Congratulations on the adoption of your new puppy or dog! While you prepare for your family’s new adventure, take a moment to learn and familiarize yourself with dog decompression and its importance. Understanding decompression will help your pup have a positive, successful adjustment to their new lifestyle.
Dog Decompression: What Is It?
We all go through a form of decompression in our lives. For example, can you think back to your first day at a new school or a new job and the number of emotions you went through? In either situation, there are a lot of adjustments you have to make.
You begin by learning the layout of the building and where you need to go. Then you have added stimulation as you meet new people and learn new faces and new names. This can quickly add a surge of stress and anxiety to your day.
Dogs go through the same emotions when entering a new home or a new atmosphere. Dog decompression is a phase that dogs go through when converting from life at a shelter, or a new life away from their parents and siblings to that of their new foster or adoptive home.
Dogs are individuals, just like you. Stress can have a negative impact on your pup such as reduced social skills, less tolerance for other pets, muted personality, etc. That is why they need an adequate amount of time to decompress.
How Long Does Decompression Take?
The length of time it takes for a successful decompression varies from dog to dog. Every dog is different, just like humans. Each dog has their own past experiences, and each has their own unique personality. New puppies may take a few days to adjust; whereas rescue dogs could take a few weeks or even a few months.
Decompression is not to be rushed. Break it down into stages or steps over time. Ever hear of the 3-3-3 rule? It is a general guideline to follow when bringing a new dog into your home. Let’s break it down.
Within the first three days, you won’t have a firm understanding of your pup's personality. They may hunker down and act scared. Their surroundings have changed and the routine they knew is no longer the same. It is common for pups to refrain from eating or drinking. They may have episodes of diarrhea and vomiting. Keep them hydrated the best that you can.
On the flip side, your pup may have a bold demeanor. They could decide to test the boundaries, seeing what they are allowed to get away with and what will not be tolerated in your home.
If you have other pets in the household, review the crate and rotate method during the first three days. This method simply alternates each pet from a room or crate so that neither gets frustrated or upset. They both need to feel secure in their surroundings, and now is not the best time for them to meet.
At the three-week point, some type of routine has been incorporated with your pup’s day. They begin to let their guard down, showing off their personality. They are getting comfortable with their new lifestyle and learning that this is their forever home.
After three months your pup should feel safe and secure in the home, accepting you and your family into the pack. Trust is now established and a favorable routine is in place. Now, onto the future with your pup.
Signs of Stress During Decompression
You’ll be spending a lot of time with your new furry friend as they are acclimated to their new home. Take the time to observe their body language and listen for any vocal cues they give you. This is the only way they can communicate with you. They may want to get your attention to let you know they need to use the bathroom, or they could be trying to tell you that they are worried or feeling stressed.
How do you know if your pup is stressed? Here are some common indicators of stress that you can look out for:
- Ears and tail tucked back
- Excessive panting
- Lip licking
Of all the signs dogs give when they are stressed, growling is the one people are concerned with. If your pup growls, try not to get upset. Growling sounds scary, but it is a way that dogs communicate with you.
They want you to know that they are not in a comfortable position and feel threatened by someone or something. Observation is key. Identify what is creating this behavior and then work with your pup to resolve the tension.
Being aware of these signs gives you the upper hand. Your pup can sense when you get nervous or upset, so stay calm. When you see your pup is feeling stressed, the initial response may be to comfort them, but try to resist. Distract them with a command instead, or strap on the leash and take them for a slow walk.
Why Decompression for Shelter Dogs Is a Must
Specific to rescue pups, decompression is essential. Put yourself in their paws. They have just been removed from their original place of comfort and brought to a shelter without an understanding of why.
At the shelter, there are a lot of sounds that are unfamiliar and very loud. These may even give them a sense of fear such as the cage doors opening and closing. There are also a lot of new faces of all ages coming and going down the halls. Scary, right?
The last thing you want to do is continue to provide a pup with a frightful experience in their new home. There are several steps you can follow to avoid a negative experience and to have a smooth transition.
Steps to Successful Decompression
As a pet parent, you want the relationship to work. You want to have a long, happy life together with your pup. The beginning stages can be stressful for both of you. Routines are changing, there is added responsibility, etc. You can keep your relationship with your dog healthy by following a handful of steps.
Prepare Your Home for Arrival
Before you bring your dog home, take a look around. Your home’s condition should be safe for your dog’s arrival.
Make sure that electrical cords are tucked out of sight. You do not want your dog to become curious and risk gnawing on live cords. Put away papers, books, kids’ toys, house plants, and anything else a curious dog could get into. Your pup won’t know right off the bat whether these are there for them to play with or not.
Before and After Entering the Home
Don’t go straight into the home when you pull up in your driveway. Rather, grab a hold of the leash and take a nice 20-40 minute walk around the block with your pup. This helps your pup release energy built up from the car ride. More importantly, the walk gives your pup a chance to get established in their new surroundings.
Think about the benefits of a walk. It is not just exercise. Your pup has enhanced senses. The walk enables them to sniff, listen, and look around what they are about to call their forever home. The walk also gives you an idea of whether or not there are bad habits on the leash that need to be corrected.
