some sort of quirk. A many of our fosters have never been on a structured walk, so when we walked by a big boulder, or a someone riding a bike, the dog would jump back out of fear. It’s important to keep all this in mind when introducing and exposing your dog to new experiences. Always be patient, positive and reassuring. Don’t avoid the things that make him fearful, but slowly show him there is nothing to be afraid of.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Days 3-7: Creating a Routine for Your Adopted Dog

Slowly add activities throughout the first week. Simply going for daily walks to explore the neighborhood is enough. Every dog will be different and each dog will need its own amount of time to adjust to his new home. So learn to read your dog’s body language and take it slow.

If you thought your dog was potty trained but is having accidents in the house, don’t be too alarmed… this is pretty normal. Just go back to basics of potty training. If he is marking in the house, keep your dog on a leash or crated until you can trust him. This could be days, weeks or months.

Create a routine. Dogs and people alike strive on a schedule. Feed your dog twice a day, walk every day, etc.

Don’t allow behaviors just because you feel sorry for your dog. If you allow it now, it makes it more difficult to change in the future. Lay the rules down now. If you don’t want your dog on the couch, never allow him on the couch. If you don’t want your dog to beg at the kitchen table, don’t allow it this week just because he’s new to your home.

Do you need to take a dog training class? Every dog is different. You may get lucky and your dog was already trained in his previous life. But 9 out of 10 times, your dog was surrendered or abandoned because he wasn’t trained.

Read about the different type of dog trainers and decide what is best for you and your dog.

Does Your Adopted Dog Have Doggy Baggage?

We all come with a history (baggage), and a rescue dog is no different. You may not know much about your dogs past, or maybe you do. Either way, don’t feel sorry for your dog. Your dog needs a strong leader that he can trust and lean on when needed, not someone to feel sorry for him.

Show your dog he can trust you to protect him when he needs it most. The first week, month and 3 months are critical times for you and your dog.

Recommended just for you:

  • The Ultimate Guide on How To Adopt A Dog
  • Bringing Home a Rescue Dog and the 3-3-3 Rule
  • What are the First Things I Need to Teach My New Puppy?

— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article Adopting a rescue dog: Follow these tips the first seven days from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

When you bring your new rescue dog home, the first week is critical in ensuring that they settle into family life successfully.

So you’re adopting a rescue dog? That’s great news! You’ve probably thought all about the physical things that your new family member will need, their bed, food, bowls, a lead, and some toys.

You should have already found a vet, dog-proofed your home, chosen any restricted areas, and perhaps you’ve thought about renaming your dog too, but what about how to help them settle in and feel safe?

When you bring your new rescue dog home, the first week is critical in ensuring that they settle into family life successfully.

Here are some top tips for ensuring your dog has a stress-free transition from the rescue center to its new home.

Day one: Bringing your rescue dog home

Bringing your new dog home is probably a memory that will last for a lifetime, both for you and the dog so try to plan for as a positive experience as possible.

You should already be prepared and have their space set up before they come home. This area should be somewhere quiet, not in the central living area, but also not too far away from you all.

If you have an area close to your main living space that can be separated using a baby gate, this is ideal. This provides them with a space of their own where they can observe you can get to know you, and interact with the family on their own terms.

If you plan on crate training your rescue dog, you can leave the crate in this area. The crate should be large enough for them to stand up and turn around.

You should also leave a bowl of water and toys in this area to have plenty to occupy their minds.

When you first bring your dog home, remember that less is more. You shouldn’t crowd them, give them space, and create a nice relaxing environment.

Keep young children or other pets away from their designated area for the first few hours to allow them to settle in, and give attention when they come to seek it out.

They may cry, howl, or whine on their first night, and it can be scary settling into a new space which lots of new sights and smells. 

According to Barkspot, canines howl to express their emotions. Indeed, most often, puppies do this act; however, adult dogs seek attention and may feel lonely at nighttime as well. With the new surroundings, the situation may lead to this kind of scenario. 

Day two: Get to know each other

Today is the day you can introduce them to younger members of the family and any other pets you might have. Take this part slowly.

Allow one family member to be introduced and give the rescue dog space if they walk away. Ideally, you should make sure they can always get back to their own private space.

Allow your dog to get to know their new surroundings and feel comfortable with you all. By this point, you should still be limiting the area of your home that you let fido in so they don’t feel too overwhelmed.

Day three: Develop trust

You obviously know that this is their new forever home, but your rescue dog does not. Spend the first few days developing their trust in you, so the dog feels comfortable and begins to understand it won’t be moved again.

When you are training your new dog, make sure that you only ever use positive reinforcement. Never use force or get angry with your dog. This will help them to learn to trust you.

For example, if a dog starts displaying chewing behaviors, distract them with a toy that they can chew rather than shout at them or punish them.

Day four: Start building a routine

To help your rescue dog adjust, create a daily routine that includes walks, meals, potty trips outside, chew toys or games to keep their brains stimulated, and training.

Now that your new rescue dog is starting to develop trust in you and feel more comfortable, you can start implementing a routine.

This will help them predict what will happen and when and will help them settle in quickly.

Most dogs need a minimum of two walks per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, so aim to do this at the same time so your dog can look forward to their walks.

They will also need two regular meals, potty trips outside, chew toys or games to keep their brains stimulated, and training.

One of the best benefits of rescuing a dog is that they are usually potty trained, so you won’t need to spend weeks using puppy training pads and teaching them where to pee!

If you can stick to a regular pattern, this will help your dog fully settle into its new life.

Day five: Visit the vet

Hopefully, before you brought your rescue dog home, you found a local vet. Most rescue centers will have carried out basic checks on all their dogs too, but it’s important to visit your own vet so your dog can get used to them.

Have your own veterinarian do their own checks, and make sure the dog is microchipped and up-to-date with all their vaccinations.

Day six: Increase your rescue dog’s freedom 

Once your rescue dog has built up a level of trust in you, and you are beginning to get to know them more, you’ll be able to give them more freedom.

This can start with allowing them access to the rest of your house (minus any restricted areas) and beginning to let them off-leash in the garden to work on their recall.

Day seven: Identify destructive behaviors

After a week, you should begin to spot any behaviors that might arise that aren’t desirable. This is because your dog is now feeling comfortable to be themselves, but you’ll need to nip these in the bud as soon as possible.

If you spot them chewing furniture, guide them away with a chew toy and allow them to chew on that.

If they are begging at the table, jumping up on the couch, or digging in your yard, don’t allow them to continue those behaviors because you want them to feel at home.

Your rescue dog will thank you for making the boundaries clear in the long run!

If the shelter got your adopted dog from a different owner, things such as hands, sticks, and leashes might have been items used for training your pet. Phrases like “lie down” or “come here” can generate a response different from the one you’re anticipating.

If your canine lived a sheltered life, the dog might be unfamiliar with outside activities and children. There may be a challenge with communication in some instances, and you’ll need to be patient.

Make the most of your first week with your rescue dog

There are permanent gains in adopting a rescue dog. Don’t forget you’re saving an animal’s life when adopting. Moreover, you’re giving a safe shelter to a deserving dog and relieving resources and space for other canines in need.  

You can browse online for a reputable shelter where you can adopt rescue dogs. Note that the procedure for adoption may differ per shelter. Nevertheless, you’ll most likely have to submit documents relating to the history of your pet ownership, adoption questionnaire, and contact details.

Hopefully, you’ll now understand just how important the first week is in caring for your new rescue dog. Your main aim is to help them feel safe within your home and around all your family members so that they can trust you.

Remember, many dogs that have been in rescue shelters haven’t come from a loving family, so it may take a bit of time to build that trust up and show them that you love them, but it is certainly worth it!

David Woods has been an animal lover for as long as he can remember and is the founder of My Pets Name. He has two degrees and studied Applied Animal Behavior and Animal Welfare. He is also a member of the Dog Writers Association of America.  

— Update: 14-02-2023 — found an additional article  Adopting a rescue dog: the first seven days  from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

It’s finally happened! You’re a proud, new pet owner. 

You’ve taken the time to research what type of dog would be best for your lifestyle and reading about how to go about adopting one from a shelter. Finally, you found the perfect match; Your life is suddenly complete. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Grace – Want to adopt Grace? Click on her photo to find out more about her –

But what happens next? How do you know if this is going to work out? What are some things that you can expect in those first seven days as your new rescue pup adjusts to his new home? In this blog post, we will discuss topics on how to let your new dog adjust, getting to know your new pup, and establishing a routine all within that first week. 

Make sure to check out our other helpful tips for cats and dogs in our Pets section including article like How To Help Your Local Pet Rescue.

