Your New Rescue Dog Part 2: How to Prepare Your Home for a Rescue Dog
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

How to Prepare Your Home for a Rescue Dog


 Bringing a rescue dog that you’ve just adopted or fostered into your home is incredibly exciting, to you, yet is incredibly stressful to your dog. You love your home, you know where everything is, you’ve been there endless times, but your dog hasn’t. This might be the first, second, or third time (if you’ve done home visits) that your dog has been to your home, walked into your living room, garden, bedrooms, met you, your family and maybe your other dogs or cat(s). Your dog will go through a huge adjustment period when they enter into your new home. Everything is a new first for your dog in this timeframe. To help your dog and reduce the stress level you need a plan before your pup arrives to help adjust and reduce stress.


What to ask the shelter to help you prepare?


These questions are important to ask as it will give you an insight into your dog’s personality and provide you with resources you need for the adjustment period and to help your dog settle.


  • What food does your dog eat?
  • Does your dog need an elevated food and water bowl?
  • What sort of treats does your dog like?
  • Does your pup have a favourite bed or sleeping arrangement at the shelter?
  • How does your dog respond to enrichment?
  • Do they like any specific enrichment?
  • Do they have a favourite toy?
  • Can your dog have any of their favourite toys, beds or blankets from the shelter?
  • How does your dog respond to being on a harness?
  • Do they get scared when things go over their head?
  • Are there any medical issues to look out for?
  • Are there any behavioural issues?
  • How do they respond to other dogs on walks?
  • How do they respond to people on walks?
  • Who do they recommend for positive reinforcement trainers?
  • Who do they recommend for veterinarians?


The rescue/shelter/animal welfare organization you are working with should ideally give you all these answers ahead of time, but if they don’t, you need to be prepared to ask them. You need to be your dog’s advocate even before your pup steps into your home.


Prepare in Advance


It’s important to think of everything your dog might need before coming into your home. Here’s an extensive list to help you understand the supplies you'll need.



- Ask the rescue/shelter what food your dog is currently eating. Buy some of that food and if you want to switch brands, also buy your preferred food.

- If you immediately change from one food to another your dog could have an upset stomach, diarrhea and added stress. Make sure if you change food that it is a very slow transition.

- Change isn’t easy! Imagine if you went from pizza every day to salads! If you want to change foods, slowly do so over 1 week, mixing in a little bit the new food the 1st day 1/5 the 2nd day, ¼ the 3rd day and gradually carry on.


Food and Water Bowls

- Stainless steel bowls are non-porous and trap far less bacteria than plastic bowls which can hold bacteria in them that will remain even with cleaning. Stainless steel bowls are much healthier for your pet and are much easier to clean.

- Buy a bowl with non-skid bottom so it won’t move when your dog eats and drinks.

- Make sure the bowls are the right size bowls for your dog and if they need to be elevated which can be more comfortable for your dog.

- Buy extra water bowls as your dog will be stressed when they first arrive and when dogs are stressed, they drink more. This way your dog can have a water bowl as they start to settle in your house. You can use the extra bowls for games later.


Dog beds

- Buy your dog at least 1-2 beds for different locations in your home.

- Ask the rescue/charity if you can bring any of their favourite blankets or beds with you to make sure your dog can have a familiar smell.

- If you can’t bring their favourite beds from the rescue, ask what brand they’re using or would recommend so you can buy a similar brand.

- If possible, ask the rescue/shelter if they can let your dog use the dog bed you bought for them in their kennel/foster home before they come into your home.

- If this isn’t possible, use an Adaptil or Bach Flower spray on the new bed you bought your dog to be a calming smell for them when they arrive.


Dog equipment

- Never choose equipment that causes your dog pain or pressure, all of which can and will create long-term health and behavioural damage.

- I always recommend to all my dog students that they choose a Y-shaped harness that does not pinch their elbows, rub and allows for full range of movement

- My favourite brands are TTouch, Haqihana and Perfect Fit.

- For more information on harnesses check out my blog



- Always begin with easy to understand dog toys and stuffables so you don’t create frustration, and depression/giving up in your dog. If at any time your dog needs help with enrichment, help them with encouragement and by showing them how to use the enrichment!

- Try using scavenger type enrichment like scatter feeds, snuffle mats or foraging nose work (Pickpocket foragers are a great brand!) where your dog can utilize their natural behaviours.

- For stuffables, at first use beginner level enrichment in KONGs like simply lining the inside with peanut butter, cheese or other high value foods to increase interest


Puppy pen/Baby gate/Dog proof room

- If you’re adopting a puppy this is a must buy! A puppy pen gives your puppy the space they need to have enrichment, pee pads, water, food and to learn their surroundings safely unsupervised develop while giving you and them peace of mind. It will help your dog learn confidence as they safely explore, bound and tumble in their own space. It can also provide them with experiences with different textures or surfaces that they wouldn’t get if they were in a crate.

- If your puppy isn’t house trained this is a great place to have puppy pee pads. Make sure that the pee pads are secure under a pee pad holder or your puppy might think they’re a fun enrichment toy to shred

- This puppy specific space is a great place for them to go if you have guests with toddlers over who don’t know how to safely interact with a puppy and provide them with a place where they can have the proper rest they need to develop.

- You can also use a baby gate and close off a room, making sure you puppy-proof the room first! Make sure this is a space that your dog can be safely unattended for short and long periods. If not, use a puppy pen.

- For older dogs having a dog proof room separated by a baby gate is ideal when they first arrive so they can a safe place to decompress and feel comfortable in their new place. It also helps as you need a place for your dog to be when you can’t supervise them safely or know how they would react when left alone in your home. It’s also useful if you have kids for your dog to have a quiet child-free place to rest.



You need to consider before your dog comes into your home: where they will comfortably sleep, eat, drink, what you can bring with you from the shelter to make them feel comfortable, who your local veterinarian will be, how to set up a routine to help them settle, any potential behavioural issues, trainers to be referred to, is your dog used to elevators if you live in an apartment and would the dog be scared of your car. All of these will help you prepare your home before your dog moves in with you. This way when your dog arrives, you can focus all of your attention on your pup.

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Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour