Q: I just got a dog from a shelter, he’s about nine months old. He’s been running away from me when I get close to him. He goes with my other dog no problem though. I have never got a dog from shelter, not sure how is he different from my other two dogs.
A: Congratulations on taking a chance on a shelter dog. We need more people looking to shelters and rescues because the reputation of shelter dogs as damaged goods is unfair and unfounded. I hope the difficulties you’re encountering do not discourage you.
You might have little information about your dog’s background or you might know how and why they ended up in the rescue system. Regardless, the dog will have at a minimum experienced change, stressful moves from a place to another, and handling by and interactions with many different people including foster parents, shelter workers, veterinarians, and potential adopters. Ending up in the rescue system can take its toll on even the most hardy and easygoing dogs.
Provided you choose the right rescue dog for your family, there’s no reason you too can’t save a life and enjoy an extraordinarily rewarding experience. In my view, the key to success is beginning with a proper decompression period, which simply means giving dogs the benefit of a gradual transition. Often, that lack of decompression at the start is to blame for problems developing down the road. Indeed, 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.
What is decompression? It is an unhurried and thoughtful process of transitioning a new dog into our home. It 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 dog can begin to settle, build confidence, and bond, free of hasty pressure and expectations. In time, the dog becomes ready to socialize and train, trusting in their human teacher.
Yet adopters often make the mistake of integrating the dog quickly and introducing him to the others in the home at once. Not knowing us well and already a little weary of people, it’s to be expected that your new rescue will bond with the other dogs. Also, when we do not decompress and instead, we give this new dog everything, without them having earned it or worked for it, what also happens is that we lose credibility and relevance in their eyes – another reason why your rescue is gravitating towards the other dogs while avoiding you.
Take a few steps back as if you just brought this new dog home and begin your decompression process. You will see the difference it makes for not only your relationship but also the relationship between your dogs. Here are two past newsletter issues that could help:
Rescuing Right: https://wayoflifedogtraining.com/rescuing-right/
Decompressing Dogs: https://wayoflifedogtraining.com/decompressing-dogs/