We also want to mention that while we’re saying “rescue dog” in this article this applies to all dogs whether from a shelter/rescue or a reputable breeder. All dogs need time to decompress and together you need to learn about each other and establish a routine and more.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
To find out more about this sweet girl named “Reason” please click on her photo to go to her adoption page. She tends to be some what of a velcro dog, so she would love someone who has availability for her. She would love to snuggle if you will let her.

We are also sharing photos and links to dogs currently waiting for the furever homes from one of my favorite rescues and the one that I work with (on the cat team) and where we adopted our girl Nyx from in December 2019 – Three Little Pitties (also Saving Kitties) Rescue. Just click on the photo of the dog to go to their adoption profile. 

How to settle a rescue dog (or any dog) into a new home 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Sophie Blue Eyes is the most beautiful, playful, cuddly girl! To find out more about her click on her photo

Settling into a new environment can be overwhelming for everyone, your rescue dog is no different. You must start slowly with them, while still trying to get them accustomed to things like their new space, toy, bed, food bowl, etc. It is crucial to prepare the house for your rescue dog before bringing them home, as bringing in a bunch of new things for them during their adjustment period can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for them.  

       How long does it take for a dog to adjust?

Every dog is different and may have been through different things in their life before you adopted them. Even if you’re adopting a puppy it doesn’t mean it’s any easier, in fact, puppies are a lot of work, usually more so than adult dogs.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Meredith was an OWNED dog in Houston. Used for years for breeding and only seen at the vet for insemination and c-sections; she was posted for Free on Facebook after the “owners” stated they could not manage her skin issues. Her friendly and happy disposition make this girl a pleasure to care for. She loves snuggling and will whine for petting. To find out more about Mini Meredith click on her photo to her adoption page:

There are things that can sometimes affect their trust and ability to bond quickly. The usual expectation follows the 3-3-3 rule, which is 3 days to get accustomed to surroundings, 3 weeks to become used to house rules and begin bonding, and 3 months to feel truly at home. But while this is a common rule, many dogs can take anywhere from 3 months to a year before they are fully adjusted and can feel at home. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Meet 2 year old Chula! Are you ready for an adventure buddy who enjoys relaxing in the yard before a sunset stroll? Chula is ready to give that to you! Click on her photo to find out more about her

Adopting a Rescue Dog: What To Expect For The First Seven Days 

If you are adopting a rescue dog, the first 7 days are a crucial time for both you and your new furry friend. This will be a period of adjustment for you both, so it is normal to expect tension, anxiety, and curiosity.

Your dog will be in a brand-new environment with someone who is a stranger to them. You must be patient, understanding, and respectful of their boundaries during this time. Even still, you want to introduce them to things slowly and make them feel welcome with you in your new home together. 

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Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

Day 1: Bringing Your Dog Home 

Day 1 is all about minimizing stress, trying to keep your new dog from getting overwhelmed, and introducing them to necessities only. You can give them a toy or a treat but do not try to train them immediately or give them free rein of the house. This will surely overwhelm them and increase their stress, making it harder for them to adjust. Keep it simple by introducing them only to the members who will be consistently living in the house, their bed, and the room in which they will spend most of their time in. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Eugene has had a rough life and is now ready for the good life! This lovable senior is good with other dogs and all people, and just wants a comfy couch to lounge around on. He is almost perfect in every way and loves to cuddle and kiss you. Click on his photo to find out more about him.

Day 2: Getting to Know Each Other 

Day 2 is an exciting day because you can start trying to form a bond with your new dog. Don’t be overly aggressive with your affections or allow any small children to infiltrate their space just yet, but you can all sit quietly in a room with the dog and allow them to explore you.

You can play and interact with the dog of course, but do not force any activities on them unless they have shown they are ready. You also want to slowly introduce them to other things in the house, perhaps only showing them a new section every day, this way they can slowly explore without the stress. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Coco is amazing at agility and would love a home with an active person. She won’t need to run 5 miles a day but would love to learn agility based enrichment activities. She can play hard but she can also nap harder! Click on her photo to find out how to adopt her!

Days 3-7: Creating & Establishing A Solid Routine for Your New Rescue Dog 

The rest of the week should be dedicated to continuing to let them explore and become comfortable with the home and your family, while also introducing a routine to their life. A routine established early, will give the dog a sense of security and control. They know what will happen when and where things are, so it relieves them of a lot of unknowns. 

       Meal Time

You will want to establish designated meal times so that your dog will know when to expect food, and is less likely to beg throughout the day. Designated meal times keep you and your dog on a schedule so that you do not overfeed them.


