by Scotty Valadao – Canine Behaviourist – TTouch Practitioner for Companion Animals
On average, a dog will adjust to its new home within 2 -3 weeks and will then feel more settled and secure but this is not always the case. I have come across many rescue dogs that just don’t seem to be able to settle in the new environment and the new owner is at a loss to know why.
The most common type of behaviour I have observed is the dog that is aloof, not interested in its new people, wants to spend time alone and seems to make no effort at all to fit in. While all the family will be in the lounge watching tv, this particular dog will be in a bedroom, outside etc, even having been with the family for a long period of time. As we can’t read dogs minds, it is difficult to determine exactly what causes this to happen, but from the backgrounds I have been able to obtain, this seems to occur more in dogs that appeared to have a strong bond with their previous families, have perhaps lost a beloved owner due to illness or death and the dog may even be waiting for its previous owner to appear and take it home.
In some cases, it has been dogs that have spent a long period of time in shelters before being adopted. Many of these shelters have very high noise level and are busy places with people walking to and from, buckets and food bins being banged, hose pipes washing out the run, dogs barking and whining, and dogs that are not always suited to being together are placed either together, or in a run next to one another. All these factors can impact on a dog and cause high levels of stress and even depression.
Other types of dog that often fall into the ‘battling to settle category’ when being re-homed, are dogs that were bottle fed as pups or taken away from their mother and siblings before 8 weeks of age. Of course, unless you have a background confirming same, this cannot be determined.
Perhaps the dog just views the new owner as one of the many that have walked past its run in the past and one day they too will simply disappear. We really don’t know why, but what I do know is that we can help these dogs to feel more secure and start to accept the new family more. Here are some of the things to try and consider:-
- Don’t force yourself on the dog. Rather have short periods of positive interaction with the dog and in between, leave it alone.
- Don’t ‘pander’ to the dog. We as humans like to ‘fix’ things and the more you try to comfort the dog, there is the possibility that the dog will become more withdrawn. To a dog, a natural leader is somebody that is calm, is in control, looks after its pack etc, and not somebody who is constantly trying to comfort and interact with it. Taking the position of being in charge of the human/canine pack structure will help the dog to feel more secure.
- Seek veterinary advice by way of speaking to your vet about putting the dog in a Pheromone Collar for at least a month. The Pheromone Collar works on the basis that it contains synthetic pheromones that mimic the pheromones that a bitch releases at birth. These serve to calm, reassure the pup and assist with bonding. A dog recognizes these throughout it life.
- On the alternative side, Dr. Anuska Viljoen, who does many of our articles on alternative Therapies suggests the following :-
“Accepting a new animal into the home and adapting to the change that has to take place can often be fraught with fear, anger, resentment, anxiety amongst other emotions and difficulty.
I find a combination of Bach Flower Essences invaluable in my clinic. My favourites are: –
- Walnut: adaptation to change of place, environment and routine, and helps with toilet training, and breaks links with past
- Honeysuckle – homesickness and difficulty adjusting to new environment circumstances
- Beech – restores tolerance and flexibility and helps with change of routine, change of hierarchy and animal dynamics.
- Put 15 drops of each of the above into a small brown bottle and then put in 5 drops of the mixture into each drinking water vessel daily – also safe for cats.
- Added to this trio I may choose any of the following essences depending on the indications below:
- Mimulus – fear of known things, nervous restless, timidity
- Cerato – for lack confidence, self-assurance with constant seeking of approval and helps to restore hierarchical balance
- Aspen – fear of unknown, anxiety, terror, fear urination, edgy jumpy, timid. Especially for animals that have been harmed or abused or have had emotional trauma.
- Larch – for a broken down will, a lack of confidence and low immunity, or easily intimidated and traumatised animals.
- Don’t forget good old Rescue Remedy, which most people have around. This may be all that is needed on less sensitive individuals, for a day or 2 while the family is adjusting.
- One tablet morning and night should be fine generally. It can be given more frequently every few hours if needed though. If using drops, please dilute in water as it is alcohol based, especially in small dogs or cats and the elderly. I have also used drops on the top of the head, rubbing it in, if difficult to dose patients. 1 drop at a time only. “
(Note: Dr. Viljoen offers email, fax and phone consults and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org : Phone : 044 343 1730044 343 1730044 343 1730044 343 1730 Fax : 044 343 2714)
Try to determine what the dog really likes. It could be a game of ball, pullies with a rope, a soft toy being thrown. Dont throw the ball from one end of the garden to the other initially, this does not always work – rather bounce the ball up and down in front of the dog, then toss a few inches away, and as the dog starts to get interested, then slowly build up the distance – the same with the pull rope and soft toy. Have frequent, short games with the dog in this manner.
