Picking up your rescue dog & the first trip home

Advice to help your new rescue feel safe and secure the day you bring them home.

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September 21, 2023

Picking up your rescue dog and the first trip home

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

In this article, we’ll go over how to manage picking up your dog and handling that first car trip home to ensure it is a positive, non-stressful experience for your new dog.

Picking up your dog

As soon as you get your dog, before you even leave the rescue shelter, start dishing out treats (preferably high value such as chicken, cheese or dog roll). You want your dog to quickly learn that you're a source of all good things in life! This will help your dog bond to you, feel more comfortable with you, be happier leaving with you and start responding to you consistently. Give treats to help your dog through the transition, and whenever they are doing something desirable (be careful not to treat your dog if they are barking, whining, jumping up etc). I would recommend taking a clicker and treats to the rescue organisation for pick up and use them before you even go outside the building. Start to build that bond and trust.

If your dog has not been exposed to a clicker before, you may wish to take a thick sock to muffle the sound to begin with just in case your dog is sensitive to unfamiliar sounds. Hold the clicker in the sock behind your back, throw a treat on the ground then click as your dog eats it. This will build the positive association between the clicker noise and treat so that you can start to incorporate the clicker into your training.

The car ride

Try to make the car ride home a positive, non-stressful experience as it can set up your dog’s attitude to car travel in future. I recommend taking your clicker and training treats so you can click and reward your dog throughout the process of leaving the rescue organisation and getting into the crate or car. Ensure your dog is safe and secure for the car ride, preferably in a secure crate with soft bedding inside. Some dogs will feel more relaxed if the crate is covered so it’s dark.

Drive calmly and carefully to avoid too much bumping around and open a window to let in some fresh air. This will help your dog to be comfortable with riding in the car thereafter – it may not be something they’ve done a lot of since going to the rescue organisation or probably before. If your dog seems uncomfortable, I’d recommend you break the car ride up and do some stops at parks along the way, particularly if you live far away from the rescue organisation. Aim to stop every 30 minutes on longer drives unless your dog is relaxed or asleep.

If your dog seems very distressed by the crate and is small enough to do so, you can wrap them in a towel and hold them on your lap (if someone else is driving, of course!). If you have another person in the car to drive, you can click and reward your dog throughout the trip.

Ask the rescue organisation not to feed your dog before the trip, as a full tummy can exacerbate car sickness. Training treats are okay to get them comfy in the car.

More info on helping you settle in your rescue dog...

Below are links to the next blog articles in this series on helping you settle in your new rescue dog.

Day 1 at home with your dog

  • First time coming into your home
  • Introduction to Home environment
  • Introductions to family
  • Introducing other pets
  • Feeding
  • Start training from day 1
  • The first night
  • How you can help (be patient etc)

Rest of Week 1 with your dog

  • Bonding
  • Set up a routine
  • Concerning or challenging behaviours
  • Training

Helpful blogs

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

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