The Rule of Three for Rescue Dogs

There is a common guideline in rescue about how dogs adjust in new environments. This is dependent on the individual dog but acts as a useful steer, that the settling in process can a long one for many dogs. The important thing is to not expect too much too soon.


In the first 3 days:


Your rescue dog is likely to be on high alert. They have been brought to a new place which looks, sounds and smells different. They are unsure why they have been brought here and may be overwhelmed and unsure.


They may be a little too stressed to eat or drink properly and are likely to want to hide in safe spots so they can observe at a safe distance.


They may test boundaries and try to understand what the new rules are.


Most crucially, they will not be showing their ‘true’ personality.


In this period, dogs need lots of patience and help to feel safe and secure. Avoid too much handling, eye contact and give plenty of space and time. Let them process the environment in their own time. They will likely have a build-up of stress (known as ‘trigger stacking’) which will make them more sensitive and have a higher probability to act ‘out of character’.


 3 weeks in:


At this point, lots of rescue dogs are starting to feel more settled and comfortable. They are likely to be getting used to your routines and their confidence will be growing.


They will be letting their guard down and you will be seeing more of their ‘real’ personality.


At this point, some new behaviours (sometimes negative) may start to surface as they feel more comfortable.


3 months in:


Lots of rescue dogs will be feeling ‘at home’ towards this milestone. They will be building up trust with you and starting to have some security.


They will have a good understanding of your routines and start to understand what they should be doing.


More new behaviours may start to surface as their confidence begins to grow. Behaviours like reactivity to other dogs and people, resource guarding and separation anxiety are all typical as they adjust to their new life.


It is always a good idea to get support with helping such behaviours. Lots of reputable rescue charities will offer on-going support, such as calls with in-house behaviourists to help tackle any problems that arise. Getting the help of a local dog trainer can also be really helpful – whilst it can feel like a big expense at the time, tackling these issues as soon as they arise can save lots of money (and heartache) in the long term. As always, we recommend positive, force free training (rather than balanced which incorporates corrections) as this style of training is great at boosting confidence in rescue dogs and helps to build their trust in you.


If you would like to learn more, download our FREE Rescue Dog Settling in Guide HERE

Herb Pet offers dog training and behaviour consultations, specialising in rescue dogs. If you are interested in dog training, enquiries can be made via our website. I cover both the local area (Barnby Moor, Bawtry, Blyth, Retford, Worksop, Doncaster, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newark – Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and surrounding counties). Online and further afield enquiries by request.