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Adopting a Rescue Dog: the 3 Stages of Adjustment (2024)

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Adopting a rescue dog is an incredibly rewarding experience – one that roughly 3.2 million Americans take part in each year. You may be looking forward to all the unconditional love and companionship your new pet has to offer, but you should also know that it takes time for any animal – especially a rescue – to adjust from their old environment into yours.

When adopting a rescue dog, there are three stages of adjustment: the honeymoon period, adjustment period, and settlement periods.

This article will discuss these stages of adoption as well as how best to prepare yourself (and your family) for welcoming home a new four-legged friend!

Key Takeaways

phases of a rescue dog

  • Adopting a rescue dog involves three stages of adjustment: honeymoon period, adjustment period, and settlement period.
  • The 3-3-3 rule suggests three days for shyness and anxiety, three weeks for behavior patterns, and three months for full adjustment.
  • The stages of adjustment are important for understanding the dog’s true personality and potential.
  • Building trust and bonding with a rescue dog takes time, consistency, and positive reinforcement.

Adopting a Rescue Dog

Adopting a Rescue Dog
Adopting a rescue dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand the honeymoon period, adjustment period, and settlement period of your new furry friend so you can provide them with the best environment for success.

During the first few days in their new home, keep things low key by minimizing outside activities.

The next stage is called the adjustment period, which typically lasts three months. Pay attention to any behavior patterns that start forming during this time, as they will become more permanent over time and help inform future training efforts if needed.

Finally, comes what’s known as the settlement phase when everything starts feeling normal again. You’ll notice eating and drinking habits settling down, your dog seeking out places close by where they feel safe, and becoming comfortable enough around people that eye contact becomes more common.

Stages of Adjustment

Stages of Adjustment
When it comes to adjusting to a new home, rescue dogs go through three distinct phases: the honeymoon period, adjustment period, and settlement phase.

During the first two weeks of adoption, known as the honeymoon period, you’ll begin to get an idea of your dog’s true personality and potential.

Over the following 3 months in their adjustment phase, they will start forming longer-term behaviors that are important for future training efforts if needed.

Finally, after about 3 months, you and your pup should reach a comfortable settling stage where normal routines emerge and their personalities become more settled into place – this is when eye contact becomes more common!

Honeymoon Period

The Honeymoon Period of your new furry friend is the first few days in their new home, where you get a glimpse into how they may act and start to bond with them – but it’s not always reliable!

During this so-called honeymoon period, provide meals and water without forced interaction or training. Be aware of any fear aggression or anger outbursts that could arise during this time.

Keep in mind the 3-3-3 rule: three days for shyness and anxiety; three weeks for behavior patterns; and three months for full adjustment.

Utilize socialization techniques such as positive reinforcement to help create a safe space for exploration while establishing a consistent feeding schedule.

This initial phase sets the tone for future success by allowing fur parents an opportunity to observe canine behavior at its purest form before diving into proper training sessions later on down the road!

Adjustment Period

After the initial honeymoon period, your pup enters their adjustment stage – a chance to really get to know them and build trust! This is when you’ll start getting a better idea of how they will interact with new people, their energy level, and any medical history that may be present.

During this phase, it’s important to use calming techniques such as positive reinforcement while socializing your pup in various settings. Implementing different bonding activities into each day can help establish trust between fur parent and pet as well as create an atmosphere where rehoming tips can take effect for long-term success.

It’s also essential not to overwhelm them with too much stimulation during this time, so make sure they feel comfortable in whatever environment you’re introducing them to! With some patience and understanding of the dog’s adjustment period, owners are able to reap the rewards from these efforts by fostering strong relationships built on love and friendship.

Settlement Period

Once you’ve reached the settlement period with your new pup, they’ll surprise you with how far they’ve come in terms of trust and confidence! This is a great time to begin socializing them in different settings by using positive reinforcement.

Training tips and bonding strategies used during this phase will help reinforce good behaviors while modifying any unfavorable ones.

On the first day, let your dog explore their new environment at their own pace – no matter what that looks like! As long as they’re comfortable, don’t rush them into anything just yet.

