Why the so-called “3-3-3 decompression rule” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and how to best help your shelter or rescue dog adjust to her new home.
Have you heard about the 3-3-3 decompression rule? We’ve seen memes about it everywhere on social media. It says your new dog will likely feel overwhelmed for the first three days, will settle in and feel more comfortable in your home by the end of three weeks, and after three months will be feeling secure in her new home. By this time, according to the adage, you and your dog will have developed a secure loving bond and trusting relationship.
This sounds lovely – but there is a huge problem with it. It’s a formula, and dogs are living, thinking, sentient individuals who don’t follow formulas.
Certainly there is wisdom in the advice to give your dog time to settle in. He needs time to recover from the stress of life in a shelter kennel or foster home – and then adoption and rehoming! There is no doubt that most dogs will go through an adjustment period when they come to live with you. It’s important to know this before you adopt a dog; your new canine family member may ultimately act very differently than when you first met her.
Phases of a rehomed dog’s decompression
Rather than set expectations for specific time frames, let’s discuss how to help your new dog cope during three big adjustment phases:
The Shellshock Phase. When you first bring her home, your dog may be overwhelmed. She may shut down, refuse to eat or drink, soil her crate, vocalize, try to escape, and/or otherwise behave inappropriately. And it may take her much longer than three days to get through this phase! Try to let go of any forecasts you’ve heard for how long it will take for her to decompress and de-stress.
Do everything you can to minimize her stress: Give her space; don’t overwhelm her with attention; remove anything that is obviously fear-causing; be calm, quiet, and gentle with her; and do everything slowly – for as long as it takes. (Note that some dogs skip this phase altogether and walk in your door and start behaving as if they have lived with you their whole lives; that’s the best! – but not that common.)
The Settle-In Phase. Your dog has worked through her initial stress and is settling in, getting used to the routine and opening up more. If she was shut down in the first phase, you’ll likely see new behaviors now – the “real” dog! Some of these behaviors may be undesirable ones, so you might have to increase your management. On the plus side, now that she’s more comfortable, you can interact with her more and begin your force-free training program.
The Rest-Of-Her-Life Phase. Your dog has settled into her new life, and the two of you truly have that secure, loving bond and trusting relationship. It may have taken three months – or three years! In any case, enjoy the rest of your lives together.
About Marcia – The Dog Nanny
Marcia is not new to dog training. She qualified as a professional dog training instructor in 1984 and gained behaviour certification in 1985. She has been around big dogs all of her life. She grew up in England with Harlequin Great Danes and as an adult began breeding and competed in confirmation, obedience and agility with her Dobermans.
She is a professional member with The Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT), The Pet Professionals Guild (PPG) and a Authorised Mentor Trainer for The Animal Behaviour College (ABC). Marcia is also a Canadian Kennel Club Member and the Director of Evaluators for Therapeutic Paws Of Canada.
As Certified Canine Behaviourist & Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor she stays informed by continuing to advance her current knowledge in the field and is familiar with the latest, most effective training techniques and equipment.
Marcia started breeding in 1985 and today breeds and competes in confirmation shows across Canada & the US with her Dogue de Bordeauxs.
She came to Canada in 1991 and resumed her private dog training and issue resolution business under the name “The Dog Nanny” in 1998. Prior to that her clients were from word of mouth only, and that’s where the idea for the Business name came as many clients said she was just like Jojo from the TV series Super Nanny only for dogs.
Due to the restrictions in local by-laws, she was unable to open her own Dog Training school in Innisfil, Ontario. Therefore, when she was asked by PetSmart, in Barrie, to come on board as the lead/head trainer, Marcia saw an opportunity to teach group classes and improve the standard of training. She was with PetSmart for 5 years. Due to company regulations Marcia had to attend PetSmart’s 2 week course, so has an additional certification in dog training as an Accredited Dog Trainer.
In September of 2011 Marcia met Claudia from Dogs Scouts Day Camp, and Claudia was kind enough to offer Marcia the use of her facility and grounds thus the beginning of The Dog Nanny’s Canine Training Academy. Marcia has had clients travel from as far as Orillia, Collingwood, Alliston, Vaughn and Newmarket to attend her classes there.
Marcia also volunteers for Therapeutic Paws of Canada (www.tpoc.ca) and has been the Director of Evaluators since 2004. Therapeutic Paws of Canada is a non-profit organization of volunteers providing animal Therapy for human needs (physical, mental, educational, motivational, socialization) through regular visits to hospitals, residences, schools. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life and health through the animal/human bond. Marcia speaks at all TPOC Events/Seminars some of which are open to the public and those in the Pet/Dog Industry.
Marcia is also a member of several web based groups as an Expert Panel member and has done several Web Conferences on Canine Behaviour and Training.
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