Welcome Home Your New Dog with the Rescue Dog Rule of Threes!

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on October 18th, 2021

If you have recently adopted or are getting ready to adopt a rescue dog, let us say first and foremost: Congratulations! You and your new furry family member are embarking (pun intended!) on an amazing journey of friendship, love, cuddles, and, of course, challenges.

While you’re undoubtedly full of butterflies at the idea of adding a member to your pack, you might also be feeling nervous. After all, it will take some time to convince your rescue pup that they’re in for a lifetime of love and safety in their new home. And, you’ll be tasked with showering them with empathy, patience, and plenty of treats during their transition.

One great way to prepare yourself for the adjustment is to learn about the Rescue Dog Rule of Threes. This is a general timeline to understand how your new dog might see the world during the first three days, weeks, and months in their furrever home. With these guidelines in mind, you can better help your pooch start their new happy life!

Welcome home! First three days
The first three days are a whirlwind of emotions, for both you and your new pup! Here are a few things that are completely normal during this time period:

  • Confusion, fear and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for new dogs to hide, whine, howl or clam up during their first few days in their new home. They have no idea what to expect from this big change! So, they might choose to observe from under the table, avoid physical contact, and even howl for their former caretaker. Try not to take it personally; they’ll learn to trust you soon!

Note: Some dogs at this stage will make an escape attempt to get back to the last place that felt familiar. Make sure that they are in a controlled environment at home and install BreezeGuard Screens in the car to keep them safe.

  • Lack of appetite. Another common symptom of your new dog’s confusion is a lack of appetite. If your pup is refusing food at this time, don’t push them. They’ll be okay missing a meal or two and should recoup their hunger as they settle in.
  • Curiosity. Just like you might explore the rooms, drawers, and closets in a new home, your new dog may want to get the lay of the land during the first few days. Giving them an on-leash tour of the home, outdoor spaces, and eventually the neighborhood is a good way to help them feel comfortable.
  • Indoor potty accidents. No matter the age of your adopted dog, consider them unpotty-trained until proven otherwise. They have no idea what your rules are, so give them plenty of potty breaks, reward outdoor successes, and don’t punish them for accidents in the house. In other words, give them the puppy treatment, complete with understanding and encouragement!

Three weeks after adoption
After a few weeks with a new dog, things really start to get interesting! You’ll watch your canine companion’s personality unfold before your eyes, and there are a few more surprises in store:

  • Your dog will start to trust you. If your dog gave you the cold shoulder during the first week, you’re in for a milestone that will melt your heart. At this point, your dog may start to believe that they’ll be staying here for good, which is a wonderful opportunity to build a deeper bond with them.
  • They will learn your routine. Dogs are strict schedule keepers, so your pup will probably have their new routine down pat by now. This could mean that they anticipate their potty breaks and will start giving you the puppy dog eyes when mealtimes are near.
  • You can count on some goofiness. At this stage, you might start seeing glimpses of your dog’s true personality and all the silliness that comes with it. The zoomies (or scientifically, Frenetic Random Activity Periods) are a state of intense playfulness that can appear at this stage and are typically a sign of happiness and excitement.
  • And maybe also some behavior issues. Now that your dog has become comfortable enough to be themselves around you, this is when the real work begins. Building a strong training bond with your dog through the use of play and fun training sessions will help you troubleshoot behavior problems as they arise. Remember that your dog has had a lifetime of experiences before you and will need some time to let go of old habits and learn new rules and boundaries. Whether or not you’re struggling, this is a great time to join a training class or hire a certified trainer.

Three month check in
After three months, it may feel like you’ve known your doggo for a lifetime! If your dog could talk, for example, you would probably be finishing each other’s sentences. And as long as you’ve been consistent and patient with training, your pup should have a pretty good handle of your house rules and routines.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything will be smooth sailing from here on out! In fact, it’s quite common for issues to arise when owners start giving their dog too much freedom during this comfortable stage. Set your dog up for success by continuing with training, socialization, and exercise.

Final thoughts on the Rule of Threes
The Rule of Threes is an immensely helpful timeline for anyone adopting a dog from a rescue organization, shelter, or foster home. But, keep in mind that every dog is different and some circumstances can draw the process out longer. Past trauma and illness, for instance, may add in another barrier to a dog feeling comfortable around new people. And age factors like puberty or the senior years can have their own influences on your timeline.

The most important thing is to create a safe, predictable, and loving environment for your new dog. Before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine your life without them!

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