Adopting a rescue dog brings excitement, stress, and worry all at the same time. You may be wondering what the phases of a rescue dog are… how long does it take a rescue dog to adjust to your home? What can you do to help them through the transition of coming home with you?
The list of questions can go on forever. Lucky for you, you are in the right place. Rescue Dogs 101 has everything you need in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog.
What is the 3-3-3 rule when adopting a dog?
The 3-3-3 rule represents the phases of a rescue dog or common milestones your new dog or puppy will go through.
The 3-3-3 rule is the first 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months after bringing your dog home from the shelter. Sometimes also known as the “rescue dog honeymoon period“
If you’ve ever started a new job or moved to a new school, you know this feeling. The feeling of being in an unfamiliar place, new surroundings, new people, new rules.
The 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Month Rule (3-3-3 Rule)
How long does it take a rescue dog to adjust? The honest answer is, it depends. Every dog and situation 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.
The 3-3-3 dog rule is a general guideline of when a rescue dog will adjust to his new home.
Give your dog space and allow him to go at his own pace during this honeymoon period. You will look back someday 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 of 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
- Maybe 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 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
BEFORE You Bring Home Your Rescue Dog
If you haven’t brought your new rescue dog home yet, here are 4 things you should do before bringing any new dog home:
- Dog/puppy proof your house and make sure no electrical wires are 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.
- Walkthrough 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.
- Purchase a crate and set it up in a quiet place, such as your bedroom. A crate will give your dog a safe place to decompress.
- 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 Chewy.com and Amazon. Here is my Amazon shopping list for my recommendation dog products.
Bringing Home a Rescue Dog Advice
We have adopted seven dogs and fostered many more over the years, so to say I’ve gone through this phase many times is an understatement.
These steps work and will make your life easier and your dogs transition into your home 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. Show him where he will go potty and make sure to read our post on how to potty train your puppy fast. Then take him for a walk to burn off any extra energy.
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 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.
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. Introducing your new dog to the inside of your home
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 (read the 3-3-3 rule of dogs below), 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 helps me limit potty accidents.
4. Keep the first few days quiet and low-key
Don’t overwhelm him with visitors coming to see how cute he is. Don’t take him to the dog park. Avoid overwhelming situations altogether.
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.
Give your new rescue dog a safe area to decompress, this will help him feel more comfortable. An open crate is a great tool to create a comforting den-like area.
5. Create a routine starting day one
Creating a routine will also help your dog feel more comfortable. Schedule his feeding, walks, sleep and playtime.
The sooner you establish a routine, the better you both will feel. A feeding schedule will help with potty 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 from moving to a new home 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.
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.
Remember the 3-3-3 dog rule is a general guideline. Your dog will go at his/her own pace during the honeymoon period, it could take 4, 5 or maybe even 6 months. Each dog is unique. Just be there for them, comfort them when they need it and create a positive safe environment and you will be on your way of creating your perfect dog.