STRAIGHT OUTTA RESCUE... Welcoming Home Your New Shelter Pet

By Katy Cable-A 3 min. Read

By Katy Cable-A 3 min. Read

Last week I discussed the often misconception of how easy it is to find a dog at a shelter or rescue. The other misconception about rescue/shelter dogs is that they’re damaged goods. Although there’s some truth that many dogs have been irresponsibly over-bred, thus carrying problematic behaviors. Most often, it isn’t the dog, but the negligent OWNERthat’s to blame. Many people are uninformed of the breed requirements, as well as the expense and time commitment to care for a pet. A huge part of that comes in the form of proper TRAINING

Many dogs get dropped off at shelters more than once, because of problematic behaviors that haven’t been corrected and continue in the new home.

The top issues include:

  • Excessive Barking 

  • Aggression towards other dogs

  • Lack of obedience training 

  • Lack of adequate veterinary care has caused health issues. 

  • The owner did not anticipate the time and attention a dog requires each day.


A majority of these issues can be resolved but I do want to warn you, they may take a bit of extra patience and time.

When a dog is surrendered to a shelter, it brings a tremendous amount of stress to the animal. Here are tips to help them make the transition from rescue dog to family pet much smoother! 

It’s so important for adoptive pet parents to understand what their new dog may need in order to reach his full potential as a beloved family pet. A rescued or adopted dog will react a bit differently when introduced to a new home, but common behaviors can include:

  • Fearful body language and facial expressions (Tail hung low, droopy head, not making eye contact. Shaking their head, shaking. 

  • Finding places to hide 

  • Wariness and general inhibited behavior 

  • Lack of appetite 


This conduct may or not linger as your dog adapts to his new family and living situation. You should keep in mind your new pet’s personality and temperament may not emerge on his first day home, or even during the first week or two. Heck, I feel like it took me 2 years to get Olive out from under the table after I rescued her.

Before bringing your dog home, be sure you’ve puppy proofed it for safety. Even an older or seemingly well trained dog will be curious of their new surroundings and needs to be kept safe from harm.

Set up a crate with a few toys in a slightly out of the way spot of the room. Find a place where your new pup can still see and hear his new family, but from a safe distance. Leave the door off or open so they can use this as a quiet, safe retreat. NEVER force the pet into the crate. Keep in mind, some dogs may be extremely fearful of them after possibly living exclusively in this type of quarter.

When it comes to attention, affection and new experiences for your dog, set a slow, consistent pace. As difficult as it is, lavishing too much attention on your new pup can result in major separation anxiety behaviors when you must leave. After all you’ve probably just saved them and watching you leave is extremely scary.

In the beginning, less is more. Aim to have a slightly bored pup. The worst thing is to over-stimulate them from the get go! Try and get them on a regular routine that works for you. Perhaps start with a few short walks and tossing around some new toys. This fun interaction will help their physical and mental state.

If your dog doesn’t walk well on a leash or has anti-social manners, consult with a positive-reinforcement dog trainer immediately. Don’t delay beginning to work on forming new, appropriate socialization skills.

Mealtimes may also be a challenge. While some dogs, live for food, others might not have much appetite in the first few days at home. Try to keep their diet as familiar as possible, slowly adding more nutritious, fresh foods. Feed them in a calm, quiet setting. After an appropriate amount of time, pick up their food dish and get them on a regular feeding schedule. Don’thesitate to call the vet if their appetite has not improved after a day or so of adjustment. -Or if anything seems off!

Building a strong bond with your new pet is a process. Expect some resistance at times. You are building a whole new relationship with a pet that might have severe trauma and trust issues to overcome.

Now you can recognize a few common situations and gather the resources necessary to deal with them. Also crucial is HOW you respond when your new pet misbehaves. Use this a teachable moment!

A dog learns desired behaviors through positive reinforcement. There are dozens of techniques you can learn to effectively control your dog. Not only can you eliminate problem behaviors, you can build and reward good ones!

Physical punishment should never be part of the equation. It’s not effective long-term, and it backfires by terrifying your pet into submission. It rips away at the still-fragile bond you’re trying to form. There are a million great training videos on YouTube or ask for references from your vet or pet store. Ditto if you discover your rescued or adopted dog has a deep-seated behavior issue you can’t resolve on your own. Remember to INTERVIEW and get a feel for perspective trainers. They are your coach and you and your dog need to feel comfortable.

The keys to successfully transitioning most dogs from a shelter to a forever home are:

  • Consistent daily exercise 

  • Nutritional species-appropriate diet

  • Good veterinary care 

  • Socialization, obedience training and behavior modification as required. 


By being aware and practicing these skills you and your pet can make a much smoother and happier adjustment. Here’s to a wonderful experience for both you and your pet! Pugs and kisses!