Your new dog, regardless if they are old or young, will need exercise. It is a good idea to have designated exercise times so that your dog knows when it is appropriate to let loose all that energy, they may be holding in. Even older dogs will need daily walks to keep healthy and in shape, and it is a good way for you to spend time alone together to bond. 

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Elly would love a relaxed place to hang out with her people. She is house and crate trained, walks well on a leash and gets along with dogs, cats, kids and everybody she meets. Click on her photo to find out more about her


Similar to exercise, you want to give your new dog designated playtimes, or at least attempt to. Your dog may want to play a lot, which is great, but you want to make sure they understand when and where to play, so they do not end up destroying furniture or running wild around smaller children or pets.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Not available for adoption – Our dog Nyx whom we adopted from Three LIttle Pitties Rescue

       Potty Areas

Potty areas are essential to be introduced early. If you plan to let them outside and there is a specific section of the yard for doing their business then be sure to direct them there every time you take them out. You also want to pay attention to when your dog needs to go out and try to find consistent times to take them so that they will begin to understand the potty routine.


Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days
Empress is an older well behaved lady. Empress loves to spend time outside feeling the sun on her back. She loves to go on laid back walks and take breaks often to roll around in the cool grass in the shade. Click on her photo to find out more about her.

It is very helpful for a dog to have a place for bedtime that they consider their own. While you may be tempted to let them sleep with you in your bed, letting them have their own space allows them a sense of security in their new environment. Be sure to direct them to their space and bed, you can introduce this to them before bedtime so they understand it is theirs. Then follow up before bedtime to let them know this is when we sleep, and that is where you sleep. This will help solidify a sleeping schedule for them. 

The first seven days+ at home with your dog is an adjustment period for you both

A rescue dog is a lovable companion, they may just need some extra patience and love once they are brought to a new home. If you follow these tips, you are sure to have a happy and well-adjusted furry companion for life. 

— Update: 14-02-2023 — found an additional article Adopting a Rescue Dog: The First 7 Days from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

When adopting a rescue dog, the first 7 days is often the most important time when building your relationship with your new furry friend.

It’s such an exciting time adopting a new dog! 

You picture all the fun you’ll have together: taking walks, playing fetch, and just snuggling on the couch together.

But you have to remember that the new dog will be confused and stressed from being transferred from place to place.

Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

He may have been a stray, in a home, in a shelter, or in a rescue.

He may have had many changes in his life and will need time to settle in with you.

The first week is crucial to the new relationship with your dog.

I’ve had many rescue dogs over the years. They’ve been some of the best dogs I’ve ever had (of course, I love all my dogs). 

But it’s especially rewarding to help a dog be the exceptional canine he was meant to be.

Preparation Is Important

If you’re planning to adopt a dog, it’s important to prepare for him. That way, the environment won’t be more stressful than it has to be.

There’s so much to do when a new dog’s coming home. 

The rooms he’ll have access to must be safe. Even if he’s an adult dog, I recommend “puppy-proofing” them.

Your new addition will be stressed when you take him home. Stressed dogs may get into things and chew them because of anxiety.

So remove items that may be tempting and put them out of his reach. This can include the television remote, shoes, knick-knacks, and the like.

But have safe toys that he can have such as an Extreme Kong. I have a few ready, stuffed with pate moist dog food and frozen.

Also walk your property to make sure there’s nothing dangerous to him. And, if it’s fenced, make sure there are no areas where he can escape.

Have dishes, treats, and food ready. 

I recommend continuing the food that he’s been eating for at least a few weeks so that he doesn’t get diarrhea. You can always change the food later.

I also recommend having an appropriately sized crate too. And a bed. And maybe an exercise pen if your dog isn’t used to a crate yet. Or even a baby gate to block him into a “safe room” if that’s how he’ll be left alone.

Over time, you can teach your dog how to be crated. But I would wait until the pup has adjusted to your home first.

Depending where you adopt him from, you may also need a leash and collar.

Have his area set up prior to his arrival.

If you’ve had other dogs, you may already have these items. Or a friend may give you theirs. 

Make sure to clean them first so that the prior dog’s scent isn’t on them.

And don’t forget an odor neutralizer to clean up any accidents. I like Rocco & Roxie’s Stain and Odor Remover, which comes in various formulas for different surfaces.

Also, have him checked out in the first couple of days by a veterinarian so that you can determine whether she sees any health issues. The vet will probably want to check a stool sample for internal parasites.

