9 Tips for Bonding with your Rescue Dog

9 Tips for Bonding with your Rescue Dog


It’s truly heartbreaking when you think about how many unwanted dogs there are.

Animals are abandoned every day. Sometimes, they’re dropped off at a shelter or the pound, and all too often they are just dumped on the side of the road. Even worse, some dogs are rescued from homes, kennels, or other environments where they have been neglected, malnourished, or abused, sometimes to the point of near-death.

Luckily, there are shelters in almost every community where these helpless animals are being rescued and rehabilitated, in the hopes of finding them a forever home. And, sadly, there are kill shelters where time is of the essence for rescuing these poor animals.

While adopting a rescue dog is an admirable route to take if you are looking for a furry friend for you and your family, it’s not exactly the same as taking in a new puppy who has been coddled, loved, and taken care of since it was born. Some dogs have been mistreated to the point that they no longer trust humans.

But, all dogs instinctively want is to make their humans happy. They were all lovable, friendly puppies once. But, some were conditioned by abuse and neglect to be fearful of their owners and other people.

If a rescue dog is afraid of you at first, it’s really just a matter of taking a few steps to let them know that things are different now.

If you have recently taken that big step and rescued a dog from a shelter, or are thinking about doing so, here are nine tips to get the little guy or gal used to being loved again. With a little patience and understanding, you’ll be bonding in no time.

#1 – Start Before You Get Home

When you visit the shelter, all of those sad, little eyes are tearing at your heartstrings. But, there will be the one that stands out the most. And, that will be your new forever friend.

Start by talking softly with your new buddy. Sit next to their cage or closer if possible. They’ll listen, and they love the sound of a soothing voice. Let them get to know the sound of your voice and get used to your scent before trying to touch them.

When it’s time, try to get them to approach you. Maybe you could try giving them a treat to make the initial contact. Once they let you pet them, you’ve just crossed the biggest hurdle. And, if they give you a little lick, you’re halfway there. They are starting to remember how much they want to be loved.

#2 – Let Them Say Goodbye to the Rescue Center Staff

These may be the only people who have ever treated the dog kindly with compassion and love. And, as much as they may fear some humans, they know that these are the people who saved them from whatever the circumstances were that brought them there in the first place. These may even be the only people that they have ever trusted.

Not only will they want to say goodbye to their friends, but seeing you interacting with the rescue staff throughout the process will make them more comfortable around you. They are learning to trust all over again.

#3 – Slowly Introduce Them to Their New Home

Of course, they’ll be extremely nervous about what is happening to them. After all, you might have just taken them from the only safe home that they have ever known. Getting them acclimated to their new home should be a slow, patient process.

Once you get them home, take your time introducing them to their new environment. Let them explore the outside of your home for a few minutes with you safely by their side holding the leash, talking to them and petting them or patting them if they’ll let you. Give them a chance to check everything out and maybe even mark their new territory.

If you have other pets in the house, slowly introduce them to each other to feel safe. For example if you have budding Goldendoodle puppies already and you bring home a senior rescue dog, introduce them in an open neutral area in their own pace. Allow them to run to their crates if they are scared, and most of all allow separate quality time with all the pets in the house. 

#4 – Introduce the Family Slowly

By now, they are beginning to trust you a little. It may still take them some time to feel truly comfortable around you, but you’re off to a great start.

If there are other family members for them to meet, it’s a good idea to take it slowly. Start with one or two people at a time, with everyone following the same, slow steps that you took when you first met your new friend.

#5 – Show Them Their New Home

Show The Dog Their New Home

Bring them inside safely on their leash and walk them through their new forever home, talking to them and showing them the different areas where they will be allowed to roam. They’ll be busy exploring, and you’ll be talking, petting, and showering them with attention the whole time.

Then, it’s really best to let them explore a little. Maybe start by sitting with them in one room with the door closed and let them get used to the smells, sounds, and sights. You could even sit on the floor and give them a chance to approach you for some bonding time.

#6 – They Love to Be Petted

Dogs just love attention. That’s what they live for. Unfortunately, some rescue dogs don’t really know what it’s like to get loving attention from humans. But, they’ll learn very quickly.

Petting them is one of the best ways to bond with your dog. They only want to be loved. And, the more you love on them, the sooner they will start to forget their past lives where they may have been mistreated.

#7 – Shower Them With Quality Time

They will get more comfortable each day as they get used to their new surroundings. And, they’ll be starving for attention. The more time that you spend with them, the quicker the bond will grow.

They don’t even care what you’re doing. Take them for a walk, let them hang out with you, or just stop what you’re doing and give them some love and attention every now and then. All that they want to do is to be near you.

#8 – Play With Them

Dogs need exercise, and they love to play. You can do it indoors or outside. They won’t care as long as they’re having fun. And, if dogs are having fun with you, they’re bonding with you and trusting you more and more every day. Also ensuring they have the best toys to play with when you’re busy can help them acclimate.

#9 – Training and Praise

Dog training and Praise

Some shelters will be able to give you a little history about their dogs, giving you an idea of the best way to bond with them once you get them home as well as clue you in on any potential training needs. But, with other rescue dogs, it may be a slow, loving process to get them acclimated to their new environment.

Praise is so important during both the bonding and training process. Positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative, scolding words and actions. Dogs want to know that they’re making you happy. It’s really what they live for.

And, praising them is so easy. It can be a simple pat on the head, giving them a treat, or an all-out body hug. It doesn’t matter to them. If you’re happy, they’re happy.

Enjoy Your New Forever Friend

Saving a dog that has been abandoned is rewarding in so many ways. Not only are you possibly saving their life by giving them a home where they will be cared for and loved, but you’re giving them hope for the future. And, you’re giving them a friend. That’s all that they really want.

Marie Kron
Marie was born into a family which included a few dogs and by a few, we mean 10-15 at a time. Since growing up in a foster home for dogs in Minnesota, Marie has become a clinical psychologist, but her passion for our furry friends is still at an all-time high.

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