How Long Does It Take For A Rescue Dog To Adjust?

Rescuing a dog can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things that you can do. Rescue dogs have so much love to give and can become one of your most loyal and affectionate companions. 

However, it’s not always smooth sailing. Rescuing a dog is a big responsibility, and it can take a lot of time and patience getting your dog acclimated to your home and your new life together.

How Long Does It Take For A Rescue Dog To Adjust

So, how long does it take for a rescue dog to adjust, and what can you do to make the transition easier?

How Long Does It Take For A Rescue Dog To Adjust?

This is a difficult question to answer as all rescue dogs are different.

You could rescue a puppy who is very trusting and happy to come to your home, but you could also have an older dog who is afraid of people, or one that has behavioral issues and trust issues.

Therefore, how long it takes for a rescue dog to adjust can vary greatly. 

In addition, rehoming can be a stressful experience for dogs, as they are taken out of their comfort zone, and they don’t often understand that they’re going to a better place.

This can lead to anxiety, bouts of depression and confusion, which makes it harder for them to show their true personality. 

That being said, most rescues/shelters will tell you that it can take up to three months or more for your rescue dog to fully adjust to its new life with you.

This is often referred to as the ‘decompression process’. However, some dogs may adjust very quickly from about 2 weeks onwards. 

How Can I Help My Rescue Dog Adjust?

Dogs love structure and routines, and moving homes and leaving the shelter can disrupt their idea of ‘normality’. So, the best way to help your dog adjust is to create a routine and stick to it.

This can make them feel more at home, more comfortable and aware of what’s going on around them, rather than confused. 

When rescuing a dog, you will find that many shelters will tell you about the rule of threes, or 3-3-3. This is in reference to the first three days with your dog, the first three weeks and then the first three months. 

The first three days will be your rescue dog’s time to decompress and begin transitioning from a shelter dog into a dog with its own home.

This can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if they’ve never lived in a home before. It is during this time that you’ll need to show them around each part of your home, let them explore and understand.

It is also worth taking your dog on their first walk around your neighborhood so that they can take in all of the sights, sounds and smells and begin to get used to their home and the surrounding areas. 

Walking your dog also helps to build a bond and establish rules and boundaries between you. Once you return home, it’s a good idea to start building on those boundaries and rules by showing your dog the ropes.

Show them their feeding area, sleeping area or crate and let them investigate. 

At this point, your rescue may choose to curl up in bed as it is all a bit overwhelming for them. This can be a safe space for them to decompress, so try not to bother them. 

When it comes to the 3-3-3 rule. It’s best to use the first three days to let them explore, investigate and decompress. Give them some space, but you can establish boundaries. Start as you mean to go on. 

How Long Does It Take For A Rescue Dog To Adjust

After three weeks, your dog should start to know what your daily routine is, and will learn what times you feed, walk them and let them out for the toilet. In these weeks, you will notice more personality traits as they begin to unwind and become more comfortable. 

Once your rescue dog is more comfortable in their surroundings, the hard part starts. They may begin to test the boundaries and figure out who the boss is. Make sure you train them with positive reinforcement and remain calm when they are naughty. 

After three months, your rescue dog should understand that this is their home, and you’re not going anywhere. With some patience, they should start to trust you and crave affection from you.

The good news is that dogs love affection, and so you can use this as a positive marker of good behavior.

If your rescue is demonstrating behavioral issues, then it is worth getting a dog trainer or behaviorist sooner rather than later to ensure they are nipped in the bud before it becomes a permanent issue. 

From three months on, your dog should show signs that they are comfortable, happy, acclimated to their new home, new environment, new owner and routine. 

How To Bond With A Rescue Dog

Rescue dogs come from all different backgrounds. Some may be abandoned or abused, in which cases it can be hard for them to trust humans and bond with them.

This will take a lot of time and patience, and you’ll need to go off the dog’s behavior and body language to gauge how you bond with them over time. 

For most dogs, bonding can take from two weeks to two months. One of the best ways that you can create a relationship with a dog is by hand feeding them their food or their treats.

A bond can also be formed with a routine that you must stick to, and ensure that you try to play with your dog and touch them (if they’re not fearful or aggressive). 

It’s important that you don’t rush the dog or pressure them. With some affection, lots of petting, training and feeding, they will surely come around and learn that you are a friend, not foe. 


To summarize, it is difficult to gauge how long it will take for your rescue dog to adjust to their new life with you. However, most experts agree that the 3-3-3 rule is a good place to start.

This means that you take things slowly for the first three days, weeks and months, and tackle the issue in stages. This gives your dog time to decompress. After three months, your rescue dog will start to become acclimated and accustomed to their home.

Emily Andrews