Adding a new dog to your family is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences that a person can go through, especially when you know you've saved a life rescuing him or her from a shelter. When dogs are kept at a shelter for a period of time, or if they had a negative experience with people before they were taken in, it can understandably have an effect on them. They may have developed shelter shock (a form of PTSD), they could have separation anxiety or other obstacles to overcome. It may not be easy, and it may take time, but this should certainly not discourage you from rescuing a shelter pet. With the right environment, training, and plenty of love, shelter animals are capable of being amazing pets.

With up to 8 million animals entering shelters every year, it's easier to find the right pet than you might think. Oftentimes, people choose to go to a breeder or a store because they want a specific breed or they specifically want a puppy/kitten. In a shelter, you'll find dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds, and ages, so it's not always necessary to visit a breeder to find a specific dog or cat. So, let's talk about bringing home a shelter pet for the first time, some of the issues they may have, and how to help them overcome those while they adjust to their new home.

Coming Home

When you bring home an animal from the shelter, it is important to provide a welcoming environment, but this is especially true for a pet whose previous experience with people may not have been very positive. So as not to overwhelm them, start by keeping them in one area of the house, with minimal stimulation. Keep noise levels low, and avoid any stress for your new friend. Let them explore and take in new sights and sounds until they are somewhat adjusted and willing to approach you. Additionally, if you have other pets at home, hold off on introducing them to your new friend until they've had a chance to visit the vet. It is crucial that you are patient, and that they feel your home is a safe environment.

Shelter Shock

When a dog has been confined to one area for an extended period, with barking dogs and strange noises all around them, and without proper socialization, it can sometimes cause what's known as shelter shock. In their previous homes, they may have been constantly confined, they may not have known a loving hand, or they may even have been physically abused. Many shelters work with the animals to lessen the effects of past experiences – this might be through socializing with other dogs or people, behavioral training, and other rehabilitation practices. Despite their best efforts, your dog may not truly begin the healing process until they've found a permanent home. Once you've introduced your furry friend to their new, safe environment, their shelter shock could pass as quickly as a few hours, or it could take much longer. These animals should not be seen as broken. Be patient, be compassionate, seek professional behavioral and training guidance and you could have a normal, healthy dog before long.

Separation Anxiety

No matter what kind of home your dog came from, adjusting to a new one and a new owner can be difficult. Separation anxiety can be accompanied by barking, whining, and howling, but it can also come with behavioral issues like chewing, digging, urinating, or defecating in the home. This, of course, is caused by their owner leaving home, but it could also occur if the owner is home when the pet is unable to be with them. To help your pet feel safe and keep your home protected, you may want to kennel or crate them while you are away. No matter what size your dog is, a kennel or crate can be an effective training tool. Crate training may seem tricky at first, so it's a good idea to slowly warm your dog up to it by feeding meals in there, or giving him a treat or toy while inside. We carry a large selection of assorted dog toys guaranteed to keep any dog entertained while crated. In time they will enjoy spending time in the crate, viewing it as a safe haven or a den to rest in. Proper crate training takes plenty of time and patience, so it's best to have a good, routine plan. You can learn more on how to crate train in our How to Crate Train Your Dog article. Another option might be doggy daycare or leaving them in the care of a friend or family member.

When leaving home, offer a toy or treat that will keep them occupied. Chewing is a natural way for dogs to entertain themselves and also helps relieve separation anxiety your shelter dog may get when being left alone. Providing your dog with a safe chew or treat toy while you're away giving your dog a safe and acceptable chew outlet. For gentle to moderate chewers, consider a JW Twist-In Treats Dog Toy. The challenging design lets pet parents twist a treat down into a toy. The deeper you twist, the more of a challenge it becomes for your dog. For excessive chewers, consider a Pet Qwerks Nylon BarkBone. Made in the USA, Pet Qwerks Nylon Bones are infused with delicious flavors like bacon, prime rib, chicken, and are very durable. After you've given your dog their safe chew outlet, leave without a long goodbye. Upon returning home, keep the greeting as low-key as possible. When your dog is quiet or calm, reward their good behavior, so that they will know that is how they should behave while you're away.


Shelters work diligently to prevent illness and disease in every pet that enters their doors. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, your new dog may have contracted a virus, illness, or even fleas. It is highly recommended to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian shortly after coming home to ensure your canine friend is healthy. If you have a multi-pet household it is best to quarantine your new dog until you can see your veterinarian. Keep your pet healthy by taking them for regular walks, which will also help expend energy that may have been channeled elsewhere, like your favorite pair of shoes. The Aspen Adjustable Training Halter offers a safe, humane, and effective way to walk your dog while eliminating their tendency to pull.


Introducing a new shelter pet to your home takes time and dedication. However, any frustrations will certainly be outweighed by the joy that they bring you, as a new addition to your family. Always remember to be patient. You've done a great thing by giving your new friend a second chance. They may have had a bad experience previously, but soon they will know that they are in a loving, forever home.


  1. How to Help a Scared Rescue Dog Acclimate to You
  2. Separation Anxiety
  3. Shelter Shock

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