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The 3-3-3 Rule of Adoption

The Importance of Decompression When Bringing Home A New Dog

This article was written by Pet Community Center volunteer and winner of the 2022 Jourdan Parenteau Excellence in Service Award, Melissa Mathews.

When we first rescued Remi, a large mixed-breed dog from a shelter in Alabama, she was riddled with anxiety from a traumatic past.

Seeing this confused, 14-year-old dog that was to be our hospice foster, all I wanted to do was shower her with all the love I felt she deserved. But what she actually needed in those first few months was space, a simple routine, and time to get to know and trust me on her own terms.

Have you heard of the 3-3-3 rule when it comes to adopting a new pet? The amount of time each individual pet needs to adjust to their new homes will vary, but the 3-3-3 rule helps give an approximation of what new pet owners can expect.

The 3-3-3 rule refers to the first 3 days, the first 3 weeks, and the first 3 months after bringing a shelter animal home.


Your new pet will probably be overwhelmed with their new surroundings. This may manifest as a lack of appetite. Or, your new pet may hide under furniture or in a crate, likely somewhere that makes them feel safe. Some pets may do the opposite and test boundaries in their new environment to see what they can get away with.

Tips to remember during this period: Set your dog up for success and take it slow. Give them space, stay calm and give clear directions, start routines right away, do not force interaction, be patient, and stay positive.


Your new pet is starting to settle in and is getting used to your routine. This helps them to feel more comfortable with their environment. This is when your new pet’s personality will start to show. Behavior issues may become apparent, so setting expectations and boundaries through positive reinforcement training is especially critical during this time.

Tips to remember during this period: they feel more settled and will start to test boundaries, consistently work on basic commands, continue to give clear directions, praise and reward the behaviors you want to reinforce.


Your pet should be acclimated and comfortable in your home. You have built trust and a bond with your pet which gives them confidence and a sense of security with you. They know their routine and may expect meals and enrichment at specific times.

Tips to remember during this period: they have established trust with you and know their routine, continue with consistent and clear positive-reinforcement training, once bonded you can also use affection as a reward, but treats are still a great form of enrichment.

Ultimately, adopting a new pet takes patience, consistency, and time – the 3-3-3 rule helps remind new pet owners that their recently adopted friend has been through a lot of change in a short period of time and some furry friends may need extra patience and time to adjust.

Remi definitely needed time and patience. She was so worth it though and our 11 months with her as a beloved family member will be fondly remembered forever.


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