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So you’ve adopted a dog. Congratulations! You’re probably feeling happy, excited, and a little nervous. Obviously, you want your new pooch to settle in perfectly and feel at home right away! This may not happen exactly as you envision it, however, there are a few things you can do to ensure your new dog’s transition into your home goes smoothly.
Here are some tips for helping your rescue dog to settle into your home smoothly, including the very important 3-3-3 rule.
HELPING YOUR RESCUE DOG SETTLE IN
MAKE THEM FEEL COMFORTABLE
Rescue dogs are a special case for settling into new homes because, usually, we can never know exactly what kind of background or history they have, or what they’ve been through before. If you’re adopting a puppy then you have a little bit of a clean slate, but an older dog might have particular characteristics and nuances that you’ll discover as you go along.
All you can do when you first bring your dog home is to make sure that they have everything they need and make them feel as comfortable as possible, from their own safe bed to a pet first aid kit. To help your rescue dog feel secure, make sure they have an indoor space that’s just their own (and preferably near you), with warm, soft, and comfortable bedding that will make them feel right at home.
BOND WITH THEM
You’ve likely brought a rescue dog into your home looking for a new best friend, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to spend ALL your time with your dog. Although your dog may enjoy this in the future, it’s important to remember that they’re still getting to know you and may feel a little unsure of you at first. Offer them gentle pats, a little bit of grooming, some walks, and a few games, but don’t be offended if they get overwhelmed and instead just want to lie down in their crate or bed. Give it time!
INTRODUCE YOUR DOGS CAREFULLY
Just like moving to a new house is stressful for humans, moving to a new house is also stressful for dogs! This is especially the case for rescue dogs, who may have had many different homes before yours, and may also be struggling with the adjustment from their kennels. This is why if you already have a dog at home, it’s best to wait a few days before introducing them to your new pooch so that everyone can settle down and be in a relaxed state of mind when introductions are made.
Introduce your dogs on neutral territory (ideally on the nature strip at the front of your house) as this can ease tensions and prevent territorial aggression. Make sure to supervise carefully and provide both dogs with lots of treats, cuddles, and pats when they behave well. Take them for a walk together and give them plenty of opportunities to smell each other and become acquainted.
TAKE NOTE OF THE 3-3-3 RULE
Here’s what you might be able to expect from your experience bringing a rescue dog home at three days, three weeks, and three month intervals.
In the first three days at home with you, your dog may:
Feel overwhelmed by their surroundings
Not feel comfortable enough to be himself
Not want to eat their food or drink their water
Be scared and unsure of what’s going on
Shut down and curl up in their bed
Behave defiantly and test your boundaries
In the first three weeks at home with you, your rescue dog may:
Start to settle in
Feel more comfortable
Figure out his environment
Get into the routine you’ve set
Let their guard down and start showing their real personality
Start showing ingrained behavior issues
Figure out this is their new home
After three months at home with you, your dog may:
Feel comfortable at home
Have built trust and a true bond with you
Have gained a complete sense of security with their new family
Embrace their new routine wholeheartedly
MAKING YOUR RESCUE DOG FEEL AT HOME
Bringing a new furry friend home can be overwhelming, and you’ve likely spent weeks preparing before the “big day.” Although it may not always go as you planned, all you can do is make sure your dog feels comfortable, knows their new routine, trusts you, and feels secure in their new home. When they start coming out of their shell, consider treating them with a new toy or try out some fun Kong recipes to treat them. Every dog is different and every experience will be different, but after a few months, your rescue dog is bound to be loving life with you, and thanking you every chance they get for taking them out of the kennels.
BRINGING YOUR NEW CAT HOME
When you bring a new cat into your home, remember: This is a period of adjustment for them.
Even though they are now in a loving home, it may take them a little while to realize this!
How would you feel if you were brought into an unfamiliar place from a stressful situation?
Probably confused and scared! By giving your new cat time to decompress for a couple of weeks, it will help the cat become well-adjusted and happy. This will also help your cat to bond to you at a pace that works for them.
Below are ways to create a happy cat and owner:
Don’t expect your cat to have a hearty appetite right away. New foods and stress can equal a lack of appetite. Leave small amounts out and add a small amount of something that is a special treat to motivate feeding and begin building a positive association with you.
Leave the room if needed. (Eventually, you can start being in the room and building the association of human=delicious food!) Have plenty of water accessible, too. If the cat has not eaten or drank anything in 24 hours or seems lethargic or sick, please call your veterinarian or the shelter where you adopted your pet from.
Don’t give the cat too much space too soon, meaning don’t turn loose in your house. Start small, like a guest room or bathroom, so you don’t overwhelm the cat.
Put food, a litter box, scratching pads, toys and some “safe” places in this small room. “Safe” places can include large paper bags, boxes or blankets.
Using a Feliway spray or plug-in can also help reduce stress. These products can be found online or at local pet stores. As your cat becomes more comfortable, you can begin letting them explore more of your home.
