How First-Time Pet Owners Can Make Rescue Dogs Feel Right at Home

If you’ve never owned a dog before and you’ve made the choice to rescue one, congratulations – you’ve made a great decision. There are few things more rewarding than providing love and shelter to an animal that may have been forgotten, abused, or neglected. Of course, adopting a shelter dog comes with its own set of unique challenges. Here is how to make sure your rescue dog feels right at home.

Keep them on a short leash (at first)

It may seems strange or counterintuitive to limit your new dog’s mobility and freedom at first, but it’s actually the best thing for them. Rescue dogs are used to being kept in confinement, and having too much space to roam can stress them out – and being in a new environment with new people is already stressful enough.

“At first, limit your dog to one room or area. This allows him time to become familiar with the smells and sounds of his new home. Keep your dog on leash while inside your home for the first few weeks so you can immediately teach him what behaviors are and are not acceptable by showing and guiding him through the appropriate exercises,” says

Don’t leave your new dog on a leash when you’re not around, of course, but leash training is absolutely vital in the first few weeks of adoption.

Don’t wait to begin training

While you my think that being trained is a drag, that’s because you’re a human. For dogs, training comes naturally. New dogs – especially rescues – will actually appreciate the structure. Dogs are happier when they feel like they have a set purpose and can follow orders. Remember, they are a shelter dog, so you really have no idea what their level of training is. It’s best to start from square one.

“Assume he has never had any training. Even if he has had obedience training in the past, he may need a refresher after all he’s been through. Your best bet is to expect that he knows nothing,” notes The Spruce.

Make sure you’re prepared

For most rescue dogs, you’ll want to already have a crate/cage in place. Don’t feel bad about this – it’s not cruel to crate train your new dog. In fact, it’s the best way to control behavior and potty train a dog with a bathroom problem.

“Most shelter dogs spent their time in a cage or a run, so the transition to a crate at your home should run smoothly. A confined area such as a crate will greatly assist with potty training [see article] and give the dog a safe, comfortable place,” says

Being prepared also means that you have already taken a trip to the pet store to get a dog bed, food, toys, a collar, and an ID tag. It’s easy to buy all the stuff for a new dog – don’t be lazy. It’s best to have everything there when your new mate gets home for the first time.

Don’t leave your new dog alone too much

Not only will spending a lot of time with your dog help them feel more comfortable in their new environment, but it will also help you develop a close bond with them from day one. If you have a busy schedule and you have absolutely no choice but to be away from home, consider hiring a dog walking service in your area or have a buddy come over a play with the dog. You just don’t want them to feel isolated from the outset.

Rescue adoption is both fun and a little bit scary. You don’t always know what you’re going to get in terms of personality and demeanor, but with the right preparations you can help your new dog feel right at home from day one.

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