You and your new family member are beginning a lifetime adventure together. Unlike an 8-week old puppy, your new dog has a history.  Regardless or whether it is a happy history or a difficult history, his new home and family are a major adjustment.

Let’s get off to the right start by sharing some of what we have learned from hundreds of adoptions. While each dog and each situation is unique, many patterns exist. This guidance may help you to adjust your expectations and to work slowly and patiently with your dog.

Before Your Dog Joins You

  • Have leash, collar and tags made with your name and phone number. Remember, she is in an unfamiliar place and might be stressed or afraid. Be extra careful to keep her on a leash or in a securely fenced area when she is outdoors to prevent her from becoming lost or wandering in an attempt to find her previous home .
  • Decide what the house rules will be and be sure all family members act consistently. Agree what language you will use for commands. It will easier for your dog to learn if everyone speaks the same language.
  • Request (if possible) a towel or toy that smells of current foster home.
  • Ask for the name of the current food so you can continue or transition smoothly to new food.

How to Help Your New Dog Adjust

  • Give your dog love, but skip the Pity Party! This is important. Do not adopt your dog with the indulgent manner of “oh you poor re-homed thing, let me spoil you rotten to compensate for your distress. ” Dogs thrive on healthy leadership. They are most secure and happy when they know you are in charge and taking care of them.
  • Most important advice: Go Slowly. Go Slowly. Go Slowly. We wish there were more ways to say this. You will share a lifetime together, so there is no rush for your dog to meet all of your best friends on the first day he is in your home. If you have other dogs, let them get used to the smell of their new sibling in the house and introduce them in the morning when everyone is rested.  Let a trip to the groomer wait for a week. Watch your dog for signs of stress or over-stimulation. GO SLOWLY, PLEASE.
  • Try to spend the first few days bonding with your new dog, but give her some space as well. If she wants to spend time in her crate rather than with you, let her do so. However, you can encourage her to interact with you using treats and a soft, calm voice. If your dog is comfortable with your touch, then grooming and massaging your dog will strengthen your bond.
  • Begin to establish a routine and set down the "house rules." It is comforting to your dog if you can feed, walk and interact with your dog on the same general schedule each day. If there are areas in or around your home that are off-limits to your dog, establish this up front, either by blocking access to the areas or by using the "leave it" command.
  • Set your dog up for success by removing highly breakable items, temptingly chewable shoes or toys and other forbidden things from harm’s way. In the beginning, it will be enough for you to get accustomed to each other, without worrying about an antique glass heirloom.
  • Training should start from the moment your new dog comes home but start slowly. Housetraining is a priority. Many rescue/shelter dogs already have some housetraining, but expect a few accidents over the first few weeks while a new routine is established. It will be helpful if you take your dog out frequently in the beginning, and to the same elimination spot. Be patient. It takes confidence for a dog to wake his sleeping owner at 2:00 a.m. to signal a need to go outside.
  • In other training, work on basic commands and loose-leash-walking at first, and then, in safe areas, a solid recall. Training to a solid recall can be a life-saver, literally. We advise taking basic obedience with your dog even if both of you have those skills because it will serve as a bonding experience and will reinforce your leadership. Above all, remember to keep things positive!


  • A long talk with LRPals and the foster family will give you an idea of her personality and habits, however, once she comes home with you, there will be changes, yet again. In rescue, it is said that during the first three weeks, a dog is on his best behavior while secretly testing the boundaries. Also, it is believed that by the end of those three weeks, your dog HAS YOUR NUMBER.  In other words, because his very survival depends on understanding who you are and what you expect of him, he has gathered everything essential that he needs to know about living with you. Now you see why it is important to be kind, consistent and clear, from the beginning, about how your dog should behave.
  • Be prepared for it to take up to a year for your new dog to show her true self. You will see him relax and play much sooner, but like most momentous events in life, a full year passes before dogs (and people) really adjust. Be patient and loving, but also be consistent. Make sure she gets plenty of exercises, mental stimulation, socialization and attention. All of these things can lead to a long, healthy and happy life together.


The safety of your Leo is both a daily responsibility and a long-term one. Establish a trusting relationship with a veterinarian who listens to you and explains things fully.

Take your new dog to the veterinarian within a few days to weeks after she comes home. It's a good idea to establish a relationship between you, the vet and your new dog right away. This way, if your new dog becomes ill, your vet will have a better idea of her overall health before she became ill. We will provide you with any/all vaccine and previous health records. Be sure to bring these records to your first vet visit.

Consider Pet Medical Insurance. You can choose full coverage or catastrophic coverage, and if you compare companies, you will find some that have almost no waiting period for orthopedic events and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions. The cost to diagnose a medical condition soars when a dog needs an MRI or other advanced tests.

There is a medical credit card offered through most vet practices that charges no interest if you pay the balance within 6 months. Or start a savings account for this purpose. You can use the funds to celebrate your dog’s great health if you never need the money.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435

CPR for Leos

Plan for the unexpected

Document your instructions for your Leo’s care in the event that something happens to you. Notifying Leo Rescue Pals should be included among the instructions you prepare. Designate the family member or friend whom should care for your dog(s) in the event that you cannot, and if appropriate, fund the request to ensure that finances are never a determining factor in the quality of care provided to your dog.

From the LCA site: Estate Planning and Pets from the AKC Delegates Forum

Stay Connected

Leo Rescue Pals hopes to stay in touch with every family who adopts. We want to share your success and to support you through any challenges you face together. Please be reminded that our contract requires you to contact us if you are no longer willing or able to keep your adopted dog. Please feel welcome in our Leo community by joining any or all of the resources listed below.

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