The Two Week Shutdown: Resource for Bringing Home New Dogs.

Resource for Bringing Home New Dogs Original Written by Stacie Sparks: http://www.bigdogsbighearts.com/2_week_shutdown0001.pdf

This is a GREAT method for anyone who brings a new dog into their home. If you are planning to adopt or foster a dog, please take the time to read through what Stacie has to say here. Using, or not using this method can be the difference in whether or not a dogs transition into a new home is a good experience or a bad one.

“The First Two Weeks – Give’em a Break!”

So, what are you planning to do (or did you do) when you finally get your new family member?

“Well, we plan to go to Petsmart to get a new collar, leash, bowls, toys, etc. and of course we want to show everyone our great new family member! We might also stop by the in-laws place. Oh and then there is my best friend who has a dog too and we KNOW they would get along beautifully! And then when we go home, we’re gonna let her out with our other three dogs and the cats so they can meet one another and wear each other out playing.”


Say what!? I’m sure that sounds like a very reasonable thing to do, especially if you’ve just obtained an adult dog, but think about this for a minute: Does this new dog know you? Yeah, it knows you are a human and I’m pretty sure the dog enjoyed all the belly rubs and hugs and scratches you had to dish out. BUT, does this dog know you will feed it? Does this dog know you will protect it? Does this dog know you are a leader?

Ok, folks, here it comes, the big secret to many foster homes success with a new dog that came from unknown or even not so good homes! Doggy shut down! Giving the new dog, post finding, adoption, buying, etc, time to adjust to you and your family and the dogs in the new environment.

You might feel inclined to answer yes to these questions but step back for a minute and think how you might feel if you were never going to go back to your “home” and that you were expected to live with new people who didn’t understand your language. What if these new people took you to all sorts of different places expecting you to greet everyone happily and feel comfortable with an overload of attention all at one time? How might you feel after all of that, to have to go to your new “home” and interact with a bunch of strangers? It’s very likely that you’d feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to retreat but really have no place to go to. You might begin to act out and yell at people for coddling you and insisting that you do this and do that.

Well, many dogs are put in the very same position and the only way they know how to get their point across is to act out or “misbehave.” The dog may act out by nipping at children, growling when being moved off furniture, starting fights with the other animals in home, etc.

So, what IS the “Two Week Shutdown?”

A very brief overview of the Two Week Shutdown is this: Your new dog needs time to adjust and there are many scenarios that people put their new dog through that only encourage negative behaviors to surface. Dogs may be resilient creatures, but they do also need to know that we are in control of situations, that we will protect and provide for them, and give them clear expectations and routines to follow. Two weeks is just a guideline. Most dogs advance faster but depending on the individual dog and how closely you follow the guidelines, it may take longer. It all depends on the individual dog and their needs. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DOG. They will “tell” you when they’ve had enough.

Why the Two Week Shut Down? The Two Week Shut Down is a time familiar to a dog's mind, as it mimics the whelping box when first born, as the puppy's eyes are not open and it relies totally on the mother's ability to take care of it. By smelling, sensing, listening the puppy starts his journey into the new scary world. New adult dogs come into our home the same way, "a journey into a new and scary world" By giving the dog a "time out" the dog can learn its new world, its new people and begin to relax and blossom under the care of the new care giver.

Why we all want to run out with our new dog, show everyone our new pet, we forget that even an adult dog is now back to a puppy- newborn like mind, all is new, the voices speak a new language, cars might be new, leashes and handling under nice people might be new.

Even petting and acceptance of a pet is stressful on a new dog; "Who are you? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is expected of me? "-the dog thinks! Just like a new born baby we wouldn't rush out and pass the baby from person to person, we set up a stable and save environment, our new dogs are just like that, our newborn baby. We also give the rescue dog a bit of time to heal, mentally and physically.

