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Adopt a Shelter Dog Month 2018: Top mistakes made when bringing home your new dog

We're almost at the end of Adopt A Shelter Dog Month! I hope these blog posts have given you some information on what adopting from a shelter is like and how to go about it, and have better prepared you for the adoption process. In the last post of this series I've listed some of the most common mistakes that new dog guardians make, and how to avoid them.

Dog playing with tennis balls

1) Too much, too soon

It's common to hear rescue and shelter volunteers refer to something called the "decompression" period. Typically the decompression period is the period of time after your new dog is in their home where they need to "decompress" from the stress they may have been under in the shelter and during the transition period into their new home. The decompression period can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks after you've brought the dog home, and the goal is to keep things as low-key, predictable and structured as possible. This means refraining from taking your dog all over the place, introducing him to everyone in your neighborhood, and excessive amounts of exercise. While we may be excited about our new family member, it's important to remember that they don't know they're home. They don't know you're their family, and only time and consistency will help them understand this. Imagine being brought into an entirely new environment, with a different species who speak a totally different language than you. Even if they are well meaning, it could still be a potentially scary situation, and it's important that we consider our dog's perspective during this exciting time. Allow them the time to adjust to the environment before doing lots of exciting new things.

2) Acting too familiar Again, consider the fact that your dog doesn't know he's "home". He doesn't know you're his family and as such may not be entirely comfortable yet. Avoid acting too familiar and friendly with your dog at first; no pushing or pulling them toward you (generally not recommended with any dog regardless of if they're new or not!), no hugging, don't get in their face, and respect early warning signs. Learn how to read your dog using graphics like this and this, and if you are petting the dog and he gets up and moves away from you, or you approach and they increase distance, give them space. You have the rest of your dog's life to build a bond with them, it's most important that you listen to them and earn their trust right now. (On the other hand if you end up adopting a smush-bug who loves to cuddle, then cuddle away! Just be sure to listen to them too!)