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The 21 Day Protocol for Adopting a New Rescue Dog

Updated: Sep 2

What is the 21-Day Protocol?

Harper the cutest little Acre dog rescue posing in a sit with an orange collar.
Harper the cutest little Acre dog rescue posing in a sit with an orange collar.

Adopting a rescue dog can be a rewarding and life-changing experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. New rescue dogs may have experienced trauma or stress in their previous homes and may need time to adjust to their new surroundings and become comfortable with their new family. To help make the transition as smooth as possible, many pet owners and trainers recommend using the 21-Day Protocol for adopting new rescue dogs.


What is the 21-Day Protocol?


The 21-Day Protocol is a series of steps taken over 21 days to help new rescue dogs settle into their new homes and bond with their new families. The protocol involves creating a calm and structured environment for the dog, gradually introducing new experiences, and providing consistent training and socialization. The goal of the protocol is to help the dog feel secure, confident, and comfortable in their new home, and set your new dog up for success.


Step 1: Create a calm and structured environment.

The first step in the 21-Day Protocol is to create a calm and structured environment for the new rescue dog. This can involve creating a quiet and secluded space, such as a crate or a bedroom, where the dog can rest and feel safe. The area should be free of any stressors, such as loud noises or other pets. A consistent routine should also be established, with regular meal times, potty breaks, and playtime.


Step 2: Gradually introduce new experiences.

During the 21-day period, it's important to gradually introduce new experiences and stimuli into the dog's environment. This can include gradually increasing exposure to other pets and people, as well as new sights, sounds, and smells. Introducing new experiences slowly and gradually helps the dog feel more confident and comfortable in their new surroundings. Do not take your new dog to a dog park, pet store, farmers market or other high-traffic areas.


Step 3: Provide training and socialization within your home.

Consistent training and socialization within your home are important components of the 21-Day Protocol. Training should focus more on engagement, rewarding calmness and habituation and not obedience commands until your new dog has settled into their new environment. An example of habitation, you may need to reward your dog for walking on a carpet onto a hardwood floor or tile as this may be a new experience. You may need to use many treats to encourage them to take the stairs to another floor if they have not been exposed to stairs before. Encourage your new dog to relax by leaving treats and toys on their bed to attract them to their bed; if you capture them lying on their bed, offer them a food reward on their bed. Always capture and reward calm, polite behaviours. Avoid teaching commands and nagging them; if they happen to sit, reward them vs telling them to sit. Many fearful dogs may be shut down when they do not get command/cue like sit correct and are denied the reward, and they do not have the confidence or resilience to keep trying.

The 21-day shutdown protocol is the time to focus on crate training and house training. Socialization should involve exposing the dog to various environments and experiences within your home and neighbourhood. Remember, many simple things like blenders, sweeping, vacuum cleaners, and the sound of a dishwasher or washer and dryer may be new to your dog. Keep experiences short and fun such as car rides, and walks at quiet times in your neighbourhood.


Step 4: Offer plenty of praise and rewards.

It's important to offer plenty of praise and rewards for positive behaviour during the 21-day period. This can include treats, toys, and positive reinforcement. Consistent positive reinforcement helps the dog feel confident and motivated and reinforces desired behaviour.


Step 5: Monitor the dog's progress.

It's important to monitor the dog's progress during the 21-day period and to seek veterinary care if necessary. Symptoms such as lethargy, depression, and a lack of appetite may indicate a more serious issue and should be addressed promptly.


Step 6: Continuously provide love and support.

After the 21-day period has ended, it's important to continue providing love and support for the new rescue dog. This includes providing a consistent routine, offering praise and rewards for positive behaviour, and exposing the dog to new experiences and stimuli.


Equipment - leash, collar and harness. Ensure that before you leave, your home is secure. It is a great idea to add a safety attachment from their collar to their harness and to always use a harness that they can not escape out of. Pick up a GPS tracker, every day new rescues are spooked, and the leash drops or they escape from their harness and are running fearfully throughout the city for days or weeks.


Conclusion.

The 21-Day Protocol is a useful tool for helping new rescue dogs settle into their new homes and bond with their new families. By creating a calm and structured environment, gradually introducing new experiences, and providing consistent training and socialization, pet owners can help their furry friends feel secure, confident, and comfortable in their new surroundings. It's important to consult with a veterinarian and a professional trainer before implementing the 21-Day Protocol and to seek veterinary care if necessary. With patience, love, and support, rescue dogs can overcome their past experiences and go on to live happy and fulfilling lives with their new families.




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