Chill Out

Your new dog will probably be overwhelmed coming into your house. There are so many new sights, sounds, and scents.

We all want to show off our new furry baby. But that can wait.

When I get a new dog, I want my friends to see him. But I’ll hold off for at least a few days–and sometimes weeks–depending on the dog and how I see him adapt.

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Each dog’s unique.

Some of my rescues really acted like they lived with me forever, whereas some took many weeks to settle in.

Let Your New Dog Decompress

Don’t force him into new situations too quickly.  Set up an area away from family activity so that he can chill out.

Have any children ignore him and give him space. Keep him separate from your dogs or cats for the first day or so.

I realize that the new dog may have met them prior to adoption. But it’s different when he comes to live in their home.

Keep his first day uneventful. Just do what’s necessary.

You can keep him on a leash near you so that you’ll have some control to take him outside  and walk him.

Take him out to potty. Feed him. Just the essentials.

Don’t force attention on him. Let him observe you and come to you.

If he’s used to walks and seems friendly and wants to take a short walk, do so. But it’s really important that his collar or harness fits him and he can’t escape.

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Don’t take your new dog outside without him being on a leash. Some dogs can even escape from a fenced yard. Until he feels safe, he may try to flee out of stress.

It’s also crucial that his collar or harness fits and that he can’t slip out of them. Some dogs are the canine equivalent of Houdini. I recommend a well-fitted Martingale collar on a leash and a second leash with a harness at first. Dogs can’t back out of a Martingale collar.

Read Your Dog

I don’t mean like a book. But watch his body language. 

Doing so will help your bond and understand him better.

Watch out for stress signs or signs of fearfulness, like: drooling, whale eye (where the whites of his eyes show), tucked tail, ears pulled back, lip licking, hiding under furniture, dandruff or excess hair shedding, shaking/trembling, or whining.

Your new addition may show some of these signs the first day or even longer until he feels more comfortable.

If the pup shows excessive fearfulness for a longer period, get professional help from a canine behavior specialist. 

What’s Normal and What’s Not

Of course your new dog will take time to get used to his new environment.

But there are some things you should look for to determine whether he’s doing well.

Of course, when you show him on leash around his new home, show him where his food will be. And show him a readily accessible water bowl in the area of your home where he’ll be.

Eating and Drinking

The first couple of days, your new rescued dog may not want to eat. He’s probably stressed, and some dogs who are stressed won’t eat.

If he doesn’t eat for more than two days, I recommend taking him to the vet to be sure that there isn’t a physical problem.

Make sure that he’s drinking water, though, so that he doesn’t become dehydrated.

Behavioral Concerns

During the first few days or week, your new dog may have certain behaviors that will concern you.

Remember that he’s probably very stressed and might adapt over time.

He may bark at you or at other new people and things. Redirect him to something else that’s appropriate, like a stuffed Extreme Kong, or avoid being touched.

He may show excessive fear and may whine and urinate when you approach, 

He may try to chew on furniture or other inappropriate items. So don’t give him too much freedom too soon. And puppy proof the area he’ll be confined to.

Remember: he probably has some doggy behavioral baggage. But it might be a light suitcase.

Medical Concerns

Within the first couple of days, have your vet examine your new dog. But you may also have some concerns regarding his health,

If he has diarrhea, it may be caused by stress if his diet is the same one he had prior to adoption’

I recommend a vet visit because dogs may dehydrate from diarrhea.

If anything else seems amiss, such as sluggishness or other concerns, of course a vet visit is also in order.

PRO-TRAINER TIP: If your dog’s behaviors seem excessive to you or if, within the first week he shows any aggression (including growling, lunging, air snapping, or biting), get immediate professional help from a behaviorist who has experience with such issues.

The First Day and Night

The first day and night home for a new dog or puppy can be a difficult one.

Of course, take him out to potty as soon as you get home. If he doesn’t go to the bathroom, keep him on a leash with you and keep taking him out to go.

One of my rescues, an adult sheltie named Lady, needed many times out to potty before she felt comfortable to do so–even though she had to go badly.

Take him on a leashed tour of your house. Just the areas he’ll live in at first. Show him where his food and water will be. And where his bed and crate are.

You want to make your new addition comfortable and feel safe. So put a crate in your bedroom for nighttime.

If he’s used to a crate, that’s great. Make sure that the crate is big enough for him to stand up in, turn around in, and lie down in.

If he’s still growing, get a crate with a divider that you can move as he grows.

