It takes at least 3 DAYS for your dog to decompress.
It takes at least 3 WEEKS for your dog to learn your routine.
It takes at least 3 MONTHS for your dog to feel at home.
1. Patience is crucial. Your new dog does not know where he is, who you are, whether he will be fed, be let out to relieve himself or even be safe. Please give him plenty of time to acclimate and learn. Don’t rush him to interact with you, family members, neighbors, friends or yours or other dogs and cats. Dogs that have been at a shelter for a long period of time need to decompress and get themselves into a calm state of mind without worrying and stressing like they were at the pound. This also pertains to dogs that have been abused by a fellow human. There must be patience and they must feel safe in their new home. The most important phase that dogs go through when initially getting out of the shelter is what we refer to as the “Decompression Phase.” That is the first few weeks in your home. People want the dog to fit in and often make the biggest mistakes during this period. They will give the dog too much love, too much training, too much attention.. everything that’s too much is TOO MUCH. After the experience of living at the shelter or the unknown the best thing a dog can get upon getting out is “Space”. Space that will allow the dog to Decompress from the emotional stress that dogs incur at our shelters and or abusive situations. During this phase you allow the dog to SEE what his new life will be without expecting too much from him. Giving your dog limited access for a short time will help prevent his world from being too large and too overwhelming. Depending on dog you can use a tall baby gate, so that he can still observe their new world. Crating also gives a dog, a safe place to hang out. You can cover it with a blanket for that secure safe place and put padding and or blanket inside. It can also help with house training. Most people lack the ability to give this life-saving space to the dog and often times the dog will fail. The more the dogs fails, or the more severely his failures are, the more likely he is to end up being returned and not given a chance.
2. It will take your rescued dog an average of 7 to 14 days to simply decompress and begin to relax. It will take your new dog an average of 4-6 weeks to start to learn your routine. You will need to teach him your routine – you cannot assume he knows it. The best way for him to learn is through repetition and consistency: feed him, let him out or take him for walks at the same time each day, praising him when he does what you ask.
3. If your new dog is child-friendly, introduce the new dog to immediate family children slowly. Never force the interaction or allow the dog to be cornered to or have too much stimulation and feel overwhelmed. Remember your home and your environment is all new to your dog. Just as the dog needs to be taught to be respectful with children, children need to be taught to be gentle and respectful of the dog.
4. Take the time to introduce your new dog to Family Resident dogs slowly. Keep the rescued dog separate from resident dogs for at least a week if not 2 so he can decompress and begin to form a bond with you. Then introduce slowly. It’s always best to introduce the dogs away from the home such as on a walk or at a park to get acquainted. The next step after they seem to get along on the walk is to let them socialize in the backyard, when that is successful then you can let both the new dog into the home along with the resident dog together…You want the new dog to transition into the pack without incident. Number ONE RULE keep your new dog in a crate or separate room during decompression time and always when you are not home. After decompression and everyone is acquainted and comfortable it is up to you as the owner to take responsibility to see if your pet can stay free in the home or if they should be crated. The last thing you want is to come home and find an awful accident because you left your animals unattended to make their own decisions. Not to say it cannot work but you have to be sure it can, if not crate them. Sometimes you can just tell that all dogs are fine with each other right away but always monitor the interaction just in case.
5. If your new dog is cat friendly, let your new dog decompress for at least a week by himself then slowly…oh so slowly integrate the animals together. Never force the introduction and always allow the cat a way to escape from the interaction with the dog. After the two week shutdown, if your new dog is doing well, take the dogs on short walks together in the neighborhood. Ideally with one person per dog. Speaking of dog interactions, how do you know if they are going well? Look for: loose tail wag, soft eyes, wiggly body. You will know the dogs need some more space if you notice: very stiff posture, ears forward, hackles raised and/or avoidance. When introducing the dogs, allow a 3 second rule for the first sniff and then lead them away from each other. To learn more about the 3 second rule http://www.thrivingcanine.com/letting_dogs_meet_the_three_second_rule
6. There is no rule that says a dog should be fed from a bowl. It is fine in most instances, in others, Instead, get to know your new dog by hand feeding. Hand feeding meals can help the dog bond with you and your family. It also gives shy dogs confidence and teaches outgoing dogs a little self-control. Meal times should also be scheduled. Setting feeding times will give the dog needed structure and security. It will also help with housetraining. If you know what and when your dog ate, you know when to give them a bathroom break. While your dog may have been housebroken in their previous living situation this may not be the case in a new home. Dogs that are in shelters do not have enough potty walks, sometimes none, so be patient. Teach the dog where to eliminate. He can’t be expected to know where to go and what to do in a new environment unless he is taught and he learns by repetition, consistency and praise when he goes in the right place.
7. Remember that you made the decision care for this dog and make him a member of your family. We cannot stress how important PATIENCE is during the initial stages with a rescued dog.
The beauty of a rescued dog is watching his or her personality emerge as they learn to trust, gain confidence and feel safe.