GUIDE TO SETTLING IN YOUR NEW RESCUE DOG
Your Frequently Asked Questions answered
NEW RESCUE DOG?
Those ‘early days’ questions.
Congratulations on becoming guardian to your new Paws2Freedom rescue dog. We hope you will have many years of special love, companionship, friendship and fun as your new dog becomes an integral part of your life and family.
Some dogs have never known life with their own family, in a safe environment with regular meals, nor been used to any real degree of human contact that wasn't negative. As a result, we have had cases where behavioural issues have occurred within the first three weeks of re-homing. These behavioural issues vary in type, but analysis has revealed that the majority are due to the new dog becoming emotionally overwhelmed.
Sadly, most issues have been due to guardian's misunderstanding of a dog's needs and requirements during the early days. Out of love, they have given too much fuss and attention at the outset.
We do understand how you feel and the love you wish to share, but human and canine emotions differ considerably. To overcome this, we hope the following guidance may help make the first few weeks as positive an experience as possible for you and your new family member.
Q. When I get my new rescue dog, will they need lots of love and attention to help them get over a bad past?
A. No, absolutely not. Dogs do not 'live in the past'. Their 'memories' are more based on experiences, good or bad. During the first 2 to 3 weeks, all your new dog will want is peace and quiet to rest, sleep and get used to their new surroundings and you. This is especially so if they are an overseas rescue. He/she may have spent a long time, maybe years, in a rescue pound, or may have grown up in a shelter where this stressful, sparse and competitive environment would have been all they have ever known. Additionally, in all probability, they would previously have been a street dog, fending for themselves, living and surviving day to day by their wits. All this followed by a recent long journey to the UK which meant a great deal of drastic change and fears compacted into a few days. Your dog will be very anxious, scared and uncertain. In these early days they need to recover emotionally and realise that their surroundings as well as you do not represent a threat. Don't worry, they won't think you don't love them because you give them space and time to adjust. They will thank you for it.
Q. My new dog seems very friendly but when I go to stroke them, they appear to flinch.
A. As mentioned before, they will be very anxious and wary, even though this may not appear obvious. It is important to keep in mind that although to humans touching can be a reassuring thing, to your new dog it may represent a threat. This can cause them to react as if expecting something bad to happen. Initially, it is best to keep touching to a minimum unless the dog instigates such contact. When you do stroke them, avoid the top of the head and hind quarters but stroke under the chin, throat and chest to increase their confidence. Avoid holding and hugging, which restricts their movement and prevents them from 'getting away' resulting in them feeling trapped. This may solicit panic which they may show by way of a cry or yelp. The same also applies if your petting is less than gentle. A traumatised dog may react in much the same way, even with gentle touch or approach. Your dog needs to establish trust between you and it is not unusual for this to take several months, so be kind, be gentle and give them the space they need. Your subsequent bond will be stronger as a result.
Q. Will my new dog be house trained?
A. Your new best friend may have spent some time in a family home, although it is best to assume they are not house trained unless confirmation is available. Most dogs should soon pick up the niceties of home life and learn quickly what is or isn't acceptable behaviour. But, whilst making sure, do take them outside after meals, after any play, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Add to this any walks and other times the dog may indicate a need to go out. Praise lavishly whenever they do their business, just as you would do with a puppy. This will greatly reduce the possibility of an untoward accident. As a rule, most dogs will need to be given the opportunity to relieve themselves at least 4 - 6 times per day.
Q. Will they settle in quicker if I give them the run of the house, so they have more to see and do?
A. You must remember, if their life has been spent on the streets and/or in a dog pound, probably shared with hundreds of other dogs, initially your new dog will consider your home as little more than a large kennel with comforts. Having too much 'freedom' could be overwhelming and counterproductive and may lead to soiling where you least expect or want it as well as other 'antisocial behaviour'. It is best to restrict your new dog to one or two rooms during the day and allow them to settle in one room at night. This gives the dog less to familiarise itself with which is far less daunting. In addition to this short-term restriction, always allow the dog a safe space, for example their bed, an open crate, a cushion on the floor, somewhere they can quickly identify as their own, where they will be left alone by your household.
Q. During this time, will my dog be ok with other people visiting?
A. During this early time keep new faces to a minimum. When visitors do call, please apply a don't touch, don't speak, don't look, rule. If possible, advise known visitors in advance to avoid mistakes. People tend to lean over a strange or new dog, pat them on the head and look them in the eyes. Each of these actions can represent a threat to the dog (in their language) and, if not handled correctly, may result in growling, teeth baring, air snapping or worse a quick nip. At the very least they will probably lower their head and appear to flinch. Ask your visitors to wait until the dog approaches them. The chances are they will first tentatively sniff your visitor then slowly move away if uncertain. If the dog is accepting of your visitor, you will notice them visibly relax, become open mouthed with a more friendly and confident posture and even a tail wag. Your visitor should not make sudden movements towards the dog but be gentle, not touch the top of the dog's head, speak quietly and allow them to move away if they want to. You can reinforce this by giving your visitors some treats which they can throw on the floor towards the dog placing them gradually closer. Increase the distance again if the dog becomes hesitant or scared.
Q. Would it help if I take him/her on outings to new places and to meet other dogs?
A. Not immediately. Every new experience will bring with it new anxieties. Generally, dogs cope very well with new experiences, especially when all else in life is familiar. However, when everything is new, the last thing they will need is more anxiety piled on top of any that already exists. Even a dog who is usually social with other dogs may react out of character when meeting other dogs as a result. During this time keep exercise to quiet local walks and play indoors or in the garden to use up excess energy. There will be plenty of time for wider social fun later.
Overall, please take your time in these early weeks. The initial settling down of 2 - 3 weeks is only a guide, some may need longer. But don't worry, relax, give them the time and space they need as you will have many years ahead of you for all the fun stuff, sofa cuddles, trips out to new fields and the beach as well as all the other things we love to enjoy with our fur babies. The effort and care you put in at the very beginning will result in far less issues arising and a happier more balanced dog as the trust between you is established and grows. Set your boundaries with the dog, don't be afraid to train them and, above all, be realistic with your expectations. Your dog will appreciate it.
Should you require any assistance or advice we do have a qualified trainer/behaviourist on our team who will be happy to assist you free of charge for as long as it takes. Here at Paws2Freedom we don't only have the best interest of the dogs at heart, but we love and cherish our adopters/fosterers and we go the extra mile to ensure the happiness of both dogs and their guardians alike ♥