What Is The 3 3 3 Rule When Adopting A Dog?

Dear Doggy,

My family is going to adopt a dog next week and we want things to go smoothly. What is the 3, 3, 3 rule when adopting a dog?

Future Dog Rescuer

Dear Dog Rescuer,

The 3 3 3 Rule, or “The Rule of Threes,” describes the phases a canine goes through when adjusting to a new home. It gives new pet owners an idea of what behaviors to expect in their adopted pup in the periods of 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months and how to respond positively to their dog’s actions.

3 Days

In the first three days, the pooch will be nervous, shy, and insecure. This will show in his flattened ears, constant lip licking and scratching, and tail tucked between his legs.

Because you are still a stranger to him, he might avoid any form of contact. Your dog may refuse to eat, or he may vomit or have diarrhea due to anxiety.

Be extra patient and calm with Rover during this time. Give him his space and don’t force interaction. 

3 Weeks

By the third week, your pup would appear to be more relaxed around you. He has quite the time to observe you and he will begin to know the routines you have set for him.

This is also the time when the real personality of your pooch will show. He may also test some boundaries by chewing on items, or urinating and defecating where he should not.

Take this time to train Fido with basic commands. Give firm yet calm feedback if he is misbehaving. Affirm and praise good deeds with treats and pets. 

3 Months

In 3 months, your adopted dog will already associate your house as his permanent “home”. If you have spent quality time with him and your interactions are mainly happy and positive, you will form a strong bond with your dog.

Continue with the training you have started and consistently build your relationship by showering your dog with love and affection.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Bond With New Owners?

You finally brought home your adopted dog. Now you wonder, “How soon will my new pup love and trust me?”

How quickly a dog bond with his new owners depends on his age and what he experienced with his former humans. Puppies aged 12 weeks or younger will form a connection almost immediately. Adult mutts who came from happy homes might take days or weeks to adjust. While dogs with traumatic pasts may need months or longer to build trust.

A dog’s unconditional love is so precious. But a bond is not always instant to form, especially if you adopted a mutt from another family.

How long should you expect him to bond with you?

  • Puppies – It is more in your favor if you got a puppy to adopt that has just been weaned and separated from its siblings. They are likely more prepared to explore new places and excited to meet new people. Puppies are also more willing to leave their original pack and form a new one. Forming a close relationship with young pups can only be in a matter of days.
  • Adult dogs – If you decide to adopt an older mutt, his willingness to trust you may take longer. It will be based on how healthy his relationship with his previous owners is. If they part with good and happy memories, his trust in humans is intact and he will be more ready to welcome you into his life. But it will still take a few days or a few weeks for you to get close.
  • With a traumatic past – Canines who have been physically abused and neglected will have a much harder time trusting another person. It might take several months or longer for him to start relaxing about your presence and be open for bonding.

How Long Does It Take A Rescue Dog To Adjust To A New Home?

You decided to adopt a rescue dog but you are anxious about his adjustment. How soon can the pup adapt to his new family? 

The 3 3 3 rule is only a guide to pet parents on how long their rescue dog will adjust to their new home. It is still on a case-to-case basis since some pups may take a shorter or longer time to transition. Other factors are the canine’s personality, age, previous experiences, existing separation anxiety, fear, or trauma. 

Adopting a rescue dog is a noble and wonderful act of kindness, but it comes with challenges. Shelter dogs often take time to trust humans especially strangers whom they have just met.

Some of the rescue dogs experienced living in harsh conditions on the streets, lack of food and clean water to drink, and some had awful accidents. Others are abandoned, ignored, or physically beaten by their previous owners.

Naturally, an adjustment period is needed for them to trust and love humans again.

As a general guideline, the 3 3 3 rule describes the process in which a rescue mutt adjust to his new home.

  • 3 days – fearful and distant demeanor
  • 3 weeks – more settled and relaxed
  • 3 months – started to trust and build a bond with the new owner

There are exceptions to this rule, though, as some pups adjust quicker to the new environment depending on their age and if he has a sociable personality. 

It may take longer than 3 months to adjust for dogs who experienced extreme abuse and neglect, or if they have existing separation anxiety.

Learning as much about your adopted pooch’s history will help you manage your expectations of him. With patience and lots of affection, you will soon be able to build a strong relationship with your adopted dog. 

Do Dogs Get Sad When Rehomed?

You are more than happy to adopt a new dog in your home but the pup seems not too thrilled. How does a dog feel about changing owners?

It is common for dogs who have been rehomed to experience stress, insecurity, or depression at first. The new owners can alleviate their dog’s sadness by providing a comfortable safe place in your home, reestablishing structure by introducing  new routines, and giving him ample time to adjust to new people.

Rehoming is a very stressful time for domesticated pets like canines. 

If he spent many loving years with his previous owners, but lost their humans to death, sickness, or inability to provide for them, they may experience intense sadness. The dog may feel abandoned and pine for them for a while.

If the mutt was neglected and abused, he may find it scary to be in another person’s care. He may also be aggressive toward his new owners and other pets in the house.

Thankfully, there are ways that new fur parents can do to help out their pooch adjust to rehoming:

  1. Give him his own safe space. A dog that is under a lot of stress deserves a comfortable nook where he can retreat when things get overwhelming. A clean, warm bedding with easy access to food and drink bowls is also helpful.
  2. Establish a new routine. Canines thrive on a regular schedule of activities set for him. Because their normalcy has been disturbed because of rehoming, providing a sense of structure through a routine will slowly ease them.
  3. Don’t overwhelm him with visitors and strangers. It may be tempting to show him off to your friends and family. But, it is best to introduce new people and other pets gradually to not add to their current anxiety.

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