Maybe it has been a long time since you have adopted or rescued a new pet. In the time you had your prior dog, you have probably forgotten how scared he was and how long he took to settle into your home. You have also probably forgotten how panicky you felt, especially that first night — thinking, “Oh no! What have I done? I’ll get NO sleep tonight; he’s going back tomorrow!” But luckily, you hung in there, you gave him time, patience and love, and before long, the whole family loved him and he was your best friend.
After the heartbreak of losing him and the waiting period, which is completely personal to you and your family, you are ready to adopt again. You sit down and decide whether it will be a puppy or a grown-up, which breed or mix of breeds will suit your household the best, how the pet chores will be delegated to family members, and where you will go to adopt. If you live alone, you will be in charge of all the responsibilities, but this adjustment will still take the same amount of time and effort to make him feel at home and secure.
When deciding between a puppy or a mature dog, you must exercise patience on both counts: older dogs who have endured trauma or abuse may have behaviors that result from fear and they’ll need time to trust their new home and people, and puppies arrive ignorant and destructive. Either one that you choose will require patience, consistency and lots of love. As the dog adjusts, he will need peace and quiet, a place of his own, children who are respectful and don’t force themselves on him until he welcomes interaction, and careful and gradual introductions to other pets in the home.
The thing that is important, if not more important than doing your homework and choosing the right breed for your lifestyle and energy level, is the amount of time a newly re-homed dog takes to fully adjust to their new surroundings and family. There is a formula that works quite well, which is referred to as the “3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Months Rule.”
It goes as follows: In the first three 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.
After three 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 is 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.
After three 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.
Any training you feel would benefit your dog will be great time together for you and the whole family. Get the kids involved in obedience and handling- and lots of exercise — it’s good for them too!
Ann Carroll writes publicity on behalf of Have a Heart Humane Society.