3 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Rescue Dog’s Stress

Apr 6 / Sally Gutteridge
Stress is all consuming and abandonment (or losing their person some other way) followed by unsettlement can cause even the most resilient dog to be stressed. If you’re rescuing a dog though, it’s a great idea to consider how to handle their emotions by keeping their lives as stress free as possible. 

Understanding

First we must understand the nature of stress. A normal happy, relaxed or neutral dog is in what we call a state of homeostasis. This means everything is working well and all bodily systems are in good balance. A dog settled in a home, who is relaxed was likely to be in homeostasis most of the time. Then if something happens and everything changes for them, hormones start running amok. Emotional states change and this changes the natural state of the dog’s body, it goes out of balance and homeostasis becomes instead, imbalance.

To recover and maintain balance the dog will need space, to face no pressure and to be given time to settle down from the big life change he has just experienced.

Space

Space and distance are so vitally important when you bring a new dog home. Sleep is also so crucial to dogs. Rescued dogs who have been through a complete life change need the restorative and healing sleep more than many.

Provide a lovely comfortable space for your new rescue dog to settle and relax, he may need a good long rest period when he first comes home to you, that’s fine, let him rest.
Dogs not only a space they can retreat confident in the knowledge they can properly sleep and relax but also space away from our attention and fascination with them. Our desperation to comfort them and make friends can be intimidating for a new dog. New dogs need space from us, so they can check we are safe, from their own safe distance. So if you find yourself watching your dog, ask yourself if you’re also intimidating them.

Dogs do find staring from a stranger quite intimidating. Later, that same attention becomes the look of love with the help of bonding hormones, but in the beginning they need some time to adjust.

A new rescue dog might even need distance from the outside world. Some rescue dogs might need a walk break, that’s fine too. Having a few days to get to know their permanent space is great for stress relief.

Freedom

Freedom is so crucial to dogs. The five freedoms are legislation originally created for farm animals, but which also relate to all domestic animals.
They include:

Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
The provision of nutritional food and clean water.

Freedom from Discomfort
By providing a safe and comfortable place to rest.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
Veterinary treatment and rapid medical care when needed.

Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
Letting the dog be a dog and play with other dogs if they want to. Carrying out life enrichment which meets their natural needs.

Freedom from Fear and Distress
Taking great care of the dog’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

In the beginning providing the care of the five freedoms to a rescue dog may be very low key. They just need space and time, nutrition, water and veterinary care if necessary so we should naturally provide that. When they start to realise that life is not so bad with us, they will start to enjoy themselves. Then we can begin with all the fun stuff that our dogs will enjoy, but first they need to settle and deal with the stress associated with first being homeless and then a complete life change.

To settle and for stress reduction, they simply need understanding, space and freedom. 

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