How To Help A Dog Adjust To A New Family: 10 Tips

Not all dogs are lucky enough to have a forever home right away. Some will be rehomed, put in a shelter for years, and be fostered multiple times. While it’s a sad fact, shelters and various groups are exhausting all means to find rescued or surrendered dogs their perfect home. If you happen to adopt one of the surrendered canines, you have to know how to help a dog adjust to a new family. It’s a process that takes time, especially if you got an older doggo.

Bringing home an adopted dog

how to help a dog adjust to a new family

As they say, adopting a dog is a noble decision. You’re basically giving dogs another chance in life and finding the family that they will spend the rest of their lives with.

However, it also entails a lot of responsibilities. Unlike pups you’ll get from breeders, rescue dogs have stories, or even other families before you get them. It will take its toll on the dog’s behavior. They will not warm up to their new family right away, which is why I’m writing this post.

Many shelter dogs have behavioral problems, which is partly because of how their former owners treated them. Some are physically abused and neglected, while others are surrendered because their owners are no longer able to fit them in their lives.

You have to take matters slow and gentle, in this case. Patience is the key, so your dog will adjust to the new home and family. In a matter of time, your adopted dog will be more comfortable and trusting of you.

How to help a dog adjust to a new family

how to help a dog adjust to a new family

1. Control the excitement

Before you bring the dog home, talk to your family about the setup. Ask your kids not to get overly excited as the dog will get stressed. Everyone must give the dog some time to decompress and acclimate to its new environment.

Imagine being taken away from your home, and then you’re brought to a new one. It’s disorienting and depressing for a dog. What you can do is be patient and give the dog the time it needs. Of course, you must have all the doggo’s needs, from the food, bed, toys, and more.

Also, ask visitors not to lunge over the dog. This behavior will scare away a nervous and already-frightened canine. For the first week, let the dog be while ensuring that it gets its basic needs.

2. Give the dog his private space

One important thing when helping a dog adjust to its new home is giving it a private space. I recommend setting up a room for the dog so it can rest without any people around. A room with a window is also a great choice so that the dog can peek outside. However, make sure that the windows are escape-proof since rehomed canines are notorious for this behavior.

If you have another dog, don’t share its things with the newcomer. Get a new set or wash the hand-overs properly, preferably with an enzyme cleaner.

As the main owner, you can try staying in the room for longer periods to prevent the dog’s anxiety. Also, keep the door open so the dog can exit and enter on its own volition. This will also get the dog used to the sounds of the household.

3. Be in touch with the vet

Rehomed dogs can have all kinds of health problems, so it’s best to bring it to the vet before taking it home. Ask for a full and comprehensive checkup to rule out any health conditions. This proactive move will help diagnose and treat health conditions even before it becomes a big problem.

Your newly adopted dog may also need to have its shots renewed. Of course, you’d have to get the dog microchipped anew with your details.

In the first weeks, you should observe your dog closely. If it exhibits any unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to call the vet. You should also ask the shelter for the dog’s records to have a better idea of its health.

4. Rewards, rewards, rewards

Dogs are food-driven, and you can use this to help your dog adjust to its new home. If your dog exits its room, offer a tasty treat right away. Sit or kneel and let the dog come to you to retrieve the treat.

However, some rehomed dogs will not eat properly on their first days in their new home. You can still offer treats and see how your dog will respond to it. If that didn’t work, try to start playtime by offering a toy.

Keep trying until your dog shows signs of yielding to your efforts. Don’t try to use physical affection just yet as rehomed dogs are aloof of any physical contact. Go slow and let the dog do things on its own.

5. Avoid overstimulation

Overstimulation often happens to rehomed dogs. Since they are exposed to a new environment with varying smells and sounds, they can get overwhelmed easily. The dog will experience sensory overstimulation, which can lead to confusion or even aggression.

Overstimulation can be visual or sensory. In sensory overstimulation, the dog gets triggered by various sounds around the house. It could be a combination of the washing machine, smoke alarm, doorbell, human noise, cars passing by, and so on. Also, noise that’s not present on the dog’s old home can add to the trigger.

On the other hand, visual overstimulation occurs when the dog sees too much around. If the dog used to leave in a quiet home, increased foot traffic could push them to the edge. This is why you should introduce the adopted dog to various stimuli slowly.

6. Be slow and patient

When it comes to rescued dogs, you have to take things slowly. Rushing in will only drive the pooch away. This will defeat all your efforts. Instead, let the dog get used to your home and the people around. Soon enough, the pooch will approach you when it’s ready.

