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The 3-3-3 rule of dog adoption that will help ease your mind

Adopting a dog from a rescue shelter brings excitement, nerves and stress all at the same time.

You may wonder how long it will take them to settle into your new home, or how you can help them through the transition period.

That’s where the 3-3-3 rule comes in – it’s a general guideline referring to the adjustment period for a rescue dog in a new home.

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A snapshot of a three-step chart has gone viral on Reddit this week, receiving upwards of 22,200 votes and nearly 200 comments.

Lucy_Pugz shared the image on the subreddit forum r/coolguides, and explained: “It doesn’t happen overnight. Every dog ​​is unique and will adjust differently.”

Lots of dog owners supported the chart, with one person commenting: “My wife and I started working with a local foster company (Peanut Mutter Rescue) and we followed this rule and it truly is amazing to see the pup slowly but surely come out of their shell. I hope more people get to see this and give their puppy some patience as they adjust.”



It doesn’t happen overnight

Though many owners noted that dogs will change even more past the three-month mark.

A Reddit user said: “It doesn’t end at three months, they will continue to settle and show further signs of trust and growth for a long time.”

Another agreed: “It took nearly a year for my rescue to feel comfortable being around us for long periods of time.”

What is the 3-3-3 rule?

It’s just a guide and it’s different for every dog, but the guide refers to the three general stages of a rescue dog’s adjustment period as they settle into a new home, taking them from three days to three weeks to three months.



Lovely Olive is seeking a home today.  She is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre.  Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.
Lovely Olive is seeking a home today. She is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre. Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.

3 days

In the first three days of your dog’s arrival, you may notice some of the following behaviours:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: A new environment can be scary and overwhelming for your dog. They may not feel comfortable or act themselves.
  • Unable to eat or drink: The nerves may put your dog off eating or drinking and they may lose their appetite.
  • Hiding away: You may notice your dog hiding under furniture and wanting to be by themselves. They may sleep a lot and avoid human contact.
  • Testing boundaries: Your dog has new boundaries to test and they may want to explore their new surroundings. They may have accidents inside and try to sit on furniture.

3 weeks

After three weeks, your dog begins to settle in and feels a little more comfortable.

  • They will get used to your regular routine and may understand when their next meal is or when to expect a walk.
  • Your dog may have started to let their guard down and show you their true personality.
  • This time period is also when they may exhibit any behavioral issues, and will need training to understand what is right and wrong.


Big Manny is seeking a home today.  He is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre.  Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.
Big Manny is seeking a home today. He is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre. Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.

3 months

When your rescue dog has been with you for three months, they will generally feel at home and have an established routine.

  • You may have built trust and a bond with them, and they will feel a sense of security with your family.
  • It’s important to note that the 3-3-3 rule is a general guideline and not every dog ​​will follow these steps – it can take much longer for them to feel at home.

How can I help my rescue dog settle in at home?

A spokesperson for Dogs Trust told DogsLive : “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.



Sweetheart Holly is seeking a home today.  She is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre.  Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.
Sweetheart Holly is seeking a home today. She is being looked after by the Rainbow Rehoming Centre. Email them on rainbowrehoming@gmail.com for details on how to apply for her.

“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.”

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