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Helping A Rescue Dog Adjust

March 13, 2024

Are you considering adopting a rescue dog? This can be an extremely rewarding experience. Giving a sad, sweet pup a second chance at happiness is a wonderful act of kindness. You may also find it very fulfilling In fact, many people say that the pets they rescued have actually saved them!  While going to a new home can be a huge change for any pet, rescues often need a bit of extra care as they are adjusting to their happily-ever-after. A local San Rafael, Ca vet offers some insight on this below.

Shopping For A Rescue Dog

You’ll want to have everything your pup needs ready and waiting for him. If you know what dog you’re getting, you can go to the pet store before you bring your canine buddy home. However, if you’re open to whatever pup melts your heart, then hold off on shopping until you’re sure. Many things should be chosen with Fido’s age, size, coat, and breed in mind. 

Here are a few things you’ll need to pick up:

  • Food
  • Bedding
  • Grooming Supplies
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Leashes
  • Harness Or Collar
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Crate or Carrier
  • Dishes
  • Dental Supplies

If your canine pal has thin fur, you may also need a jacket or sweater for him to wear when it’s cold or rainy out. Your pet may also appreciate some comfort items, such as soft blankets. 

Be sure to ask your San Rafael, Ca for specific advice. 

Get Everything Ready Before Bringing Your Dog Home

You’ll want to have a space prepared for your canine pal before you bring him home. If you have the space, set up a private room for Fido. A spare bedroom is ideal.  It’s important for him to have a quiet area where he can relax and settle in. If you have other pets, it’s also important to keep them separated at first, so you can make introductions slowly. Ask your vet for tips on this.

Have A Plan For Bringing Fido Home

When the big day arrives, don’t just bring your canine buddy into the house immediately. Take him for a walk around the block first. This will help him start processing the fact that he’s been adopted. He’ll likely also be more comfortable after he’s been able to get a look at his new surroundings. Plus, it will help him burn off excess energy he has.

Give Your Dog Time To Settle In

Don’t be surprised if your pet sleeps a lot at first. This is particularly common in shelter dogs. That shelter environment is extremely stressful for Fido. He may need to just rest and relax as he is decompressing from the experience.

Don’t Expect Tail Wags Right Away

Dogs can take quite a while to adjust to major changes. Keep the 3/3/3 rule in mind. It will take Fido three days to decompress and get a feel for his new surroundings, three weeks to settle in, and three months to bond with you and really feel like he’s home. 

Those early days will really set the stage for your relationship with your canine buddy. Fido may feel overwhelmed or scared. Don’t force things!

One thing that can help your pet feel that he’s finally safe? Treats. Normally, we caution against going overboard with treats. However, Gotcha Day can be a bit of an exception. Just don’t go crazy with fatty foods. Using small portions can help build that positive association without building your pet’s waistline up.

Put Your Rescue Dog On A Steady Schedule

Our canine pals usually feel safest when they are on a set, steady schedule. Get Fido started out on his new routine for walks, meals, and play times as soon as possible.

Set Ground Rules Right Away

Do you have specific do’s and don’ts for your pet? For instance, if you don’t want your canine buddy getting on the sofa or sleeping in your bed, lay that law down from day one.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Dogs are very smart, but they don’t process information the same way we do. Fido may also have a few bad habits. If your pup does something  wrong, such as chewing or digging improperly, don’t punish him. This could frighten him, especially if he has a history of being neglected or abused. Plus, dogs don’t really understand the concept of punishment. You can reprimand him verbally, but don’t do anything that will scare him. Seek professional advice for any behavioral issues.

The Name Game

Many people choose to rename adopted pets. That’s perfectly fine! After all, it is a new start for Fido. To help him get used to his new name, use it every time you talk to him. Only use his name in a friendly tone, and when doing something positive. You don’t want him to make a negative connection with it!

Provide Your Rescue Dog Lots Of Little Comforts

Toys and enrichment are both very important for Fido’s health and well-being. Different types of toys serve different purposes. Pups also have their own preferences here. For instance, one dog may see a stuffed animal as a comfort toy to snuggle up with. Another may be more interested in demolishing it to get the squeaker out. Try different things to see what your furry pal likes best.


You’ll need to take a few steps to make your home safe for your canine buddy. Address or remove anything that could be dangerous to Fido.

That list includes the following:

  • Small or Sharp Items
  • Ropes And Cords
  • Plastic Bags And Ties
  • Toxic Plants
  • Chemicals
  • Medication
  • Personal Items
  • Small Pieces Of Clothing

If you have a fenced yard, make sure the fencing is secure and the gate closes securely. We also recommend keeping personal items, like laundry and shoes, off the floor or in closets. If you have a pool, you’ll also need to take steps to ensure Fido stays safe poolside.

Ask your San Rafael, Ca veterinarian for more information.

Make An Appointment At Your San Rafael, Ca Veterinary Clinic

One thing that should be on your agenda during that crucial first week is a trip to the animal clinic. Fido will need a full nose-to-tail exam. You’ll also need to address any care he is behind on, such as spay/neuter surgery or vaccines. This is a great time to get some tips on Fido’s health and care needs!

Take All The Pictures

This is a very special moment, and a huge day for both you and your canine buddy. Take all sorts of pictures of that important Gotcha Day! If you have social media, go ahead and share them. It will be fun to look back on these when that anniversary comes up.

Consider Doggy DNA Tests

The vast majority of rescued dogs are mutts. That’s not a bad thing: we love our mixed-breed patients! That said, you may want to consider looking into some doggy DNA tests. This is important because it can reveal any health problems Fido may be susceptible to. 

Always Put Safety First

Keep in mind that your pet may have a few fears or quirks you don’t know about. When walking him, use a sturdy harness and keep a tight grip on the leash. You don’t want him bolting off if something frightens him! Your pet may also be frightened of thunderstorms, or perhaps be scared or reactive around other dogs. Consult a pet behaviorist for advice on dealing with major issues.

Let Love Grow

Don’t be surprised if you just melt the first time Fido greets you with a happy dance, or gives you an affectionate lick. Saving a rescue dog can be an extremely beautiful and fulfilling experience!  

Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns about caring for a rescue dog. As your local San Rafael, Ca pet hospital, we’re here for you!

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