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17 Critical Tips To Take Care Of A Rescue Dog (2023 Guide)

Take Care Of A Rescue Dog Tips

You’ve finally taken your rescue dog home.

And you’re determined to give them the best care you can while they’re with you…

So, let me share with you some handy tips for you to achieve that.

Continue reading to discover:

  • 17 critical tips when taking care of a rescue dog.
  • How to transition your rescue dog into a new diet (important yet underrated).
  • A shopping list of supplies to help you get ready to take care of a rescue dog.
  • And many more…

How to take care of a rescue dog? 17 critical tips

#1: Set realistic expectations

Just like humans, every dog is different.

So in the shelter, no canine has the same backstory.

Some of it might sound similar to the others…

But whatever their past is, you can never compare it to another experience.

With that, each dog carries different kinds of pain and trauma.

So, you must set realistic expectations when taking care of a rescue dog.

Now, their response to the change will vary.

Some will be quiet and lethargic.

Then, others will torment your ears with constant vocalization.

There’ll also be dogs who’ll hide from you as much as possible.

But sometimes, some feel excited to be adopted. Like these happy dogs on their way to their new homes:

So, set realistic expectations.

Whatever behavior they show will be a reflection of their personality and past.

And don’t worry…

If you encounter unwanted behaviors, you can still turn those around.

All in all, despite their differences, there’s one thing for sure…

That every dog is a challenge.

But they’ll definitely be worth everything.

Continue reading: 7 Reasons Why It’s So Hard To Adopt A Dog From A Rescue

#2: Ready essential supplies

There’s gonna be a new and loving addition to your family…

So, it’s only right to be very prepared.

Yes, you’re gonna have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. That’s two of the biggest considerations in this.

And after that, you should also be ready for the essential supplies.


You have to go shopping before taking your rescue dog home.

To help you out, here’s a general shopping list for you:

#3: Purchase the necessary leash and harness

Take Care Of A Rescue Dog By Purchasing The Necessary Leash And Harness

These should also be on your shopping list…

But I put it in a different section.


That’s because this requires an individual discussion.

You’re gonna have to buy the necessary leash for your pooch. 

Then, also add the collar or harness. But sometimes, a dog requires both.

How so?

That’s because you’ll have to pick the perfect control for your doggo.

If they pull, a front-clip harness is ideal for them.

And if they don’t, then a back-clip harness will do.

Moreover, a collar can serve as their identification. 

That’s because it can hold their nameplates containing your contact info.

You might also want to know: Can a dog wear a collar and a harness at the same time?

#4: Buy them exciting things

I promise you these are some of the last things on your initial shopping list…

I put these behind as they’re not much of a necessity…

But your rescue pooch will surely appreciate some new toys.

You see, they didn’t have much in the shelter.

Anything they have, they might have needed to share with another dog.

So, your rescue dog will be glad to finally have something of theirs.

But wait, let me remind you of something…

You must not go all out in giving them toys.


That’s because certain issues might arise. Those are:

Resource guarding

This is a common behavior among rescue dogs.

As I said, they used to not have much,

And all these changes also brought a lot of belongings for them.

With that, they’re prone to showing resource guarding behaviors.

What’s that?

You might know it by its other name: possessive aggression.

Now, according to research, many dogs are subject to this behavior.

Moreover, they defined it as:

A behavior that aims to defend the dog’s valuable resources.

Then, it also has 2 natures that define the canine’s response:

Type of responseDefinition
Defensive responseTaking away their belongings and hiding it.
Aggressive responseGrowling towards the threat and showing readiness to bite.

Moreover, AKC gives us other warning signs of this behavior:

  • Lunging.
  • Lifting their lips.
  • Baring their teeth.
  • Stiffening of the body.
  • Giving the potential threat a hard stare.

Spoiling them too much

Now, you’re gonna have to do this shopping initially…

That means their toys should be ready before they arrive.

Moreover, don’t go overboard and buy too much.

Even one high-quality chew toy can be appreciated by your pooch. Then, 2 toys are good as well.

But, don’t spoil them so much…

By doing so, you’re doing yourself and your new pup a favor.

If not, you might spoil them, and that can’t be good in the long run.

#5: Be mindful of their health issues

Be Mindful Of Their Health Issues

During the adoption process, shelter staff will be totally honest about this.

They’ll disclose every health issue known about the dog you’re gonna take home.

And now that they’re under your care, you must be mindful of everything.

Start with knowing their health status by heart…

Doing so can save you a lot of trouble.

For example, being familiar with their allergies can lessen instances of triggering them.

