Bringing Home a Rescue Dog and the 3-3-3 Rule

Congratulations, you finally found the puppy or dog you want to adopt! I am super excited for you and I bet you can’t wait to bring your dog home from the shelter! But before you do, there are 4 things you should do before bringing your new dog home.

And you may be wondering how long does it take a rescue dog to adjust to your home? Keep reading and learn about the 3-3-3 Rule and my advice for bringing home your rescue dog

Before You Bring Home Your Rescue Dog:

I understand the excitement, the stress and the worry that comes with adopting and bringing a new dog home. We have adopted seven dogs over the past 25 years. As a foster dog home, we have brought in many dogs directly from being transported from other states and owner surrenders. Follow these steps for a smooth transition:

  1. Dog/puppy proof your house, go through your home and make sure there are no electrical wires hanging on the floor, pick up small items a dog may find enticing to chew, gate off areas of the home you don’t want the puppy to have access to. Basically, baby proof your home 🙂
  2. Walk through your yard and make sure the fence is in good shape with no areas the dog may squeeze or dig under the fence. Check the gates to make sure they are closed and latched.
  3. Purchase a crate and set it up in a quiet place, such as your bedroom. A crate will give your new dog a safe place to decompress.
  4. Purchase necessities such as food, food/water bowls, collar, leash and ID tag. Of course, a few toys and a bone would be nice too.

Most of our dog food, toys and supplies I buy online at and Amazon. Here is my Amazon shopping list for my recommendation dog products.

Bringing Home a Rescue Dog Advice

These steps work and will make your life easier and your dogs transition into your home so much smoother.

1. Outside Before Inside

When you first get home, introduce your new dog to the outside of your house before bringing him inside. Let him take in all the new smells, and take him for a walk around the block to burn off any extra energy. Show him where he will go potty and make sure to read our post on how to potty train your puppy fast.

2. Bringing a New Dog Home to Another Dog

If you have another dog at home, introduce them outside before bringing him inside. Even if they’ve already met at the shelter or foster home. Take them for a walk together or put the resident dog in the backyard, bring the new dog to the outside of the fence to let them smell each other.

It is important not to let the new dog “invade” your resident dog’s territory. Take this step very slowly.

As hard as it may feel, you should really wait 24-48 hours before fully introducing the new dog into your pack. Keep them in separate areas of the house for the first day to let everyone decompress.

From rescue to home your survival checklist contents

Rescue Dogs 101's
From Rescue to Home, Your Survival Checklist

  • Adoption Questionnaire
  • New Dog Shopping Checklist
  • Puppy Proofing Your Home Checklist
  • Bringing Your Adopted Dog Home
  • The 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Month Rule 
  • Dogs Body Language Quick Cheat Sheet
  • IMPORTANT: Please read The Best Way to Introduce a Second Dog Into Your Pack. Take the time to read this because it is so important to do introductions the right way.

    3. Introduction to Inside Your House

    When ready, enter and introduce your dog to your house slowly. Restrict his access to one area of the home. He is going to be stressed for the first few days, so the smaller the new area is, the more comfortable he will be. Keep him on a leash for at least the first day, preferably the first 3 days. You don’t always have to hold on to the leash, he can drag the leash around with him, but this gives you quick access to him if needed.

    I do this with each of our foster dogs. It helps the dog not get overwhelmed and it helps me limit the potty accidents.

    4. Low-Key

    Keep the first few days low-key. Don’t overwhelm him with visitors coming to see how cute he is, wait until he has a chance to get to know you and his new home first. Give him plenty of quiet time to settle in. Crate train your dog, giving him a safe area to decompress will help him feel more comfortable.

    5. Routine

    Creating a routine will also help your dog feel more comfortable. Schedule his feeding, walks, sleep and play time. The sooner you establish a routine, the better you both will feel.  A feeding schedule will help if your dog is not potty trained yet.

    6. Training

    Research dog training classes. Training is just as much for you the owner, as it is for the dog. Training your dog is so important, please don’t skip this part of being a responsible dog owner. We have a lot of training resources on our website, take advantage of them. Be proactive, don’t wait until you see the bad behavior.

    7. Kids and Dogs

    Don’t leave kids alone with your new dog. For the first few weeks, your dog is going to be stressed just from the fact he has moved to a new place he is not familiar with… add a child that just wants to hug and kiss the dog, and it’s a recipe for disaster (i.e. dog bite). Even the nicest dog can bite out of fear and protection.

    Recommended reading: Why Do Family Dogs Bite Kids?

    How Long Does it take a Rescue Dog to Adjust?

    The common milestones your new dog or puppy will go through will be the first 3 days after bringing your dog home from the shelter, then 3 weeks, then 3 months. If you’ve ever started a new job or moved to a new school, you should know this feeling. The feeling of being in an unfamiliar place, new surroundings, new people, new rules.

    The first few days are spent trying to figure it all out. Then a few weeks later, you are getting more comfortable, meeting new friends, learning the schedule, and rules. After a few months, you’ve got it all figured out and are settled in your new job or school.

    3-3-3 Rule – The 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Month Rule

    The 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Month Rule

    The 3-3-3 dog rule is a general guideline of when a rescue dog will adjust to his new home. Every dog is unique and will adjust differently. Some will follow the 3-3-3 rule to a tee, others will take 6 months or a full year to feel completely comfortable.

    Give your dog space and allow him to go at his own pace. You will look back some day and be amazed at the transformation.

    In the first 3 days,

    your new dog will be overwhelmed with his new surroundings. He will not be comfortable enough to be himself. Don’t be alarmed if he doesn’t want to eat for the first couple of days, many dogs don’t eat when they are stressed. He may shut down and want to curl up in his crate or under the table. He may be scared and unsure what is going on. Or he may be the opposite and test you to see what he can get away with, kind of like a teenager.

    • Feeling overwhelmed 
    • May be scared and unsure of what is going on 
    • Not comfortable enough to be “himself” 
    • May not want to eat or drink 
    • Shut down and want to curl up in his crate or hide under a table 
    • Testing the boundaries

    After 3 weeks,

    he’s starting to settle in, feeling more comfortable, and realizing this really may be his forever home. He has figured out his environment and getting into the routine that you have set. He lets his guard down and may start showing his real personality. Behavior issues may start showing, this is your time to be a strong pack leader and show him what is right and wrong.

    • Starting to settle in 
    • Feeling more comfortable 
    • Realizing this could possibly be his forever home 
    • Figured out his environment 
    • Getting into a routine 
    • Lets his guard down and may start showing his true personality 
    • Behavior issues may start showing up 

    After 3 months,

    your dog is now completely comfortable in his home. You have built trust and a true bond with your dog, which gives him a complete sense of security with you. He is set in his routine and will come to expect his dinner at his usual time.

    • Finally completely comfortable in his home. 
    • Building trust and a true bond 
    • Gained a complete sense of security with his new family 
    • Set in a routine 

    Enjoy your new rescue dog, he will be your best friend!

    The first thing most people want to do is show off their new puppy. Just take it slow, I know you are excited but keep in mind how your dog is feeling. He has been through a lot, he may have lost his family, abandoned in a shelter… it’s all very stressful. He needs time, so give it to him.

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    About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

    Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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