Step back for a minute and think how you might feel if you were never going to go back to your "home" and that you were expected to live with new people who didn't understand your language. What if these new people took you to all sorts of different places expecting you to greet everyone happily and feel comfortable with an overload of attention all at one time? How might you feel after all of that, to have to go to your new "home" and interact with a bunch of strangers? It's very likely that you'd feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to retreat but really have no place to go to. You might begin to act out and yell at people for coddling you and insisting that you do this and do that.

Well, many dogs are put in the very same position and the only way they know how to get their point across is to act out or "misbehave." The dog may act out by nipping at children for he didn't understand them and was corrected harshly before knowing how he was to be around them! Growling when being moved off furniture -" he didn't know he couldn't be here. What is expected? Where am I allowed?" Starting fights with the other animals in home -that dog here was giving me the evil eye my new humans are not leaders, I must defend myself!"

During the initial two week period, the dog is taking in the new environment, the people in it, and is learning who the “leaders” are in the new group, be it animal or human. Remember the dog has NO idea WHO you are. Pushing the dog to accept new things too fast makes you (who should be the leader) look like you have no control over situations. This makes the dog feel that THEY have to make decisions for themselves and you DON’T want that. Dogs who feel the need to make decisions for themselves are the ones who “act out” or “misbehave.” It is your responsibility to the dog and as an owner to make sure the dog looks to you for direction and guidance. Putting the dog in new situations with a person they don’t yet know to trust fully is setting the dog up for “failure.”

Stacie says it best here: When you first met your “spouse or significant other”, you were on your best behavior, you were not relaxed enough to be all of yourself, were you? Just think of the things you do physically once you get to KNOW a person, you wouldn’t run up to a stranger and hug them and squeeze them! Imagine, if on the first date, this new person, was all over you touching you and having their friends hug you and pat you on the head, and jostle your shoulders, looked in your mouth then he whisked you off to another strangers home and they did the same thing. Would you think this person is normal and SAFE? Wouldn’t you feel invaded and begin to get a bit snarky or defensive yourself? Wouldn’t you think to push these people away for obviously your date is out of their mind, as they aren’t going to save you from these weirdoes!! Yet we do this very thing to our dogs, and then get upset or worried that they aren’t relaxed and accepting of EVERYTHING instantly!

In providing the dog two weeks to “shut down,” you are allowing the dog time to see and hear you and the sounds and routines of your home. The Two Week Shutdown:

  • Crate the dog in a room by itself. Dogs are sensory animals and pick up on a lot without having to visually SEE it.

  • Leash the dog at all times when not crated. Yes, this means leash the dog to you in the house (this helps a lot with bonding too) and out in the yard (use of a long line is A-OK here). The dog needs to start learning that YOU are its everything. Letting the dog have full freedom of your home and yard is just telling him to do whatever he pleases and right now, he doesn’t have that right because it’s YOUR house. You need to remember that so he learns to respect it.

  • Do little to no training at all. Interactions with the new dog at this point should be positive so as to strengthen the bond. This is another GREAT reason to have the dog leashed to you at all times because, how can they get into trouble if they are right there with someone ALL the time.

  • No walks, car rides, pet store excursions, other animals (unless crated next to them) etc. Obviously, trips to the vet are excluded from this. The dog can live for two weeks without going on a walk. Walks provide an over abundance of stimuli and are VERY stressful, especially when the dog still has no reason to trust you. Again, read Stacie’s original words on this subject: The dog may react to something and we start correcting it with the leash and we just installed a VERY STRESSFUL moment to the dog in what should be a fun and learning walk. TEACH the dog by doing the shut down, that YOU are the one to look to, that you are now here for the dog! He can trust in you and look to you for guidance. Then you can venture out into new situations one at a time, the dog knows he can trust in his new humans and can relax under the fair guidance of his new leaders! On walks you will see the dog look to you when he sees something like a kid or a dog to see what your reaction is, lessening his mind about having to defend or control the environment, he has YOU, the dog now can relax and enjoy the walk more.

