Two Week Timeout For New Dogs
Most of the time when new dogs enter our lives it is on the heels of some sort of serious life changes for the dog. They may have been pulled away from their mom and siblings, they may have been transported between states, they may have been pulled from the only home they ever knew, or they may have spent 3 stressful weeks in a shelter before having their world turned upside down in a change in environment. One of the biggest disservices we do to new dogs, even the well adjusted ones but particularly the less confident dogs, is to continue the whirlwind of change by taking the dog to the park, to friends houses, or inviting people over. They really do need a bit of a timeout to learn to feel safe with the new family and to learn new routines.
It’s HARD not to show off your new addition but it is really far more beneficial to give him/her at least a few quiet days to establish some routine, normalcy, and relationship before adding more stress. Now, the time you let them settle in and adjust is different, I think depending on the age of the dog and how they are settling in general. I would not keep a 10 week old puppy sequestered in the house for 2 full weeks because that is prime socialization time but I would certainly give him 3 or 4 days of relaxation before anything big or exciting. I would say that a new dog that is relatively confident and well adjusted should still be given at least 7-10 days to get settled. Now, if you have a pup who is acting anything less than confident and outgoing, I would suggest giving them even more time in the home to adjust.
The latter is certainly what I have with Dewey, my new foster dog. Dewey is a young (18months) male Boston/Beagle/?? mix who came to me yesterday after a long transport from Kentucky. I saw video of him before he came to me and he certainly looked quite stressed and concerned but sought out the human to be near (not necessarily pet) and really perked up seeing another dog at the facility. When I got him yesterday the poor boy was a complete mess–he smelled to high heaven and was reluctant to move and would just freeze in a position if he was uncomfortable (remember slow or no moving is a sign of stress/fear).
Typically when I bring foster dogs home, we go for a quick walk around the block or the yard with the other dogs so they can meet in a neutral environment before coming inside. The foster pup will then spend the evening or afternoon primarily crated in a quiet room to rest (with potty breaks, kongs and dinner of course). Depending on how things are going they may spend most of the following day with the other dogs or crated in our living room off and on (so they are still with us). I do pretty much stick to the “nothing outside of home life” for the first week at least but the dogs are generally pretty quickly integrated with my dogs (though they much less freedom and access).
With little Dewey, I knew right off the bat that my normal plan would not be in his best interest. He is going to be a bit of a project and will need time to just de-stress before he’s introduced to the family (though I don’t think it will be difficult, just take some time). It also looks like he may be dealing with an infection from his neuter (before our rescue pulled him) so that will need to be dealt with before we move forward since it’s clear he’s uncomfortable. And like I am always preaching, when dogs are in pain they are more likely to be sensitive to handling and a bit more irritable.
Figuring out a new plan of attack was not terribly difficult–FIRST, bath time. He absolutely NEEDED a bath, it was not an option, I could smell him from a mile away and he was looking pretty yellow. So between the icky smell and who knows what making his coat yellow, I decided to get all the yucky stressful things done at once so his body will be on its way to recovery instead of letting him settle for a day or two and then stressing him out. Poor guy was so nasty that the water running off of him looked like chocolate milk! He was really not happy about the running water, but he really seemed to enjoy the massaging.
After the bath, he got a potty break (where thankfully he pottied since he was too stressed to go during his transport) and has been sleeping in his crate with Through A Dog’s Ear music playing (thanks to the holiday freebies since I can’t find my discs!) and a DAP plugin in the wall ever since. I’ve popped in twice to check on him, to give him a stuffed Kong, and to feed him, but he’s just been relaxing away from the crazies. He is very comfortable in the crate and is just sleeping it off. He’s seen my dogs while on his way too and from potty breaks and they’ve sniffed through gating briefly but I want him to settle and relax.
We’ll see how things progress but he’s eating, he’s sleeping, and he’s pottying so those are all good signs! I’m excited to share the process of working with a fearful dog with all of you–it’s sometimes a test of patience but man is it one of the most rewarding things in the world!
I’m super thankful that Crystal at Starfish, To The Sea Animal Rescue, pulled this guy so I could foster him… he’s going to be great once he learns the world is not nearly as scary as it seems. STAR is a very small and very reputable 501c3 rescue. They are not in need of urgent funds to care for Dewey (they wouldn’t pull a dog they couldn’t afford to care for), but if you would like to donate any funds to his care because he will have some extra needs due to his neuter infection (or the care of future foster dogs) or in-kind product donations, you can check out their donation page. Today is the last day to make tax deductible donations in 2012 (and tomorrow the first day for 2013!)!!