Did you know that many dogs are lost within the first 48 hours of arriving in their new home?
Do you have a shy or nervous dog, a new foster, newly-adopted dog, or a dog who has recently been lost? These dogs should be considered as a flight risk. Transitions to a new place are scary and confusing for a dog and their instinct is often to look for a way to run or escape.
Please review this information with everyone in your household, children, visitors, workmen, etc.
New things, people and places are scary.
Your dog may have fears that seem irrational and even “silly”, but the simplest of things can cause extreme panic and fear in a rescued dog. Certain sounds, smells, or sights can trigger an immediate fight-or-flight response. Some dogs may have had negative experiences with these items, or they may have simply never experienced them before, therefore, treat them as if these experiences are all new and could be scary! Common triggers include:
• Sounds (the sounds of children playing, television, sirens, fireworks, kitchen appliances, wind, thunder and lightning are common triggers)
• Unfamiliar items (people wearing hats; sunglasses; using walking sticks or umberallas)
Some dogs won’t grow out of these fears quickly – it often takes months or years of slow, methodical and gentle desensitization for the dog to become less sensitive and reactive to these triggers.
Sometimes being alone is more comfortable than being with people.
Some rescue dogs will often seek out a quiet spot where they can get away from everything and may always find comfort in having a private area. Allow your rescue dog to have his/her space (under a table, in a bathroom), at least for the first few weeks, and allow him to come out when he is more comfortable. Sit at a distance, call him softly and try enticing him with a yummy treat.
Do not force yourself on the dog – close contact can be very scary at first. Make sure children know this too and allow your dog to keep his distance. If and when he does approach you, respond with “calm energy” and pet the dog, but don’t immediately expect your dog to cuddle, play ball or jump in your lap. It’s always best to wait and allow a shy or skittish dog to approach you first.
Cornering a shy or nervous dog can frighten them which might, while not common, cause the dog to snap at you or a child out of fear; it’s important to go slow and proceed at a pace that is comfortable for the dog. Your dog may initially bond with only ONE person – this is normal and doesn’t mean the other people have done anything wrong, or that the dog doesn’t “like” them!
We don't always know why certain dogs are fearful or skittish.
Don’t assume a shy dog was abused – in many cases, your dog may have just had limited interaction with people – they simply don’t know how to be “pets”. Or, perhaps they were lost and on their own for a while and will just need time to learn to relax again. Some may have never been part of a loving family. As a result, some of them have never even seen a lead before! Make sure collars are very snug and be sure to loosen them slightly as your dog grows in size. And never tug on a lead – slowly teach the dog not to be scared of a lead, a little at a time.
New rescue dogs, especially shy and skittish dogs, will run away when scared or startled!!
This urge to run when scared can last weeks, months or longer. For this reason, please take extreme precautions to make sure your new family member cannot escape their home, garden, or car:
1. Is your fence dig-proof and jump-proof (including balconies)? Make sure there are no objects close to the fence; dogs will use these items to get up and over fences. Newly adopted rescue dogs should not be left alone on a balcony or in a garden for at LEAST a month. Give them time to get comfortable and feel safe in their new home.
2. Lock all gates with a padlock to prevent wind, children or visitors from opening while your dog is in the garden.
3. If workmen will be entering your home or garden, One Track Mind strongly recommend keeping your dog crated (or in a secure room with the door closed) while strangers are moving about. Many people are not used to being careful with doors and gates.
4. When inside the home, at One Track Mind we strongly recommend using a minimum of TWO BARRIERS between the dog and the outside world at all times. This could be:
a. A garage door, then a utility room door
b. A front door, with the dog behind a baby gate in another room (baby gates should be sturdy; always observe a dog closely around a baby gate first to make sure he can’t jump on it and knock it over, or jump over it).
Beware of securing a dog inside a room with an open window. Remember, their fears are not rational but they are very real.
Whenever a family member is about to leave the home, first check all doors and gates to make sure they are secure, and know where your dog is physically before leaving to make sure she doesn’t accidentally escape.
5. Many dogs go missing when visitors come to the home. Keep your dog in a separate room, or on a lead, under your control, while having visitors over and ask them all to be careful with closing doors immediately behind them.
6. Don’t take your dog on walks, to parks or cafes, or take them off your property for any reason other than for veterinary care for a minimum of one month after arriving in the new home. They should become familiar with their home location through sight and smell, before risking an off-site trip. If you live in an apartment and must walk your dog for potty breaks, follow the other recommendations below.
7. ALWAYS keep a collar and current ID tag on your dog, 24/7, in case your dog tragically escapes.
8. When the dog IS taken away from home, use a properly-fitted Martingale collar which does not allow a dog to back out, as a SECOND collar. Check collar fit while walking on lead inside your home or in your garden first!!
9. Only adults should handle the lead – never children – the handler should remain alert at all times.
10. At One Track Mind we strongly recommend threading the “handle” of the lead through a securely-clipped belt so that if the handler becomes distracted or inadvertently drops the lead, the dog will still be attached to the person.
11. Never “tie out” a dog in your front garden, at a coffee shop, while camping etc. – nervous dogs can chew through most leads in seconds if they are frightened.
12. When transporting your dog in a car, One Track Mind strongly recommend:
OPTION 1: Transport in a dog crate, with lead and Martingale collar attached. This is the safest and best choice! Make sure the gate is securely closed each time.
OPTION 2: If a crate is not possible, then ideally two people should be in the car with the dog, one driving and the other holding the lead.
OPTION 3: If the above options are not possible, then attach your dog’s lead to her collar and leave about 30cm dangling out the top of a ROLLED-UP window when the car door is shut. You can then get out of the car, close your door, walk to the door closest to your dog, grab the end of the lead firmly, and then open the door for your dog. Be ready for them to quickly jump out!
Make proper arrangements for your dog’s care in your absence
When you will be away, carefully choose who will care for your dog to make sure she is kept safe. Pet sitters, even “professional” ones, lose people’s pets often! Beware of using friends, adult children, untrained individuals, or people you’ve only met online or on a dog walking app to care for a rescued or shy dog while you are away. Many dogs try to escape because they can’t find you.
At One Track Mind we suggest using a professional boarding facility for your rescued or skittish dog when you will be away overnight or longer; but first, please tour the facility to assure that the fencing and walls are escape proof, double gated and the staff are well-trained and compassionate.
Your dog is dependent on you to keep her safe!