Let the cat come to you. Using calming body language and allowing the cat to approach you (instead of you approaching the cat) will help tremendously. Think of it as the “getting to know you phase.” If you force the cat to interact with you, it can cause more harm than good. Calming signals include blinking, sitting facing the side, extending hand (to let cat sniff you), speaking softly and tossing a few treats gently nearby.
Play together, stay together. Introducing play can also help with bonding. Some ideas: Blowing bubbles, feather toys, crinkle balls, etc.
Wait to introduce other pets. Both animals need time to figure out that they will be sharing a space together. Letting them adjust during this time can make for a much easier introduction!
The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA have a great online library of information on cat care, behaviors, and issues:
INTRODUCING YOUR NEW CAT TO OTHER PETS
Wouldn't it be nice if all it took to introduce a new cat to your resident pet were a brief handshake and a couple of "HELLO, My Name is...." nametags?
But since we're dealing with cats, not people, it's just not that simple.
You can’t force your pets to like each other. We don't have a crystal ball to predict whether or not your pets will be friends, but we do have techniques that will increase your chances of success. Most importantly, try to choose a cat with a similar personality and activity level to your current pet. An older cat or dog might not appreciate the antics of a kitten.
Go slow during the introduction process to increase your chances for success. Don't throw your pets together in a sink-or-swim situation and just hope they'll work it out. That's a recipe for the fur to fly!
The Nature of Cats
Cats are territorial, and in general they don't like to share. A cat who's unhappy about a newcomer may express their displeasure by fighting with the other pet and marking territory (peeing on the floor, wall or objects).
Cats also dislike change, and a new cat in the house is a huge change. These two character traits mean you could have a tough (but not impassable) road ahead.
Some cats are more social than others. An 8-year-old cat who has never been around other animals might never learn to share their territory (and their people) with other pets. But an 8-week-old kitten separated from their mom and littermates for the first time might be glad to have a cat or dog companion.
All of this means that your current pet and your new cat need to be introduced very slowly so they can get used to each other before a face-to-face meeting. Slow introductions help prevent fearful or aggressive behavior from developing.
Below are some guidelines to help make the introductions go smoothly.
The introduction process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even a few months in extreme cases. Be patient.
Giving Good Impressions
To allow time for the newcomer to adjust to you and their new situation, keep them in a small room with their litter box, food, water, scratching post, toys and a bed for several days to a week.
Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room, so that they associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other's smells. Don't put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other's presence to eat.
Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing directly on either side of the door.
Try to get your pets to interact with a toy. Tie a toy to each end of a string, then place it so there's a toy on either side of the door. Hopefully, they’ll start batting the toys around and maybe even batting paws.
Be sure to spend plenty of time with your new kitty in their room, but don't ignore your resident cat.
The Old Switcheroo
To animals, smells are far more important than appearances, so you want to get your pets used to each other's scent before they meet face to face.
Swap the blankets or beds the cats use, or gently rub a washcloth on one cat’s cheeks and put it underneath the food dish of another. If there are more than two animals in the house, do the same for each animal. When the pets finally do meet, at least their scents will be familiar.
Once your new cat is using their litter box and eating regularly while confined, let them have free time in the house while confining your other pets to the new cat's room. It's best to introduce your new cat to a room or two at a time and increase their access to other rooms over a few days. This switch provides another way for them to experience each other's scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to get familiar with their new surroundings without the other animals frightening them.
You can do this several times a day, but only when you're home to supervise. If you have to leave the house, put your new kitty back in their room.
Next, after you’ve returned the cats to their designated parts of the house, use two doorstops to prop open the dividing door just enough to allow the animals to see each other.
Repeat the whole process over a period of days—supervised, of course.
Slow and Steady Wins The Race
It's better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. Once the cats are face to face, though, there will be some kinks for them to work out.
If you're really lucky, your cats may do some mutual sniffing and grooming, and you're on your way to success. They may sit and stare at each other. You can provide distraction by dangling toys in front of them at the same time. This may encourage them to play together.
They might sniff each other, hiss and walk away. That's to be expected. This may go on for a few days or so, and then you'll probably find them both sleeping on your bed.
Breaking It Up
If you're not so lucky, they may be very stressed. They may only posture and make a lot of noise. But as soon as there are signs of increasing aggression (flattened ears, growling, spitting and crouching) make a loud noise by clapping your hands or throw a pillow nearby to distract them. If the standoff continues, very carefully herd them into separate parts of the house to calm down. This could take up to 24 hours, and the cats may take out their stress on you.
If the cats fight repeatedly, you may need to start the introduction process all over again and consider getting advice from a vet or animal behaviorist.
Note: Never try to break up a cat fight by picking one up. You're bound to get hurt.
There are other things you can do to help ease tension between feline roommates.
Have your cats examined by your vet before introductions to make sure they're all healthy.
Have one litter box per cat plus an extra one.
Try to keep your resident pets' routine as close to what it was before the newcomer's arrival.
Make sure all cats have a "safe" place to escape to.