A puppy having a first visit to a veterinary practice

Adopting a dog: what to expect if you rehome a rescue dog

So you’ve decided to adopt a rescue dog – that’s great news! You’re taking an amazing step to help reduce the growing number of homeless pets in the UK.

Once you’ve chosen your new canine companion, you’ll want to know the best way to welcome him to your new home, and get him settled in quickly and easily. Here are our top tips for adopting a rescue dog.

Dog Adoption: what you need to know

Adopting a dog from a rescue centre or shelter is very different from bringing home a young puppy. It can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying, but it’s important to realise that your rescue dog may have behavioural issues, and will require a lot of patience and kindness as you welcome them to your family.

The upheaval of moving to a new home in a new area can be bewildering to the best of us, and most rescue dogs will be disorientated simply by the experience of getting used to new surroundings, whether or not they have known behavioural issues.

The rescue centre or shelter should provide full details of your dog’s known history and an assessment of any problem behaviour so you know what to expect. These problems are often caused by a lack of guidance from his previous owner, and may be easy to overcome given the right care and attention in a safe environment.  It is important to note that some behavioural issues originate from the dogs puppy stage and can be inbuilt and more difficult to overcome.

Common behavioural problems in rescue dogs

  • Separation anxiety 
  • Toilet training 
  • Lack of socialisation skills
  • Destructive behaviour 

“The rescue centre or shelter should provide full details of your dog’s known history and an assessment of any problem behaviour so you know what to expect.”

Top tips to help your rescue dog settle in to his new home

Take things slowly at first. Getting used to a whole new environment is enough of a challenge for your new pup without overwhelming them with excitement, attention, and stimulating experiences. Teach them that they can feel safe and secure in your home, with your family, to help establish their trust.

Spend the first few days bonding with your rescue dog, but allow them space if needed. Speak to them in a calm, reassuring voice. Set out your house rules – making sure the whole family applies them consistently – and in certain situations treats can be used to reward good behaviour.

Start to establish their daily routine, sticking to a schedule for walking, feeding and interacting with your dog, so they know what to expect.

Training should start from the moment you bring your dog home, but start slowly and be patient. Focus on toilet training to begin with. Work on basic commands when you’re out walking, and remember to stay positive and encouraging, as progress can often be slow.

Settling in and looking to the future

Some shelters provide rehabilitation training to help you address any behavioural issues or problems. Speak to your rehoming shelter or local vet for advice on behavioural therapy, if you need to. It’s also important to introduce your new dog to your vet early on. After all, your vet is the one person you’ll need if you run into problems, or you have concerns about your dog’s health or wellbeing.

Of course, there’s no way to know how your rescue dog is going to behave in your home, and it may take several weeks for them to show their true self. With patience, kindness, consistency and understanding you should have a long and happy life with your canine companion.

Want advice on rehoming a rescue dog?

For expert advice on adopting a rescue dog, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.