Rescue Dog's First Night Home: What to Do

Settling into any new environment can be very difficult. When you bring your new rescue dog home everything is new and exciting for him, and that first night can often be difficult for even the most confident of dogs. The good news is that it will continue to get easier for him as time goes by, but there are a few ways that you can make that first night home more comfortable for your new pup.

Where Should Your New Dog Sleep?

The answer to this is completely up to you, depending on where you want your dog to be sleeping in the future. For the first week of bringing your dog home you should have him sleep close-by, to keep an eye on him and also to provide him with comfort during the transition.

However, if you do not want your dog sleeping in your bed in the future, then do not allow him to do so when you first bring him home. You want to establish consistency, and allowing your dog on the bed one night and not the other is not very consistent.

Instead, put a dog bed at the foot of your own bed so that your new dog can remain close, while still establishing its own personal sleeping spot.

What to Expect From Your Dog on the First Night

To your new dog, everything about your home will be different. Dogs love routine, and even if you have a lovely sleeping setup for your new dog, he will likely still be afraid and unsure on the first night.

Night Time Whimpers

It’s not uncommon for dogs to make a bit of noise when they’re in a new situation. Many rescue dogs will whimper, or even bark throughout the course of the night, which is understandable for them, but of course very sad and frustrating for you.

Of course, you want to comfort him, but it’s very important to not run to his every cry because that will teach the dog that whimpering brings attention, and he will be more likely to do it in the future.

As hard as it can sometimes be for our big hearts, tough love is the best option here. Do not run to comfort your dog everytime he makes a noise in the night. He will quickly settle down and be comfortable with his own sleeping routine soon.

Potty Problems

If a dog has come from a place where it’s allowed to potty inside, like a shelter, then it may be more likely to do it at your home. One day is not enough time for a dog to learn the pee-protocol in your home, and he may not know where he’s is supposed to go yet. Before going to bed, lay out some newspaper or “pee pads” to allow your dog to go to the bathroom in the night if he needs to.

If you’ve rescued a puppy, keep in mind that their bladders are small and he may not be able to hold it until the morning. You may need to wake up in the night to take him out to go to the bathroom.

Have patience with your new dog, he’s still learning the rules of the home. He may have an accident for the first night or two. Getting angry at your dog will not help the situation.

How to Make Your Dog Comfortable

Cuddles (morning and night)

In dog world, the most important times of the day for bonding are early in the morning and just before bed. This is because feral dog packs typically like to sleep in close quarters, for protection and warmth. In order to bond with your new dog, you can recreate that biological need to ‘be with the pack’. Right when you wake up, slot in 10-15 minutes of cuddle time, just for you and your dog, and repeat this before going to bed. In this time you can pet your dog and talk to him. Let him know how much you love him, and he will soon love you back.

Provide a Good Sleeping Spot (wherever it may be)

Whether you choose to have your dog sleep in the bed, or on the floor beside you, make sure that the spot is comfortable for them. Having a comfortable spot to sleep in will help the dog to settle down. We don’t always know the kind of situation that our rescue dog has come from, but we want to be sure that the place they are now is as warm and comfortable as possible so that they can begin to think of it as a home.

Respect Boundaries

Not every dog is eager to cuddle up next to you on the first night. For the time being, you’re a stranger to them, and they’re in a strange location, so often times a rescue dog will be frightened in the beginning. If your new dog wants to be off on his own, let him. Keep offering your love and support, and your dog will quickly realize that you’re a safe human, and he will open up to you.

Django’s Story: The First Night Home


When I brought Django home he was terrified and seemed to not like me at all. As it turns out, it wasn’t me he didn’t like, but it was the fear of being in a new place, with new smells and routines. On the first night of him being home, I invited him onto the bed. Instead, he grabbed a blanket in his mouth and carried it into the kitchen to lie down. I’m not kidding - he really did that! To this day he still prefers to have his own space when he sleeps, and he’s still fond of pulling pillows off of the bed to cushion that sleeping spot.

It’s important for us to remember that dogs have their own thoughts and feelings, and we can’t force anything onto them just because we want them to be a certain way. Your dog will tell you what it needs in order to be happy.

Bringing a new dog into the home is a lot like having a baby. They can both be noisy, and they both need a lot of patience to allow them to grow and thrive in their new environment. With a rescue dog, the first night is usually the hardest, but it will get better. Very soon he will start to think of your home as his home, and that moment of openness is what makes it all worth it.

Jackie ToddComment