Taking A Rescue Dog Home

A Guide for Taking Home Your Shelter/rescue Dog

Congratulations on making the choice to save a life and adopt a shelter/rescue dog!  There are so many dogs that need homes that it can be a wonderful feeling to offer a home to a dog that is in a shelter or rescue organization.

This Guide offers you tips that will help make the transition of bringing home your new dog easier so that you can start your life together successfully.

Here’s a note about the Author:


Julie Bjelland Lokhandwala is the founder of webDogTrainer, LLC and has created an Online Dog Training Guide and Consultation: www.webDogTrainer.com.  WebDogTrainer, LLC donates 10% of profits to Charity with a focus on helping shelter/rescue dogs get adopted successfully.  Julie formerly trained at Guide Dogs for the Blind as well as owned a successful private dog training business.

A Note from Julie:

I’m already so proud of you for choosing to give a home to a dog in need.  Because you are reading this I know you are a dedicated dog owner and plan to give your dog a good home.  I rescued my own dog, named Fax from German Shepherd Rescue and he is wonderful!  I adopted him when he was about two years old and he was a big (almost 100 lbs), untrained dog who had a lot of behavior issues we had to work on right away to make the transition to living with us go smoothly.  I’d like to pass on some of those tips to you.

I wish the best of luck and joy with your new dog and hope that you’ll contact me through my website if you need any extra assistance.  Good luck and enjoy your life with your new dog!

-All the best!


Rules to follow for a successful adoption:

1. Have your supplies ready.  You’ll need a leash, collar, food, bowls for food and water, toys, bones for chewing.  You’ll also need an identification tag and rabies and license tags.  For medium to large dogs I also recommend using a head collar called The Gentle Leader® for walking your dog without pulling.  (If your dog’s snout is too short, like bulldogs, for example, you can try a body harness.

2. Try to be home with your dog for the first few days to a week if possible. A little extra effort early on makes a big difference!  Taking time off work now will pay off in the future because you were able to be there for your dog to establish all the rules early on before they made the mistakes.  If you are guiding and leading your dog successfully from day one, they will know the rules and follow them from the beginning before bad habits develop.  A new house/owner means new rules so old habits from previous homes can be broken immediately if not allowed to do them in your home from day one.

3. BEFORE you bring your dog home the very first thing you should do is take your dog for a really long walk (about an hour or more for medium and larger size dogs that are younger than age 5 or so; small/toy size dogs and senior dogs will need less) before you even go into your home for the first time.  The idea here is that you are establishing yourself as their leader, as well as tiring them out and draining some of that pent up energy and nervousness they may have.  Your goal from now on should be to make sure to exercise your dog at least twice a day until they are tired out (meaning they lay down to rest after the exercise).  If they are still running around after the exercise you know it wasn’t enough.  Read the article at the end of this guide for more details.

4. Then, when you do get home keep them on-leash for the first two weeks.  Keep your new dog on-leash for a couple weeks initially so that you can teach them what is good behavior and what is not acceptable.  Attach the leash to yourself and have the dog be with you all day and go where you go within the house.  For example, if in their previous home they chewed furniture, ate things off the counters, got into the garbage, urinated on the carpet, etc they’ll learn they can’t do those things in your home because your timing for correcting it is instant when they are on-leash.

5. Make a trip to the Vet.  You’ll want to be sure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations.  Also, get your dog spayed or neutered as soon as you can if they are not already.  You don’t want to contribute to more unwanted pets!

6. Create rules and goals you expect from the dog as a family ideally before bringing the dog home, but especially before allowing the dog off-leash in the home.  It is a good idea to have a family meeting with everyone that lives in the home and discuss and agree on what your expectations are of the dog.  Will they be allowed on the couch, the bed, and all rooms of the house?  Where will they sleep and eat?  Who will walk the dog and clean up after them?  Etc. As a family you must all be consistent with your decisions or you will confuse the dog and cause inconsistency.  Inconsistency on your part means your dog probably will not follow your rules.

