facebook twitter linked in
Foster Diary #14 – Goals met!

Jeri Wagner, Dog Behavioral Therapist & Master Trainer with Bark Busters Home Dog Training chronicles her dog foster experience in the hopes of inspiring and helping others on their dog foster journey. Read along to follow Jamie’s progress!

There is a well-known saying in the world of rescue: “Three days, three weeks, three months.” Basically, this means giving a newly adopted dog time to adjust, decompress, and become comfortable in their new home. This maxim also applies to fosters like Jamie with fearful behaviors.

Allowing a dog a few days to adjust, observe, and study their new environment is one of the first steps of decompression. This may mean the dog is hesitant to eat and/or drink at first; that they seem to “shut down” and want to be in their crate most of the time; or even that they decide to test the boundaries of their new home.

By slowing down introductions to both canine and human family members, keeping the dog’s world “small,” and providing basic needs such as food and water, safety, shelter, and human interaction, bonding, and entertainment (like walks and playtime), we can allow new dogs to gain comfort with their surroundings. For Jamie, this meant introducing her to Zoey first, then Craig and Jason, in order to teach her to trust that the members of our household are here to help her, as well as only giving her access to the backyard in sections.

Most dogs take an average of three weeks to adjust and decompress, but some may require more time (Jamie included). After three weeks, dogs generally start to settle in and feel more comfortable: they figure out their new environment, get into a routine, and begin to relax, trust, and let their guard down. This stretch may also reveal their true personality and new behavior issues. In Jamie’s case, week three was just the beginning of her relaxing. With consistent training to teach basic manners (like SIT, STAY, DOWN, and COME), leash manners, and establishing a routine meant this stage happened closer to the five-week mark.

After three months, most dogs are comfortable in their new home and have developed bonds with their new family members. Jamie certainly needed all of those three months to reach that stage. In fact, she had a huge breakthrough with Jason just this past weekend: not only did she go to him for pets while we sat on the deck (as she has been doing), she actually gave him kisses on his face! This was a first for her – until this point, she has given him little quick licks on his hands, arms, and legs, but she has not been comfortable enough to give him kisses on his face. This doesn’t mean that their relationship has changed, and they will still have their ups and downs, but this was an exciting breakthrough!

At three months in our household, Jamie has met all the goals I set when we took her in. These include:

  • Basic obedience. Jamie sits and stays at doorways without the use of a treat bribe (although she will sit nicely for a treat too!). She also lays down when told.
  • Walks well on leash. Jamie walks between one-and-a-half and two miles every day. Some days are easier than others (depending on the cooperation of the squirrels and other dogs), but overall, she is a pleasure to take for a walk.
  • Comes when called. Jamie will come to me throughout the house and in the fenced yard.
  • Freedom in the house. If it were up to Jamie, she would be Velcroed to me! She has learned she does not need to be at my hip all the time, however, through purposeful separation at home. In the beginning, when I went upstairs or into the basement, Jamie would have to be crated. We progressed to leaving her out of the crate and she would wait for me at the gate. Now, if I am upstairs or in the basement, she will lay on the couch or go into her crate on her own.
  • Resource guarding. Dog toys are strewn throughout the house because Jamie has learned to share. Jamie can be out of her crate when we have snacks, but she is still crated at mealtimes. She is also managed when she plays with her antlers – I keep the gate up to make sure Zoey does not enter the room Jamie is in when she has them.
  • Meet new people. Jamie was fearful of anyone new at first – women, men, and children. In the past few weeks, she has willingly and nicely met a dozen or so new people, including men and children, who were initially the most challenging people for Jamie to be around. New people can pet her, give her treats, or just hang out for a bit.
  • Overcoming her fear of cars. Jamie can walk past parked cars, cars can drive past her, and she now jumps in the car all on her own to go on a car ride. She is not thrilled to be in the car, but she is not anxious either. She will also exit the car calmly and on her own.
  • New experiences. Jamie does well in new places as long as I give her time to acclimate. Practice also helps. I recently took her to a local park for a walk, making sure to give her time to get used to her new surroundings. We went for a very short one, then came home. The next park walk was longer, and she met two dogs. Overall, a good experience for her that I can build on!

Of course, Jamie is not perfect, and she still needs corrections or reminders every so often. Although she is much more relaxed, her fear is still there: if someone moves too quickly or enters a room while she is sleeping, she will react. The reaction is now much shorter, however, and Jamie recovers more quickly. Jamie will make a wonderful companion for someone who is willing to take some extra time with her and allow her the time she needs to adjust and decompress.

Thank you for following along with the first three months of Jamie’s story! I will now be posting monthly updates until she can find her perfect “furever” home. Jamie is available for adoption from To Love a Canine Rescue.

Read Our entire Foster Diary here!

⟵ Back to Blog
share on facebook share on twitter