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So you’ve adopted a dog….now what?!

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

First, congratulations! You have made the wonderful decision to adopt a dog but are not quite sure how things are going to go. Well, the 3-3-3 rule can provide some insight. What is the 3-3-3 rule?


In the first 3 days after bringing your new fur baby home, he may be feeling overwhelmed by the new people, smells, surroundings, sounds, etc. If he is, he may do any or all of the following: hide for long periods, ignore food and drink, avoid human contact, have accidents in the house, walk or slink with his ears back and/or tail between his legs, or even be a little growly. These are all normal signs that he is unsure of his situation and needs to get his bearings. Show lots of love and patience!

3 WEEKS After about 3 weeks, he should start feeling more comfortable in his new home. He will likely not hide as much, or at all, and will continue to adapt to the feeding and bathroom routines that you have set. You will see his ears point straight up (or hang down, whatever their natural position is) instead of being pinned back like when he was feeling afraid and uncomfortable, and his tail should be out from between his legs. You can expect to see some wags and to be able to pet him more frequently. He may start to play and interact with other animals and humans in the house.

One thing to keep watch for - as he starts to become more comfortable and lets his guard down, he may start showing some undesirable behaviors, like chewing inappropriate items (e.g., shoes, chair legs, etc.). If that happens, you will need to act quickly and consistently to stop the behavior before it progresses too far. The key to any technique that you try is consistency; use the technique EVERY time your dog engages in the unwanted behavior. It is more work for you initially, but consistency is the best way to communicate to your dog the behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not; this approach will serve you both well in the long run! Better yet, harness some of his energy by teaching basic commands like sit and stay and reward him with praise and treats when he gets it right!

3 MONTHS After 3 months, your dog will be feeling like he truly is part of the family and has likely started bonding with all of the family members, both furry and human! He will be pretty used to the household routines, which include the comings and goings of his humans and his meal times, bathroom breaks, and walk schedule. Continue teaching your dog basic commands and training him how to walk while on a leash. As the days pass, your dog will settle in more and more until he is all him all the time!

Keep in mind, however, that the 3-3-3 idea is a general rule; there will always be exceptions. If your dog is one of the exceptions, take heart because there are different things you can do to smooth the way. One option is to schedule an appointment with his vet to see if there is a medical concern causing the issue. For example, your dog may have a urinary tract infection or other issue that is causing him to urinate in the house instead of, or in addition to, going outside. Another option is to sign up for behavior classes for a more structured course of action and for additional support from other pet parents going through similar challenges. You can also contact a behavioral expert or trainer if your dog is just having a rough time of it and cannot seem to adjust on one or more levels.

No matter what stage of transition your dog is in and no matter how smoothly (or not) it is going, having endless patience and love and a robust sense of humor will keep you (mostly) sane and will continuously reassure your dog that he has found his forever home!

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