What is the '3-3-3 rule' for rescue dogs?

rescue dogs -

What is the '3-3-3 rule' for rescue dogs?

Recently the ‘3-3-3 rule’ went viral, describing the milestones that you might go through with a new rescue dog or puppy as they settle into your home. It can sometimes take a while for a rescue pup to settle in and get used to you and their new surroundings. Particularly if you have adopted an older dog. Sometimes it can feel like your life will never be the same again, which is why the 3-3-3 rule is a comfort to new owners, indicating what they should expect and how long it will take for their new dog to settle in and become part of the family. We also have some good advice on how you can help your dog with this transition period as they adjust to their new surroundings.

Little dog photo by Sharon McCutcheon on UnsplashLittle dog photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

What is the 3-3-3 rule?

Although of course, every dog is different, the 3-3-3 rule provides a generalised guide describing the 3 stages that most rescue dogs go through once you get them home.

In 3 days

During the first 3 days you may notice that your dog does not feel settled or comfortable. They may appear overwhelmed and some will not eat or drink due to nerves.

They may also hide away under furniture and want to be by themselves. If they do this, leave them alone and let them get on with it. They may also sleep a lot in order to avoid human contact.

You may also find that they test your boundaries as they explore their new surroundings, they may pee indoors or jump on the furniture, this is usually only temporary.

Staffie photo by Cierra Voelkl on UnsplashStaffie photo by Cierra Voelkl on Unsplash

In 3 weeks

After 3 weeks, you should notice that your pup is settling in and appears to feel more comfortable at home. Dogs generally enjoy routine so they should be getting used to yours. They will start to understand when to expect a walk or a meal. They will also have begun to let their guard down a bit and will begin to reveal their true personality to you.

If your dog has any behavioural issues (possibly due to ill-treatment in the past if they are an older rescue pup) then this is the time to begin implementing training to reassure them and help them to understand what is and isn’t OK, through positive reinforcement.

In 3 months

After 3 months your dog should be relaxed, feel at home and have an established routine. In most cases they will have built up a bond with you and trust you enough to feel secure at home with you and your family. 

Of course, your own rescue dog may not hit the 3-3-3 milestones at the same pace. Every dog is different and if your rescue pup has had a troubled past or has been rehomed more than once then they may take longer to settle. Likewise some younger dogs may feel right at home straight away and skip to the third 3 within 3 days! It does however give you a basic set of guidelines for what to expect, but if something is different about your dog’s adjustment period - or you have any concerns - there are lots of places you can turn to for help and guidance.

Happy Collie photo by Eduardo Arcos on UnsplashHappy Collie photo by Eduardo Arcos on Unsplash

Speaking to the Mirror about the 3-3-3 rule, a spokesperson for the Dogs Trust said

"All dogs are individual and it's important to let them settle at their own pace.

"Before they arrive, set up a den area in a quiet space away from the main, busy thoroughfares, where they can rest undisturbed. 

"Allow them to spend time on their own and come to you when they are ready. Creating and sticking to a daily routine will help your dog learn what to expect and when.

"Keeping walks short and in the same location to begin with will give your dog time to become familiar with their new area and get their bearings.

"Remember to keep an eye on your dog's body language so you can respond appropriately if they show signs of fear or anxiety, such as licking their lips, yawning, and having their tail tucked between their hind legs.

"This will help them to feel safe as they settle into their new home."

Some tips for settling a rescue dog into their new home.

Have you rehomed a rescue pup? Did they follow the 3-3-3 rule? Or follow their own rules? Let us know in the comments section below!

Main photo by Jeremy Stewardson on Unsplash

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