The 3x3x3x rule is something we like to share with all of our adopters.
Having this rule in your mind helps to manage expectations, creates a deeper level of understanding and sets adopters up for success. In our experience, it’s proven to be accurate and a very informative and beneficial tool for adopters.
So, what is the 3x3x3 rule?
In simple terms, it says that it takes 3 days for your new dog to decompress from travel, 3 weeks for them to learn your routine, and 3 months for them to truly feel at home.
Before we go into it in more detail, we ought to stress that this is a guideline. Some dogs may need longer, and some dogs may adapt a lot quicker. There is no way to tell how long it will take your dog to settle, so we like to use the 3x3x3 as a guideline.
It takes on average 3 days for your new dog to decompress from travel.
In the vast majority of cases (unless you’re rehoming a UK dog from us), your dog will be travelling from the Algarve in Portugal. This journey is 48 hours long in total (although there are plenty of pit stops so that they can pee, poop, eat and play), and over 24 hours of these are spent on the road. It should not be underestimated how potentially stressful and unnerving this can be for a dog, let alone a puppy, which most of ours are. Our shelters do a brilliant job of preparing them for the journey, e.g. getting them used to the motion of travelling, and travelling in a crate. Sometimes the dogs will be given travel sickness medication to stop them from getting upset stomachs (some rescues choose to sedate their dogs, however this is something we are strongly against).
When they arrive, they are usually full of beans and are thrilled to be on solid ground! However some will be a little bit reserved and shy, and a bit out of sorts. This is totally normal and should be expected. They have been on an extremely long journey, are away from their usual surroundings and it’s at the point of arriving with us that they are usually separated from their litter mates and introduced to their forever family. So the first few days they will still be adjusting to being back on solid (and static) ground!
During these first 3 days you should keep an eye on their toileting. Are their poops soft, very runny or nice and firm? Are they going regularly enough? Are they interested in food and are they eating well? How is their sleeping pattern? Naturally, it would take any dog a period of time to adjust to their new surroundings. But after travelling for such a long period of time, we should expect them to take a few days to decompress, both physically and psychologically. When your dog arrives in the UK, they cannot leave their home address for 48 hours (in line with DEFRA regulations). This gives your dog two days to stay in your home (without exploring the wider world) so that they can rest and properly decompress.
It will take your dog approximately 3 weeks to get used to your routine.
Your dog will have spent the most recent period of its life in one of our fantastic shelters or foster homes. They will have felt very comfortable in their routine and they would’ve been around familiar faces, smells and sounds. We must stress that dogs are naturally very adaptable and resilient and for some dogs the transition of moving to a new environment and learning a new routine will not faze them in the slightest. But for most, it will take them a few weeks to get used to their new surroundings and this is absolutely, 100% normal.
For those first 3 weeks (or so), they will be getting used to their new human (and possibly furry) friends, the new sights and smells in the house and garden, the new walking route, their new bed, their new food, and so on. They will be learning your boundaries and what is and what isn’t acceptable. They will be learning what makes you happy and what’s going to get you to play ball with them, or what’s going to get you to give them a treat! During the first 3 weeks, your new dog will be soaking up every single bit of information about your routine and will be figuring out how to adapt to it.
During the first 3 weeks you should be reassuring, provide them with clear boundaries and clear instructions, and you should offer them safety, security and love. Don’t pick them up and make a fuss over them if they’re unsure about something. We want your dog to grow up to be confident and secure in themselves, so if they’re not sure about something, ignore the stimuli and their crying etc and give them lots of praise when they display the behaviours you’re seeking (e.g. ignoring the stimuli or approaching it inquisitively with a waggy tail!). Ensure that all members of the household have agreed what the boundaries are, and make sure you all enforce the rules. Make sure they know you are someone they can trust, so offer them lots of love and security. This is an unnerving time for them, so it’s your job to try and make them feel as settled as possible.
It’ll take your dog roughly 3 months to truly feel at home.
3 months after the adoption has taken place, your dog should begin to really feel happy and at home with you. They will have integrated into their new home and family and will see you as a part of their family. They will know what to expect on a daily basis, e.g. what time dinner is and when it’s time to go for walkies (don’t say it out loud!). You will have taught them that ‘wee wees’ take place outside only and they will know that sitting nicely will get them lots of praise and possibly some tasty treats! They will recognise the sound of you approaching the front door after doing a food shop and they will greet you with confidence, a big grin and a very bouncy strut!
After 3 months, your dog will feel that your home is now their home. This is their territory, this is where they are happiest and this is where they belong.
How did you get to this point? By doing the following:
- By making sure the home is a safe space, where they are protected, loved and valued members of the family.
- By ensuring boundaries were established before the dog actually arrived, so that all family members were on the same page and so that the dog knew right from the beginning what was acceptable and what wasn’t.
- By starting the training pretty much straight away! By teaching them fun new tricks so that their brain stayed stimulated and they saw you as their teacher and leader.
- By giving them space and reassurance when they needed it.
- By enabling them to become independent, confident and secure dogs because you didn’t smother them when they showed signs of being fearful of something (e.g. traffic or the hoover).
- By taking things SLOWLY. By not rushing things. By taking things at their pace. By ensuring that every experience was a positive one and by ensuring that they weren’t overwhelmed because you tried doing everything at once.
The whole purpose of the 3x3x3 rule is to help adopters manage their expectations and realise that dogs need time to adjust. Give them enough time, and your new dog will flourish in their new environment.