Adoption Adjustment


Hunter, my carefully chosen and much beloved and sadly missed rescue dog.


There is always an adjustment period when we adopt a dog. We need to remember before adoption this dog had another life.  Then there was his time at the rescue or foster home. Now he is in a new home and has to adapt yet again to a new life.  It is common for owners to forget this: before us, the dog had a life.

It is also common for owners to jump headlong into an exciting life with their new dogs.  “Let’s go to Uncle Clyde’s Holiday party!  We must check out the dog park so you can make new friends.  Oh shopping – we must buy doggie things!”  It is tempting to want to take your new best friend out the day he comes home.  Ignore the impulse to have your new buddy go everywhere with you the moment you bring him home.  It takes time to help a newly adopted dog adjust to his new human and home. Your first priority should be bonding and not forcing him to be an immediate social butterfly.

When you bring in a new dog no matter what you were told about previous behaviors expect regressions. Housetraining may have been great in his previous home, but that was his previous home.  He needs to learn potty skills for your home.  He may try counter surfing or chewing your shoes.  He may jump on people when it was said he was well-mannered, etc.  This is normal!  The good news is the majority of behaviors owners of newly adopted dogs complain about can often be worked through.

I would keep the first few days quiet and low stress. Over the next several weeks I would closely observe and gently work with the dog.  I would avoid overwhelming areas.  The more trust you build and the care with how you start early training makes a big difference.  It may be a prudent idea to hire a private trainer for a few one on one sessions to help you start off of the right foot.  A good, positive trainer who understands the care needed with helping a newly adopted dog adapt is an asset.

You have gone slowly for the first weeks. You are easing more things with your dog.  Life seems to be going great so you ease back on the work you are doing. Now behaviors are regressing.  This is when we need to keep working.  A few days of good behaviors does not mean the dog is all set with his new life.  In reality all it means is the dog had a few good days.  We need to keep working.  If we stop working now there is a solid chance the old behaviors will return.  Another reality is dogs are always learning.  Even with well behaved dogs trainers know we are always working on some level to keep the behaviors we want going.  A few good days or weeks does not a fully trained dog make.  In reality, you will never completely stop training your dog. Every interaction a dog has with his environment is a learning experience.  Learning is ongoing.

How long will it take for your newly adopted dog to settle in? There is no exact answer covering all dogs.  Many variables play into how fast a dog adapts including; background of the dog, the quality and quantity of the work done, environment and genetics.  Be prepared to spend several months or more if needed to helping your newly adopted dog adjust to your home.  Have patience, go slowly, be respectful of the dog’s needs and you increase the chances of success.

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