Giving Dogs the Lives They Deserve

What to Expect When Expecting … A Rescue Dog

What to Expect When Expecting … A Rescue Dog

What To Expect When You Are Expecting … A Rescue Dog

Congratulations – you have a new family member on the way!
Bringing home a new dog is an exciting event; in the excitement pet parents may, understandably, forget their new four-legged family member might take just a bit a more time to join in the enthusiasm.

Change can be stressful for some dogs (and some humans), particularly for those who have had a harder than average start to life. Because all of The Barking Lot dogs are saved from death row at a local shelter, we know they’ve taken a few more knocks than the average canine. Your new pup may show stress by acting in unexpected ways. Rest assured, with a little patience and positive reinforcement any unwanted behaviors typically disappear quickly as the dog adapts to his or her new surroundings. Your new best friend is eager to shower you with love and affection, and the following are a few tips to help bolster that relationship.

We are happy to provide more details on any of these tips. Email us at [email protected] for a quick reply.

Expect an adjustment period – for some dogs this may be an hour; for others it may be a few months.
Both you and your new dog need to get used to each other: the dog needs to get used to a new environment, you need to get used to a new schedule, and other adjustments may be required. Some behaviors your new pup might exhibit during the adjustment period include:

  • Shyness, hiding, or timidity
  • Barking for reasons not obvious to us mere humans
  • Marking territory
  • Separation anxiety
  • Forgetting any former house training skills
  • Possessiveness with you, toys, or the house
  • Leash aggression
  • Nervousness around strangers

(Please note: 99% of the time, you will have few or no unwanted behaviors crop up, but because you are dealing with a dog and not a Ficus plant, always be ready for the unexpected).

Some tricks to help manage these behaviors include:

  • Crate training the dog (see our post on crate training)
  • Providing ample exercise
  • Executing a consistent routine
  • Ignoring the dog until he or she decides to come out from their hiding place (we know, this one can be tough!)
  • Being a calm, confident pack leader/pet guardian

Issues like possessiveness, nervousness, and leash aggression will require some additional training. These are fairly common behaviors for a stressed canine and are usually easily corrected. We have many resources and suggestions to help with these types of situations. Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll contact you ASAP.

Prepare your house before the dog arrives.

Some items that are helpful to have ahead of time:

  • Bed/crate
  • Food and water bowl
  • Dog food
  • Treats
  • Variety of toys (Nylabone, squeaky toys, etc.)
  • Leash and collar (you’ll need these to pick up the dog from TBL)

Introduce the dog slowly to your house and new surroundings. Give the dog one or two rooms at a time for exploration. Dogs naturally like small spaces (that’s one reason crate training is easy and a good idea). A dog will initially feel safer with a small area to explore rather than having the run of the house.

Many people like to take their dog to the pet store right away; for a timid dog, a dog who doesn’t like the car, or a dog struggling with the adjustment, this may not be a “fun” event yet. Let your dog get used to you and your house before taking him or her to what might be a scary environment. If your dog trusts you, he or she will do much better in new surroundings.

Be ready to start training immediately.

Training could be on your own or with a trainer (or both), but training starts the minute the dog walks into your house. Is the dog allowed on the couch? If not, set this boundary. Can he or she jump up to greet you? If not, be ready to correct this behavior. Just as important, reward any good behaviors – sitting quietly at your feet during your favorite TV show, sitting by the door to go outside, chewing on a bone instead of your shoe…
Now is the time to establish your alpha relationship.

This can be done in a loving, trusting manner (feel free to email us for guidelines at [email protected]), but you and the dog need to understand that you are in charge. A Google search on “Nothing In Life Is Free” or NILIF training provides great information on how to set up this relationship (you don’t have to follow NILIF to a T to benefit from the concepts). Remember, dogs are pack animals and they want someone to lead them.
Plan to spend some extra time with your dog in the first few weeks.

To aid in the bonding between you and your dog, schedule some additional time in your day with him or her. This extra time together will also benefit your training and house breaking programs. A new dog may also need more frequent bathroom breaks until a routine is established, so be prepared to come home on lunch breaks and before happy hours. You’ll also need to learn how much exercise to provide your dog – some may be good with 1 long walk a day, some may need several walks a day – until you figure this out, you may find yourself late for work the first few mornings you spend with your pup.
Work on off-leash recall before taking your dog to dog beach, the park, or off-leash events.

Make sure your dog knows and trusts you and knows his or her name before you head out to an off-leash park. Taking a dog to an off-leash park too soon can lead to several problems:

  1. Your dog may run off as he or she doesn’t associate you as his or her leader yet;
  2. Already adjusting to change at home, you dog could be overwhelmed by the chaos at a dog park. You need to be confident your dog will respond to your training commands in this chaotic environment;
  3. Unfamiliar dogs, a new owner, and wide open spaces can really stress your dog, enough to act aggressively towards others even when he or she is not aggressive.

Trust and confidence in the new relationship will help avoid any negative scenarios.
Introduce your dog to new pets and animals slowly.

Be it a new dog at the park or a cat in your house, always use caution when introducing your dog to unknown animals. Until you know and understand all the clues and cues your dog gives you about his or her behavior, and you know your dog will respond to your commands, keep him or her on leash around new animals (please see our entry here for specific info on introducing a new dog to a resident cat).
Expect some mishaps.

Most likely you are going to experience a few less than perfect days with your new pup…a chewed up shoe, a puddle of pee on your carpet, a ravaged garbage can. Sometimes, the best solution to these adjustment problems is to maintain a sense of humor!

When you adopt from The Barking Lot, we work hard to ensure a smooth transition with your new family member. As pet parents, it may be difficult to anticipate and address every behavior that may arise, or know all the possible remedies. When in doubt, email us at [email protected] with any questions and we’ll be more than happy to help out!


  1. Hi! I just a 5 month old pup from a rescue shelter and I am having trouble with getting her to go to the bathroom when we go outside. I live in an apartment (only for a couple more months) and she does fine when in a backyard but I can tell she is totally overwhelmed with having to go while on a leash and an open area. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much.

    • We have a whole blog post dedicated to potty training tips!
      Off the top of my head, I think you should focus on developing a food/water schedule and rewarding her for going outside. If she’s overwhelmed by things like traffic or other dogs, try finding her a more secluded area and working her up to doing her business in a high-stress location. Good luck!

  2. Adopted 2 dogs from boarding. One dog snapped 4+5 times at the other one and then did bite him. I brought the injured dog home..that dog continues to bark.
    Growl and snap on my other 2 dogs that ive had for 3 yrs. I dont know what to do. Suggestions please!

    • We recommend you work with a dog behaviorist in your area to get professional advice on how to be the leadership force in your home.

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