WHAT IS DECOMPRESSION AND THE TWO WEEK SHUTDOWN?
The Decompression Phase, or The Two Week Shutdown, is the dogs’ most critical phase after leaving the shelter. The decompression stage lasts anywhere from the first day to a few weeks to even, in extreme cases, months.
This guide will show you step-by-step what to do when your rescue arrives through the first days and weeks to set up your dog for success.
Your new dog needs time to adjust, and there are many scenarios that people put their new dog through that encourage negative behaviors to surface.
Dogs may be resilient creatures, but they also need to know that we, as humans, control situations, protect and provide for them, and give them clear expectations and routines to follow.
Two weeks is just a guideline.
Most dogs advance faster, but depending on the individual dog and how closely you follow the guidelines, it may take longer.
WHAT DOES THE TWO WEEK SHUTDOWN MEAN TO ME?
When you bring home a new dog, young or old, we KNOW you are so excited and you want to share your new addition with everyone you can!
Did you know that you may inadvertently tell your dog to act out by taking your dog to pet stores, friends’ and families’ homes, dog parks, pet events, or other bustling social settings?
Think about this: When put into new situations, most do not put all of themselves out there. We set forth what we want people to see or think they want to see. Also, we are more likely to withdraw from situations that make us uncomfortable.
What would you do if you were on a date with someone new and they took you to meet their family, who constantly hugged, kissed, or otherwise invaded your space? What would you do if they then took you to meet all their friends and they did the same?
Would you consider your date sane? Would you think your date was someone you could trust?
Would you see them again if they put you in so many situations that made you uncomfortable? Consider this as well: say you had to go live with a new family who spoke a language you didn’t understand. You’ll be reserved, perhaps a bit detached.
What if they doted on you, speaking to you in a language you don’t understand, expecting you to interact with all family members and friends? Would you feel comfortable? Would you want to retreat to a safe place? Would you know where a safe place was?
Things people forget is that we expect our new dogs to be so accepting of everything, and we put them in these very similar situations and then become alarmed when they “act out.”
Your new dog is acting out or misbehaving because they don’t view you as the decision-maker. Remember, to them, you are putting them in situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Keep reading to find out how to help your dog adjust and begin to view you as the decision maker of the home and to help them put their trust in YOU, where it belongs!
Trust is EVERYTHING to building a good and solid relationship with your dog!
SO, HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Even if you’ve had your dog a few days and are beginning to notice some issues behaviorally, you can start fresh and get them started on the shutdown.
Some things you want to keep in mind with your new dog when you first get them:
1. A tired dog is a happy dog! Exercising your dog(s) will ensure they relax in their new household. Without pent-up energy, they’ve GOT to relax!
2. Wait to take them on walks. Walks provide an overabundance of stimulation, and there are many variables you may encounter. And you need that trust built FIRST before subjecting them to those new situations.
Instead, exercise your dog in the yard on a long lead (20ft plus) and spend some time getting to know one another.
3. DO NOT take them to pet stores, dog parks, other people’s homes, etc. Again, these situations provide an overabundance of stimulation, and your dog needs to have trust built in you for YOU to handle the situation so they don’t have to.
4. Keep them leashed to you at ALL times when not crated. Yes, even in the house and even if you have a fully fenced yard. Why? It builds the precedence with them that YOU are the bringer of everything in life.
Additionally, keeping them leashed to you keeps them from getting into trouble. Unhoustrained, they can’t run out of your line of sight and have an “accident.”
Or, if someone new comes into the home, keeping them leashed to you can help prevent the reinforcement of undesirable behaviors like jumping on people. Leased to you, YOU are in control. The dog WILL begin to understand this.
5. Do not allow your new dog and existing pets to get into a 24/7 free-for-all. Remember, your existing pets don’t know this unknown “intruder,” and the new dog doesn’t know the routine of the home and what’s permissible.
Setting a routine with the new dog first, without the total distraction of other pets, will make life 1000 times more manageable when you begin integrating them.
6. Do not allow your new dog furniture privileges. They haven’t earned them yet. Create a “place” for them to be safe and quiet in each room. Privileges are given later on down the road.