According to VCA Hospitals, the most common allergens in dogs are:

  • Soy.
  • Beef.
  • Lamb.
  • Gluten.
  • Dairy products.
  • Chicken (and eggs).

Editor’s pick: Help, My Dog Is Constantly Scratching And Biting Himself!

#6: Transition slowly to a new diet

As their dog parent, you wanna provide the highest quality of food you can give.

And unfortunately, the one they used to eat in the shelter doesn’t meet that mark.

But wait, don’t just change their diet the moment you take them home.


That’s because doing so can cause your pooch to experience the following:

With that, you should slowly transition them to a new diet.

And according to AKC, the transition takes a week to complete.

Moreover, this is how you should do it:

DayOld dietNew diet
Day 175%25%
Day 350%50%
Day 525%75%
Day 70%100%

#7: Finalize location and setup

You have to carefully pick the area where your new rescue dog will stay.

I highly suggest a spot where they can oversee the day-to-day life in your house.

So, don’t put them in your laundry room where no one goes frequently.

That’s because leaving them alone and confined can scare them.

So, what can you do?

You can choose a calm corner in your living room.

From there, they can see the comings and goings of everyone.

With that, they can get a sense of what’s going on.

Such can help them ease themself on the new change.

Moreover, make sure that their setup is comfortable.

Prepare a dog bed for them in that corner.

Then, put their water bowl and food dish near them.

All in all, settling in the right location can help them adjust.

#8: Set limits and boundaries

Now, a location and setup have been finalized…

What’s next?

I highly suggest setting limits and boundaries.

Do so by fencing their area using a baby gate. 

Another good choice will be putting them in a dog crate. Then, it should be big enough for them to stand up, sit, and lie down.

Plus, doing so can help with crate training.

And in the long run, you can leave them at home in their crate. 

Thus preventing escape and other destructive behaviors like chewing.

Moreover, let them stay on that one spot only.

Don’t let them sleep with you on the bed yet.

Then, don’t also condition them into lying on the couch, especially if it’s off-limits.

Their designated space should be the only place for them to settle.

#9: Establish routines

Your rescue dog might have come from a troubled past…

They used to have no idea of what to expect.

Maybe they didn’t have proper meal schedules.

Thus, they become obsessed with food due to starvation.

Other times, their environment is unpredictable. 

They didn’t know whether their past parents would hurt them today or not…

That’s why you should do this for your pooch…

Establish routines for them.

You see, canines are best in consistency.

In this research, dogs are more obedient when their parents are consistent.

So, create predictable routines for your rescue dog.

Such is an important part of taking care of them…

You must feed them at least twice daily. Moreover, do so at the same time every day.

Then, take them out for scheduled pee and potty breaks.

Lastly, you should also…

#10: Walk them daily

Walk Them Daily

And now to using the things I recommended earlier.

The checklist is:

  • Collar.
  • Leash.
  • Harness.

Those are the devices you’d use on your dog’s daily walks.

Yep, as much as possible, it should be daily.

Now, a lot of dog parents overlook this practice…


That’s because rescue dogs are usually low in energy.

Such is understandable…

As I’ve been saying, everything can be overwhelming for your new doggo.

That’s why they pour their energy into adjusting. Plus, the stress is also making them lethargic.

Regardless, they still need their exercise.

So, take short walks with them every day. 

Moreover, do so in quiet and calm spots around your neighborhood.

Most of all, this activity can contribute to your growing relationship.

Walking with your dog is a great bonding method.

And doing it every day can assist you in establishing a relationship with them.

#11: Refresh their house training

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been told that your rescue dog is housetrained…

And so you took their word for it.

With that, you didn’t housetrain your new pooch anymore.

And yet, your fur baby still poops inside the house…

“I thought you were trained…?”

I know it can be disappointing…

But cut some slack for your new pooch.

I’ve been repeating this, but here it is again:

These new changes are too much for your rescue dog.

Unlike you, they might not know what’s really going on…

They might be questioning why they’re in a new place and seeing novel faces.

With that, they might’ve forgotten their past training.

So, they needed to relearn their housetraining.

Moreover, dogs don’t really generalize.

They don’t bring and apply any behavior everywhere.

With that, you must housetrain them again. 

Moreover, do so using positive reinforcement training or reward-based training.

Read also: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Poops In The House (Again)

#12: Properly introduce them to other dogs

Did you know?

You can’t just make 2 dogs meet spontaneously.

Moreover, you shouldn’t expect those dogs to click with each other instantly.


That’s because not all dogs get along with each other.

And although they can establish a relationship, it’s not gonna be an instant process.

So, introduce your rescue dog to your resident fur baby properly.


