GUIDE TO SETTLING IN YOUR NEW RESCUE DOG
General Information & the 333 Rule
We can’t thank you enough and we think it’s wonderful that you have considered adding a Paws2Freedom rescue dog to your home. You are their angel who will be changing a life of one of the most needy souls.
A lot of rescue dogs have experienced trauma to one degree or another and/or especially in the case of dogs from abroad have lived on the streets or in very basic conditions where they had to compete for food and shelter each and every day with never enough affection to go round, let alone feeling truly loved and wanted. You will be hoping to heal your new companion from all the past pain they have experienced. The physical as well as the emotional. You want to assure them how loved they are from now on, how safe and treasured. You want to show them how much fun life’s adventures can be and you want to take them to all these different places and meet new people. This is exactly why we are so happy that you are planning to or have already adopted one of our dogs. We know they will have an amazing life with you and we are honoured that one of our dogs (or a rescue dog in general) is the lucky one. However, please can we pause just for now! Imagine how it must be for the new dog who does not know you, does not trust you and does not understand your good intentions. They have no way of knowing that all the good things and feeling safe will all come through you, from now on for the rest of their lives. Often they have been through so many changes that they will think being with you is just another stepping stone. Building trust takes time. A shy dog especially, believe it or not, may feel overwhelmed by the sudden out pour of love and different places you may take them for walks, but most of them will feel like this regardless of the degree of past trauma. It is ever so important in the initial stages to take it VERY easy and slow so that your new addition may not feel rushed in terms of integration into their new home. We must emphasize that this is only temporary and will pay off in the long term. We cannot stress the importance of holding back strongly enough as it will avoid many unwanted behaviours which may occur otherwise a little later on. To acknowledge this we thought it would be useful to update our guidance notes to help you.
Some rescue dogs seem to be totally fine from the minute they arrive, but actually they all take time - sometimes a lot of time - to decompress, rest and get used to their surroundings. This is especially so if a rescue has come from overseas, after a long traumatic (to them) journey, let alone the months, or even years they may have spent in a shelter beforehand.
There are several ways to help a new rescue decompress and stay safe - slip leads and escape proof harnesses (with 3 straps, not the standard 2) are a must, as we stress with every adoption, and ideally a safe place like a quiet corner in a room or a covered open crate or their own bed where dogs can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. When you see your dog ‘loving to relax in their bed a lot’ then this is what in all likelihood they are doing – claiming some desperately needed quiet space alone to help them adjust. Not all dogs will use this, but at the very least they should have that quiet place they can disappear to if needed. And you should spend the first few days getting to know your dog and letting them get to know you, in and around your home/garden before venturing further afield.
And then there is the 333 RULE that will apply to most rescues -
3 DAYS, 3 WEEKS, 3 MONTHS:
In the first 3 DAYS, your new dog will be overwhelmed with their new surroundings. They will not be comfortable enough to be themselves. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t want to eat for the first couple of days, many dogs don’t eat when they are stressed. They may shut down and want to curl up in their safe place or under the table for example. They may be scared and unsure what is going on. They may be unsure about you. Or they may be the opposite and test you to see what they can get away with, kind of like a teenager.
It is very important not to overpower your new dog with love and affection in the very early days (3 or more even, depending on the dog). Let the dog come to you rather than constantly approaching them to stroke or cuddle them. Stroke under their chin and on their back as opposed to the top of the head or face, just until their confidence increases. This also will help prevent any early 'misunderstandings' occurring between you and your new arrival.
A new dog will generally need peace and quiet too in those first few days, particularly shouting or loud bangs should be avoided, as well as visits from family and friends. Put yourself in their position and think how you would feel. They may be very apprehensive and afraid until they can take everything in and understand there is no threat.
After 3 WEEKS, they’re starting to settle in, feeling more comfortable, and realising this really may be their forever home. They have figured out their new environment and getting into the routine that you have set. They let their guard down and may start showing their real personality. Behaviour issues may start showing, this is your time to provide strong yet kind leadership and show them what is right and wrong.
After 3 MONTHS, most dogs will now be comfortable in their home. You have in all likelihood built trust and a true bond with your dog, which gives them a complete sense of security with you. They are set in their routine and will come to expect their dinner etc at the usual time. Some dogs are so traumatised they need a lot longer than 3 months, but we’ll have assessed this prior to suggesting a dog to an adopter.
Please do NOT let your dog off lead, not even in your garden, until you can be absolutely certain that a bond has been established and recall training is sufficient for your dog to return to you when called. Until such time please use a long line/training lead (10m minimum) to allow your dog some freedom to run and play while you can keep them safe at all times. It’s everyone’s nightmare for a dog to get lost and even worse if this happens with tragic consequences.
We have had so many wonderful and happy stories about dogs settling in, it's just heart warming. And it's always good to be safe than sorry!
Please don’t forget that we are ALWAYS here for our adopters. Our very experienced volunteer behaviourist/trainer will gladly speak to you and, if geographically possible, visit your home and it’s all FREE OF CHARGE for as long as it takes. This is part of our rescue back up to all our adopters. So please don’t wait until a small issue becomes a big challenge or think you need to solve it on your own. We have lots of compassion and we never judge and it is ever so common for rescue dogs to have some settling in issues. None of us are experts and we all do the best we can. It’s totally ok to make mistakes and it’s also equally ok not to know everything. We are here for you!
Thank you with all our hearts and paws to all our wonderful adopters. We are so so grateful for you offering a home to a Paws2Freedom Dog! 💗💗🐾🐾
NEW DOG GUIDANCE
Your Frequently Asked Questions answered
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR OUR ADOPTERS AND ANYONE TAKING ON A NEW RESCUE DOG
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 emotions do differ from canine emotions. To help prevent 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. In addition, 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 their surroundings and 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 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 traumatized 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 general rule, most dogs will need to be given the opportunity to relieve themselves 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 himself/herself with which is far less daunting. In addition to this short term restriction, at all times 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 have a tendency 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 exist. 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 and consistent with your actions. Your dog will appreciate it.
Should you require any assistance or advice we do have an experienced trainer/behaviourist on our team who will be happy to assist you totally free of charge for as long as it takes. This is part of our rescue back to each and every one of our adopters. Here at Paws2Freedom we don't only have the best interest of the dogs at heart, but we love and cherish our adopters and we go the extra mile to ensure the happiness of both dogs and adopters alike 💗💗🐾🐾