You can leave a crate with the door open in the main room he’ll be in with you for the first week.  It can be his safe space, with a bed and a stuffed Extreme Kong.

Take him on leash out to potty and for a short walk if he’s used to walks. The rescue or shelter (or private owner) should be able to give you this information.

I advise taking him out to potty just as you would a young puppy. Even if he was house trained before, he’ll need a refresher in a new environment.

Use a potty phrase (“go potty” or “quickly”) and praise and reward immediately after he’s pottied.

He’ll meet other family members during the next week.

The first night will probably be difficult. You newcomer may whine and cry in his crate or exercise pen. 

Settle him in his crate (if he’s used to one) or exercise pen in your bedroom. 

Give him a safe stuffed Extreme Kong. 

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Have a few Extreme Kongs stuffed with some mashed dog food that have been frozen. These will keep him busy and will show him that positive things happen in those settings.

The Second Day

Of course, the schedule I suggest is just that: a suggestion. Each dog’s an individual. 

But even with the friendliest, outgoing dogs, you don’t want to flood them with too many experiences too soon.

If they’re exposed too quickly to everything, they may not behave as well as they would if a systematic approach were used.

If you can take him on a walk first, I’d do so to set him up to succeed. Make sure he’s pottied first thing in the morning.

Feed him and make sure that he drinks water. Then potty him again.

Some dogs may want to explore their new home, whereas others may just watch their surroundings.

Give him attention slowly, on his own terms. You can use treats to have him have a positive association with you.

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Use high-value treats with your new pup, so that he’ll have a great association with you. You want to make sure that the treats agree with him so that he doesn’t get diarrhea or a stomach upset. Boiled chicken (as long as he doesn’t have a chicken allergy) or freeze-dried liver may fit the bill, as they are a single ingredient unlikely to upset him. Make sure you give him pea-sized treats, not large ones, each time.

So when he approaches you, give him a treat and tell him in a mild but happy voice what a good boy he is. If he at first doesn’t come too close, gently toss him a few treats.

Depending on how your new dog is doing, you can introduce him off your property on neutral ground to your existing dog.

Have another handler (presumably another family member or friend your current dog knows and likes) walk your current dog.

Walk them about 10 feet apart parallel to each other.

Assuming they met prior to the adoption and got along, after a while when they’ve settled down, have them meet on leash for a few seconds. Then walk apart again. 

Do this a few times, letting them meet for longer times as long as the meetings are successful.

Over the next week, they can take longer walks and meet more often. If things are going well, you can then have them meet in the same way on your property.

And, as long as they’re getting along, you can have them meet inside on a loose leash. Then, as long as they’re friendly to each other, have the leashes drag should you need to redirect them. 

PRO-TRAINER TIP: Don’t leave any valuable items out that either may guard while they’re together. So no food, chews, treats, or toys should around when you have them meet and get to know each other.

If there are problems such as aggression between the two dogs, I recommend getting the help of a positive reinforcement behaviorist. And, of course, keep them apart.

Days Three Through Seven

There are some measures you’ll want to take to ensure the smoothest transition for your new family member.

Create a Routine

A routine is important for all dogs. They learn what’s expected of them and gain confidence in their environment.

Take it slowly. But have regular times for feedings, walks, play, pottying, training, and just relaxing and getting to know each other.

Exercise will help him be less stressed and, as long as he likes walks, will help him bond with you.

As long as he doesn’t guard toys and likes to play with them, play fetch. Of course, do this without your other dog present.

The amount of and type of exercise you provide will depend on his age, health, and breed(s).

Expose Him to Everyday Life Slowly

You may not know much about your new dog’s background. So take it slowly. As he’s able to handle it, expose him to the TV, to the dishwasher, to stairs, and to cars and bikes passing by.

If he’s too scared, go back a step to where he was successful. For example, he may be able to be near the dishwasher at 20 feet away but not at five feet.

Set Limits and Boundaries

Don’t feel bad for doing this. It’s for your dog’s safety and not to have him develop unwanted behaviors.

Of course, as I’ve discussed above, block him off in a section of your house that’s been “puppy-proofed” and where you can watch him.

Since you can see him, have a leash dragging if you need to redirect him away from or to something. 

Praise and reward when he engages in desired behavior like being calm, investigating his environment, or trying to engage with you.

Resist the Urge To Spoil Him

I know it’s hard not to give in to those pleading puppy dog eyes. But don’t.

If he likes cuddling, fine. That can increase your bond. But constantly cuddling him can set him up for problems. 

