GUIDE TO SETTLING IN YOUR NEW RESCUE DOG
We can’t thank you enough and we think it’s wonderful that you have considered adding a 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 rescues 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 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.
Another point we want to strongly advise on is to NOT bathe or shower your new dog. If you are taking a dog from a shelter abroad directly into your home they will in all likelihood not exactly smell of roses which is to be expected. Their fur will need TLC as will most likely the overall condition of your new dog. Bathing them is just far too stressful for them in the early stages and will make building a relationship with your new dog even harder. Depending on level of trauma some may never be comfortable with being bathed, but this is quite rare. If you feel you would like to improve the smell of your new addition we recommend to have them sleep in fresh bedding and you could use a dry shampoo mousse which is far kinder on them than confronting them with a full bath or shower too soon. If you can only get hold of a dry shampoo spray, please spray onto your hands at a distance from your dog and then wipe and massage into their fur. Gentle bushing will do the rest. You could also consider dog wipes which are readily available too. Be mindful to choose from non toxic products only. If your dog is not comfortable being touched yet please rely on fresh bedding only and soon you will notice a big difference already. If the dog has been at P2F for a little while they will already smell much better, but still the same rule applies, do not bathe for some time until you have built a bond of trust with your new dog.
We have had so many wonderful and happy stories about dogs settling in, it's just heart warming. Such stories make what we do worth while. 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! 💗💗🐾🐾