If the dog is not toy driven, but instead prefers food, then supply plenty of appealing chew toys and large sized bones such as the head of a Femur from the butcher. Chop and change these frequently to provide variety and stimulation.
When the dog seems more relaxed and is enjoying the bone/chew toy, instead of leaving him alone to enjoy it, place a special cushion for him in the lounge or kitchen and place the bone on this. Do this for short intervals of time and make sure that the area the dog is in is not too rowdy and no other dogs to compete for the bone. This helps to slowly build up the dogs association that being with people is a good thing. At the same time, you can tell the dog from time to time ‘good dog, clever dog’, further building up the positive association.
A lovely ‘scent/smell’ filled walk even just outside the property can work wonders. Firstly, ensure that the dog cannot get out of walking equipment used and allow the dog to sniff and smell to its heart’s content. In humans, it has been shown that exercise has an effect on our serotonin levels (the happy hormone) and I have seen the same thing happen with dogs. A dog’s sense of smell is about 45 stronger than a humans, and this is approximately over two millions more scent cells than we humans have. A dog ‘needs’ to sniff and smell to relax and stimulate itself and I have seen many dogs where they just could not appear to cope, appear instantly happier after a short sniff around, outside the property.
If the dog is food driven (and many of them are due to being in a shelter), consider some simple Clicker exercises where the dog can be stimulated and taught some basic skills. This will serve to stimulate the dog and build a bond. We have a basic on line clicker course you can even try at home yourself. http://www.friendsofthedog.co.za/about-clicker-training-on-line-course-by-mary-woodward.html
Another thing you can do where food is involved, is instead of feeding the dog out of the bowl twice a day, start to feed portions of food by hand, simply calling the dog to you and awarding a few pieces of kibble at a time. Don’t use the whole of the dogs meal initially, start with a handful and you can gradually build it up. This further associates you with ‘good things’ and will help to build up the bond.
TTouch. I have been involved in this wonderful modality for years now and am still blown away by the changes that can occur when it is used with fear behaviour and dogs like this (mind you I have never yet come across a situation where it does not help!). The ideal situation would be to have somebody come in and teach you how to do the TTouch, or even attend a workshop, but even the two basic TTouches below can impact on the dog. Here is a link to how TTouch impact on the dogs nervous systems for those of you that want to learn more http://www.friendsofthedog.co.za/the-sensory-side-of-ttouch.html
Noah’s March: Starting at the head area, slowly and with a pressure much like you would use to apply face cream (if any men reading this, ask the lady in your life to show you the pressure!), stroke the dog all around the head and neck area, paying a lot of attention to the mouth area, both inside and out. The inside of the mouth is connected to the Limbic section of the brain which influences our emotions and is the seat of all learning. Do a lot of stroking on top of the muzzle, over the top of the head and between the ears as well. This area contains many acupressure points which help to calm a dog down. Continue with long strokes down the back, on the sides and the tummy area, down the legs, as in the diagram below. What many of us don’t realize is that just by doing these simple strokes, you are working on all the meridians and acupressure points and helping your dog in a profound manner.
If you have a dog that is sensitive in any given area, don’t ignore these areas, stroke next to them even softer and occasionally give a ‘mistaken’, very soft and light stroke over the sensitive area using the back of your hand rather than the palm (this is much less invasive). This way we are slowly desensitizing the dog to being touched in this area.
Don’t do too much too quickly. You may find that the dog will tolerate 2 or 3 strokes and then walk away – leave it! The dog will soon come back or you can try later, and do a bit more. Very often with dogs that are stressed, less is more!
How To: Follow the contours of the body with your hands held flat covering all areas of the body and starting from the head towards the tail and don’t forget to include the legs and paws.
Ear TTouch: Is one of the most important things you can do for your pet. Even a few minutes working on the ears can be beneficial. The ears (and base) contain over 200 acupressure points one of which will help to prevent a pet or human from going into shock. Also helpful for relaxation, stress, digestion, fatigue, circulation, car sickness.
How To: This can be done in several ways. First, gently stroke from the base of the ear to the tip. Supporting the head with one hand hold your thumb on the outside and bent fingers on the underside and stroke outwards towards and over the tip of the ear.
Copyright – written by Scotty Valadao a Canine Behaviourist – TTouch Practitioner and thank you Scotty for the article from Friendsofthedog.co.za website