The response to rescue animals in need during this Covid-19 crisis has been magical and heart warming, with many, many dogs being fostered (hopefully a lot of these will turn into foster fails!) during the lock down in South Africa.
The day a rescue dog gets fostered is the day most would assume is just the best day ever of a dog’s life. But for some pups, the feeling of being overwhelmed may cloud everything else.
Whether you know your foster dog’s history or not, there’s no doubt their life has been extremely stressful up until now. It would be amazing if fostering could be the secret ingredient to make it all go away, but being fostered is another stressful experience your dog will have to face and this has nothing to do with you. They’ll once again be taken out of a semi-familiar environment and plopped down where everyone and everything is new.
As your dog needs time to adjust to the change (called the decompression stage), there are a few things that you can do that will make the transition easier for everyone and help the change be a positive experience for your new pup. Here are a few tips to help your newly fostered rescue dog settle in:
1. Make proper introductions
Make sure your dog meets everyone in the house! This includes kids and other pets. For your pup, it’s like walking into a party where they don’t know a single soul and everyone else knows each other. This can be intimating. But proper introductions help ease the scariness.
How is this done? Slowly. Gently introduce the dog to each person or pet, and keep the interactions to only a few minutes at the start.
2. Keep Calm
Dogs take emotional cues from the humans around them. They’re more perceptive than people give them credit for, and they easily know what others are feeling. If you’re in an excited, exuberant mood, they’ll pick up on your energy. If you’re calm and relaxed, they’ll feel the same.
Your main emotion when you first bring your dog home will probably be excitement, but remember your dog is already overwhelmed with feelings of stress, anxiety and possibly fear. They have enough feelings of their own to worry about without adding yours to the list. Your pup is on edge, so it doesn’t help when people are darting around or the kids are yelling. Do your dog a favour and keep your emotions in check for the first several days.
3. Go at your dog’s pace
From the moment your dog walks through the door, they’re bombarded with new scents and sights. Everything from the people in your family to the cushions on your couch will be strange. Depending on their history, so many new things can be intimidating. Make sure your pup gets ample ‘quiet time’ so they can adjust to their new surroundings. This can be a kennel, a small room, a blocked off area, whatever works for you. This helps them feel safe and secure right off the bat!
4. Be predictable (since we’re in lock down, this shouldn’t be too hard!)
One of the first things you’ll need to do when welcoming your dog home is earn their trust. Establishing a routine is a good way to set them safely on their feet – they’ll feel more confident and safe in their surroundings when they’re not guessing what new surprise they’ll be faced with next. They’ll learn to rely on your predictability and trust you to keep up their routine.
If you already have a pet with a set way of doing things, keep the same schedule for the newbie. Upsetting the resident dog will cause unnecessary stress in the new dog’s life. A new pup will understandably get more attention, but try and share the love equally as soon as possible, otherwise you might have a very jealous resident dog on your hands.
5. Establish Positive Associations
You want your pup to feel like their home and all the people, pets, noises and experiences that come with it are the most wonderful things in the world. You do this by being quick to offer up the things you know your dog loves. Have treats and praise at the ready. If you’re taking out the vacuum cleaner for the first time, dole out treats. If the noisy garbage truck drives by, praise and treat. Gizzls Dog Treats are perfect for these situations and the CBD will also help with any anxiety or stress that your pup may be feeling.
6. Forget Your Expectations (this is a difficult one)
When you thought about fostering, your mind filled with all the wonderful things you and your dog will do together and the bond you’ll share. You imagine how your life will be in the future, and it’s natural to look forward to specific things. It’s important, however, to make sure you don’t develop unfair or unrealistic expectations.
You imagine the first few days together to be a whirlwind of fun and joyous moments to cement your bond, but that might not happen. The decompression phase is different for every dog and expectations add tension to an already stressful situation. When things don’t go exactly as you imagined, it’ll be natural to feel disappointed, but try and curb these feelings. Your dog will feel your disappointment, and it’ll be harder for them to adjust to their new life. It’s impossible to predict exactly how your relationship with a new dog will play out, very similar to the situation we find ourselves in with the Covid-19 outbreak. Sometimes we just have to breathe and believe it’ll be ok.
7. Be patient, grasshopper
At this point, you’re total strangers to each other. You don’t know your dog’s full personality and temperament yet and your dog definitely doesn’t know what to expect from you. At this time you’re sizing each other up, trying to figure out what the other is all about. So have patience as you learn about each other and find your groove.
Like people, trust is something your dog will have to come to on their own. You can’t rush them or force them; all you can do is wait patiently while providing them with the love and support they need. The timeline is different for every dog, and they’ll benefit most when they’re given time and space. Instead of always being the one to initiate interaction, let your dog come to you. Let them do things at their own pace to secure a strong foundation for your future friendship.
8. Common issue with rescue dogs
When you foster a dog, they are going to come with some baggage. But this baggage also has a lot of personality and love to give, which will make the experience all worthwhile. Some issues to look out for are:
Food aggression (protecting their food because they might not be used to not having to fight for it.)
How CBD can help
If your dog is showing these issues common in rescue animals, they may be suffering from PTSD or other related anxiety disorders. When your dog has anxiety, their brain is overwhelmingly sending fear signals. CBD will help your dog by reducing this overactivity and calming them down. A treat is also a positive signal that your pup will appreciate.
Good luck! And a huge thank you to everyone who fostered or offered to foster!