Following on from Yesterdays blog: Adopting a Husky
For many owners of adopted dogs the reality is that one day suddenly the personality of their adopted dog suddenly changes. Some owners are lucky and they witness a delightful personality emerge from their dog. Some owners are not quite that lucky. Sadly, some owners watch in horror and disbelief as their once quiet and reserved dog morphs into an unrecognizable “Cujo”. It leaves them wondering what the heck they have gotten themselves into by adopting this dog.
Dogs that were once timid and submissive may suddenly become obnoxious and pushy. Dogs that might have first gotten along with other animals in the house, now suddenly attack and fight with them. Dogs that once responded to cues now suddenly don’t listen. What happened? What happened is that the Honeymoon period is over! And what unsuspecting owners do not understand is that it was the signals that humans gave to the dog in those first days and weeks that helps to contribute to the attitude that the dog later adopts.
He listens to his trainer real good. He just doesn’t listen to me. I still can’t get him to do nothing. Evander Holyfield, on his Akita, who had completed obedience training with a professional trainer.
What Is The Honeymoon Period?
The Honeymoon period refers to the time when a dog comes to his new home and everyone is excited and happy about their new relationship. During this time, the personality or temperament of the newly adopted dog may not accurately reflect the true nature of the dog. At some point, perhaps weeks or even months later, this Honeymoon Period ends and the true personality and nature of the dog can be seen. Often, this new dog personality may look radically different than the dog you were used to seeing.
The reason that your dog behaved differently in the beginning of your relationship has nothing to do with a willful misrepresentation on the part of the dog. Rather, this phenomenon occurs partly as the dog’s reaction to the severe adjustment to the dog’s existence. It’s entire world and everything in it has changed and the dog shuts down emotionally (some dogs shut down a little, some dogs shut down a lot) while they try to absorb and sort out their place in this new world. But dogs also change in response to the signals and cues first given by the owners as to where the dog fits into the new society. If the owner has not set any limits on behaviours then the dog can easily assume that he can do whatever he wants and that he must surely be the leader. When owners understand that this is what is going on for their dogs it makes it much easier to have compassion and understanding for some of the challenging behaviours they may encounter once the Honeymoon Period is over.
What Can I Do?
You can help make this transition time easier for your dog by making sure that you have a good sustainable plan for your dog right from the start. Having one set of lax or unsustainable rules and expectations in the beginning of your relationship and then changing those rules later on will only serve to add to the feelings of confusion and instability that your dog is already feeling. From day one implement a routine for the dog. Make sure walks, feeding, and play time routines are maintained in a predictable way. Make sure that expectations of behaviour are put into place immediately and that they too are sustainable. Dogs thrive on stability and predictability because they equate these things to their safety and survival.
Make sure too that you clearly show your dog, in way that is easily understood by him, what behaviours you do not condone AND make sure that you also show him what you DO want him to do. Far too often owners stop their instruction at telling their dogs NO but never show them what behaviours they want them to do instead of what they are now doing.
For example, if you are having a problem with the dog barking and jumping on visitors when they first come to the door, instruct the dog to lie on a mat off to the side until you release them from their DOWN/STAY. This gives the visitor a chance to come in without being assaulted by the dog, it gives the dog something else to do other than jump on the visitor, and it allows the dog a chance to calm down from the excitement of a new person being in their presence. A calm dog is much easier to control and instruct than a wildly excited dog. Always set your dog up for success.
Triggers To Behaviour
Sudden changes in behaviour and demeanor in a newly adopted dog (sudden illness not withstanding) can also be caused by sounds, smells, or circumstances that act as a trigger for your dog. When a dog has a reaction to something, it will trigger a knee jerk reaction of behaviour from the dog. This is especially prevalent in dogs that have been subjected to abuse or extreme neglect. Owners may not be able see or recognize the trigger, but their dog does.
Sudden triggered behaviour changes such as fear or even aggression towards people or other animals are not uncommon in newly adopted dogs. If this happens, stay calm and do not become emotional as this will give your dog further reason to act out and be afraid. Immediately remove the dog from the vicinity of the trigger to allow him to calm down. Instead of trying to soothe the dog’s fears, try modeling a behaviour that demonstrates to the dog that he has nothing to fear. You cannot help a frightened or out of control dog if you are highly emotional too.
Some Common Behaviours That You May Encounter From Your Newly Adopted Husky
Often the new behaviours of these dogs is so radically different from before that it catches owners by surprise. They have no idea what these behaviours are and why they are suddenly happening. If owners can identify and understand the behaviours they are witnessing coming from their dogs, there is a better chance that they can help their dogs overcome these overt mal-adaptive behaviours.
Here is a list of the more commonly seen behaviours exhibited by newly re-homed dogs and what you can do about it.
- Signs of anxiety and nervousness: panting, pacing, drooling, lack of eye contact, gastric upset (vomiting or diarrhea), housebreaking accidents, excessive need to eliminate, crying, whining, barking, not listening to cues, or excessive and destructive chewing. Give your dog a quiet safe space, den, area where he can calm down and re-group.
- The dog fights for rank with existing dogs in the household. Supervise all interactions between the dogs and be prepared to immediately diffuse all skirmishes. Do not let the dogs “work it out among themselves”. Dogs typically work out differences by fighting and in extreme cases, fighting to the death. All the dogs in the household should be treated equally and fairly. Coddling the new addition does not help making him feel at ease. It only causes further issues related to ranking and social order. You must step up and be the clear leader of your group.
- The dog acts very insecure and it wants to follow you everywhere. While this behaviour may seem endearing to you at first, allowing this behaviour to continue only sets up the dog to have separation anxiety later. Set limits and show your dog how to self soothe. Supply the dog with treats balls, filled Kongs, and chew toys and have them redirect their nervous energy into chewing instead of obsessively following you around. Make sure to give lots of physical exercise to allow for an outlet for his nervous energy.
- The dog has either poor socialization skills or lacks any kind of prior socialization efforts. Too often owners assume that by simply immersing the dog into an unfamiliar situation (flooding with sensory stimulation) that the dog will just somehow figure things out on their own. This is rarely the case. Tossing the dog into the lake to learn how to swim creates anxiety, fear, and can lead to the dog reverting to aggression to cope with his overwhelming fear. Contact a trainer to identify missing skills or enroll your dog into a mature dog beginner’s obedience class.
- Problems with leash and collar aggression. The experience of wearing a collar or walking on a leash may be a totally new experience for your dog. Be patient and slowly desensitize your dog to this new experience. Try tethering your dog to you in the house for an hour everyday and go about your regular duties. Do not walk around the dog or call the dog to move with you. At first you bump into and trip over each other a lot but eventually the dog starts to look at you trying to determine what your next move might be. As soon as you catch the dog looking at you for input, immediately mark the behaviour with verbal praise and treat. This is the beginnings of a bonded relationship.
We often believe that we are the ones who are rescuing the dog when the bigger reality is that you both rescue each other. Very often dogs, even dog with challenging behaviours, bring us gifts disguised as life lessons. These dogs often serve to push us outside of our comfort zones to places that we never imagined that we would go. Growth of our spirit and soul does not happen in the safety and confines of the familiar. It happens in the vast spaces of the unknown. So remember to be grateful for the journey and for lessons that it offers. Embrace the challenge of the difficult dog and look for the blessing in disguise waiting for you on the other side of fear.
As always, we welcome you to share your comments and your stories of your adopted Snow Dogs. Share your trials and your achievements. We share our stories and our knowledge so that others who struggle may be helped.
Helping all Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.