Home > Animal Rescue, Pet Adoption, Pet Sitting > It’s okay to be nervous when first adopting or fostering a dog

It’s okay to be nervous when first adopting or fostering a dog


Lacie is a beautiful, loving young Sheltie mix girl who will make a wonderful companion for that special someone. Through no fault of her own, she’s been shuffled around quite a bit in her young life. This little girl is a sweetie.
Lacie is 3 years old and will need to be on a diet and exercise regimen. She is really, really sweet!
Lacie is available through Minnesota Sheltie Rescue http://www.mnsheltierescue.org/available

Have you ever felt the stress that comes with introducing a new dog into the family? Reading my friend Amanda’s post the other day, Post-Puppum Anxiety Disorder, brought back so many memories for me.

As I read about Amanda’s nervousness and stress in adding two additional dogs into her home and her life, I couldn’t help but feel all the same feelings I had when I adopted my first dog, Indy. I fell in love with Indy the moment I met her. She literally was surrendered one day and adopted by me the next. At the shelter, I have been so certain she was the dog for me. But when I got her home I started to worry. What if she turned out not to be a good fit? What did I REALLY know about her anyways? Indy was so nervous that first night (understandably so), that I started to have second thoughts. Maybe I had made a mistake.

Thankfully, Indy adjusted and so did I. The more we learned about each other, the more we just clicked.We learned to trust one another. Indy turned out to be one of the best, most well-behaved dogs I had ever met, a discovery I never would have made if I hadn’t given her, and me, the time to get to know one another. She was quite a special dog. I have never regretted adopting her.

As I have added more rescue dogs into my life, I have learned that being comfortable with being uncomfortable is a part of the process when one fosters or adopts a new dog. Being nervous and having second thoughts are normal. It’s working past those fears and emotions, and being dedicated to working with your new and existing dog, that makes all the difference. Time can also make a big difference too. It takes time for everyone to get used to each others’ personalities and to adjust to the new routine. If you can get past those first few days (and sometimes weeks) the rewards can be great.

This is not to say that sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But knowing this, and being willing to make every attempt to work through it first, can bring about a surprising results.

I’d like to say that over time I have gotten past the butterflies in my stomach, the sinking feeling that maybe I’ve made a mistake, or the worry that I might somehow neglect one dog when doling out the love and attention, but I haven’t. Not once. Even when I boarded dogs as a part of my pet sitting business, I felt all the same nerves as I had when I fostered and/or adopted each of my dogs. It comes with the territory.

Fostering or adopting a dog is such a rewarding experience, but having the confidence to do so and to work through those initial worries and fears is the key. Trust yourself enough to know that change can be good. In fact, it can be life changing – for both you and your rescue dog.

I posted this on my Facebook page, but thought it worth sharing here as well – Fostering: Drive in the slow lane for dog/dog intros. I thought this post on the Bad Rap blog provided some great tips and ideas on introducing a new dog into your family. Granted, the foster parents had a more challenging situation than most adopters, but still some great ideas.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. ~ ~ George Washington (1732 – 1799)

I am Winston. I am told that I am just the cutest little thing to come along in a long time. I am now learning to deal with two very bossy diva foster sisters (who are Shelties like me) and some cats, but we all get along really well. It would be more fun, however, if the cats would run every now and again – oh a good chase would be so great!
Winston is 8 years old and a mellow fellow most of the time, but he would love a friend who would love to play with him!
Lacie is available through Minnesota Sheltie Rescue http://www.mnsheltierescue.org/available

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  1. July 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    I was very nervous when we adopted Lucy. Various people at hub’s job had taken her home for a night or two, but always brought her back to the shop. At the time we had a dog her age but twice her size and one twice her age, but half her size. Still, I told hub she got a full month trial. The first week the animals were all tense. After that everyone (including me) settled into their roles and life was great for the rest of their lives.

