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:
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!