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Before you bring your new rescue dog home, you need to be prepared for its, and your, needs. To have the most success, you should have a plan before your new four-legged family member comes home.

In fact, the preparations should start before you even go to the shelter to pick out a rescue pup. Taking on the responsibilities that come with being a dog owner should not be taken lightly. And, adopting a rescue dog can add even more responsibilities – at least in the beginning.

Puppies will typically adjust to a new home fairly quickly, whereas it may take an older rescue dog months before he’s completely comfortable in his new home. Read this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to get a jump start on your canine ownership responsibilities.

READ THIS: 10 Reasons You Should Probably NOT Adopt a Rescue Dog

Rescue Dog Step-By-Step Guide
what to do in the first 30 days

Rescue Dog Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1 – Discuss things with your human family

Before you go to pick out a dog, and really before you fully decide to get one, make sure everyone in your household knows the rules. Things like “will the dog be allowed on the couch”, “will the dog be allowed in the kitchen”, or “when will snacks be fed”, need to be decided.

If you are not clear with the rules from the very beginning, your dog will not be following any rules. Consistency is the key – the first time, every time. If certain people have certain dog duties, like walks and baths, make them known right away. Have everything decided on, preferably with a schedule, before the new pooch comes home.

Step 2 – Take time off of work

If possible, you should arrange to bring your dog home when you can take vacation time at work, or when there will always be someone home with dog for the first few days. When you pick up your dog, get as much information as possible. What time does the rescue usually feed her? Is there a certain time she should go outside?

Keep your dog’s schedule the same for at least the first week, then start gradually changing it to your desired schedule.

You may be taking vacation, but don’t have any gatherings at your home. You, your family and your friends will be very excited to see the new four-legged family member. However, your rescue dog may be feeling nervous, and a little scared. Keep things calm at first.

Step 3 – Your dog needs her own space

Dedicate an area for your new dog. Have bowls, a bed and toys set up. You want everything to be in place when your dog comes home. With this done, your pooch will feel more secure and learn the routine faster.

Your dog needs her own spaceDon’t pour the food in the bowl yet. Ask the shelter for some of the food she is used to eating. Over the next week, mix in the food that you will be feeding. Just make it a little more of the new food and a little less of the old food every day until the kibble is completely switched over by the end of the week.

Also, ask the shelter for any toys or blankets that your adopted pup may have. Don’t wash these at first. Leave them in her area so she has something familiar. Don’t wash the scent off until your pup has been with you for a couple weeks.

Even if the fur-baby was house-broken, you may want to pick up puppy pee pads. Many dogs will lose their training for a couple of weeks due to nerves and being unfamiliar with the area. Pee pads have an attractant that draws the dog there to eliminate.

I can tell you from experience, the cheapest ones usually don’t have a very good attractant. The cheap pads usually don’t absorb as well either. With this said, it is best to spend a little more money. Remind yourself that it is only temporary.

If you don’t want your new rescue dog in the kitchen or other areas, go ahead and set pet gates up. You want your pooch to know his area immediately.

I have a gate that was set up when my dogs where puppies. Now they are big enough to jump it, but they never do. Your new canine wants to please you, so let him know the rules from the beginning.

RELATED: 13 Helpful Tips for Rescuing A Dog From A Shelter

Rescue Dog Step-By-Step Guide

Step 4 – Bringing your shelter dog into your home

Have a kennel or a car seat tether with you when you pick up your rescue. Most rescues are full grown, so you can’t just have someone hold them. So, for yours and the dog’s safety, always have them restrained in the car.

When you get home, put on leash, and walk your dog around to potty and to work off nervous energy. Just a walk around the block is fine. This also helps the pooch to get familiar with the sights and smells around its new home.

You want to introduce the rest of the family outside. This could be other animals, or humans. If other animals, they need to be on a leash as well. You don’t want to let kids run up to the new pooch either.

Keep the introductions calm and orderly. Let the dog smell the new family member first, then they can give a little scratch behind the ears.

RELATED VIDEO GUIDE: How To Introduce Your Puppy To An Existing Dog

Now you can show your new friend its home. Let the other family stay outside for now. Keep Fido on a leash and walk around the house. Remember to only bring the new pooch to the areas that she will be allowed to go. If she won’t be allowed in your bedroom, then never bring her there.

Leave the dogs “area” for last. This is where her bed, bowls, and toys will be. If you plan to crate train, have her kennel there with the door open. When you reach this area, let the dog off the leash. This tells her that this is her area to be alone.

Rescue Dog Step-By-Step GuideDon’t bother the dog when she is in her area. For the first month, this is where she may come if things get overwhelming. Teach kids to not pet the dog while she is eating or around her food and toys until later when the dog is feeling at home.

Even then, you need to learn your canine family member’s behavior. Some dogs can never be petted while they are eating; food makes them very territorial.

After 30 days or so, feel free to make adjustments if needed. Put the bowls by the utility room and the kennel in the living room. You don’t have to stick with the original layout forever, just long enough for your new fur-baby to get used to her new home.

I would recommend to always leave the kennel door open. Make a rule that when the dog is in the kennel or in her bed, no one is to pet or attempt to play with her. She needs a space that she can go to where she knows she can be alone.

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Step 6 – Supervision and training are essential

Do not leave your rescued canine unsupervised unless she is crated. This could be while you’re in the shower or off to the store. Until you are well on your way through training, you don’t want to put your fur baby in the position to potty in the house or tear something up without you being there.

For successful training, you want to start positive, reward based training immediately. In this type of training you will ignore the bad and reward the good with treats and affection.

If your dog pees on a pee-pad (or even the floor), totally ignore her. Don’t look her in the eye or anything. When she pottys outside, reward with treats and praise. Say something like, “Good girl, potty outside!!”. Dogs can learn simple words and their meanings.

Another good thing to train right away is to “sit for what you want.” When someone comes home, don’t let the dog jump on them. Have them totally ignore the dog, even if it means walking right over her.

Teach your dog to sit, and tell her to sit when people are entering your home. When she sits, then the newcomer can give affection. This works with giving treats, going for walks, anything that gets your dog jumpy and excited.

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Step 7 – Consult your veterinarian

During the first 30 days, you want to take care of anything that is a health or safety issue. The sooner the better. Some things cannot be done the first week, but you want to get all these types of things taken care of as soon as possible.

Make your new ball of fur a vet appointment for a checkup. Bring any vet records that you were able to get from the rescue center, so your vet doesn’t have to try to get them later. If that happens, you may to make a second trip.

While there, discuss what vaccines are needed (if any), what food is best for your pup, what flea treatment is best for your situation, and other important care items. Ask as many questions as you can think of.

Get a harness or collar and leash that fits your pet properly. On the collar or harness, have the rabies vaccination tag attached, and attach another tag that has your name, phone number, and address in case your pooch gets lost. You can also talk to your vet about microchipping your fur-baby.


It seems like a lot to do, but first impressions are very important. If you spend the time and energy to do it right in the first 30 days, everyone will be happier. You won’t still be dealing with problem behaviors six months from the time your rescue dog comes home. The time spent in the beginning will be time saved later.

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