When we first took in Buster the Chihuahua as a foster, he was very anxious. He paced around the house, barely slept, and was constantly on edge — even dashed out the door more than once. It was hard. I found myself second-guessing my skills as a dog trainer, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.
Does your dog have the same issues? Do you feel like I did? Well, fear not. With a little patience you can help your new dog adjust to his new life.
First know that your new dog is doing the best he can under the circumstances. He isn’t trying to stress you out. He just doesn’t quite understand what’s going on. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a few deep breaths and repeat this mantra: “It isn’t personal.” Then try these tips:
- Get your new dog into a predictable routine, which means eating, walking, and sleeping around the same time every day.
- Take a training class with your new dog, even if you have training experience. Classes give your new dog the opportunity to meet other dogs and people. (Check out our guide to Positive Reinforcement Training!)
- At home, playing with your dog is a great way to bond, and is just plain fun, not to mention a good distraction from some of the more stressful moments.
- One-on-one exercise time with your dog strengthens your relationship and provides fresh air and exercise — a proven stress reliever. All dogs have different exercise needs, but start with 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day and see how that works.
- Some dogs need a little more help to ease their anxiety. Try calming treats or supplements made with natural ingredients like tryptophan, chamomile, brewer’s yeast, B vitamins, and hops. ProQuiet is available on Amazon.com (and at some vet’s offices), and my vet describes it as a turkey sandwich and a beer for dogs. Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Pets is made from flower essences. Put a couple drops in the water bowl or on your dog’s paw.
- Essential oils are among my personal favorite stress relievers. One whiff of certain scents can calm me right down, and they can work for dogs, too! Merlin’s Magic Calming Potion from Frogworks, is an essential oil spray that worked wonders with Buster! Spraying it into the air will relax you, too. (Note: Some essential oils are toxic to cats. Research before using essential oils.)
- Studies have shown that petting animals can reduce stress, and if your dog likes touch, it can be a great way to calm both of you.
- Above all else, remember that it takes time. Be patient and give your new dog time to adjust to his new home. If your dog’s anxiety or behaviors are extreme or unmanageable, reach out to a positive-reinforcement trainer for help.
And Buster? He eventually settled in and found his forever home (with us)!