Skip to content

How to help your rescue dog settle into their new home

Rescue dog

We know first-hand how exciting and rewarding it can be to welcome a rescue dog into your home and give them a second chance at life. 

But it can also be overwhelming. You want your rescue to feel at home and to experience all the joys of a loving family, but how do you support them with the adjustment and build trust during this transition?

Read on for our top tips on settling your rescue dog into their new home and starting afresh. 

The 3 3 3 rescue dog rule

You may have heard of the 3 3 3 rescue dog rule, which suggests it takes 

  • 3 days for a rescue to overcome initial nerves and overwhelm
  • 3 weeks for a rescue to begin to settle in
  • 3 months for a rescue to bond with their new family

We spoke to one of our partner trainer’s, Becky from East Coast Dog Training, for her take on the 3 3 3 rule for rescue dogs. 

rescue dogs playing outside

Becky currently has five rescue dogs of her own and works with a local rescue centre to support their team with understanding behaviour and supporting the dogs in kennels. 

How long does it take for a rescue dog to settle in?

Becky says the length of time it takes for a rescue to settle will depend on their personality, previous experience, and resilience.

A foreign rescue or a rescue who’s been in a long term kennel environment is likely to need a lot longer to adapt and settle in than a rescue who’s come from a stable foster home. 

The kennel environment can be stressful for some dogs and the transport to their new home can also have an impact. But the individual dog’s resilience will make the biggest difference to the settling in period.

One of Becky’s rescue dog’s Neville, came over to Scotland from Ireland and had to travel by car, ferry, and train to make it to his new home. He was a very resilient dog who took the whole experience in his stride and it didn’t take him long to settle in. 

rescue dog and his human

Another of Becky’s rescue dog’s Finn, took a lot longer, despite coming from a more stable environment. 

For less resilient dogs, or those that have experienced trauma, Becky says it may take:

  • 3 - 6 weeks for the dog to decompress
  • 6 months to see the full personality of the dog
  • 1 year for the dog to fully integrate into their new life

Her strongest advice for new rescue dog owners is to be patient, take things slow and to go at your dog’s pace. If you’re struggling or need support, reach out to a positive reinforcement trainer sooner rather than later. 

Unlock the keys to a happy home for your rescue dog

It’s important to remember that every dog is different and it may take some time for your rescue to feel comfortable and confident in their new home. 

Rescue dogs sometimes take longer to adjust to their new home than a puppy collected from a breeder. 

With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, your dog will settle in and feel like a valued member of the family.

Slow & steady wins the race: Be patient

Your rescue dog needs patience above all else to allow them the time to feel secure and get comfortable with their new life. 

You might want to treat your rescue to a wealth of new experiences to make up for lost time. But try to resist the urge and allow your rescue time to feel at ease with the transition. 

rescue dog resting on sofa

Some rescues will have experienced trauma, which takes a bit of sensitivity to recover from. If you overwhelm your rescue with too much, too soon it can take a lot longer for them to settle. 

Give your dog the space and time to get comfortable in their new home before diving into new activities or environments.

Build a bond with your rescue dog

Whilst heading out on lots of busy walks and visiting new places may need to wait a while, building your bond can start straight away! 

Spend time getting to know your dog, and allowing them to get to know you and your family. Spend time together playing, relaxing and building trust, this will help your rescue to trust you and feel safe. 

Discover our top toy picks for rescue dogs here - we’ve got some special recommendations for you.  

Create a comfort zone for your new rescue dog

Make sure your dog has a comfortable and quiet space where they can rest and feel safe. This could be a crate or a quiet space in the house where they can retreat to whenever they need a little time out. 

You might be desperate to snuggle with your new dog and to show them off to friends and family, but allowing your rescue the choice will help build trust and confidence. 

Some rescues will be happy to meet new people and some may need a gentler approach. A safe space helps everyone take the time they need to adjust happily. 

Boost your rescue’s confidence 

A great way to increase your rescue dog’s confidence is through positive, fun activities like play. Take the time to find out what type of toys and activities your dog enjoys.

Dogs are all individuals and what one dog may find motivating, could be completely uninteresting to another. At Tug-E-Nuff, we offer a 45 day Tug It + Love It guarantee, so if your dog doesn’t love their new toy, we’ll exchange it. 

Discover our top toy picks for rescue dogs here

We believe that with dedication and effort, you can create a meaningful and long-lasting bond with your rescue dog. Before you know it, it’ll feel like you’ve always been together. 

Read Next:

How to help a shy dog gain confidence

6 things to think about before getting a second dog

3 reasons your dog sometimes has a rubbish recall (and how to fix it)

Previous article The Best Interactive Dog Toys: Why collaborative play rules
Next article Rescue dog approved: Top toy picks for rescue dogs