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The 3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rule

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

The 3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rules

Adopting a rescue dog is one of the most rewarding experiences many people have in life. If you're new to rescue dogs, you may be wondering if adoption is right for you. One of the most commonly asked questions we hear from new adopters is: how long does it take for my new dog to settle in? How can I help them be more comfortable?

If you've recently adopted a rescue dog or are considering adopting one, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the 3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rule. If this is the first time you've heard of the 3-3-3 Rule, don't worry. You're in the right place, because we're going to cover it all for you. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the 3-3-3 Rule!

The 3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rule

The 3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rule: 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Months

The 3-3-3 Rule, or "Rule of Three" are a set of guidelines that represent the different phases of a dog's adjustment to joining your family. It is broken down into the first 3 days, after 3 weeks, and after 3 months after bringing your new dog home.

3-3-3 Rescue Dog Rule Helps Build Trust

While some dogs are resilient and can immediately adjust to new environments, there are many that cannot.

One of our Trainer partners explained it best when asked what makes the transition period such a struggle for some dogs:

"Consider this.... You wake up in the morning and suddenly you've found yourself in the middle of a foreign country, no one speaks your language, and the culture is completely different from yours. How do you find food? How do you know where you can go to the bathroom? You're looking around, you're anxious because there is so much going on that you don't understand... and suddenly someone runs up and starts hugging and touching you - whoa! Our first reaction would be "back off buddy!" and we'd probably get a little hostile or act really scared." - Tammy Orndorff, Creature Comfort Inn

That's essentially what many of our dogs are experiencing as they transition into their new homes (and sometimes, their very first home).

Be patient. Take it slow. Treat them as if everything is a new experience. Give them space and give them time. But most importantly, please take this period of adjustment seriously, as it can make a dramatic difference in how well your dog adjusts in your home.

Next, let's break down what you should expect over the first 3 days, after 3 weeks, and after 3 months.

The First 3 Days

First, we'd like to preface this with the fact that all dogs are different. They come from different backgrounds, have different experiences, and different inherent personalities. This means that your dog's needs will be unique, but following the 3-3-3 Rule will help you meet them safely and effectively.

The First 3 Days Can Be Deceiving

In the beginning, you may expect your new pup to feel confused and overwhelmed. As they explore and learn about their new environment, your family, your existing pets, and your routines, they may act reserved or scared. They may even turn away from food or treats at first. Don't be alarmed - they are scared and trying to find their way as a new member of your family. Give them space to adjust, and most importantly, love.

Alternatively, your new pup may be rambunctious and care free. In these scenarios, expect them to push the boundaries to see what they can get away with. Establishing boundaries in the beginning will support their adjustment process.

After 3 Weeks

Things are finally starting to feel "normal" for your new pup. They've started to learn your routine, they're understanding what is and is not acceptable behavior in your home, and they're realizing that they are a beloved member of their new family.

After 3 Weeks

You may start getting glimpses of behaviors you hadn't seen previously. These can be challenging behaviors like resource guarding or chewing belongings, but can also be relaxed joyful behaviors such as getting the "zoomies" when you come home from work.

Remember to continue being consistent with your new pup. Helping them learn acceptable behaviors will help them continue settling in.

After 3 Months

Once you've reached the three month mark with your new pup, you can expect that they've fully settled in and are comfortable as a beloved member of your family. You've spent the last three months working hard on building a relationship of trust and love with your pup, and you'll finally see that hard work pay off through your dog's unconditional love for you.

The hardest part is over. Now sit back and enjoy the snuggles, friend. You've both earned it.

Ready to adopt or have questions?

If you're thinking of adopting a dog from Shenandoah Shepherd Rescue, please complete an Adoption Application, or browse our list of Adoptable Dogs. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at

Shenandoah Shepherd Rescue 3-3-3 Rules

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