Companion animals are the best things since sliced bread hands down. With traits like being loving, affectionate, understanding, and full of patience, it’s difficult to understand why so many are abandoned in U.S. animal shelters each year. According to PETA, there are an estimated six to eight million lost, abandoned, or unwanted dogs and cats that enter animal shelters in the U.S. annually and half end up euthanized.

Animal lovers know how heartbreaking it is to walk through a shelter’s hallways to see the many dogs and other animals waiting for forever homes, staring or jumping desperately at you in their kennel with those big “take me home with you” puppy eyes. Then, there are some dogs so broken that all they do is curl up in a corner of the kennel with their backs to visitors. However, there is always hope for them because of people who care — because of people like you.

Adopting a rescue dog is one of the best gifts any dog could ask for, even though he or she may not act happy in the beginning. You must understand that a shelter dog could be coming from an abusive or neglectful background, is still very scared after being abandoned, or are feeling sad and unwanted.

Along with the tips below on socializing a newly adopted shelter dog, you can also get a big hug for becoming a companion animal guardian!

Be Prepared Beforehand

The first few days for a new dog in your home are very important, and being prepared beforehand is crucial. Besides establishing with everyone in the household a structure for transition for your dog, you will also need to prepare your home. Find out what brand of food the dog has been eating and stick with that until they become comfortable. Since a new dog may want to mark his territory inside or simply may not be housebroken, having cleaning products on hand is a good idea. Dog proof your house of dangerous things to chew on like wires and medications and put up items of value.

Give Them Space

Give a newly adopted dog space by going directly home after picking him up at the shelter instead of immediately taking him out to meet your family and friends. He is probably scared being in a new environment, may have dangerous behavioral problems you do not know about, and doesn’t know you very well yet. Read his body language and don’t force physical contact or food on him; he will you know when he’s ready.

Have a Bathroom Schedule

With the exception of some dogs that did not come from traumatizing situations, a dog coming from a shelter could be under some amount of stress for a few weeks to months. Having and keeping to a bathroom schedule will greatly help your new furry kid adjust to being a part of something. After training, your dog will be so proud to know when he needs to get your attention to let him out to do his business.

Get Them Familiar with Their Living Area

Start your socializing process by showing your new dog his sleeping area and taking him outside in case he needs to potty. Then, in a non-closed off area with dog toys, you can begin to bond, but don’t exert too much excited energy quite yet. This is also the time to show him where the food and water bowls will be as well as pee pads, if you are planning on potty training indoors. Give small treats while you gently give pets. In time, he will let you play and cuddle and he will eat at designated times.

Introduce Your Dog to Others

If there are currently dogs in your family household, let dogs meet each other one-on-one in an area of the home that is free from distractions, and don’t let their first meeting be in the car when you go to pick up the new guy. This is a recipe for disaster. The rule for meeting other dogs and people is that it should only happen after the new dog has passed basic training. Start by introducing your new dog to another dog on neutral territory like in a local park. For safety, there should be one pet parent per dog holding a leash to ease tension and it’s important that you do not force them to interact, as doing so may cause aggression and panic from either party.

Image source: CJ Anderson / Flickr