How Long Does it Take a Shelter Dog to Adjust?

Are you considering adopting a shelter dog? If so, you may wonder how long does it take a shelter dog to adjust to its new home.

It depends on the dog’s personality and past experiences. However, most shelter dogs generally take 2 to 4 weeks to adjust to their new homes.

In this post, we discuss some things you can do to help your new furry family member feel comfortable and at ease in their new surroundings.

How Long Does it Take a Shelter Dog to Adjust?

Dogs that have history of abuse or fearful personalities will take longer to adjust.
Consider the past experiences of your shelter dog to understand more about its needs during the adjustment period.

It’s important to give any new dog to your family time to adjust. This includes – and is especially true for – shelter dogs.

But many people may not know how long a shelter dog will take to adjust to their new home.

Each dog is different and will adjust at its own pace, often based on the dog’s personality.

Some dogs may take a few days, while others may take several weeks or months.

Sometimes they need some time alone to explore their new home and get used to all the new sights, smells, and sounds.

Read More: How to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter. Prepare for the process with our guide!

The Importance of Adjustment Periods

Giving your dog space when they need it and attention when they want it will go a long way in helping them adjust.
Giving your shelter dog space when they need it and attention when they want it will go a long way in helping them adjust to their new home.

Adjustment periods are critical for shelter dogs and are a time when the dog is getting used to its new home and routine.

It is essential to give them plenty of time to adjust to feel comfortable and secure in their new environment.

Allow them to take things at their own pace. Your shelter dog will soon feel like part of the family with time and patience.

If you try to rush them into too many new experiences, you could end up with a fearful or anxious dog, so give them time.

Factors That Affect How Long it Takes


One factor that can affect how long it takes a shelter dog to adjust is the dog’s age.

Puppies, for example, are typically more adaptable than older dogs as they have not yet formed attachments to their previous home and are still learning how to socialize.

Puppies are also more likely to be curious and exploratory, which can help them quickly bond with their new family.


Another factor affects how long it takes a shelter dog to adjust the dog’s history.

Dogs bounced around from home are often more hesitant and mistrust new people and it may take them longer to form bonds and feel comfortable in their new environment.

On the other hand, dogs with only one owner are typically more attached to their previous home and may struggle more with the transition.

Time Spent in the Shelter

Finally, the length of time a dog spends in the shelter can also affect how long it takes them to adjust.

Dogs who spend months or even years in a shelter may have a more challenging time adjusting to life outside of it.

This is because they become used to the routine and comforts of the shelter and may be fearful of change.

Ultimately, every dog is different and will experience the world in its own way.

Remember to be patient and give your new furry friend plenty of love and attention.

Helping Your Shelter Dog Adjust

Routine, toys, and affection will help your new dog to adjust.
Start slowly and introduce a reasonable routine into your new dog’s day.

It can take a shelter dog several weeks to adjust to its new home, but there are a few things you can do to help them adjust more quickly.

Start with a slow introduction

They may be excited to meet you but try not to overwhelm them.

Show them around the house and yard gradually.

Introduce them to family members and pets one at a time so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Create a routine and stick to it

Dogs are creatures of habit.

Having a routine will help them feel comfortable and safe. Set times for meals, walks, playtime, and relaxation.

Be patient and consistent with training

Dogs need time to learn the rules of the house.

Be patient while they learn, and remain consistent when you train a rescue dog.

Try not to get frustrated if they have accidents or make mistakes. They will happen.

So be prepared to remain calm.

give them plenty of love and attention

Shelter dogs have often been neglected, so it’s essential that they feel loved in their new home.

Spend time playing with them, petting them, and hanging out together. They will soon start to feel like part of the family.

Watch this video for what NOT to do when bringing home your rescue dog:

Read More: How Does Dog Adoption Work? Learn the ins and outs before bringing your new friend home.


Dogs who come from shelters may have had a more difficult life before arriving at your home and may take longer to feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

Be patient with your new furry companion, give them the time they need to adapt, and you will be rewarded with a loyal companion for years to come.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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