7. To stop a dog from doing something you don’t want them to do you need to catch them in the act.  If they urinated on the carpet or got into the garbage and you don’t actually see them doing it you cannot correct them for that behavior because you are too late and they will not understand why they are being disciplined and will also not trust you in the future.  That old myth of bringing them to the spot and telling them they are bad does NOT work.   Instead, since they are on-leash in the beginning you will be able to quickly tell them No and move onto something they can do.  Make sure you are praising your dog when they are behaving well.

8. Get some Training Guidance.  Having a well-trained dog is really a wonderful experience.  Dogs that are trained well are happier and get to go out with you more and are a joy to have around!  Be pack leader to your dog.  Dogs naturally need a leader in their lives and if they don’t find one, they try to become one and that can lead to behavioral problems.  Dogs are happier with you being a leader because our human world is stressful to them if they don’t have clear guidance and rules to follow.  To become leader practice obedience, set rules and be consistent with them and walk your dog without pulling every day.  Everything you need to know about training your dog and becoming leader can be found at www.webdogtrainer.com You can even talk with Julie, the trainer personally there through live chat to answer specific questions about your dog!

9. Enjoy your Dog!  With the proper care and training your life will be filled with joy with this new addition to your family!

Preventing/Solving behavior problems in your dog, the first step.

Exercise your dog to drain their energy.

-One of the most common problems dogs experience is that they do not get enough exercise!

We tend to think that having a backyard is enough exercise for them.  But it isn’t!  When a dog doesn’t have enough exercise or enough “energy drained” as I call it, they will experience many different kinds of problems.  Think of it like this, each dog has a certain amount of energy and when that energy is not drained, it will come out in ways we do not want; like aggression, separation anxiety, and generally being too much to handle, along with many other behavioral problems.  If you want to have a well-trained dog or at least a dog that will listen to you and behave in a way you want, then the very first step is to drain their energy on a daily basis.  It is absolutely essential.  Every single dog that has come to me with behavioral problems is a result of having too much energy stored and not enough of it released!

-Dogs also like to leave the house.

Can you imagine what you’d feel like if you never got to leave the house?  You’d go a little crazy too!  If you look at their history they were travelers!  They need to get out of the house and experience life with you!  A walk down the street and back is not enough.  So, we’ve learned the very first step you need to take in order to have a dog that can become well trained is to drain their energy.  How do we know how much energy our dog needs drained?

-Expect to take the dog on about a 30-45 minute walk twice a day.

Your goal is to get the dog tired out.  You need to base the intensity of your exercise on your own dogs energy needs.  Some dogs are high energy and take a lot to tire them out and some dogs will need less.  How do you know if it is enough?  When you are on your way home from your walk, does your dog drag a bit behind you?  When you get home, does the dog immediately lay down?  Then you know they’ve been tired out.   Success!   If you are on your way home and your dog has as much energy as they did at the start of the walk then you know it isn’t enough.  You should expect that the dog would feel tired out when you get home and go lay down.

-What if you don’t have the energy or time to tire out the dog?

There are some other possibilities for draining your dog’s energy that go beyond the walk.  But, remember, the walk is not to be substituted by anything else.   The walk is an important way for you to establish and maintain yourself as pack leader.  We will talk more about that in later articles.   If you can only make yourself do a minimum of a 20-minute walk, there are some things you can do to make the dog more tired.

-Buy a doggie backpack! It is a backpack specifically designed for dogs.  They carry it on their back and it has two straps, one strap wraps in front of their chest and the other under their belly.  The goal here is to add weight to the backpack that the dog will carry and thus, feel more tired out because they are carrying the extra weight.  A doggie backpack has 3 huge benefits; the first being, a 20-minute walk can feel more like a 40-minute walk to a dog carrying the extra weight.  You can put about 10-20% of their body weight by pounds into it.  So for example a 50 pound dog can carry anywhere from 5-10 lbs, depending on their energy level and age.  Gauge it by your particular dog and talk with your Veterinarian to approve it for your particular dog.   Have the weight evenly distributed on either side of the backpack, so if you want to add 10 pounds, make sure you add 5 pounds on each side.  You can use anything you want to add the weight from bags of dried beans to canned goods.