The 3-3-3 Rule

The 3-3-3 Rule
You have likely heard of the 3-3-3 rule when it comes to bringing home a rescue dog. This simple concept outlines the three stages your pup will go through during their adjustment period: three days, three weeks, and finally, after about three months.

Being aware of these phases can help you provide your new companion with the support they need as they adjust to life in their new home.

3 Days

For the first three days of adoption, provide your pup with meals and water, but keep interaction and training to a minimum. During this time, they’ll be adjusting to their new home. It’s best if you provide them with quiet time for resting as well as feeding opportunities where physical touch is kept minimal.

As they become accustomed to their environment, start providing rewards like treats or toys when appropriate during socialization sessions. This will help ease into the 3-week mark where different phases of adjustment begin taking place for your new furry friend, who may still feel scared at times in response to unfamiliar stimuli.

3 Weeks

At the 3-week mark, your pup’s true character starts to shine through as they begin to relax in their new home. Use positive reinforcement and interactive toys such as fetch or tug of war for leash training and socialization tips.

Although some fearful reactions are expected from a rescue dog with an unknown past, remember that you’re now this pup’s first companion since leaving its original owner or foster home!

As time passes by, continue with patient guidance while providing love and understanding – eventually, your pup will reach the 3-month mark where full adjustment has been made.

With commitment and dedication from both parties, a strong bond between human and canine will be formed!

3 Months

After three months of dedication and patience, your pup has likely made a full adjustment to their new home, and you can form an unbreakable bond! Early adaptation is key when it comes to fear management in rescue dogs.

With the right training techniques, species differences shouldn’t hinder progress. Using positive reinforcement for potty training, open crate time, and introducing new rules will help your dog feel safe enough to adjust quicker than expected.

My Rescue Dog is Scared

My Rescue Dog is Scared
If your new companion is scared of everything and seems to avoid people, understanding the different stages they’ll go through as they adjust can help you provide them with the support they need.

During their first few days in a new home, rescue dogs often experience shyness or anxiety. This is why it’s important to give them space and meals without forcing interaction or training during this period.

Allow your pup time to get used to their environment before pushing anything on them.

After the 3-3-3 rule has passed (three days for shyness/anxiety; three weeks for behavior patterns; three months for full adjustment), begin positive reinforcement such as providing treats when behaviors like eye contact are displayed.

These will encourage future good behavior from your dog’s true character that begins shining through after this short honeymoon phase passes into an adjustment period where the personality fully develops over several months.

Finally, create a safe space in which your furry friend can relax away from any overwhelming stimuli until they have settled into life at home properly.

How Do I Know if My Rescue Dog is Happy?

How Do I Know if My Rescue Dog is Happy?
You can tell your furry companion is feeling content when they start showing signs of happiness, such as seeking eye contact, bringing you toys to play with in a flash, or even cuddling up close to you like never before! This means that the 3-3-3 rule for rescues (three days of shyness/anxiety; three weeks for behavior patterns; three months for full adjustment) has been successful, and your pup is settling into their new home.

To make sure this transition continues smoothly, it’s important to maintain positive reinforcement, such as socializing, trust building through crate training, and giving treats during good first impressions.

It may take some time due to any prior trauma experienced, but taking things slow will be beneficial in the long run.

Once these steps have been taken and patience and understanding shown throughout what can be an understandably rough period, all should soon fall into place, providing both you and your pet with an easier life going forward together.

Before Bringing Home a Rescue Dog

Before Bringing Home a Rescue Dog
As you prepare to welcome your new rescue pup into the home, there are a few important steps that should be taken before they arrive. Outside before inside is key; introducing them to your other dog and the outside world first will ensure a smoother transition when it’s time for them to come inside.

Bringing a new dog home requires patience and understanding – keep the first few days quiet and low-key while creating an easy routine starting from day one.

Outside Before Inside

Before bringing home a new fur baby, take the time to explore the outside world together. Socializing, exercising, and obedience classes are great ways to build trust and get your pup used to being around other people – a key step in housebreaking them later on.

Puppy mills can leave pups feeling scared or anxious, so finding a safe area for quick access is important too! With lots of training resources available online, you’ll have everything you need for desensitizing your pup before they settle into their forever home.