When you see that he’s confident and wants to, call him over to you to be petted. And praise and reward that behavior..

If he gets constant attention though, he may develop separation anxiety. Or he may not listen when you don’t want to or can’t give him attention.

Give him praise and treats when he’s earned them. 

Introductions to Others

Give him a couple of days. But introduce him to the people he’ll be living with.

As you did when you greeted him, make it a positive experience. Don’t have them rush him. 

Instead, have them come into the room (or already be in the room) calmly, sitting down. If he’s a shy dog, they shouldn’t stare at him.

Have them give him treats or gently toss them to him.

Depending on his progress, you can introduce him towards the end of the week to a friend or two. But don’t introduce him to a crowd of people.

Over the weeks to come, he can meet neighbors and other friends if they listen to you to do so in a non-confrontational, positive manner.

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

After he’s been with you for a few days, you have to get him used to being away from you.

Velcro dogs are more likely to develop separation anxiety’

So leave him for a short time in a safe area like a crate if he’s used to a crate. If he’s not, I would get him used to one over time.

You can leave him in an appropriately sized exercise pen. Or a safe room where he can’t get into trouble.

Patience Is Key

There’s so much to do when any dog joins the family. I understand that it can be overwhelming at times.

But take a step back and think of the small successes–the “puppy steps”–you make. And remember the reward at the end: a great dog who’s your best buddy.

Expect Accidents and Some Setbacks

There will probably be some potty accidents even if he was house trained in his prior setting.

Just clean it up with an odor neutralizer. And take him outside to his potty spot more often.

Begin Some Basic Training

As long as your pup seems to trust you and doesn’t exhibit any behavioral or health concerns, start teaching some basic commands like sit.

It will help your bond and establish some rules.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a new dog may be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

But take things slowly. Move at the dog’s pace. Don’t overwhelm him.

With patience, you’ll probably have one of the greatest dogs you’ll ever have.

Did you adopt your dog?

How were the first 7 days.

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Adopting a rescue dog the first seven days

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— Update: 14-02-2023 — found an additional article Adopting a Dog: The First Week from the website for the keyword adopting a rescue dog the first seven days.

Adopting a dog is an exciting time. When the time comes to finally bring your new pet home, though, it’s important to keep a level-head to set you and your new pup up for success. 

It takes more than buying the right supplies and dog-proofing your home to prepare for your new dog. Once they’re in the house, you need to be proactive about planning how they’ explore, who they’ll meet, and where they’ll spend most of the time.

The first week is crucial to establishing your relationship with your new dog. Setting rules and expectations for good behavior will prevent them from acting out in the long run. The following tips will help you build a routine with your dog to help them adjust to their new home life. 

Set limitations and boundaries during the first week

You may want to give your dog free rein of the house to help them familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. This is a common pitfall for new owners. The truth is a new environment can be overwhelming for dogs. And how do dogs respond when they get too excited? They pee. 

For the first week or so, section your dog off to one part of the house that people use often so they can get a sense of what goes on. The kitchen, garage, laundry room, or a certain section of the living room will all do. Use a baby gate to block access in or out of your dog’s area. If you don’t have the extra space, you can use a crate. Even if you do have the extra space, a crate is a great tool to have to satisfy a dog’s natural den instincts. Just make sure you don’t keep them in their crate for too long at once. 

The overall intent of setting boundaries for your dog is to ease them into their new surroundings. Instead of letting them experience everything at once, you want to establish a baseline of comfort and familiarity by focusing their time in a few particular spots. From there you can introduce them to new places and things slowly.

Keep your dog on a leash inside the house

It may seem counter-intuitive, but keeping your dog leashed inside helps establish discipline. You have more control over your dog when they’re on a leash. Start setting expectations for behavior as soon as you enter with them. Take them for a short tour around the house and then take them outside where you want them to go to the bathroom. While you walk them around the house, give them praise for the right behavior: taking potty breaks outside, drinking from their water bowl, and laying down quietly. 

Don’t think of the leash as a punishment. It’s a tool to help you redirect your dog in case they get into something you don’t want them to. Don’t leave your dog alone with a leash on, though. It could be a choking hazard. 

Get your dog into an exercise routine

The first week with your adopted dog is about building routines, and that extends to exercise. You may not think your dog needs much exercise if they have low energy when you first bring them home. Don’t be fooled, though. All of the new happenings are tiring for a dog and result in lower energy than usual. They’ll bounce back to their normal energy levels when they get comfortable. When that happens you want to have a routine in place.

