Bringing home a stressed rescue dog is difficult physically and emotionally. However, there is hope! Here are three simple things you can do to help your new dog become less fearful and more content.
Stress is all-consuming, and abandonment (or losing their person some other way) followed by unsettlement can cause even the most resilient dog to be stressed. If you’re rescuing a dog, though, it’s a great idea to consider how to handle their emotions by keeping their lives as stress-free as possible.
First, we must understand the nature of stress. A typical happy, relaxed or neutral dog is in a state of homeostasis. The state of homeostasis means everything is working well, and all bodily systems are in good balance. A dog settled in a relaxed home was likely to be in homeostasis most of the time. Then if something happens and everything changes for them, hormones start running amok. Emotional states vary, which changes the natural shape of the dog’s body. It goes out of balance, and homeostasis becomes, instead, imbalance.
A rescue dog will need space, face no pressure, and have time to settle down from the significant life change he has just experienced.
Space and distance are vitally important when you bring a new dog home. Sleep is also so crucial to dogs. Rescued dogs who have been through a complete life change need restorative and healing sleep more than many.
Provide a lovely comfortable space for your new rescue dog to settle and relax. He may need a reasonable long rest period when he first comes home to you. That’s fine; let him rest.
Dogs need space to retreat, confident in the knowledge they can properly sleep and relax but also space away from our attention and fascination with them. Our desperation to comfort them and make friends can intimidate a new dog. New dogs need space from us, so they can check we are safe, from their safe distance. So if you find yourself watching your dog, ask yourself if you’re also intimidating them.
Dogs do find staring at a stranger quite intimidating. Later, that same attention becomes the look of love with the help of bonding hormones, but in the beginning, they need some time to adjust.
A new rescue dog might even need distance from the outside world. Some rescue dogs might need a walk break; that’s fine too. Having a few days to get to know their permanent space is excellent for stress relief.
Limit Your Expectations
In the beginning, caring for a new rescue dog may be low key. They just need space and time, nutrition, water and veterinary care if necessary, so we should naturally provide that. Then we can begin with all the fun stuff that our dogs will enjoy, but first, they need to settle and deal with the stress associated with being homeless and then a complete life change. When they realise that life is not so bad with us, they will start to enjoy themselves.
To settle and stress reduction, they simply need understanding, space and freedom.