    • Mel
      July 17, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      Wow! Poor Lucy to have been shuffled around like that at first. I am so very glad that she ended up with you! I love that you gave her a month to settle in and that it took less than that to actually happen. Yes. I thinking fostering or adopting a new dog can be scary at first, but clearly in your case and in mine, it can be such a wonderful experience. I am so glad you shared. 🙂

  2. July 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    Such a great post! “Being comfortable with being uncomfortable” is good advice for life in general.

    • Mel
      July 17, 2012 at 6:19 AM

      Thanks Sue! Great point. It’s something I’ve tried to get myself to do every day.

  3. Jan
    July 17, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    I was more nervous introducing a stray cat into our pack of dogs. But she wasn’t nervous at all and soon took over the house.

  4. July 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    I definitely enjoyed reading your thoughts, and of course, found them very relevant to my current situation! I’m trying to take a Zen approach and give it some more time. (Although some aggression issues are starting to concern me about whether it really is just not a good fit – I’m not giving up yet, but I’ve definitely been doing a lot of thinking. At the end of the day, I’m sure things will work out as they are meant to.)

  5. July 17, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    It feels like such an epic decision when we bring a new dog into our homes. Of course we get anxious.

    Great advice.

  6. July 17, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I have felt that way each time and still every so often, when I think, what the heck am I doing!?! But it just keeps working out. Time does wonders for any relationship.

  7. jackiebouchard
    July 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Great post so folks know they are feeling very “normal” things when bringing home a new dog. I think it’s especially true when you bring home a hyper new pup after losing a beloved older dog. It’s an adjustment, but like you said, oh so rewarding!

    That Winston is a cutie!

    • Mel
      July 18, 2012 at 6:57 AM

      Thanks Jackie! I actually brought home Jasper and his sister to foster at about 9-10 months old and I already had Daisy. It was definitely an adjustment to having puppies around!

  8. July 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    I was so ready for Sampson but once I picked up Delilah I was doubting myself. At the end of the first day I was determined that I was NOT going to be another human that failed her. We are family, through thick and thin.

    It’s sometimes hard though, not to second guess yourself.

    • Mel
      July 18, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      I read your story of when you went to pick up Delilah. It says a lot about you and your family that you were able to move past that first day. P.S. I second guess myself all of the time. 🙂

  9. July 19, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    I knew I wanted BJ the minute I saw him in the shelter. No question. I also knew that I might have a problem with my landlord. That’s what made me nervous and unsure. BJ and bonded very quickly and there was no question that I would fight to keep him. It took over a year of legal battles and a lot of money – and we won.
    I have him 12 years and have not regretted it for one second.

    • Mel
      July 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM

      Wow Lynda! I had no idea! I am so glad you won and so glad you have had him 12 years. That is so awesome!

  10. August 6, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Beautiful post. Looking forward to following you.

  11. Ashley-Marie
    September 29, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    Today we adopted a puppy from the shelter and we get to pick him up tomorrow and I am very nervous.. I have 3 existing dogs….One met him today and they instantly started playing, but I am still nervous does anyone have any helpful pointers or suggestions so I wont be so nervous?

    • Mel
      September 29, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      Hi Ashley-Marie. I would recommend introducing them somewhere away from home. Maybe a park or down the street from your home? Whenever I had a new client coming to see if they would be boarding with me, I would introduce them in my backyard or on a walk. It was always a good sign when my dogs sniffed them and then walked away to play ball or to greet their owners. I think meeting on neutral territory is always a good start. I also use baby gates so the visiting dogs, or a new dog, can be safely around the other dogs when I am gone, but there is no risk of injury. Crates are great for that too. I recommend checking out BadRapp. They have some great tips on introducing new dogs too. Good luck and congratulations!

  12. Jyoti
    April 14, 2015 at 2:49 AM

    Hi, I feel so better after reading your article. We have a dog since three weeks and I am feeling nervous. But now I know that its normal. Thanks.

  13. Anne-Elizabeth
    March 22, 2017 at 6:58 PM

    Your blog is a godsend! We’ve just adopted a puppy. I am feeling nervous and apprehensive. This isn’t the pup’s fault at all. It really helps to know this is common and that it passes. I will be a regular reader. Thank you so much!

