Adopting a Shelter Dog – 8 Things you Need to Know

Apr 22, 2021 A Dog’s Life

Whether you’re adopting a puppy or an adult dog from a shelter, welcoming your new friend to your home is super exciting! It can take a little while for a new pooch to settle in, so we’ve put together 8 tips to help you and your new bestie get to know each other and start having fun.

Be patient

Arriving in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful for your new rescue pup, so make sure you give them space to sniff around and explore your home and garden whilst keeping an careful eye on them. If your new dog is hyper alert for 48 hours and struggles to settle, don’t worry, this is normal. Once your pup realises they are safe and loved, they’ll relax.


Introduce them to your existing pets under supervision, one at a time. Don’t leave your new rescue dog unattended with your other pets until you’re 100% sure they all get along. 

On their terms

Allow your rescue dog to get to know you on their terms. Often we have no idea what a dog’s previous experience of humans has been. Timid dogs will get braver, just give them a bit of time. Keep calm, encourage them to sit near you with some tasty treats and be patient. Once your shelter pup understands that they’ve arrived in a kind and loving space, their character will start to emerge and you’ll soon be their new favourite person.

Quiet space

Give your rescue pup a quiet area with their own bed and allow them to rest there without being bothered. If you have children, make sure they know to give your new furry friend some space to chill out and sleep as often as he or she needs to.

Garden visits

Shelter dogs aren’t always house trained, so to avoid accidents take them into the garden every hour and reward them with lots of praise and treats when they pee or poop, they’ll quickly get the idea. You might also want to restrict them to tiled areas of the house until you’re confident that they’ve got the idea that the garden is the place to go. Don’t shout at your dog or punish them if they have an accident, rather reward them when they get it right.

No sudden changes

Ask which brand of food your pup has been eating at the shelter, keep them on that and gradually change to the brand you’d prefer to feed them. Abrupt diet changes cause tummy upsets which makes house training more challenging.

Basic commands

Once your rescue dog starts to trust you, teach them some basic commands. If you’re not sure what to do, enlist the help of a dog trainer to show you. We recommend working with a trainer who uses positive reinforcement to teach dogs. Training is a way of building a bond with your dog and teaching them boundaries around what is and isn’t ok in your house. And you’ll enjoy your dog far more if they can follow instructions from you

Allow them to settle

Allow your shelter rescue time to settle. It will take a few weeks before they find their feet and feel ‘at home’ with you. Expecting them to play, follow you around and be house trained within 24 hours is unfair. Some shelter dogs have been in multiple homes, some have experienced trauma and often we have no record of their previous life history. Your patience and kindness will be rewarded ten fold once your dog knows they are part of a family. The best thing you can do as a new shelter dog parent is be gentle and patient.

At BOSS we’re big on dogs, so we’d love to hear about your rescue pups. Please tell us about them and perhaps share a photo in the comments section.