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​by Tracy Baldwin (ABCDT) for Rebound Hounds

The most important phase that dogs go through when getting out of the shelter and when first in their foster or adoptive home is the “Decompression Phase.” Any change in a dog’s environment or routine will cause some level of stress and it’s our job as their guardian to be patient and guide them through this time…however long it takes.

“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 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 shelter. During that phase they should NOT be bothered too much, NOT be engaged too much and NOT too much should be expected of them. Especially for the first few days…allow the dog to SEE what his new life will be without expecting him to Live this LIFE” ~~~~Robert Cabral- The Decompression Phase- Bound Angels~~~~

All dogs need structure/rules/boundaries for them to feel safe. They thrive on predictable routines. The greatest form of affection we can show our new dog is to fulfill their needs: Their need to eat, their need to have clean water, their need to potty outside, their need to migrate/walk and their need to have a cozy/soft/warm crate (their den) to rest in. Of course you can pet your new dog; you can give him treats and a toy to chew. BUT it’s important to keep all of these things to a minimum for at least the first few weeks.

  • When your dog first arrives, before they even go inside your home, take them for a 20-40 min. walk, depending on their health.

  • When you get back to your home, keep your dog leashed and walk them calmly through the front door and while keeping him leashed, walk around your home. NO FREE ROAM.

  • Once you have done a quick tour with the dog, take him to his crate area, allow him some water and practice the crate exercises (Crate Training Doc in the files). The crate should be in an area of the house that is neither isolated nor in the middle of everything. You want your new dog to observe you and your family without feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

  • With the dog still leashed, walk him to the door that you will be using to take him out to potty and take him out. Bring him back in and put him in his crate. Let him rest. It’s important to establish the routine and structure of the crate straight away.

  • After some time, leash the dog and remove him from his crate, hand feed him his meal (great bonding/engagement exercise) and then go outside for a potty break.

  • Then back inside for some “out of the crate time” (still leashed). NO rough play, NO wrestling, NO couch, NO beds, NO laps, NO kissy face, NO free roam through the house, NO interactions with any other pets, NO visits from your friends and family, NO trips to Petco and No car rides (other than to the vet). The goal for these first few weeks is to help your dog learn the structure/rules/boundaries of your home.

  • After free time, its back outside (still leashed) for potty and then back in for some crate rest.

  • Once you put your new dog in his crate (following the training in the Crate Training Doc), ignore him. Let him rest.

  • The first few weeks for our new foster or adopted dog should be very simple. Walks/hand feeding/access to water/potty breaks/limited free time in the house/crate time…repeat.

Imagine you just started a new job. You walk through the huge entrance to the building and you’re standing in the lobby trying to figure out which way to go. You don’t know where your office is. You don’t know where the break room is. You don’t know where the rest room is. And, you don’t know any of your coworkers. You feel lost/overwhelmed/nervous/anxious. Now imagine that same new job BUT as you walk into the building, a coworker walks up you and calmly says “Hi, welcome to XYZ Enterprise, follow me and I will show you around.” They give you the tour, they give you a welcome packet and they show you to your office. How much more relaxed and comfortable would you be in the second scenario? Your co-worker made you feel comfortable by guiding you and giving you information. NOT by hugging you or showering you with affection. That’s exactly the relaxed comfortable feeling you need to create for your foster or newly adopted dog.

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