Congratulations – you’ve adopted a dog from Cyprus and given them a second chance. You’re so excited, you’re like a dog with two tails! You’ve come to the right place for information on settling your rescue dog into your home.
But what if the dog you’ve rescued has their tail tucked firmly between their legs?
The simple fact is that most Cyprus rescue dogs will take a while to adjust to life in their new home. But don’t despair. The good news is that with love, patience and understanding, you can help your new friend on the journey to living their best life. Read on to find out how.
SEE IT FROM THEIR PAWSPECTIVE
No dog is perfect, every dog is different and many rescue dogs have had complex pasts. That much we know. We all hope our new dog will fit in easily, but if your dog doesn’t, it’s not necessarily a sign that they have no hope of a great future with you.
Chances are, your rescue dog has already been through a lot. No matter how wonderful their life is about to be, the life they’ve left behind is the only one they’ve known – until now.
Whether you’re adopting or fostering, try to see things from your dog’s point of view. Many dogs in Cyprus live their lives outdoors, so yours may have been born on the streets, in the countryside, kept outside on a chain or lived a miserable existence inside a cage. Many suffer abuse or neglect from their ex-owners, and are then dumped or abandoned, which can make them confused and afraid.
While some dogs will have stayed in a foster home before being adopted, many have lived part of their lives in a shelter. Shelters provide temporary accommodation and are often jam-packed with dogs, which makes for a noisy and intense environment.
It’s possible your house will be the first one your Cyprus rescue dog has ever set foot in.
As well as the strange new people (that’s you) there’s the smorgasbord of new sights, smells and sounds to contend with, plus the human rules and routines to get used to (you again). If you and your household are prepared to be patient and guide your dog with love, you’re on track for a rewarding relationship.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Being emotionally prepared is one thing. But being prepared practically is also important. Planning ahead will make your dog’s transition to their new home that much smoother.
For starters, decide where you’ll allow your new dog to roam and put up gates and barriers if necessary. You’ll have discussed your outside area’s boundaries during the Saving Souls home check, so just make extra sure your fencing and gates are secure and fit for purpose, in case you end up with a would-be escape artist.
Choose a quiet corner with a bit of distance in which to put your dog’s bed or crate, but not too isolated from the rest of the household. They need somewhere safe to retreat and chill – but not too far away from you.
Set aside a place for food and water bowls, stock up on dog food, and buy treatments for worming, fleas and ticks. Get a decent quality collar, lead and harness and you’re all set! Watch out for our blog on the best harnesses to buy for your type of dog.
SLOW AND STEADY
You’ll have used a slip lead when you collected your dog from the meeting point, so keep this on when transferring them from the car to your home in case you’ve got a potential Houdini on your hands.
When you’ve made it indoors, it’s tempting to shower your new arrival with cuddles and affection but it’s actually better to let them come to you in their own time.
Nervous dogs are easily intimidated, so don’t get up in their grill. In fact, try to avoid direct eye contact at first — some dogs interpret this as a threat. Instead, let them sniff and explore their new surroundings at their own pace.
Take introductions slowly. If there are children in the household, remind them to be gentle and not to pull the dog’s ears. Closely supervise their interactions so you can intervene if necessary.
If you have another dog or dogs already, it’s better to have them meet outside in a neutral place. Designate a person to handle each dog on a lead and at first, allow the dogs to approach each other for a sniff and then gently move them apart again. If they like each other, repeat this process as many times as you think you need to, but don’t force them to interact. If your new dog is fine with being on a lead, you can try a short walk together.
If they seem anxious, speak softly, use their name (the new one, if you’ve decided to change it) and definitely involve food! Soon they’ll be learning that their name is associated with yummy treats.
Give your dog a guided tour of the house – or their area of the house – and show them the water bowl so they know where they can drink.
When you offer food in a bowl, put it down and take a few steps back. Often, dogs will eat if you’re close by but not so close that you’re standing over them. If your dog is nervous of a food bowl, you can try scattering kibble onto the ground close by.
If your dog is a reluctant drinker, try mixing some water into their food. But if they’re still not drinking after 24 hours, seek veterinary advice.
READ THE SIGNS
It’s tempting to invite all your friends and family around to meet the new pooch, but in the first few days, it’s better to stick to sharing pics on social media or messaging apps. Your dog needs this time to become familiar with their new home and immediate family, rather than being bombarded with attention.
Walks are not essential during the first few weeks and not even recommended over the first few days. Instead, you can give your dog a chance to let off some steam walking on a long lead in your garden or doing zoomies. Avoid taking them to shops, parks or other people’s homes. Too stimulating. You can build up to all these things in time.
Make sure everyone in your household knows the rules – and that is not to stroke the new dog unless their body language suggests they’d welcome the contact. Getting close, nudging or leaning in, a lolling tongue, a wiggly body and a wagging tail are all green lights for a cuddle.
KEEP IT POSITIVE
Don’t worry about attempting any obedience training for your dog for at least three weeks as they’re settling in. During this time their life needs to stay simple and – to be honest – kind of boring. Just eating, sleeping, a bit of exercise and maybe some toys.
However, dogs tend to respond well to a routine so it’s a good idea to feed them at regular times and let them out into the garden at regular intervals. When they do their business outside, take the opportunity to reward them with treats and verbal praise. If your dog isn’t house trained, it’s a good way to start the process.
The stress of the journey plus a new environment can lead to accidents, even if your dog has previously been house trained. So if that happens, don’t be surprised, and most importantly, don’t punish the dog.
Chances are that, with a good routine and frequent rewarding of the behaviour you want to encourage, your dog will latch on and understand soon enough. And if you have another resident dog, you may find your new dog learns from them.
Only when you think your dog is ready and can cope, start to go for walkies. Keep them short and fun at first and from there, you can gradually increase the length of the walk or vary the route. If they become anxious, bring them straight back. You can always try again another time. At this stage it’s more important they understand you are there to protect them.
When you’re ready to start some training, check out our guides – Cleo from canine behaviourist Cleo Wiltshire.
It’s hard work, but do stop to celebrate small victories – every little success is s step towards your dog feeling more comfortable and settled.
REMEMBER, YOU’RE DOING GREAT
Some rescue dogs settle in straight away while others take longer to adjust. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your new dog. It is great to be in touch with other adopters, but don’t feel too discouraged if you’re scrolling through post after post of dogs sleeping blissfully or playing happily with their new tug toy, while yours has just chewed another pair of trainers to shreds. It’s not helpful to compare yourself with others.
As we don’t always know a dog’s full history, it can be hard to unpick why they behave in certain ways. Some dogs react to stress by becoming defensive, grumpy, destructive or fearful. Unwanted behaviours such as growling, food guarding or nipping can show up along the way, too. Sometimes, it turns out that new unwanted behaviours have been reinforced by accident in the dog’s new home.
If you think professional help is needed, consult your vet or a canine behaviourist for advice. The cause of a problem might lie in pain, which a vet might be able to remedy. And if it’s fear or aggression you’re concerned about, good behaviourists can help you to work successfully on these sorts of issues.
By adopting a dog, you are already giving an amazing gift — the chance of a life they’ll enjoy. Try to be patient, don’t expect too much too soon, and persevere.
And remember, we are here to help. If you are finding it challenging to settle your dog, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Saving Souls and consider joining our Facebook group for adopters past and present Saved Souls.
THE RULE OF THREE
As a rough guide, it’s helpful to remember the Rule of 3 when settling your rescue dog. That is: 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months.
What do we mean? Well, it’ll probably take about 3 DAYS for your dog to decompress. During that time, don’t be surprised if they seem overwhelmed, frightened, withdrawn and reluctant to eat. This is all normal for a rescue dog as they first experience a new and unfamiliar home.
As time moves on, at around the 3 WEEK mark, you may notice your pooch starts to feel more comfortable, gets into a routine and begins to figure out this new home could be a permanent thing. While this is good progress, they may also start to display some behavioural issues, so be vigilant.
Fast forward to THREE MONTHS, when you might notice your dog has become more comfortable in your home. While they may not exactly be hogging the remote, they might just be curling up on the sofa next to you. In other words, they’ll likely have a greater sense of security, confidence and trust in their new family.
LOOKING FOR SOME SUPPAWT?
Saved Souls is our private Facebook group for adopters and is a great place for dog parents to support each other, put questions to the admin team and of course, share photos of their fabulous rescue dogs! The group can be a helpful online resource for help with settling your rescue dog, so why not join us.
KEEP GOING – IT’S WORTH IT!
Saving Souls adopters share their experiences — and the challenges — of settling their rescue dog.
“When Chester came to us, he was not lead trained and that made things difficult because he was so strong. We sought help from a behaviourist and now, with patience, time and treats, he comes everywhere with us, even sailing!” — Harriet.
“We expected too much, too quickly. Our biggest challenge with Skye was separation anxiety. But time, patience and support from friends and family have been paramount. Be prepared for your life to change, in difficult ways but also in the best ways.” — Jade.
“We’d always had smaller dogs before, so when we adopted Stephy, a lab cross, we had to quickly learn to stop leaving stuff at the edge of the work surface! In the early days we had to watch her constantly as she was chewing up dog beds at every opportunity. But now, six months on, we have a great, well-behaved dog who is loving life.” — Lorna.
“When we first got Coffee she was terrified. Five months on, she is getting better at going on walks in the countryside but likes to have one of our other three dogs with her. All our dogs are rescued and it took a little time with them all. We have rescued for 30 years and I would recommend it to everyone.” — Maureen.