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The First 72 Hours
Newly adopted or fostered dogs can have copious amounts of anxiety and trauma to overcome, particularly in the first 72 hours. Decompression is the process of allowing your dog to relax and experience a sense of normalcy and safety. The length of decompression time can vary greatly for each dog, but it is important to have at least a minimum of 72 hours. This sets your dog up for the best chance of success in the household!
It is important to note that even if your dog seems calm and well adjusted, you should still follow decompression guidelines. Animals are quite good at hiding their feelings and may surprise you.
We advise using the 4 S’s of decompression: Structure, Sameness, Solitude, and Safety.
All interactions with your dog should be deliberate. This means that walks outside of potty breaks should be short training walks designed to teach them leash skills. All activity should come from you or another primary caregiver. Any exercise or play time should be focused on meeting the dogs needs and should end the second they become disinterested. Free roaming should not be allowed, as well as couch or bed sitting. When not on a potty break or exercising, your dog should either be in their place or in their crate. Structure also applies to their routine, which leads us into Sameness.
In order to establish a basic feeling of safety, your dog should understand that their primary needs such as food, water, shelter, and rest will all be met unconditionally and around the same time every day. This means that a structured schedule should be implemented. Meal times, potty breaks, crate time, and training walks should all happen consistently at the same time each day (a few minutes difference is fine). Fresh water should be provided always unless otherwise specified.
In the spirit of sameness, solitude is also an important aspect of decompression. Your newly acquired dog will need some time alone with little stimuli to be able to relax into their space and accept a feeling of safety. In practice, this means that there should be no physical affection from anyone, no introductions to new dogs or people (including children), and their environment should be free of excess noise like parties or loud music. Your dog should be allowed to get ample quiet rest, as they likely have not gotten to truly rest for a long time.
Safety encompasses the last 3 principles and more. By providing Structure, Sameness, and Solitude to your new dog, you will providing them with a sense of safety. Along with what we’ve listed above, it is also important to advocate for your dog during this (and any) time. Household dynamics, relatives, friends, may all pose challenges to maintaining your dogs decompression routine. You must be able to establish firm boundaries with others and make decisions that will keep your dog out of harms way. This means that if you have an insistent friend who demands to meet your dog immediately, you must keep safety and the decompression process in mind. This is not only for your dogs safety, but your friends as well. As stated previously, decompressing dogs can sometimes act unpredictably and we want to avoid setting them up for failure.
Lastly, being observant and noticing which behaviors are normal for your dog and which are not is an important aspect of keeping them safe. Normal behaviors for a decompressing dog can include: Low appetite, not wanting to potty, sleeping a lot, not sleeping at all, anxious behaviors such as pacing or not settling, and more. Abnormal behaviors include: crate or place destruction, lunging or snapping, and excessive growling. These are not indicative of the long term behavior of a dog, but should be cause for you to seek assistance from a professional if you are unfamiliar with these behaviors. Other abnormal behaviors that would constitute an emergency include but are not limited to: labored breathing, extreme lethargy, excessive bleeding, and seizure. If you have any concerns or are unsure what behavior you are witnessing, please reach out and ask us!
What to Expect