Pro Tips: Decompression means riding out the resistance to change in the way of life.

Decompression is one of these concepts that’s gained traction in the world of dog training but I’ve yet to find a decent definition of the term. There is consensus that decompression is what we do with a new dog, a rescue especially, at the beginning – for example, taking things easy and postponing socialization.

It is true that how we navigate our first few days, weeks, and months with a new dog sets the tone for our relationship over a lifetime together. This is true for puppies and adults and regardless of the dog’s breed or background. Often, that lack of decompression at the start is to blame for problems developing down the road.

Decompression entails holding off for a while on all the training and socialization that we’re normally told to do. Instead, we create a simple yet structured environment in which the dogs can begin to settle, build confidence, and bond, free of hasty pressure and expectations. In time, they become ready to socialize and train, trusting in their humans. 

In the Way of Life method, decompression refers to the unhurried and thoughtful process of transitioning a new dog into our home. But decompression also applies when dealing with a dog with behavioral issues; it is how we reset the relationship with that dog. 

This reset will involve a shift in way of life from the old dysfunctional one to a new life oriented at raising a sound, strong, and spirited dog. Even if the intention behind the change is good, that does not mean that the dog will take well to the change. This is especially true if our past with this dog was fraught with tensions and conflicts or if that dog is new to us and has no reason to trust just yet. We have little credibility going into this change, giving the dog even more of a reason to be suspicious.

So when you start applying some of the elements of the Way of Life method at Foundations – for example, restricting freedoms you once gave, regulating where once you were lax, detaching where once you were emotionally attached, rolling back certain social experiences and so on – these will all be felt by the dog who will challenge you as a good dog should. We’ve not done this before so why should the dog just go along? Here’s the thing, we do want the dogs resisting us actually – this is not an animal that should just say “Yes” to things. A change of environment such as the one advanced by the Way of Life method’s process of building foundations is challenging, but one we help the dog ride out, building the relationship material that we had lacked before.


For a past issue of this newsletter focusing on decompression, go to: