Adoption & Fostering

11 Tips for Adopting an Adult Rescue Dog

girl holding adorable dog

Adding a furry family member is always an exciting moment, but there are significant distinctions between adopting an adult dog and bringing home a young puppy. An older dog may have spent a reasonable amount of time in a previous home or living in a rescue center, so it can take a little time for them to get used to their new surroundings and routines.

In this blog post, I’ve rounded up 11 tips to help your adult doggo settle into your home and support their training.

Let’s dive in.

Tip 1: Let Them Set The Pace

While puppies tend to be curious and upbeat upon arriving home, adult rescue dogs often feel much more worried and overwhelmed. At first, your new four-legged friend may hide and seem disinterested in interacting. This shutdown behavior is 100% normal!

a dog in pet carrier

To help anxious adult dog rescues truly settle in, be patient and let them dictate the pace without pressure. Give them space to explore independently and acclimate to their new surroundings in peace. Make the environment calm and quiet with no visitors initially. Allow them to come sit near you, make eye contact, or try engaging with a toy when they feel ready. Never force interactions. 

Over days or weeks, as they gain confidence, you should see them voluntarily come out of their shell bit by bit!

Tip 2: Create a Peaceful Environment for Your Newly Adopted Dog

Making space for your new rescue dog to decompress peacefully is key. Designate a quiet, comfortable area like a spare room or corner just for them to relax in. Supply a soft crate bed, their favorite toys, and treat puzzles – things that feel familiar and safe. Keep the crate door open so they always have the option to retreat there but don’t feel trapped. This little sanctuary gives overwhelmed dogs a secure basecamp amidst the overwhelming life change, where they can recharge their batteries before venturing out at their own pace.

adorable bulldog in bright overalls sitting in dog bed


Tip 3: Toilet Train Your Dog

Adult dogs usually have some toilet training, but you’ll need to establish new routines in your home. Regularly take them outside, especially after meals, playtime, or exercise. Immediately reward them for toileting outside. 

It would help if you also learned to recognize their signs of needing to go, like sniffing or circling, and respond by taking them out. Praise and reward them when they successfully go outdoors.


Tip 4: Keep Your Rescue Dog Active and Engaged

Much like humans, dogs require both physical and mental stimulation. Regular walks are essential for your dog’s exercise routine. Work-to eat toys can likewise engage your dog’s mind when outdoor time is limited.

The appropriate amount of exercise depends on factors like breed, age, and health status. Discuss your particular dog with your veterinarian to establish suitable recommendations for their fitness and enrichment. 


All dogs require an outlet for their energy and inquisitive nature. Providing various forms of both physical and mental stimulation will prevent anxiety or destructive behaviors from boredom. Structured playtime and learning new commands during training sessions also tire out your dog. Catering activities to your rescue dog’s needs support their continued adjustment in these initial weeks in their forever home.

Tip 5: Have a Behavioral Support Plan in Place   

When adopting an adult rescue dog, you can’t always predict how they’ll adjust to home life once out of the shelter environment. Despite best efforts, some undesirable behaviors can creep up during their transition, catching you off guard. This is entirely normal!

That’s why it’s wise to proactively have a behavioral support plan for the first few months post-adoption. Good rescue centers should offer new adopters free phone consultations for the dog’s lifetime to troubleshoot any emerging issues. Many also have partnerships with accredited professional trainers and behaviorists specializing in rescue cases available for private sessions if needed.

side view rescue dog loving affection receives from woman shelter

During the first couple weeks in particular, while helping them settle into their new home, keep your rescue organization’s support number handy! Don’t hesitate to utilize their expertise if your new family member displays unexpected behaviors like separation anxiety, fear-based aggression, resource guarding, or difficulty adjusting to your resident pets.

Tip 6: Schedule a Veterinary Wellness Check

As soon as your new dog is settled, schedule a wellness check with your veterinarian. This visit is vital for assessing their overall health and checking for common issues like parasites and fleas. Your vet might also suggest bloodwork to get a comprehensive understanding of your dog’s health status.

vet checkups

Tip 7: Secure Your Dog with a Collar, ID Tags, and Microchip

Equip your dog with a sturdy nylon or leather collar, complete with up-to-date ID tags. This simple step is crucial for their safety. Additionally, if your dog hasn’t been microchipped yet, consider having this done during your initial vet visit. A microchip is a quick and effective way to make sure your pooch can be identified and returned to you if it ever gets lost.

owner putting leash pet

Tip 8: Consider Professional Training 

Another tip- you can consider enrolling your dog in a professional training class. This can be a great way to reinforce basic commands, improve loose-leash walking, and provide socialization chances with other dogs and people in a controlled environment. 

dog trainer teaching dog run though obstacles

Tip 9: Introduce Each Dog Individually in a Neutral Setting

When bringing an adult rescue dog into a home with other dogs, it’s crucial to introduce them one at a time. Introducing multiple dogs at once can overwhelm the new dog, as they may feel outnumbered.

cute shiba inu pet with family 1

RELATED: How to Introduce 2 Dogs to Each Other: Step-by-Step Guide

For the first meeting, it’s a good idea to choose a neutral location, like a park, to prevent your current dog from feeling territorial. Ensure each dog is on a leash and handled by a different person. This setting helps reduce tension and promotes a peaceful introduction.

girl cute white puppies high view

It’s a good idea to bring your existing dog for the initial meeting. Start the introduction with a walk, keeping the dogs about 10-15 feet apart. Gradually let them get closer, but avoid direct contact while on leashes. Use simple commands and treat rewards to maintain a positive atmosphere during this first encounter.

Tip 10: Invest in Pet Insurance for Future Health Needs

Consider purchasing pet insurance to help manage any potential health issues that may arise. Pet insurance can be a financial lifesaver, covering costs for unexpected illnesses, injuries, or other veterinary needs. Research and choose a policy that best fits your needs and provides adequate coverage for your new companion.

dog sitting bed

Tip 11: Shower Your New Dog with Positive Attention and Love

The final and perhaps most important tip is to abundantly provide your new dog with positive attention and affection. Show them through your actions and interactions that you are their trusted person. This means engaging in some activities that your dog enjoys, such as playtime, walks, and cuddle sessions.

adorable chihuahua dog with female owner

Speak to them in a gentle, reassuring tone, and be generous with treats and praise for good behavior. Creating a bond of trust and love is crucial for your dog to feel secure and happy in their new home. Remember, the goal is to make them feel cherished and part of the family, reinforcing that they have found their forever home with you.

Final Words

Thank you for taking the time to read this comprehensive guide. I hope these tips help. Remember, each dog is unique, and it may take time for them to adjust to the new environment. 

smiley greyhound dog laying bed

If you encounter any further challenges or have specific concerns during this transition, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments section below.


About Helen K. White

As someone who deeply believes in the power of adoption and fostering, I've seen firsthand how it can change lives—for both animals and humans alike. Through heartwarming stories and practical tips, I'm here to share insights, advice, and resources to support you every step of the way. With years of experience volunteering at shelters, fostering countless furry pals, and helping families find their perfect pet match, I bring a wealth of knowledge and passion to the table. Whether you're thinking about adoption, navigating the foster journey, or just looking for heartwarming tales to brighten your day, I've got you covered.