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Congratulations on Choosing to Adopt a Rescue Dog


This material provides you with tips to help ensure a smooth transition for your new furry friend.



If you have not had a dog before, or if you feel the need to refresh your dog handling skills, get some books about training your dog. Different trainers use different methods, so reading several books will allow you to adopt the best method for you and your dog.

Take your dog to training classes. Your dog will learn a lot, and so will you.

Learn about the specific breed you want to adopt. You need to understand what a particular breed requires:

- whether it is easy or difficult to train

- energy level of the breed

- exercise requirements of the breed


  • Hold a family meeting to discuss rules about caring for your new dog.

  • Will she be allowed on the couch, the bed, and in all rooms of the house.

  • Where will she sleep and eat?

  • Who will walk her and clean up after her?

  • As a family, you must all be consistent with your decisions or you will confuse the dog, usually resulting in the dog making her own rules and causing unnecessary tension.


Items your dog will need:

- ID tags

- a collar

- a 6 foot leash

- food and water bowls

- good quality dog food

- dog toys

- a crate and bedding

- basic grooming tools, including brushes, combs and a tooth brush, doggy toothpaste and nail clippers.


  • 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 your dog to have access to.

  • Walk through your yard:

  • Make sure the fence is in good shape with no areas the dog may squeeze through or dig under.

  • Check the gates to make sure they are closed and securely latched.

  • Basically, baby proof your home.


Bring your new dog home when you can be home three or more days so you can comfort her and supervise her as she learns your house rules.

You do not want to leave your dog alone for more than four hours at any one time.

Outside first - When you first get home, introduce your new dog to the outside of your house before bringing her inside. Let her take in all the new smells, and take her for a walk around the block to burn off any extra energy. Show her where she will go potty.


When ready, enter and introduce your dog to your house slowly.

Restrict her access to one area of the home.

She is going to be stressed for the first few days, so the smaller the new area, the more comfortable she will be.

Keep her on a leash for at least the first day -  preferably the first three days. You don’t always have to hold on to the leash, she can drag the leash around with her, but this gives you quick access to her if needed. For safety’s sake, NEVER leave a leash on your dog when she is unsupervised.


Keep the first few days low key.

The first day your adopted dog comes home should be uneventful.

Don’t overwhelm her with visitors coming to see how cute she is, wait until she has a chance to get to know you and her new home first.

Sit back and observe your new best friend. Let her come to you.

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 (claiming their territory).

Give her plenty of quiet time to settle in.


Creating a routine will help your dog feel more comfortable.

Dogs need consistent pack structure. If they don’t have a consistent set of rules to follow, then they try to become the leader, which can create numerous behavioural problems.

You, and all humans in your home, need to be consistent.

Practice obedience training, set rules and apply them calmly and consistently, and praise your dog’s good behaviour.

She will be much more comfortable in a pack with structure and will bond more quickly to you.

Schedule her feeding, walks, sleep and play time. 

The sooner you establish a routine, the better you both will feel.


Crate training your dog, gives her a safe area to decompress and will help her feel more comfortable. The crate door can be left open. It's just a special place for your dog to go when she needs some "alone time".

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.

When it comes to training, be proactive.  Don’t wait until you see the bad behaviour. Early on, after your dog has settled into her new home, let her know what your expectations are. Where she can go, sit, and sleep, and, of course, what she can chew and not chew.


Your new dog may have never seen or experienced things you take for granted.

- stairs,

- television,

- kids,

- bicycles, or

- a lawnmower

These can all be strange and scary  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 her fearful, but slowly show her there is nothing to be afraid of.


Don’t leave kids along with your new dog.

Your rescue dog should NOT be left alone in the house with your existing pets until you have carefully monitored and controlled their interactions for a period of time. (Things could go horribly wrong.)

For the first few weeks, your dog is going to be stressed just from the fact she has moved to a new place she is not familiar with. Add a child into the mix that wants to hug and kiss the dog, and it’s a recipe for disaster (i.e. doggie bite). Even the nicest dog can bite out of fear and anxiety.

Don’t allow them to hang on the dog, hug her, chase her or put their faces to the dogs face. In other words, explain to your kids they need to give the new dog some space for a little while.


If you have another dog at home, introduce them outside before bringing her inside. Even if they’ve already met at a foster home.

Take them for a walk together.

Put the resident dog in the backyard and then 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.

You should feed your dogs in separate rooms, in case either of them exhibits any food aggressive behaviour.


Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t want to eat much or at all for the first few days. This is completely normal.

Try to feed the same food she was eating in her foster home or shelter, to alleviate any belly aches. 

Try to feed her at the same times each day.

You can wean her to a new food next week by mixing the old and new foods 50/50 for a few days, gradually increasing the proportion of the new food to 100% , but the first week keep her on food she is used to eating.

Make sure she is drinking water. You don’t want her to become dehydrated.



It is essential that you have a veterinarian. You need to establish a relationship with your vet so you are comfortable trusting his or her advice regarding your dog.

You should ensure that you have worked veterinary expenses into your houshold budget. Try to imagine how you would pay for a $2,000 emergency vet bill.

You should make an appointment to have your vet take a look at your new dog. Even if he’s gotten a clean bill of health from Home At Last Dog Rescue. You can never be too careful with your dog's health.

You should also provide to your vet all veterinary records you have received from Home At Last Dog Rescue.

You should examine your dog's poop for the next few weeks and from time to time thereafter. Although we worm all of our dogs, sometimes worms and parasites can creep up under time and stress. Any signs of abnormal poop warrants a visit to your veterinarian.



Having a dog is one of life's great joys.

But, it is also a responsibility.

Your dog cannot take care of herself. That is your job.

Each of us who has a dog in our lives takes on a moral responsibility to do all we can to care for, love and protect that dog. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

If you make the effort, you, your family and your new dog will have a happy life together.

We thank the following authors for much of the content herein.

Liam Crowe, CEO and Master Dog Behavioural Therapist at Bark Busters USA. 

Debi McKee is the creator of Rescue Dogs 101

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