You decided to rescue a dog – that is a really great thing! Thank you for doing this.
Here are some basics on how to bring a rescue dog into your home.
First of all: Don't expect anything!!! Really! Nothing. Don't expect the dog to be housebroken even when he was before or is already pretty old. Don't expect them to come to you or be playful, take food or even willingly enter your house.
Bring the new dog in and let him sniff the environment if he wants to. If he chooses to shut down in the hallway – let him be. Put a blanket there, some food and water and let him be. Take it at the dogs pace.
It all depends on the dog. If you rescued a dog that is curious right away, sure show him everything, introduce him to your home, the family members etc. A lot of rescue dogs however are very shy or even scared (and in our case our 5month old rescue puppy was very afraid and just exhausted from all the stress – she instantly fell asleep on a blanket in the hallway).
Also keep in mind the dog you see the first weeks is not necessarily the actual character of the dog. They are usually so stressed out from all the change that they are not their normal selfs.
Tips to get you through the first couple of weeks
1. Offer food, water and a safe place to rest. (If the dog doesn't want to be in the spot you prepared for him just put a blanket at the place he chooses. If it's the sofa or bed, well you have to make a decision if that's fine with you or not. If not, start training the dog not to be on the sofa by gently removing him and rewarding lying down in a place you approve of.) You can always train them later to get comfortable with the spot you had in mind, but for the first weeks just let them choose.
2. Be patient! That's 90% of what you should do, not only in the first weeks but through the lifetime of your dog. (No matter how frustrating your dogs behavior is – being patient is the key. Dogs do not respond to frustrated trainers.) Also it takes up to 1 year for some dogs to completely trust their owners – so take it slowly.
3. Try training some basic cues like sit and down. Training gets your dog to interact with you which will slowly build a strong bond between you.
4. Try playing with your dog. Don't get frustrated if the dog is not interested in toys or interacting with you. Play with humans is something that is taught, it doesn't come natural to them.
5. Socialize! If your dog is somewhat comfortable with being on a leash and going out with you. Try to socialize your dog with other dogs, humans, environments, etc.
6. If you encounter behavior problems – keep calm, don't get frustrated – it's all fixable. There's a lot of information out there to help you. First just focus on getting the dog to get comfortable with his new environment, with you and your family, with being on a leash and being handled by you.
7. Get your dog to the vet. If you rescued a dog it's always a good idea to let him being checked by a vet. Shelters and rescue organizations are short of money and not all of them making sure the dog has all vaccinations, worm-, flee-, tick-treatments etc.
After a while you will find out what your major problem areas are (e.g. housebreaking, chewing stuff, problem behaviors etc.)
Once you know what those areas are, start developing a training plan to get rid of these problems. Some things will be fixed within a couple of days others might take months. But always have faith in your dog – then he will always have faith in you.
If you decide to get help from a professional dog trainer make sure they only use positive training methods. Keep in mind that you know your dog better than they do. So, if you have a bad gut feeling at any point it is probably because something isn't right. See our article on How to choose a dog trainer for more information.