There are two other added benefits to using a doggie backpack.  Dogs love to feel like they are important and have a job to do in their life.  When a dog is wearing a backpack they feel like they are performing a job and it gives them a sense of pride.  I’ve had a lot of clients comment on the fact that they feel their dogs are almost prancing when they have the backpack on, like they are happy and proud.   It is similar to when we’d see Guide Dogs wearing their harnesses or Search and Rescue dogs wearing their packs.  These dogs that have jobs feel important and proud and the backpack is a symbol to the dog in the same way, that they have a job and it is important!  I can still remember when I would visit the homes of blind people with Guide Dogs; the dogs would get so excited, wagging their tails, when they would see the harness was about to be put on them!  It was a beautiful sight to see!  They were performing an essential duty and they loved it!

The third benefit, besides the draining of energy and making them feel proud is that dogs usually can only concentrate intensely, on one thing, so when they wear the backpack they tend to have a more focused walk.  A dog that generally tries to sniff and pull on a walk will be more likely to walk in a controlled manner when wearing a backpack.  They are focused on that extra weight they are carrying and balancing the pack so you’ll see that it helps them be more composed.

Some dogs feel a little odd when you first put the backpack on and may show physical signs that they feel uncomfortable, like balking or laying down.  Don’t worry.  The most important thing for you to do is be positive about it and just start moving.  Getting them walking right away will make them forget about it and just get used to it.   They should be fine within a couple minutes.  Just encourage them to get moving.  If needed you can add the weights later after your dog has become accustom to wearing the pack for a while.

-Another thing you can do is put a dog on a treadmill to drain more energy than you have the ability to give them.

Remember, your walk is still important and a treadmill should not be a substitute but only an addition to the energy drain.   When introducing a dog to a treadmill there are some important things to consider.  First of all, you want to put their leash and collar on them and guide them up onto the treadmill when it is NOT moving initially.  Do this several times until the dog feels totally comfortable standing up on it.  Then when you’ve accomplished that goal you can start the treadmill VERY slowly while they are standing on it.  It is important to do it very slowly initially until they get the idea they need to walk on it.  Try to support them and not allow them to jump off.  If they jump off, lead them back onto it.  Eventually when they get very good at it you can increase the speed.  It is common for dogs to even enjoy this and when introduced properly they will jump right on it!

-Other ways of draining energy

There are many other ways of draining a dog’s energy in addition to the walks.   You can throw a ball or Frisbee for them.  Or you can even go running, roller-blading or biking with your dog too.  Or if you have a motorized type wheel chair or something similar they can run along beside you.   All of these types of  exercises are possible to do in a controlled manner.  Just to be safe, check with your Veterinarian to approve all exercise for your particular dog.

So, as we’ve learned, throughout this guide there are some important steps you can take to ensure your new life together is a happy and fulfilling one.

Having a well-trained dog will be a very wonderful experience!  Enjoy!

Julie Lokhandwala is founder of webDogTrainer, LLC. And has created the new Online Dog Training Guide and Consultation www.webDogTrainer.com

Imagine life with a well-trained dog!

This article was contributed by Julie Bjelland Lokhandwala the founder of webDogTrainer

webDogTrainer is a popular website that offers Consultations with Julie, the dog trainer, LIVE about any dog-training related questions you may have!  Also on the site you will find more in-depth information on how to train your dog to be the kind of dog you always wanted and how to fix problem behaviors should they occur.

Contact info: www.webDogTrainer.com info@webdogtrainer.com