7. Refrain from offering your new dog unstructured affection. Any affection from you must have a purpose. No kissy face or baby talk. I know it is hard, especially when they have likely never had love before, but you will not be helping him or yourself if you do this. Again, privileges have to be earned and take time.
8. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE IN YOUR NEW DOGS FACE. They do not know you, which can be very intimidating for your new dog. They could growl or, worse, bite out of fear/anxiety. They need to trust you, so don’t assume you can do this because they appear friendly.
9. Do not allow your new dog to “go ahead of you.” Establish this rule right away. You go out and in FIRST through the door. It is a good idea to have them sit before they can enter, before you leash up, etc. These simple actions are highly effective and essential to establishing a bond with your dog.
- When bringing your new dog home, give them a brief tour of their primary living area or the places they will be most often. Now, it’s crate time! It’s time to allow the dog space.
- The crate is used as a tool in the shutdown, not as a prison or punishment. Think of it more like a safe place. Sure, some may cry initially, but with positive reinforcement (yummy crate-only treats, no coddling, etc.), they’ll learn to accept their time alone and realize it’s not so bad!
Remember to NOT let the dog out of the crate while they are crying. Do NOT give in; this will only reinforce their crying and barking. Being inconsistent will likely train your dog to be a screamer in the crate, and that’s not what you want.
- Keep out-of-crate interactions short, just like time in the crate should be straightforward. 20-30 minutes at a time initially will help keep interactions with you positive and help reinforce positive crate training.
You will increase the time as needed as the days move forward, little by little. You are using the crate to give them time to collect their thoughts and process the new information they received in their interactions with you. If this is a new and only dog, you’ll likely find that progress will move swiftly! Patience is the most loving and kind thing you can offer your dog.
You will know as a guardian when this phase is truly over. Use your gut. Some dogs don’t get it right away; others take longer. Once they are into a routine, seem relaxed and confident, tolerate the crate well, and look to you for guidance, they are probably beginning to feel safe and secure in their new world.
Pat yourself on the back – job well done.
Have Other Pets? Take Things SLOW And Easy!
When bringing home a new dog to a home with existing pets, it’s essential to realize that everyone in the household will need time to adjust to the new living arrangements and routine.
It’s essential to take things very slowly and keep things upbeat yet calm.
First, the initial meeting of the new dog with a resident dog(s) needs to happen OFF your property in a quiet, neutral setting. We don’t need your resident dogs to feel the need to “protect what is theirs” without having the opportunity to get to know one another first.
After the initial meeting, if things go well and you choose to bring the new dog home. It’s time to crate and rotate. For at least the first 48 hours, keep the new dog and your existing pets separated. Sure, let them sniff around. Shoot, crate them side by side (never nose to nose!) to help them get used to the other being around. But, keep at least the first two days for yourselves, and don’t expect the new dog and existing dogs to interact and everything to be hunky dory.
After the initial time has passed, do another outdoor meeting on leash first, then bring them indoors and let them further interact.
KEEP LEASHES ON (just in case something unexpected DOES happen. You’ve got leashes on to help keep things under control). It can also help when interjecting a hyper-play session to encourage the dogs to settle and relax.
Keep new interactions VERY short initially. I’m talking 10-15 minutes. End things positively and give the dogs time to process everything that happened.
Over a few days, slowly increase the time they are out together. Remember to end things positively and be on top of their play 100% of the time. Don’t allow over-excited play because it can quickly amplify.
Please monitor toys, especially while the dog’s interactions are still new. At the beginning of interactions, I recommend not having any toys for them to play with. Let the dogs learn from one another before introducing things that may be of high value to one or all.
Give them a chance to realize one another’s signals for play and agitation. It is also YOUR responsibility to learn these things as well. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Ultimately, slowing things down and setting a solid routine helps tremendously, and sometimes, it can mean life or death for a rescue pup.
It will help them learn who makes the decisions, and it will help build the relationship between your new dog and all the members of your household. It may sound like challenging work, but it’s worth it!