Now that the walk is over, it’s time to make the grand entrance into your pup’s new home. Keep the leash on for the encounter. This lets your pup know that you are the one that is in charge, not them. Treat your pup to a tour around the home, then the surrounding background or patio area.
Provide a Safe, Comfortable Space
Prior to arriving at your home, your pup may not be used to having their own space. If your furry friend is a puppy, they may have been with their birth siblings. Or, they may have been sharing a space with other dogs in a shelter. Therefore, be cautious and know that your pup may walk into your home with self-protective behavior.
This behavior is completely normal. Give your pup time to adjust. Everything is brand new to them.
To support your pet’s adjustments:
- Introduce them to their own personal space, such as a crate or a room of their own.
- Set up a crate in a place that is quiet enough that they can seek shelter, but still within an area that they can be engaged with the pack. Your pup wants to be with you and learn from you as they are learning the ropes of the home.
- Add a comfortable crate pad, towels, or blankets to the surface.
- Provide mentally invigorating toys to your pup, like the Groov enrichment and training tool. The interaction alone allows you to bond with them and leads to a positive experience. Examples of toys to consider include treat balls and puzzle toys.
Ultimately, create a space your pup can associate with as their home, or den. This is where they can go when they are tired and want to relax, or simply just want to get away for a little while.
Don’t Rush the Decompression Process
The first reaction you or your family may have is to rush up to your new dog and start giving it the biggest snuggles ever. It’s a typical reaction when bringing a pup home. This may not be the best option though.
Watch your pup’s behavior. Behavior is one form of communication between you and your pet. It’s very overwhelming for your dog to have to not only get accustomed to a new home but also meet new people that they may not realize they will see on a daily basis and become part of their pack. Your dog requires time to build relationships and trust.
So what can you do? Set up gradual introductions between your new pup and their new family and friends. Don’t overstimulate your pup on the first day, or force interactions. There’s plenty of time for them to get acquainted with both people and other pets in the home.
Build a Routine and Provide Structure
Dogs thrive on a routine. They are truly creatures of habit. They rely on us for leadership and guidance. Ever wonder why they may stop and stare at you? It could be for many reasons, but mostly because they want to learn from you and anticipate the next command or expectation.
Time to set crate training in motion. You’ve taught your pup where their comfort zone is, so it’s time to use it. Slowly teach your pup that there are rules within the household and begin to build a daily routine with them.
For example, after your pup’s first tour, bring them to the exit door and then outdoors to use the bathroom. Then, return your pup to their crate so that they can relax and process all of the new things they have been exposed to thus far.
Prepare a training plan or routine. Training is a process, but it is rewarding for both you and your pup. Scout out a must-have or high-value treat to start. That should grab their attention. Then, make your pup work for it but make the experience fun. Connect the experience with immediate positive reinforcement.
What type of routine will you build? You can include a walk with your pup, teaching leash etiquette. During your walks, you are the leader, not your pup so prevent them from tugging on the leash or pulling.
Training is also key with decompression. Teach your pup verbal or non-verbal commands and have the reward in hand for immediate reinforcement. Initial commands should not be involved. Focus your pup on learning their name, or how to sit, lay down, and stay. Once those commands are flawless, then move on to more complicated ones.
To set solid rules in the first few weeks with your pup requires more firm behavior than playtime behavior. You want your pup to understand the do’s and don’ts around the house first, then you can introduce the fun. If it’s not just yourself in the household, it is key to communicate the routine. The entire household needs to stay on a consistent schedule so that your pup has a smooth transition.
Decompression Walks, Exercise, and Socialization
One of the best ways your pup can release tension and stress is through exercise, both mental and physical.
Physical exercise includes walks or going out into the background to play fetch with a ball or a frisbee. During decompression walks, don’t hurry your pup. Allow them to stop and sniff the ground. It could take a minute or two, but let your pup make that decision. The point of a decompression walk is to release the stress. The results? A calmer, less destructive behavior at home.
Mental exercise translates to interactions. There are many different types of puzzle toys your pup can play with. Keep your pup busy for a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
If you have other pets in the home, it is best practice to only allow them together under your supervision until your new pup has fully decompressed. Since so much change is happening quickly, high levels of stress can induce fights, so it’s best to keep them apart when you aren’t watching them. Don’t worry, it is only temporary.
If you don’t have other pets and you’ve reached the three-week mark, think about going to a dog park. The wide-open space gives your dog a sense that they are in control, even for a short period of time.
The Bottom Line
It’s exciting to bring a new pup into your home. Be mindful of how your pup may be feeling and try not to overstimulate them. Of course, they are just as delighted as you are, but they may need extra time to adjust to their surroundings and their new lifestyle.
They want to fit in and be a part of the pack just as much as you do. It could take a few months before your pup fully adjusts to their new surroundings and truly feels that they are safe and in their forever home.
And if you're searching for the perfect crate for your fur baby, Diggs Revol Dog Crate is the perfect choice, with a beautiful blend of baby-product-inspired safety and attractive yet functional form.
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