A SHELTER DOGS TRANSITION
Fosters and adopters should expect that their new dog will need some time to adjust to its new life including resident pets, new schedule, and new home environment. Major life changes impose significant stress on dogs whether they are rescue dogs or not. This can include anytime the dogs routine is significantly changed, such as a change in home, addition of a new family member or pet, change in family dynamics, etc. During this adjustment period, the new dog may exhibit behavior that it will not otherwise exhibit after it adjusts to its new life. This may include having housetraining accidents, making serious efforts to escape including bolting out the door, jumping fences, digging under fences, attempting to avoid interactions with its new owners, and excessive barking among others. They may also have decreased appetite or an upset stomach or similar.
We are committed to our dogs and encourage new adopters and fosters to stay in contact with us to work through the usual training issues that may arise during the adjustment period. Should the foster or adoption truly not work out, we require that the dog be returned to us. However, we do expect that anyone who takes in one of our dogs is willing to work through the usual issues that arise during the adjustment period.
The dog may be on its best behavior for a few days and may then show some negative behaviors, or it may be stressed enough to show some negative behaviors immediately, or it may not show any negative behaviors at all. Just remember that all dogs are individuals.
The rescue dog you are adopting or fostering has been through a difficult journey that started when his family gave him up or he became lost. He may have been under stress or neglected in his past life or frightened by being homeless. His first stop was likely at a loud and scary animal shelter.
One of the best things you can do for your dog, yourself, and other pets if you have them, is carefully monitor him for the first weeks that you have him. He will not be able to develop bad habits such as digging, destroying your property, chasing your cats (if you have them), have housetraining accidents or similar, if he is appropriately monitored. You can use a combination of a crate, covered dog kennel, or tying him to a piece of furniture in your vicinity or tying him to your waist. When you think hi is adjusting to is new life, you can start adding short free roam periods, perhaps letting him drag a leash to give you some control if needed (if he is completely supervised so the leash does not get caught in something and choke him) and see how he does with additional freedom. You can gradually extend his free times and include times he is unattended such as when you walk to get your mail. If all goes well you can extend the unsupervised time to the periods of time he will eventually be left alone.
Another thing you can do to speed up the adjustment process is to establish a consistent routine so your dog knows what to expect. This includes how many times a day you feed him, how many times a day you exercise him, when you put him to bed and when you let him outside. Part of the reason your dog experiences stress in the adjustment period is he does not know what to expect. A consistent routine can give him security and help him adjust quicker.
Common Symptoms of Stress You May See During the Adjustment Period
Attempts to Avoid You and/or Escape
Your new dog will need time to develop a bond with you. During this time he may try to avoid you by running away from you in the house and trying not to let you touch him. Don't push him to be petted or to interact with you. If you let him come to you for attention when he is ready, it will help him be more trustful about building a bond with you. Don't forget you are interacting with him in a more neutral and less stressful way by taking him on walks, feeding him, and taking him out to go to the bathroom. Once he realizes you are his new family he will interact with you the way you saw him interact with his foster family. He just needs time to adjust to the new, temporarily stressful changes in his life and build a bond with you.
He may also try to bolt out doors, jump the backyard fence or dig under the fence if left alone, or may run away if you let him off leash in a public place, etc. To avoid having your dog escape you can put him on a leash when you bring him outside for the first few days. This can also help you train him to go to the bathroom in a specific area. You can leave him in a roofed kennel or a crate if you are gone for short periods of time. You should not let your dog off leash in a public area until he is over the adjust period AND unless you are certain he will return to you immediately whenever you call him no matter what the distraction (e.g. squirrels, cats, other dogs, children, etc.).
Your dog may whine, bark and pace or appear anxious and needy during the adjustment period. It usually helps if you can ignore any negative behavior while keeping him adequately and completely supervised by using a crate, dog kennel, or tying him to a piece of furniture in your vicinity or to your waist, taking him on walks for an appropriate amount of exercise and taking him outside at appropriate times until he starts getting used to his new life and schedule and settles down.
Refusal to Eat or Indigestion
Your dog may refuse to eat all, or most, of his food after you first bring him home. It may help if you add a few tablespoons of wet dog food, or a small amount of chicken broth or similar to encourage him to eat.
He may also have indigestion or similar that manifests itself by him throwing up and/or having diarrhea. Contact us if this lasts longer than a day.
Even if your dog is housetrained he may have one or more accidents during the adjustment period because neither of you are used to each others schedule and/or his food changes require him to go out more frequently than you expected. In general you will not experience any problems if you keep him adequately and completely supervised by using a crate, dog kennel, or tie her to a piece of furniture in your vicinity or your waist, taking him outside at appropriate times until he starts getting used to his new life and schedule.
Thank you again for fostering, adopting, and helping these dogs transition from the life they once knew!