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What To Do Before You Bring a Rescue Dog Home

There are lots of articles talking about what to do before you bring home a new puppy, but what if you are bringing home a rescue dog? Regardless of her age, she is going to be a very different house guest. Make sure you are prepared by following these tips.

Getting the Family On-board

First and foremost, everyone in the house needs to be on-board with this decision. It takes a village and you need your village to all be on the same page, otherwise your new family member may end up being a source of fighting and discord instead of love.

Like a puppy, there are a few things you need to decide before the dog comes home:

  • Schedule: who is walking, feeding, exercising, training, and picking up after the new dog.
  • Rules: will she be allowed on the furniture or in the bed? Can she be fed table scraps at the table? Is she allowed to jump on you when you come in the door? The more consistent you are from the very beginning, the easier the adjustment will be on your dog and the quicker she will learn your rules.

Getting the House Ready

Regardless of the age, a dog in a new environment can often have relapses when it comes to potty training, destructive behavior, and so on, so make sure you have “dog proofed” your house.

Some things to think about:

  • Are there wires or cords exposed the dog could chew?
  • Are there breakable items within reach? (Especially important for dogs with tails)
  • Are there things that can be chewed? (DVDs and books on bottom shelves, shoes laying around)
  • Do you have a safe area planned out to put him when you cannot watch him? (crate, bathroom, bedroom, etc)
  • If there are any “off-limit” areas, are they blocked off?

Getting a Trainer

Since you are getting a dog with a past, be ready to deal with whatever baggage they bring into your home. It could be shyness, separation anxiety, fear biting, potty training issues, resource guarding, to name a few. Best scenario? Have the trainer meet the dog before you bring it home, learn what your obstacles are going to be, and then develop a plan together so that the moment the dog comes home, you are doing the best you can to make her successful. The worst thing you can do is “guess” and end up making her problem worse.

Getting the Gear

Finally, probably the most fun thing about getting a new dog, is the shopping. Aside from all the usual items that a dog needs, be sure to talk to whoever you are getting your dog from – shelter, rescue, private foster – about the dog’s individual needs.

  • Are they on any medication or supplements you need to buy?
  • What food are they on?
  • Do they have any allergies you need to keep in mind while shopping?
  • Do they have a preference for a certain type of toy or bed? (Even better would be if you could take the one they have been using, since it will smell familiar and help ease the transition)
  • Are you getting a shy, reserved, nervous, or otherwise under socialized dog? If so, talk to the people you are getting her from about ways to help her relax in her new home.

Things like:

  • Calming jacket
  • Essential oils
  • Natural calming aids

All help your dog adjust a bit easier. Discuss the options with her current caretaker and your vet to make sure you chose the right option(s) for your dog.

having a soft, quiet place to get away when she feels overwhelmed, will help your new dog feel secure.
having a soft, quiet place to get away when she feels overwhelmed, will help your new dog feel secure.

Remember, your new family member is going to be unsure, maybe even nervous or frightened. Be sure to have a nice place set up for them, away from the hustle and bustle, where they can “hide” and relax.

Follow these steps before you bring your rescue home to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. And then get ready to fall in love for the rest of your life. Rescue dogs are quite possible the biggest lovers on Earth; they are just grateful for a warm home, kind words, and good food.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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