Handling week 1 with your new rescue dog

What to do in the first week of bringing your rescue dog home, to help them settle in happily.

The key to a lasting bond is confidence in your own skills. Unlock this power and train your dog to be the perfect life companion.

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September 21, 2023

Week 1 at home with your new rescue dog

This is our fourth article in a series around how to help your new rescue dog settle happily into your home. If you haven’t yet, feel free to go back and read the previous articles:

In this article, we go through what to focus on in your first week at home with your new rescue dog.


The most valuable thing you can do is bond with your dog. Have plenty of close contact and touch, dish out treats, play with your dog, take your dog for walks and get into some basic clicker training. This all helps build your bond and your dog’s trust in you. I don’t recommend punishment or excessive assertiveness - focus on positive reinforcement using a clicker and treats as your primary method of teaching your dog what you want, and if you need to correct undesirable behaviours we have techniques in our Virtual Schools you can use which won’t affect your bond with your dog. Here are some simple techniques to help you start building your bond with your dog: Bond Gaze, Zen Down and Joining Up.

Set up a routine

Soon after your dog’s arrival, set up a routine for your dog of playtime, feeding, exercise, relaxed time etc.  Don’t spend every waking minute with your dog, as this can cause separation distress – leave your dog alone for periods of time, maybe just 15 minutes at first, then an hour, then go out for a few hours, etc. This will help your dog feel comfortable when you are away. You may also like to invite people round to your house to meet your dog in the early days, to enable your dog to become accustomed to having new people coming into the house (however I suggest leaving this until at least day 3 to allow your dog to settle into a calm, quiet environment first).

Concerning or challenging behaviours

Many rescue dogs have come from difficult starts. They may have been abused, neglected, isolated or just never socialised or trained. Unsurprisingly, this can result in some behavioural issues. Your rescue organisation has likely assessed your dog before you bring them home, and given you an idea of your dog’s temperament and any potential challenges so make sure you ask lots of questions before you bring your dog home so you have a full understanding. However still tread with caution, and especially take care to supervise first interactions with children, cats, other dogs, stock animals and other people.

Contact us or another dog behaviourist if you see:

  • Aggression towards people, particularly children
  • Avoidance behaviours towards children or adults
  • Resource guarding (growling or stiffening around food, toys or their bed)
  • Aggression towards another dog in the family

In almost all cases, your dog CAN be trained! There is hope and you WILL be able to improve things for your dog as they learn to live happily and safely in your world.  But it’s always better safe than sorry, so if you’re unsure, get your dog assessed by a professional.

If you see any behaviours that concern you or if you’re unsure of how to deal with anything, send me a message or video with some details and I’ll be happy to help out with some advice (see below).

Need more help?

Dogs are unique, sentient beings and every single one is different. I am here to help you with your new rescue dog! If you have any questions about your dog’s behaviour or dog training, please just ask and myself or a team member will be happy to offer some advice. You can send me a message on Facebook, Instagram or send an email to support@dogzen.com. Feel free to include a video of a behaviour you’re seeing if you’d like an opinion on it.

Or if you’re ready to crack into some training, check out my Virtual Training Schools - we have options for young puppies, teenage pups aged 6 -18 months, and adult dogs with behavioural issues.

And finally, please enjoy having your new rescue dog at home and relish in the fact that you have made such a huge difference to this lovely furry being – thank you!

Helpful blogs

Here’s a few more handy sources of information if you want to go deeper.

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