Am I home now?
When we bring a dog home from a shelter, it is quite an adjustment they have to make. New smells, sights, sounds, people, animals, new rules, new boundaries, new everything. For a puppy, the adjustment should generally be easier, because their little brains are clean slates, they do not have much to compare this new situation with. Teenage and adult dogs tend to have their view of ‘their’ world figured out already, along with that comes learned behaviours and habits desirable as well as unwanted behaviours.
Imagine that you just arrived at your partner’s boss’ home for dinner. Your partner’s colleagues are there. The home is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and everyone is talking about a subject you are not very clued up on. How do you feel? I would take a guess to say that your behaviour will probably change, you’d take some time to suss things out. What is accepted behaviour around these people and in the home, and what is not? You would be very different in this environment, than how you would be in your own home, with your close friends where you feel comfortable.
This inhibition and suppression of behaviour, is called the ‘honeymoon period’ after adopting an animal. However, I think the name is slightly misleading. This period, has very little to do with butterflies in the stomach and walking on clouds, though, those emotions might be present with the excitement of having adopted a new family member. This period have everything to do with your new dog’s adjustment period, in his new environment. This period can last one to three months, it ends as soon as the dog is comfortable and feels at home. The dog then stops suppressing his previous learned behaviours and this is when you might start to notice some problem behaviours. Personally, I find this time the most exciting, because this is when you really start getting to know your new family member, problem behaviours and all.
The honeymoon part might come in where you feel sorry for your new dog and just allow him to do anything he wants. Or he is so darn cute, we’ll just let it slide this time. This honeymoon, might turn into a nightmare very soon. You really do not have to feel sorry for the dog about his past. It’s really important to let go of that, us humans hold on to that much longer than dogs do. He has probably put that behind him the second he stepped into your home.
Establish boundaries and make sure the whole family is in on it before your dog arrives. This will help him find his place in the family and environment much quicker, if he knows what is allowed and what is not, and the boundaries are consistent.
Instead of dishing out biscuits and treats because ‘aah that face!’. Reward your dog for all the good things he does. Sitting, keeping his four paws on the ground instead of jumping, settling down, etc. Sometimes, the problem behaviours that might have come forward after the honeymoon period have gone extinct, because you have already replaced them with desirable behaviours.
If you are very concerned about a specific behaviour, get an accredited force free behaviourist in as soon as possible, so that the behaviour does not escalate. Dogtown offers continuous support after adoptions.
During the honeymoon period, less is more. Understandably, you want to give the dog everything he has missed out on. Remember, he doesn’t know he missed out on anything. Introduce new activities gradually, at the dog’s pace and comfort level. Don’t rush him into training classes during this first week of his arrival. (Unless it’s a puppy who must attend socialisation classes).
Some dogs have been moved around a lot, from a home to a shelter, to another shelter, to a home, brought back to a shelter, etc. This alone might cause some separation issues, which is a whole new article (tune in next month). These dogs might need a bit longer to feel at home, be patient, you have his whole life ahead to go on adventures.
By Tersha, Team Leader