    • Mel
      March 29, 2017 at 6:14 AM

      I am so glad my post helped you Anne-Elizabeth. I know that nervous feeling. It’s almost like dating. Will he like me? Will we get along? Is this the right decision? 🙂

  14. May 16, 2017 at 6:47 PM

    It’s been over two months and Penny is now a cherished part of our family. It DOES get better! We had her stay with a sitter this past weekend while we were away and couldn’t wait for her to come home! 🙂

  15. May 16, 2017 at 9:23 PM

    As I read (and re-read) these comments I was reminded how much I miss Lucy. She was an Australian cattle dog who had been on her own for quite a while before we invited her to join our family. I found her collar last week and cried. Even though the lifespan of dogs doesn’t equal ours, they are with us forever..

  16. Christina
    August 10, 2017 at 8:52 AM

    So I lost my 12 yr old yorkie in April and was miserable and severely depressed without a dog in the house. After my husband could not take it anymore with my sadness we decided to rescue thinking it would be something great to do. We looked and looked for a yorkie and found a young male mix. I was so excited! The first day was to good to be true but then we soon realized the dog has some fear aggression and also is not housebroken. We are on day 6 and working on things and every day there has been improvement but I have this constant anxious feeling in my stomach that I made a bad decision and that it may not work. So that’s what got me here on this page and it’s so good to hear that I’m not alone and that everyone has these feelings. The dog is so much more hyper then my old girl and I thought I understood that going in but all of a sudden I’m second guessing what I did. I know it will work out, but man it’s an adjustment. When he’s cuddled up sleeping next to me on the couch I think- wow this is worth it. I’m just all butterflied out at this point. Looking forward to the weekend so we can bond more and maybe he will get into our routine a little more. I know I’m asking a lot from him. I need to be strong and give us all some time. I need to Breathe.

  17. Tony Minipin
    November 24, 2017 at 8:56 PM

    I am scheduled to pick up my rescue dog tomorrow and I am very panicky right now. I’ve cared for dogs for 30 years during my marriage but now I am divorced and I haven’t had a pet for about a year. I am an anxious person but most of the time I am fine. Now that I have found a dog and filled out all the paperwork I find myself second-guessing my decision to adopt. I see from these websites how common this is and I also see that the vast majority of the stories have happy endings for both human and dog. I have no reason to be anxious. I love dogs, I particularly enjoy long walks with a dog. I have plenty of room in the house. I have a yard. I have a good relationship with a vet. I can come home from work at noon if needed and there are a number of parks within a few miles of my house. I should be excited and happy but I find myself worried and afraid I am making a mistake for myself and the dog. Hopefully in a week or so, like so many of you, I will see that the decision to adopt was one of my best.

    • Mel
      November 25, 2017 at 7:13 AM

      So understand. I have felt that anxiety too. I always second-guess myself and my decisions. I hope that we hear back from you with happy and exciting news. Enjoy that new dog!

  18. Chris
    December 1, 2017 at 11:01 AM

    I’m happy to read your post because I was so nervous the week we got our rescue that I had made a bad decision. At the meet and greet he was shy, but that’s to be expected and I had no idea what was ahead. Our rescue was a little aggressive after we got him home and I was thinking oh my god I’m going to have to give him back! He tried to bite my husband on several occasions and my stomach was in knots. Well I am happy to report we are now 4 months in and I’ve seen dramatic changes in him. The aggression is gone, accept for him still mouthing when playing, which we are working on. He also guards us now- so at least the aggression has shifted to others and not us- LOL! Kidding but we are working on that as well. But this was my first rescue and I can see he’s making progress EVERY DAY!. The more comfortable your dog gets the more he will learn to trust you and listen to your commands. It sounds like you have the perfect set up as well to provide a great home for the dog. Give it time, prayer, and deep breaths. You will see your relationship grow before you know it. I’m so happy we got our dog. He’s a wonderful addition to our home and it’s amazing to see the transformation in a dog who had a crappy life to now having a great one. Good luck!

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