Transitioning your newly adopted dog into your home


Many people are not aware that there is a transition period for dogs when they are adopted.  Their behavior that you will first encounter may not be indicative of their true personality. A new environment offers a tremendous amount of stress and may trigger your dog in many ways.  As a result, you may see some unusual behavior during this transition.  Here are some things to consider:


If you adopted your dog from a shelter, chances are your dog was in a kennel. This means that he was able to eliminate on one side, while sleeping in another. In your home, you will find that he may have accidents around the house. The simple explanation for this is that he became confused while he was in his kennel. Or, he is too stressed out to hold it.  It’s important to institute a strict walk schedule so that he understands that elimination is to be done outside.  You may also consider crate training your dog.


Many rescue dogs come with their own baggage. There is no way for us to know what that baggage is. Similar to when we meet new people, we may be apprehensive about that other person. We may keep our distance until we figure out if it is safe to trust and befriend that other person. The same may be true for your dog. Keep in mind that your dog being distant and apprehensive is not an indication of his potential as a new companion. Be patient. Relationships are process.


Depending on your dog’s temperament, he may be a dominant dog. He may overly assert himself because he wants to make sure that he is safe in his new environment. Consider planning ahead and creating a space for your dog in your home so that he has an area to call his own. Inquire with the shelter or rescue group where you adopted your dog and ask them what types of toys and treats your dog likes. Have those ready to give to your dog so that he has familiar things to make him feel at home. Do not challenge your dog. Don’t engage in a tug-of-war or attempt to scold him out of his dominant behavior. This may cause his dominance to escalate.  Be patient, and do not engage. Remember that dogs ultimately want to please you. Being denied your attention will force him to seek out another strategy. Often times that strategy is to be well behaved.

Not eating meals or treats:

One of the classic signs of stress in dogs is not eating. This does not mean that they are not hungry. This may mean that he is in fight-or-flight mode due to stress. Encourage your dog. Praise your dog lavishly. And be sure to set aside quality time with your dog so that you can reinforce your bond.  Feeling safe and loved is soothing and may stimulate his appetite.

While these are just a few of the many transition issues that you may face, these are the most common.  Be prepared. The first step is to do your own research. Keep in mind that online research will not be specific to your situation. Similar to this blog, they will be a general overview of the topics that you are researching. If you feel you need extra help, consider hiring a local dog behaviorist and trainer. Depending on their program and area of expertise, they may be able to offer you a transition plan that is custom fit for you.

Just remember the old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Plan ahead and utilize your research and resources.  Your patience and commitment along with plenty of TLC will help to create a bond between you and your new dog.  It will also allow your dog’s true personality to emerge!