How to Bond with your Newly Adopted Rescue Dog

by Deb from PetCloud / Pet Owner Advice / 19 May 2020

Rescue dog meeting its new pet owners

Rescue dogs coming from a shelter environment have already been let down—this can mean your rescued pooch is less trusting of people, maybe anxious, and may not want to form a new bond with another human. Don’t despair! Rescue dogs can be just as happy and loving as any other dog (even more so), but you will need to put time and effort to get there. 

The best part about the journey towards special bond with your newly adopted rescue dog - is that anyone can learn how to do it with time and patience.  Give these bonding activities a try, and you’ll have a new furry best friend in due course.

1. High value treats

Just like humans, dogs love to hear how great they are.  If they are timid, a little bit of warm roast chicken (ensure you pick out the bones first) or some grated cheese, some natural Greek yoghurt or 100% natural peanut butter will help coax them to get them out of their shell.  This helps them associate good things every time they come near you.

100% Peanut Butter is one way to coax your newly adopted dog nearer.


2. Play time

There are plenty of fun things you can do with your newly adopted dog. Playing with a dog through ball throwing and teaching tricks can be just as rewarding for them as food. Some dogs rate it even higher than food!  Dogs LOVE to play, and if your dog thinks that you’re FUN to be around, they are more likely to come when they are called or respond to your advances for affection in a positive way.  Kong Wobblers are a terrific way to engage your adopted dog’s senses and efforts and will dispense dry treats upon dogs tipping it over with their paws.

Pet Owners of newly adopted dogs often to take a day or two off work to spend time with their newly adopted pet to support with pet separation anxiety.  If after you return to work, you need help with doggy day care or home visits or daily walks, a reputable service such as PetCloud can help.


3. Daily exercise

Depending on your breed and age of dog will determine the amount of exercise you need to provide them daily. Taking them for a sniff in the grass at a dog park won't suffice for some breeds. For high energgy breed dogs you may need to take them for hour long walks around the block, and up hills to tire them out. If you need a hand with this, booking a Dog Walker to come daily to your home with PetCloud is a great way.

4. Quality time

As the saying goes “To have a friend, you must be a friend.”  Just like humans, forming a bond with your newly adopted dog starts with quality time together.  It could mean just hanging out watching TV, visiting dog friendly markets together, walking through botanical gardens together, going kayaking along a river or splashing around at a dog friendly beach.
Watching tv with your newly adopted dog can be a great way to bond.

5. Lots of praise

Consistent praise is important to your newly adopted rescue dog. While there’s nothing wrong with your average “Good boy!” you’ll want to take praise up a notch by making a big fuss over the smallest thing. 

6. Affection through pats & cuddles

The more you pat and cuddle your dog, the more serotonin will be produced. Serotonin is sometimes called 'the happy chemical', because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness of humans and dogs.  This again will reinforce to them that good things happen when they come near you. 

7. Basic training

Training your dog can help him to trust you and strengthen the bond between you. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for a professional class—start things out casually at home with basic commands every day because practice makes perfect. Once your bond becomes stronger, take training to the next level with an obedience class and skills classes.  Enrolling your dog in a Professional Positive Reinforcement Training Program, they will learn commands such as “Leave it.” “Sit” “Stay” “Get the ball!” “Come!” “Roll over”.

How long does it take for an adopted dog to adjust?

1.5 months to 2 months.  Every dog will make the transition to their new family and home in their own time. Don't worry if they don't adapt their behaviour right away. They need time to get in a calm state of mind after being in a noisy shelter when they were surrendered, or maybe they were neglected and lived outside.  You WILL encounter accidental wees on the carpet. You WILL encounter boredom barking.

How long does it take to bond with a rescue dog?

As long as it takes to build up trustIt may depend whether they were previously abused or neglected and how long it went on for.  However, some adult dogs may bond with their Owners within a matter of days. Each dog has a  different temperament and a different story, so it's a case-by-case situation.

How do adopted dogs adjust to a new home?

Give them their own space in a crate with some cozy blankets they can go to if they need time out.  Pheromone sprays may help to mimic the smell of urine to signal to a dog where a great place to urinate is. But don't get that stuff on your hands - it smells vile. A positive is though, its affordable. You can buy the spray from most pet stores - one brand of it is called "NATURE'S MIRACLE".

This may help with housetraining and indicating to dogs where their right spot to toilet is.  