Start taking your dog for regular walks the first day they’re home. Go for short walks at first in areas of your neighborhood that are quieter. There are two goals for these early walks: exercise and seeing how your dog reacts while on a leash. Keeping your dog to secluded, calmer areas limits the potential for mishaps while getting them outside and moving.

You can also use indoor exercises to keep your dog active in the house. Remember that a tired dog is a happy dog. Exercising them regularly will help them adapt to their new home quicker. Even if they’re not showing signs of wanting to go outside or play, take the lead and they’ll follow you.

If you’re not sure how much exercise your dog should be getting, you can look at their breed mix for guidance. Some mixed breed dogs might have more active breeds in their ancestry that you wouldn’t guess just by looking at them. A DNA test can identify these breeds and tell you more about your dog’s exercise needs.

Resist the urge to spoil your dog 

When you first bring your newly adopted dog home, it’s understandable to want to show them with love, especially if you know they have a troubled past. But this would be a disservice to them. Giving your dog too many treats, cuddling them constantly, and letting them do whatever or go wherever they please is asking for trouble. This sort of coddling gives your dog the idea that they can do whatever they want and get rewarded for it now. It seems harmless during the first few weeks, but it could develop into long-term behavior issues.

Only give your dog treats when they’ve earned them. Don’t always show them affection when they ask for it. This could lead to clingy attention-seeking behaviors. If your dog isn’t allowed on the furniture, don’t make an exception during the first week. There’s plenty of times where cuddling your dog and rewarding them is appropriate and good for the both of you. But in the beginning, make sure the house rules are clear.

Give a refresher on potty training

Adopting a dog that’s house-trained doesn’t mean you’ll be accident-free. It’s common for rescue dogs to have accidents in the house early on. Dogs struggle with generalizing, so what they learned in one home doesn’t automatically transfer to a new home. Just to be safe and prevent unwanted accidents, give your newly adopted dog a refresher on potty training.

Once again, keeping a schedule is key. Taking your dog out the same times each day tips them off to what they should be doing. has a few other tips for re-housetraining, including rewarding your dog with treats after they go outside, using a signal phrase like “go potty” each time you take them out, and choosing a location that isn’t too far from your door.

Keeping your dog confined to one area and keeping an eye on them throughout the day will help prevent accidents as well. 

Limit visits from friends and family members

Just like with places, new people are overwhelming to dogs if there’s too much too soon. Throwing a “Welcome Home” party isn’t the best idea, at least for the first month or so. Focus on introducing them to other members of the household first. Hold meetings outside on neutral ground and introduce your dog to each person one-on-one. 

If you’re introducing your dog to friends you invite over, there are a few extra tips you can follow. Ask your guest to greet you before they greet your dog. You don’t want the new person to get your dog overly excited. Just act like you would if your dog wasn’t there. From there, let your dog make the approach. Give your guests some treats and ask them to reinforce any commands you’ve been working on with your dog. 

Get your dog used to you being away during the first week

When you first bring your dog home you may want to spend all your time with them to make sure they’re doing alright. The best approach is to carry on business as usual, though. No matter how much time you spend with your newly adopted dog in the beginning, eventually you’ll have to leave home for work or other commitments. 

It’s okay to spend a little extra time at home to see how they’re adjusting, but too much will create the expectation that you’ll always be around. You want to make sure your dog can handle being alone. Take a few short trips outside without your dog during the first week to see how they act. The sooner you get them acclimated to your schedule, the better.

Transition your dog’s food slowly

If you want to switch your dog’s food because of diet or health concerns, make sure to do so gradually. If you give them something different from what the shelter fed them all at once, it could lead to digestion and other tummy problems. Like with everything else that’s new, introduce them to the food you picked out slowly.

Make sure you have some of the shelter’s food on hand for the transition. Hill’s has a handy schedule outlining the portions you should mix of each food type by day during the first week. 

Wrapping up

While you work on each tip, you want to observe your dog’s behavior and personality to get a sense of how they react to different things. Are they apprehensive, scared, or aggressive? Keep an eye out for any problem areas so you know what to focus on with training in the beginning.

Once you and your dog are more familiar with each other and they start gaining confidence in their new home, you can start letting off the brakes and give them more freedom around the house. The measures you take during the first week will set the pace for your whole relationship together. A little patience and discipline will pay off greatly in the long run.


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About the Author: Tung Chi