Congratulations on Adopting Your Dog!

The moment Karma dog and I realized she was coming home.

The moment Karma dog and I realized she was coming home.

Choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue is a wonderful thing to do, as I and most of my students have found.

Even though this may be one of the happiest moments of your life, understand it can be a very challenging and stressful one for your new dog.

For the majority of rescue dogs we do not know their history or what kind of life they have had. All dogs, regardless of breed, go through various stages of development. Most dogs who end up in shelters are returned during their adolescent period of 8-10 months. It can be a difficult time for puppies that missed establishment of boundaries, socialization and training. But with proper guidance you can help your new dog have a happy and healthy life with you.

My puppy Karma enjoying all the good things in her crate.

My puppy Karma enjoying all the good things in her crate.

Here are few steps before the dog comes home:

  1. Buy an appropriate sized Crate, for most dogs a wire crate is fine. Some do better in more enclosed "travel" type crates.

  2. If the dog is not potty/housetrained put away all the rugs

  3. Research a quality kibble or raw diet

  4. Pick up some Kong Toys to stuff, and comfy dog bed for outside of the crate as well.

  5. Find a local dog walker to help even if you work from home, it's a great to have a dog walker that your dog is comfortable with for any emergencies or extra busy days.

  6. Find a local trainer that can help guide you and your dog, and set you both up for success. Even for one session.

  7. Find a local Veterinarian and have a scheduled check up within the first week of getting your new dog.

Learn About Your Dog's Body Language and What They Are Trying To Tell You.

This video shows many of the signs we can look out for to advocate for our dogs. Learn more at

Understanding your dog's body language is one of the most important things we as humans can do to help on our dogs.

Our dogs can’t tell us in words what they’re thinking, so once we learn how to understand their body language better, a whole world of communication with our dogs opens up and in turn a better relationship.

It's important to understand dogs have 4 responses to any stressful situation fight, flight, avoid and acceptance. Dogs will rarely learn to accept without our help.

Download the Dog Decoder app
Another great resource to learn how to read your dog's body language, available in iTunes and Google play.

Play The "Name Game" 

A great way to start your relationship with your dog once is to teach them their name. When you are training your dog it's most important that you have their attention. Work on their name recognition in many different environments. Have some fun with friends, family and or your roommate standing or sitting in a circle and practice the name game. 

Here are few videos playing the "Name Game";

Here is a video session teaching Sampson her badass new name Gloria

Here is the one person approach with me Changing Jansen into Whiskey

Dogs Thrive On Structure, Rules And Boundaries


Continue to set your dog up for success by establishing clarity in communication and helping your dog learn what is expected of them in our crazy human world. From my experience, as well as my mentors, structure, rules and boundaries are needed to help create a calm well-adjusted dog in the home.

Start with some rules to set clear boundaries until you get to know your new dog better and especially until after their "honeymoon period". This will create a better relationship for all.

A few examples I recommend while you get to know your new dog are not allowing your dog on the furniture, keeping their leash on in the home to help guide them to make good choices, proper use and rest in the crate and structured walks.

Training your dog helps close the communication gap between our species. On this page are some short training tutorials to get you started like by playing "Crate Games" the "Name Game, "Leave It" and the ever important "Place" cue.

Many Dogs Experience A Honeymoon Period

This period can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or longer. Every dog is different. Look at it as if you were dropped off in a foreign country, where you do not speak the language or even starting a new job. It would make sense that it might take a few days, weeks or even months to observe and adjust to the new environment.

Photo by FaST_9/iStock / Getty Images

Give Your Dog Time To Decompress And Take It All In Slowly.

The biggest mistake people make during this period is to give their dog too much too soon, such as too much touching, talking, and affection. We need to let them "just be" and have time to smell and explore your home, supervised of course, and get to know you and their surroundings with plenty of exploring walks around the neighborhood.

When The Honeymoon Is Over

Many times I hear from dog owners that their dog was perfect for the first week or month and then they tell me "He’s never done this before.” Well now that the dog has become comfortable in the new environment, and the honeymoon is over. It's likely they are seeing the behaviors and reasons that led the previous owner to drop the dog off at the shelter or rescue, and many times they do not mention these issues to them.

But fear not, most behaviors can be addressed when you learn how to properly communicate and set boundaries for your dog. It’s all about Bark, Train, and Love.

Photo by IngredientsPhoto/iStock / Getty Images

Create a quiet calm space for them to decompress such as their crate, it will become their safe place and can help in so many ways moving forward. Help them adjust by feeding all meals in their crate and give them plenty of rest time in there as well so it becomes their safe place.

When you are not home you can also leave on dog calming music, Spotify has a wide selection as well as Amazon Prime, here is my dogs Amazon playlist.

While your dog is adjusting and you are getting to know each other, it's a great idea to have a leash on in the home to help guide them.

When it comes to bones and other valuable resources, give it to them in the crate and see how they react, some dogs when uncomfortable can guard items they perceive as high value.