  • Allow the dog 20-40 minute intervals of time in and out of the crate, AFTER exercise/yard times. For instance, take the dog out for 20-40 minutes and ALWAYS on a leash, then crate the dog again. Let it absorb and think. Even if just for a little bit. If the dog goes to his crate on his own, he is telling you "I need a time out" allow him this time. By having the dog out for long periods of time we are forcing the dog to keep accepting all new things, by putting the dog away we are asking him to accept a few things, then go think and absorb, when we get him out later we introduce a few more things. The dog is not crated for an excessive amount of time and still gets to learn you and the house hold. As time progresses, the intervals can be increased as the dog relaxes to help the dog adjust to a more accurate routine.

  • Exercise - but in your yard! All dogs need to burn off energy. Do fun toss the ball games in your yard or on a lunge line if no fence. Remember to just have fun, let the dog run and explore.

  • Ignore crying and/or barking. If you run to the dog each time they bark, whine, or cry, you are teaching the dog that doing those things gets your attention. The dog must learn to be secure when you are not there.

  • Don't go crazy petting and handling the dog! Even petting and being "out" in the home puts pressure on a dog, as everything is so new. Allowing the dog time to absorb and the decision to come to YOU for pets and affection can do a lot in taking pressure off a new dog.

  • Praise Gently Good behavior - ex. Dog is sitting nicely next to you, touch or softly pet the dog "good boy/girl" let then know you appreciate GOOD behavior. This makes naughty behavior not so fun if you ignore THAT but praise the good!

  • Refrain from introducing the dog to resident pets. You don’t want the dog to bond to another dog without bonding to you first! Crating the dogs side by side will help them get used to one another but GREATLY limit any interactions for the first two weeks. As the dog begins to relax more and look to you more for direction, introduce the dogs/pets slowly. My personal recommendation is to keep the initial introductions VERY short. 10-15 minutes at a time. Supervise ALL the time. Increase the time by small amounts daily.

You will notice a HUGE difference in your new dog within these two weeks! You will see a smile start to come out. You will see more goofy quirks come out. You’ll also begin to get a glimpse of behaviors you will want to correct with training. But, you will have a healthy start in training your dog because you’ve given the dog a chance to get to know you and trust in your guidance and direction!

The main point to remember: SLOW DOWN! Don’t push your new dog to accept many different things and give the dog the opportunity to get to know you. Two weeks may seem like a long time, but its very short in comparison to the next 8 or so years you will have with your new companion!

So, please, if nothing else for your new dog, give it the time to LEARN YOU as you are learning who they are! This method works on shy dogs, confident dogs, abuse cases, chained dogs that come in, rowdy dogs, all temperaments! It isn't just the big 01bully smiles, it’s the expression, the way they start to LOOK at me, for guidance, I gained their trust and showed them, calmly and fairly what this new world is like, they literally relax and feel safe. There is no need to force that-we are the leaders, slow easy guidance, patience, showing them what we DO want them to do in a new home instead of correcting them when they do wrong. We install that we are worthy to the dog to be its leader!

So please for the sake of your new dog, slowdown... waaaay dowwwn .... Give them a chance to show you who they can really be!

FOSTER HOMES and the “TWO WEEK SHUT DOWN”

We as foster homes have the added responsibility to find and expose our dog’s true personalities. We also have the responsibility of making our foster home a mud platter, as not to make the dogs adoptive home seem like less of a home than ours. We cannot make our foster dog a part of our home, give it too much freedom and allow it to become a total part of our world. This can lead to a set up in the new adoptive home of nervous behavior, displays of separation anxiety, barking, whining, and destructive behavior. We want the adoptive home to be that much better than our world in the foster homes.

By following the two week shut down into the foster home, then carrying that over to the adoptive home, the dog falls into a safe and familiar pattern, and each home has allowed the dog the moment to relax and check out the next new world. Foster dogs come from various places, some are abused, abandoned, turned in, running loose, etc, they land into the pound which is a stressful environment, then they rush into a life in our homes, and then once again into the adoptive home. Our goal must be to allow the dog the time to adjust and set him or her up for a forever home with less a chance of returning to the pound or foster homes.