Taking home your new dog: decompression 101

Thursday, June 8, 2023

You've done it: you've adopted a dog, and brought them to their new home!

But, the thing is, they don't know that yet. As much as we want to think that dogs are grateful for being rescued, for them it can take a little time to understand that they are home now. Even the best animal shelter environments can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for a dog, and they need time to relax and recuperate. Decompression is an important part of the post-adoption process, and this is the time that your rescue dog needs your patience and empathy as they begin to understand their new life. Remember, they just went home with a stranger in a strange car to a strange home that may have other strange critters and people in it with new rules and different routines. It's a lot for a pup to handle!

So, how can you help your new rescue dog? Here are some tips to help your shelter pup decompress.

Start Small

The first day your new dog comes home is not the time to introduce them to all your friends and family and other pets. Keep interactions with new people or other household pets to a minimum. When you first bring your pet home, let them roam around the areas of your home that they are allowed to be, so they can smell the smells of your home. Take a few short walks, or just one long walk, for the first few days to avoid overstimulation. Crate your pup when you're gone so they can stay safe without supervision.

Build Home Habits

Dogs thrive on a routine and boundaries. Following similar habits each day helps dogs feel safe and secure, such as eating at the same time every day or having a specific neighborhood walk route. In the first few days at their new home, be aware that your rescue dog may not want to eat and may spend a lot of time sleeping. The first couple of days are not the time to start training your new dog; just let them adjust to your home and routine.

Spend Quality Time

Don't immediately shower your new dog with affection and attention as this may be overwhelming for them. It's important for your new pup to get lots of rest when they first come home. But, you can spend time hanging out with your new canine friend, just hanging out with them while they sniff around. Let them choose to come to you for snuggles.

Things to Avoid

  • Introducing too many new people too soon – or other household pets.
  • Taking your dog somewhere with lots of other dogs, like dog parks, until you get to know your dog's preferences.
  • Raising your voice at unwanted behavior: dogs don't understand why you're yelling! Redirect their behavior to a positive solution.

All it takes to help your pup relax and unwind from the hustle of the shelter is patience, empathy and love. Remember: you rescued them. You got this!