Ensure you give your dog loads of verbal praise and pats when they toilet in the right spot. 

This will reinforce to them that when they go in that spot, good things will happen. 

Can you train an adopted dog?

Some will come with their own training. Anything is possible with positive reinforcement, love, and high-value treats.

Is it normal to regret adopting a dog?

If you are feeling this way, it might actually indicate you haven't spent enough time understanding and reading your dog's signals and body language.  It was like a light switched on in my head when I attended my first training session at RSPCA School for Dogs.  The first training session is really for Human Pet Parents, and how understand how your dog thinks.  I was not paid to attend the classes – I paid myself, so this article is not a paid promotion in any way.  Fundamentally, every single Pet Parent should attend the very first class.  You will finally understand how your dog interprets your behaviour, and triggers that you might be setting off for your dog without realising it, or how you are encouraging further bad behaviours.

Why is adopting a pet so hard?

Not everyone finds adopting a pet hard.  Get specific. Narrow down why you feel it’s so hard.  Do they keep barking?  Do they keep weeing on the carpet?  Do they chew and destroy furniture or house hold objects or shoes?

Chew toys with stuffed treats inside is one way of deterring them from chewing the wrong things.


Do they keep trying to escape?  Why do they keep trying to escape?  Is your yard unfenced?  If it is fenced, does your dog keep escaping through the fence?  If so, assess whether you have an appropriate fence type and height for your dog, and whether it’s time your fence needs replacing. 

Is it 6ft, made of sturdy wood, with no gaps underneath or in between?  Does your dog keep digging underneath the fence?  What can you do to be resourceful to block off gaps under the fence? Can you use cement besa blocks from Bunnings or heavy wooden railway sleepers from a Landscaping supply centre? Sometimes they will cut sleepers to the length of your fence and may install them if you request.

Have you left some enrichment toys and meaty bones for them while you’re at work?  Buy a Kong Wobbler and fill it up with kibble and make them work for their food by having to tip it over with their paws to make kibble come out a little hole.

If you work long hours

Are you ensuring they are burning off energy with adequate daily exercise?  If you work long hours, boredom barking might be the symptom of not enough exercise.  Booking a Professional Dog Walker for a schedule of daily 1 hour dog walks will result in your dog feeling happier, and more relaxed, (even sleepy!) because much like humans, dogs need daily walks to help release the happy drug, serotonin, in their brain.

It’s important you hire a Professional Dog Walker as they will understand your dog breed types, for example brachycephalic breed (squishy face, short nosed) dogs are more prone to heatstroke, a condition where not enough air gets into their lungs because of the restrictions on their airways - which can be fatal.

So always ensure you book your professional dog walker for ongoing walks in the cool of the early mornings, or late afternoons.  This will also help to ensure their paws aren’t at risk of being burned on hot black road bitumen and footpaths.

What happens if you adopt a dog and it doesn't work out?

Don’t give up too easily. What other options have you tried?  If you have tried training and a daily schedule of dog walks and meaty bones, what about booking a program of weekly doggy day care, where they get to socialise and play with other dogs?

Have you tried natural remedies to reduce anxiety such as powders and chews containing zylkene (a milk protein) or tryptophan.

Have you taken them to get checked out at the Vet?  They could be in pain without you realising it, with a rotten tooth, or hip dysplasia.  A Vet may even trial medication.

What happens if your adopted dog doesn’t get along with other pets?

Compatibility is key to a harmonious home.  Introducing Dogs slowly is important.  Allow time for them to adjust and adapt.  Separate off areas of your home so that pets feel safe. You may be able to do this with a baby gate in hallways. 

What happens if your human relationship has changed?

This was one of the key reasons PetCloud was created!  We’ve been there.  Changes in owner circumstances, such as personal crises like a relationship break up, can mean a change in living dwellings, and then changing from a two person household to a 1 person household  may mean a change in jobs requiring flights interstate to see clients in order to pay the bills.

Lack of Pet Friendly Rental Properties

The process to secure a rental property is competitive enough in some suburbs, let alone hoping to find one that is pet friendly. Creating a free Pet Resume is one way you can apply to Landlords and Property Managers for special consideration.  If the Body Corporate still won’t budge, speak to a Body Corporate Advocacy Service that specialises in getting Pet Owners approved to have pets.

I'm going on holidays and can't afford boarding fees.

PetCloud is a national, highly credible booking website to book home-based pet sitters, and is an affordable option backed by RSPCA Qld.

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