If you've adopted a rescue dog, you may have envisioned a scenario like this: you bring your new friend home and give him a bath and a nice meal before the two of you retire to the couch where he enjoys a restful sleep on the first night of his new life. Instead, many people are met with the opposite experience— perhaps a dog who is shy, timid, confused or even scared of his new environment and the people in it. When bringing any new friend home, it's important to consider that there may be an adjustment period, and warming up may happen later than sooner.
New dogs and adjustment periods
Building a relationship with a new dog is just that, a relationship, and relationships just take time to get stronger. After all, you probably didn't feel 100% comfortable with your romantic partner on day one, or understand the interpersonal dynamics thriving among new coworkers on the first day of a new job, right? This same thing applies to the relationship you're building with a new canine companion, so try to not be hard on yourself or your dog if it just takes a little time and patience. So, now that you've found the right match for yourself and your lifestyle, give the relationship the time it needs to grow. Don't worry if your dog isn't interested in the basket of new toys you got for her, or isn't terribly excited to eat all of her food at meal times — although your new home is a safe and nurturing space, your dog probably doesn't know what to think of it right away, but will learn to relax and come out of her shell over time.
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Warming up to new people
The amount of time it will take a dog to warm up to you will depend on the dog, you, and your relationship with each other, and may also be affected by factors like age, temperament, past experiences and your structure or routine. Every dog's adjustment period will look different, but in some cases, it takes between three weeks and three months for a dog to become comfortable in a new home. Some dogs may take longer to come out of their shells, and that's OK too, every dog will have different needs.
Generally, the first three months of a puppy's life is the most essential for socializing and forming relationships, so a younger pup may warm up a little faster than say, an adult dog who is dropped into a new setting. A shy, older dog is not always the case, however, and many newly adopted dogs step right into their new lives and routines without missing a beat, so every situation will be a little different. Senior dogs may be especially confused by their new surroundings, and sometimes require a little extra comfort and care to warm up, but the exact requirements will depend on the dog.
How to build trust with your new dog
Trust building begins before your new friend will even step foot in her new home. Dog proofing the home, working out pet care responsibilities with other family members or people living in the space, which applicable, and having food, bedding, and toys ready establishes a good foundation for your and your new friend. When you bring a new dog home, the best thing to do, in most cases, is to provide a quiet, comfortable and safe space for her, allowing for rest, decompressing, and the freedom to find security in a never-before-seen setting. A crate with clean bedding can provide the privacy some dogs need to get comfortable.
While setting boundaries is an incredibly important part of pet guardianship, jumping right into dog training will likely be too much too soon, and can overwhelm a canine in the first days. Once your dog has decompressed, working with a trainer can, however, help the two of you establish a bond based on trust and communication, as well as provide ample time to actively engage with your new pet. To get a better understanding of your dog's limits and boundaries, knowing how to read basic dog body language will help you heed what your dog is communicating to you.
There is no set time that it will take for a dog to warm up to a new guardian, but in most cases, it's not something that will happen right away. While you may have had ample time to prepare for your new friend, being added to a home is an unfamiliar experience, and can take days, weeks, or months for a dog to get comfortable. You can make the transition smoother for the both of you by reading and respecting your dog's body language, establishing a routine, and allowing her the time and space she needs by building a trusting and supportive mutual relationship.