While doing some research for the preparation of embarking on a new rescue adoption next month, I came across something called a “rescue dog adoption honeymoon period”. As someone who has rescued previously, I’d never heard that expression and wanted to learn more.
The first 3 weeks of your rescue dog’s life in your home is considered to be the “dog honeymoon” period. From the time your rescue dog enters your home, and over the next three weeks as the dog settles into your home, the dog appears well behaved. Any of the dog’s past behaviors that caused him to be put up for adoption appear to be at bay completely. At around the three week mark, if left untrained, your dog will start to fell more “at home” and that is when the past behaviors may present themselves.
The first three weeks you and your dog are together in your home are the most important period you’ll have together. This is the time to put in the effort to transition with your house rules, and welcoming him into a physically and mentally healthy and well run home.
How do you help your dog adjust to his new forever home?
I found a few very solid ways to help you and your new rescue dog adjust during the honeymoon period, and ones I’m planning on using to make sure we get off on the right foot.
Adopters should know before they think about bringing home an adorable new dog home that there will be a period of adjustment. You both will experience this adjustment. If you do not have a dog currently, you will have a new schedule. There’s morning walks, afternoon play, and evening before bed walks that all need to happen.
The first few days your dog will be on his best behavior, and may be really stressed because he’s now in a completely new environment with new smells, noises and people he’s not familiar with.
One of the best ways to make the adjustment period go a little smoother is to avoid doing what most humans instinctually want to do when welcoming a new animal - smother with kisses, petting, talking, hugging or otherwise overwhelming the dog and causing additional stress.
Your first job is to lay down the house rules. Do not make many demands of the dog initially. Start establishing a routine from the time you initially get home. Let’s look at the way to introduce your dog for the first time to your home.
I’ll assume you’ve gone out and gotten all the necessary items to make sure your dog has food, a water and food bowl, a leash and a bed. With all that out of the way here’s the best way to introduce your dog to your home.
Before you even enter your home, take him for a walk around your property so he gets used to those smells and used to the area where he will be relieving himself. If there are other members in the house have them come outside one by one to slowly and calmly introduce themselves to the dog. Remember avoiding hugging or being overly affectionate. Affection means different things to dogs than it does to humans.
Once you enter your home, keep her leash on and slowly give a tour of your home, moving from room to room so he gets to know the surroundings. Your first day is all about feeling calm and well adjusted. Make sure to bring your dog outdoors often during the first few hours. Expect that there may be some accidents that will occur in your home - avoid getting upset or reprimanding the dog. Remember, he’s still trying to figure things out.
Another really important tip I found is to provide your dog with ample “private quiet time” - just observe him, give him space and let him sleep and adjust at the dog’s own pace. Don’t rush this process. If you have small kid at home, this is an ideal time to teach them to be respectful of your new dog’s space. Just as your children have their own room, and bed, so does your dog and is also in need of some quiet private time to relax too.
Initially having a crate or bed in a clean, safe room, which is dog-proofed is ideal. Continuing on with establishing a routine, make sure you take your dog out for at least a good 15 minute walk before bed.
I’ve always had my dog’s sleep in my bedroom in their own bed either along side the bed or somewhere within the room, but never in the bed. Not only is your dog still adjusting at this point, but when you bring your dog into bed with you, you are essentially telling him your an equal part of his pack. You need to establish yourself as the pack leader, so your bed and his should be separate.
Avoid the human notion that you aren’t being kind because your dog has a separate bed from you.
This first week is very important in adjusting to a new environment. Keep your dog on a leash as much as you can and always monitor your dog. By keeping a leash on your dog, you avoid the dog roaming from room to room and possibly getting into things you don’t want him to. This is also for the safety of the dog too.
During this first week get to know your dog. Find a good time to play each day, and learn what your dog likes or doesn’t. This is also a good time to get your dog enrolled into an obedience class. No matter how many dogs you’ve had, or what your positive experiences have been with other doges you’ve owned, this one is unique and does not have the same traits or unique background.
Dogs love schedules so be sure to have your daily schedule established and down by the end of the first week.
The adjustment period can vary, and depending on the age of the dog, and a whole host of other variables. The adjustment period can take between a few days to a couple of months.
If you have a rescue that comes from a healthy and well adjusted home, you can expect the dog to feel at home with you in a few days to a week.
Now that you’ve successfully gotten through the first week together you need to continue that positive momentum into the first few weeks. You still want to slowly introduce your new dog to neighbors, and family over time. There’s no need to rush this. Best to hold off for the first few weeks to provide him that honeymoon adjustment period.
If you have to leave the house for work make sure to start that separation process off slow. Start by leaving him in his crate for a short period of time, maybe 30 minutes to start, and return. You want to make sure he feels protected and safe when he’s left in his crate while you’re away.
Correct any negative behaviors during this first initial adjustment period. If you allow any negative behaviors to occur, you should expect it to continually happen because you allowed it to start with. Now is the time to make sure you’ve established some positive behaviors.
Make this bonding period enjoyable for you both and keep the following in mind: Remain patient, positive and reassuring. In order to have the most positive outcome as your dog and you both adjust.
Dog memory does not work in the same way as human memory. So is it impossible for them to remember their previous owners? Studies have shown that dogs use their sense of sight to recognize their owners, so a dog who is senior and has poor eyesight will not likely recognize or remember their previous owners.
Dogs do tend to live in the moment and have less concept of time than we as humans do. If the person before you harmed him in anyway, he likely may have some memory of that, but as time goes on and he learns to love and trust you, he’ll soon forget anything about that previous owner.
This can happen in a relatively short period of time, either immediately or over a period of a few weeks. Our neighbor has a bull terrier and introduced a new Bernese mountain dog puppy into their home. The attraction was not immediate. After a few weeks of obedience training and acclimating to a new pack, they are now finally well adjusted and happy to play together.
Most dogs do get along within the first month if they are going to get a long at all, according to a veterinarian who said “As far as two dogs in the home, they don't have to love each other, they just NEED to get along for safety’s sake. I recommend that you keep your veterinarian and / or a veterinary behaviorist in the loop if you are having issues.”
That is sound advice and after having witnessed it myself, I’m looking forward to also introducing two new dogs into our home.
I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home
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