Bringing a New Dog Home to Another Dog

Introducing a new pup into the home can be a significant adjustment for both you and your existing four-legged family member, but with proper planning, it doesn’t have to disrupt the household harmony.

Establish rules and socialize them together on neutral turf outside of your house. Monitor progress during interactions and assess their needs when creating separate dog spaces in the home or yard.

Introducing Your New Dog to the Inside of Your Home

Once you bring your new pup home, make sure to start familiarizing them with the inside of your house. Take time for outside playtime and potty training, as well as crate training. Bonding activities, such as reward systems, are also a great way to kickstart the process! Be mindful of electrical wires and other small items that might be hazardous or tempting chew toys for curious pups.

During this adjustment period, observe how their true character shines through while giving them space to adjust in the first couple of days after bringing them home.

Keep the First Few Days Quiet and Low-key

Take it slow and keep the first few days of your pup’s new home quiet and low-key. This will give them a safe space to observe their environment, adjust to you, and show their true character shine through.

Here are a couple of things that can help: positive reinforcement, eye contact, and observing signs like cowering or barking.

A couple of signs that your rescue is settling in include seeking out places close to you for sleep/rest time as well as playtime with toys.

Create a Routine Starting Day One

Creating a routine for your pup from day one is key to helping them adjust. Establishing a playtime schedule, daily walks, and positive reinforcement with reward treats helps crate train the dog while their true character shines through during this adjustment period.

Bringing Home a Rescue Dog Advice

Bringing Home a Rescue Dog Advice
Help your new pup adjust to their forever home by providing a safe and comfortable environment, offering positive reinforcement, and avoiding overwhelming stimuli. Treats shouldn’t be used as the primary form of reward; instead, focus on giving verbal praise or other forms of affection, such as petting or playing with them for good behavior.

Socialization is important too. Take them out for walks in low-traffic areas where they can safely observe people from afar without feeling intimidated. Crate training is also beneficial since it provides a place that’s just theirs. Make sure you give them enough space so they don’t feel confined but still secure at night.

If your rescue dog shows fearful reactions, like cowering when approached, try to avoid pushing things too quickly.

When introducing specific behaviors, like walking on a leash or sitting calmly during mealtimes, keep sessions short (no more than 10 minutes) and end them before boredom sets in.

It’s also helpful to have an idea of what kind of supplies you’ll need ahead of time.

Most importantly, remember that every rescue pup has different needs depending on their past experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best way to introduce a rescue dog to a new home?

Introduce your new rescue dog to their home slowly and carefully. Show understanding with symbolism, such as a calming spot they can call their own.

What should I do if my rescue dog is showing signs of aggression?

If your rescue dog is showing aggression, it’s important to remain calm and be patient. Seek professional help from an experienced behaviorist who can advise on techniques to modify the behavior in a positive way.

How long should I give a rescue dog to adjust to a new home?

Give your rescue dog the time and patience it needs to adjust to its new home. Show compassion, understanding, and provide a safe space for them to feel liberated and truly belong. Ease into activities like training or socializing slowly; each pup is unique, so trust their timeline.

Are there any long-term effects of trauma in rescue dogs?

Yes, rescue dogs can have long-term effects from trauma. Signs may include fear of people and other animals, difficulty with training or socialization, reactivity to noise or sudden movements.

Is it possible to bond with a rescue dog quickly?

Yes, it is possible to bond with a rescue dog quickly. With patience, kindness, and consistency in your approach, you can create trust and a strong connection that will help the dog feel secure as they adjust to their new home.


Adopting a rescue dog is an incredibly rewarding experience, and there is no better feeling than seeing your rescue pup come out of their shell and blossom into the loving companion they were always meant to be.

The 3-3-3 rule can be a helpful guide for understanding and navigating the different adjustment periods of a rescue dog. With time, patience, and a lot of love, your rescue pup will learn to trust you and understand that their new home is a safe place.

By providing them with a comfortable space and positive reinforcement, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your rescue dog will reach the settlement period and become the happy, loving pup you’ve always dreamed of.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.