PetMD guides us on what to do in this situation…

How to properly introduce one dog to another

Set your rescue dog for a good first impression with other canines.

So, the first thing to do is to pick the right location.

As you know, dogs can be territorial.

With that, your resident pooch might become aggressive towards the newcomer.

So, pick a neutral or outdoor place to introduce them.

Moreover, put them both on a leash. 

This helps you easily control the dogs in any situation.

Then, bring no toy or food into the equation. Such can spark a conflict between the two.

Now, your resident and rescue dog has met face to face.

With that, you must closely supervise their first interaction.

Learn to read their body language…

PDSA says these are the good signs:

  • Play bowing.
  • Relaxed body.
  • Jumping around.
  • Highly wagging tail.
  • Floppy and relaxed ears.

Then, these are signs that you must break the interaction:

  • Yawning.
  • Flattened ears.
  • Tense body posture.
  • Tucked and lowered tail.
  • Repeatedly licking their lips.

#13: Avoid throwing a welcome party

It’s exciting to finally take home your rescue dog…

Especially if the adoption took a long process to finalize.

With that, it’s tempting to throw a welcome party for them.

But trust me on this one…

Avoid doing that and the like.


As I’ve been saying, these are all overwhelming for your rescue pooch.

Plus, even you’re still a stranger to them in the first few days.

They might not handle more strangers welcoming them.

And if you push through, it might stress your newly adopted fur baby.

So, kindly put the balloons away…

Instead, let your pooch take their time.

They should be the ones to approach other people in your house.


You’ll never know until your pooch does so.

Reading tip: Adopting A Rescue Dog: The First 7 Days [Checklist]

#14: Recognize their triggers

Scared Dog 1

Your rescue dog might have had a troubled past.

With that, they can easily be paranoid.

And such a feeling could be stressful for them.

Plus, they might begin to recall bad memories.

So, recognize any triggers that can cause such.

According to MSDVM, the following are the potential causes of fear in dogs:

  • Strangers.
  • Toddlers and children.
  • Loud and sudden noises.
  • Surfaces (ex. wood floors).
  • Certain environments like the dog park.
  • Specific situations (ex. visits to the vet). 
  • Combination stimuli (ex. vacuum cleaner).
  • Visual stimuli (almost any random thing like hats).

Moreover, here are the signs that your dog is scared:

#15: Practice brief absences

Let me tell you, avoid creating this common mistake…

You must not always be available for your rescue dog…

Yes, even if it’s tempting.

Some dog parents even take several days off work to attend to their new fur baby.

And such is a kind gesture…

But then again, it might lead to further issues.

You see, you’ll be setting up the wrong expectation for your pooch.

They’re always gonna think that you’ll be there.

So what if it’s time to go back to work?

Your rescue will be shocked by this confusing change.

With that, practice leaving them on their own from time to time.

Get them used to your absence.

So, start it briefly and gradually.

With that, you’ll lessen the instance of them developing clinginess and neediness.

Moreover, you’ll reduce their risk of getting separation anxiety as well.

You might also be interested in: Why does my dog all of a sudden have separation anxiety?

#16: Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You needed the best help during the process of adoption.

Then, you also appreciated everyone’s support in this new change.

But once you take your pooch home, the need for assistance won’t be off the table.

As I’ve been saying, this change is a big one. 

With that, you’ll require all the help that you can get.

So, don’t be afraid to consult an animal behaviorist for your pooch.

They can further aid your dog’s specific needs.

Moreover, it’s also crucial to be acquainted with a vet.

You’d have to pick the best professionals for your dog’s well-being.

That’s because chances are, these people will be with you throughout the whole journey. 

And that they’re gonna play significant parts in this new chapter. And not just for you, but also for your rescue’s life.

For further reading: 13 Mistakes When Adopting A Rescue Dog (Guide)

#17: Stay patient

I’m gonna say it one last time:

This kind of significant change requires major adjustment.

Then, it’s going to be overwhelming for your rescue.

So, understand all of this from their point of view.

Moreover, always think of this:

Your rescue dog didn’t have a say in all this. So, you’re now responsible for this wonderful yet innocent creature.

Then, this might not be the first time that they’ve been rehomed…

And for sure, they’ve gone through a lot.

Plus, you never know how they truly feel.

With that, remain kind and understanding for your new fur baby.

Give them all the time that they need to adjust. Remain patient throughout the whole process.

You’re gonna face a lot of disappointments at first. 

Plus, you might have to make little sacrifices.

But in the end, you’ll reap the reward…

And that’s having a loving companion who’ll be forever grateful for you.