Whether it’s a purebred Tibetan Mastiff or the epitome of the Northshore Special, dogs earn a special place in our hearts and families instantly.  But with dogs, as with people, sometimes our pasts can make new experiences more difficult. A “ruff" come up could make it more challenging for a rescue dog to adjust to their new lives.  Here are a few tips on how to ease the transition from shelter to loving home.  

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Making your rescue dog feel comfortable starts as soon as on the car ride home.  Ideally, you want to have at least two people to pick the dog up from the shelter.  This way one person can sit in the back with your new furry friend, and make sure they’re comfortable and secure for the trip.  Nearly losing their balance every 10 seconds makes the car ride scary enough for them, heading to an unknown destination and an unknown future can certainly intensify a dog’s anxiety.  Having someone at close hand could go a long way in making them feel safe.

When you finally get home, it’s important not to bombard the newest member of your family with unnecessary stressors.  Keep the introduction low key, only having your new dog meet people they’ll be interacting with everyday. As much as you may want to break the front page of Reddit with an adorable puppy-themed “Welcome Home” party for your new friend, it may not be the most responsible way to help them acclimate to their new environment.  This also provides an opportunity for you to establish a personal bond with your new family member.

Be sure to let the dog approach you when he/she is ready; it’s a brand new situation for them and you’re still earning their trust.  Similarly, you should avoid hugging, kissing or even making prolonged eye contact with your new rescue dog until you get a better gage for their tendencies and personality.  A damaged past could make them hesitant to contact and affection at first.

Take your new dog out to a similar spot in the yard each time they do their business to give them a sense of routine.  Even if a rescue dog is house trained, the stress and confusion of a new home could certainly lead to a few accidents. Please be patient!

If you’re introducing your new rescue dog into a home with dogs already, it’d be helpful to have their first meeting take place somewhere neutral (the shelter, even around the block) to avoid any potential territory aggression.  Keep the dogs on leashes with as little tension as possible and gradually let them get a feel for each other. Make sure there’s no food or toys in the area during their first meeting. A rescue dog might’ve relied on being assertive with food in order to survive.  It’s best to not add any further elements of stress to the situation.

Venturing into a new unknown life certainly validates feelings of anxiety for any of us.  For a shelter dog with a troubled past, it’s understandable for them to have a tough assimilation into a life of comfort and love.  But if you keep these tips and mind, and above all else, be patient, rescuing a shelter dog could be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life.