So, you decided to adopt that doggy in the window. The one with the waggly tail perhaps? But are your rose-tinted glasses clouding your vision? Does every sneeze, bark, and playful jump appear to be completely charming to you?
Overall their behavior might seem almost angelic, but this could well be the rescue dog honeymoon period that people often talk about! It could last for a couple of days to a few weeks.
I knew my rescue dog’s honeymoon period was over when I found the cover of “Train Your Dog Positively” in pieces strewn across the lawn. The book itself had been perfectly buried amongst the rose bushes.
I found it by following the muddy paw prints passed the patio to the flowerbeds, where a mound of fresh dog poop was also waiting. The message from our new rescue dog, Pip, was received loud and clear: “I’m home!”
The rescue dog adjustment period has been written about many times, but the honeymoon period is a fascinating stage that you need to be well equipped for. A mix of calm, consistent training, and reframing this phase in your mind will see you through its aftermath.
Dealing with your rescue dog’s honeymoon period
Here are 5 tips to set you on the right path to helping your rescue dog adjust.
1. Realize that your rescue dog is always being themselves
Many rescue dog owners refer to the post-honeymoon personality of their dog to be “the real dog”. I think this is the wrong way to look at it.
Whilst you may be overcompensating a little to make your dog feel comfortable (which we’ll talk about next), your new rescue dog does not have the level of foresight to “trick” you by being an angel in the early days. Dogs are smart but inauthentic? Rarely – particularly not over long periods of time.
You likely saw them in small doses at the shelter and now you see them in their full glory.
What is happening is simply the natural adjustment period that some, not all, dogs go through when they are taken to a new home. Typically, this period lasts 1-3 weeks where their behavior is more…measured, let’s say.
Handy Hint: Here are 5 problem behaviors most rescue dogs will have, but they will get better with patience and understanding.
They rarely exhibit any problem behaviors so early for one simple reason: they don’t know you.
Think about when you move into a new house. During those first few weeks, I bet your place is sparkling clean. You haven’t quite gotten into the habit of leaving your pants on the back of the desk chair or your coffee pods on the kitchen counter.
And why is that? Well, it’s all so new to you!
The spinning desk chair and marble countertops aren’t familiar enough to you yet.
It takes time to settle into being your full self in that house. Allow the same grace to your new furry friend.
Handy Hint: I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most useful questions people should ask themselves and the shelter before adopting a rescue dog.
2. Stop overcompensating with your new rescue dog
Are you guilty of adding fresh steak to your new rescue dog’s evening meal for no reason?
Are you giving your dog way too many treats throughout the day? Have you turned into a saccharine Santa Claus type, full of constant praise, when you are more of a sarcastic Grinch at heart?
Well, you have fallen into the honeymoon period trap that so many of us rescue dog owners fall into, particularly if this is your first adoption.
This is totally normal and expected!
You want to help your rescue dog settle in after all. You want to show your dog that you are the kind, loving companion that they have always wanted. These things are all very admirable, but they have got to be sustainable.
Overfeeding with treats during your rescue dog’s honeymoon period is not a good vehicle for adjustment. Nor is constant praise which is ultimately overwhelming and confusing to your dog.
You are just setting a standard that you cannot (and should not) continue long-term.
Naturally, you want to be welcoming to your rescue dog, but don’t spoil them. The fact that you’ll be introducing your dog to new experiences, environments, and smells is exciting enough.
3. Set boundaries with your rescue dog
Usually overcompensating and lack of boundary setting are symptoms of the same “new owner” syndrome, but not always. Oddly enough, I have known owners to be strict with treats and not alter their personality much, but still be a little loose with their rules.
You may say to yourself that allowing your rescue dog to sleep with you as they are adjusting is completely fine. You are sorely mistaken.
Unless you want that furry, twitchy, bundle of joy tucked up tight with you every night, don’t let them do it in the early days either.
After the rescue dog honeymoon phase is over, bad behaviors can present themselves as your dog tests the waters of your leadership once they feel more at home.
For example, your rescue dog may take to peeing in the house when they didn’t before, or, like Pip, destroying furniture and stealing items. You need to maintain authority as your dog attempts to push your boundaries.
Consistency and clarity are important for training any dog but especially rescues. Get this discipline right early on as it’ll be much harder to correct later.
Handy Hint: Sadly it’s not unusual for people to adopt a dog and then end up returning the animal to the rescue home.
4. Learn to bond with your rescue dog in a healthy way
During your rescue dog’s honeymoon period, you are likely doing a bit too much. You feel like your new pup is a kindred spirit because they are gladly accepting every cuddle, treat, and affirmation you send their way.
The new walks you take together are explorative and memorable. Your dog sees you as a trusted all-knowing guardian that leads them through these novel environments.
All good things.
Once that period has ended and you are both acting normally again, does it feel like you have regressed somehow?
I want to reframe your mindset around this. Often new owners feel that it is a step backward for your dog to not be as clingy or dependent on you as they were in the beginning. This feels even more jarring than with rescue dogs who start out shy or problematic.
Handy Hint: Some dogs will suddenly develop clingy behavior. Here’s what it could mean.
At least with dogs that exhibit those more undesirable behaviors, the bonding process seems more like an upward curve.
Actually, the opposite is true. Your dog is now so comfortable in your home and settled into the routines you’ve established, that the novelty has worn off. They are relaxing into their new life. This is a good thing. Now, the real bonding can begin.
Sustainable bonding tips include:
- Playing games.
- Learning new tricks.
- Being a soothing presence when they are scared.
- Recall training.
- Walking training.
- Discovering their body language signals.
- Traveling to new places together.
Handy Hint: You can find a more detailed guide on how to bond with your new rescue dog elsewhere on Doggysaurus.
5. Don’t rush the adjustment period
This could be the most important tip. A common question is how long it should take for a rescue dog to adjust to their new home. Though there are averages, it varies widely.
Our first rescue puppy took mere days to settle in as a naturally confident and inquisitive young pup. Pip, on the other hand, was very subdued for a couple of weeks before he started to tear up the bookshelf and make it known, very loudly, he was home.
After that, it took another couple of weeks to iron out those behaviors, with consistent, positive training.
Don’t rush this step. Adapting to a new home takes time. Your dog will appreciate your calm patience and sustained consistency. After all, you are in this for the long hall. This too shall pass!
With all rescue dogs they are challenges once the buzz of getting them home is over. As long as you are prepared, your adopted dog (and you) should be able to adjust. Here are some guides that will help you to do that:
- How to choose the perfect rescue dog to suit you
- How to get your rescue dog to start eating
- 7 ways you can help your rescue dog socialize better
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-australian-shepherd-naughty-2090313/