Still, you have to do your part. Rehomed dogs are prone to aggression if kept in solitary confinement for too long. As much as possible, provide socialization and stimulation in short periods. For example, accompany the dog inside its room for 10 minutes in the morning. After that, let the dog roam a bigger area.

The key here is introducing parts of your home little by little. A big house can be daunting for canines, so I suggest starting with a small room, then the hallway, and so on.

You can always ask the help of a pet trained if your newly adopted dog isn’t coping very well. You might need to adjust things to make them more comfortable.

7. Set a schedule

Dogs are creatures of routine. This is the same reason why many of them develop separation anxiety when a sudden change occurs at home. To help your adopted dog adjust, I recommend sticking to a schedule it will get used to. This reduces the unpredictability of the environment. In turn, your dog will relax faster and accept new people around.

You can start the day by walking the pooch in the morning then giving its breakfast. Before the noontime meal, you can have a playtime session to drain the extra energy. You can also squeeze in subtle training drills here, like teaching the dog basic obedience commands. If the dog is trained, you can teach a trick or two.

Stick to this schedule, and your dog will soon calm down. After a few months, the dog can anticipate what’s next.

However, if you have small kids, the process can be complicated. As we know, toddlers are pinchy, and newly adopted dogs may not tolerate the roughhousing just yet. So for your baby’s safety and the dog’s peace of mind, keep them apart for the meantime.

8. Watch out for escape attempts

Rescue dogs that have been rehomed will have multiple escape attempts in the first weeks. This means they don’t consider the new place as their home yet. This is completely understandable. What you can do is make sure that your dog’s room is escape-proof.

If you are to take the dog in the yard, make sure that it’s fully leashed. I also recommend setting up a dog cable run so your pooch can explore the yard on its own without running off. Still, you should be there to supervise the canine as the leash can get tangled.

Training is necessary to stop the escape attempts. You should also make your yard escape-proof by increasing the fence’s height and blocking any potential digging.

9. Keep away other pets

It’s possible that your resident dog won’t accept the newcomer right away. And for the benefit of your newly adopted canine, it’s best to push back their first meeting for the meantime.

You can start introducing the two by switching each other’s toys. This will let each dog get used to the scent before seeing each other eye to eye. Next, you can switch their rooms to get them acclimated to the presence of each other.

10. Socialize with other family members

Lastly, introduce family members as gradual as you’d introduce other pets. You have to be careful with very young kids as they are pretty snappy, which will scare the dog.

Ask anyone who wants to interact with the dog to sit. This is a more relaxed and less threatening position for the canine as compared to standing or crouching.

Struggling with your newly adopted dog? Here’s a fun video from Prancer’s Foster Pibble that will let you see things in a new light:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does rehoming affect a dog?

A: Rehoming is a massive setback for dogs, especially if they already bonded with their families. Rehomed dogs will become depressed and develop severe separation anxiety. New owners of the dog will notice an insistent effort to escape, which is because the dog is longing for its old home. 

Q: Is it cruel to rehome a dog?

A: While rehoming a dog is a painful and complicated process, sometimes, it’s the best option for owners. It’s possible that they can’t support the dog’s needs any longer or that they are moving to a new place and can’t keep the dog. In this case, rehoming becomes a better and selfless option than putting a canine through negligence and abuse.

Q: Do dogs miss their previous owners?

A: Dogs that have been recently rehomed will miss and long for their owners. Some would even escape to go back to their previous homes. This would be much worse if the dog came from a happy home. Still, there’s something you can do to acclimate the dog to its new home and family. You just have to be patient and gentle all the time.

Q: Should I visit my rehomed dog?

A: You should never visit your rehomed dog once you decided to give it up. Doing so will only confuse the dog and defeat the new owners’ efforts to train the canine. It will only cause a setback in the coping process of the dog. Over time, it will be much harder for the dog to settle to its new home because it will keep escaping to follow you.

Q: Should I change my adopted dog’s name?

A: Dogs can learn a new name pretty easily with consistent training. It’s up to you if you want to retain their old name or replace it with a new one. Most dogs can learn a brand new name in just a matter of days, so the odds are in your favor should you pick a new name for your pet.


Knowing how to help a dog adjust to a new family is part of adopting a rescue canine. It’s a long process, but your patience will surely yield results. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and to approach the vet for any concerns.

Have you adopted a dog? How is the pooch coping with its new home? Share your experience with us in the comment section!