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New Year, New Pup

The New Year means a lot of changes! Maybe you brought a new pet home over the holidays or you're looking forward to adopting one this year. Here is what to expect in the first three months of owning a new dog.

The first few months of bringing home your forever best friend is a fun-filled time learning about your new family member sprinkled in with hardships, challenges and frustrations. After all, you just added a whole new family member into your home. One you probably don’t have a whole lot of background on and one you can’t speak English to. You both are bound to make mistakes over and over again while figuring each other out, getting comfortable, and overall transitioning to mesh each other’s lifestyles together,

It’s not uncommon for new puppy parents to ask themselves, “What have I gotten myself into?” In times of frustration, it’s good to take a deep breath, step away, and stay calm so you don’t act out in emotion.

The adoption process can be tough for everyone, but keep in mind, the transition can be very hard on a new dog. Think of everything that's happening to them.

  • They don't know who you are.

  • They don't know where they're going.

  • They don’t know the rules.

  • They don’t know if they can trust their new family.

  • They don’t know what the expectations are.

  • Your house is at least their third home in the last few weeks or months.

  • They don't know if they're going back to the shelter.

  • There are so many new sounds.

  • Your house smells weird.

  • You smell weird.

The process is a whole new experience that brings on excitement, fear, anxieties, and confusion for your new dog all at once.

The 3-3-3 Rule

The 3-3-3 Rule helps set expectations for your dog's adjustment to their new environment:

  • 3 Days: Your pup's new home is different than anything they've ever experienced before. Your dog is bound to be a little aloof at first, not sure about their new environment. This aloofness may be followed closely by great excitement, some accidents, and possibly exploring into places they may not be allowed. They are going to be so hyped up on all the new sights, scents, and space and have no idea what to do with any of it. You should expect there to be excitement, a lot of energy, and a lot of unpredictability. To make it easier on them, keep yourself and your family members calm while bonding with the new pup. Reward when they do something good and redirect when they do something bad.

  • 3 Weeks: Your dog is starting to understand the routine such as when to expect food, walks, and where to go potty. They will begin to feel more comfortable in their new home. They will start to come out of their shell and show their personality a bit more, and with that, some unwanted behaviors such as chewing, digging, and play biting may occur. Training will be crucial in the first three weeks and on. Establish boundaries and rewards. One of the greatest things you can do in the first three weeks is expose your dog to new toys, situations and experiences. Finding out what they like as far as toys and treats will be your key tools in training them. Three weeks in, it's going to be so important in setting expectations. Just like a new relationship, you both will be adjusting to a lifestyle that makes sense for you and your dog.

  • 3 Months: Ah, your pup seems to be FINALLY settling in. Yes, it took three months but it is SO worth it. Your pet is now a part of your family and is comfortable and likely knows the routine and the expectations. They are home. Dogs and puppies alike can, of course, still have behavior problems, and may still need time and training to ensure a successful transition to their new life. Training never really ends as long as you are continuing to uphold expectations and reward for good behaviors to continue.

All dogs are individuals and there is only so much one can predict based on age, breed, and their past. It is a challenge to tell our adopters with certainty what to expect in the first 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months as their pup adjusts to their new home.

Shelter dogs can come with uncertain pasts likely filled with traumatic experiences. They're kind of like a human entering a new relationship - we all have our own baggage and experiences - good and bad - that we bring to the table. As a new shelter dog owner, though you can't hear them talking, you will have to be patient in listening and watching them to learn what makes them comfortable and what they are fearful or uncomfortable with.

Have patience, and be kind to your shelter dog. The time and training is worth every bit of the happiness they will bring you for years to come.

If you're ready to add a dog to your family, look no further than your local HSNT adoption center! Make an appointment online to visit our pets or come to our weekend adoption events!

View all pets available at our adoption centers by visiting

Pets and People, Saving Each Other

HSNT’s mission is to act as an advocate on behalf of all animals and to ensure their legal, moral and ethical consideration and protection; to provide for the well-being of animals who are abandoned, injured, neglected, mistreated or otherwise in need; to promote an appreciation of animals; and to instill respect for all living things.

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