It Takes Two Weeks: The Key to A Successful Adoption

Posted on: January 18, 2021

Over the last 44 years, The Humane Society of Charlotte has been a trusted fixture in the Charlotte community for families wanting to adopt and rescue dogs and cats. The time after adoption can be the most crucial to the success of bringing home a new family member. This time following adoption is called the “Decompression Phase”.

What is the Decompression Phase?

The Decompression phase is a period of time where newly adopted animals work through their emotions and adjust in order to become comfortable in their new surroundings. After being in a shelter environment, where they can experience extraordinarily high levels of emotional stress, they begin to relax and feel at ease in their new home.

Most often, this process takes an average of 14 days.

Dogs are particularly susceptible to the rigors of the decompression phase because their environment has likely had the most dramatic change.

What Can I Expect During the Decompression Phase?

Understanding the Decompression Phase helps to ensure a successful adoption, allows you to bond with your new animal more quickly, and helps to mitigate frustrations as you and your new pet become acquainted with one another.

Your new pet may exhibit behaviors such as:

      • Showing signs of fear, uncertainty, or timidness
      • Unlikeliness to eat their food or drink water when provided
      • Find or create a “safe” spot and stay/hide there for prolonged periods of time
      • Show some signs of resource guarding
      • Bathroom accidents – even in “potty trained” animals

These behaviors come directly from being unsure of their new surroundings and the behaviors expected of them. It’s important to never punish animals for these behaviors as they adjust but rather reward them for the correct behaviors with high-value treats and praise. This is called Positive Reinforcement.

How Can I Help My Pet Adjust?

  • Give them a safe space where they can go to be alone – either a crate or a designated room of their own that allows them to relax quietly and comfortably.
  • Provide your pet with lots of high-value treats and rewards. Positive reinforcement helps to assure your new pet that they are safe.
  • Allow them to explore and smell their new environment without interruption.
  • Conduct introductions to new pets, people, and children slowly and over multiple periods of time. Make interactions positive and never force it. Provide rewarding treats during these interaction periods.
  • Keep your new pet on a routine schedule. Your new dog or cat is looking to you for guidance and understanding of what is expected of them.
  • Keep your pet supervised or on a leash in the house for a while. This can help to prevent “door-dashing” while your pet is still uncertain.
  • Never punish your animal for unwanted behaviors during this period – they are likely to happen! Instead, gently show your pet the desired behavior and reward them when they do it correctly.

By helping your pet through this 2-week period, you will allow them to become the very best pet they can be and their true personality will begin to shine. Your pet will tell you when they are ready, little by little.

What happens if there are Behavior Issues after the 2-week Decompression Phase?

The Humane Society of Charlotte Behavior and Training program is available to help! Reach out to our Behavior Training team and learn about the different options we provide for helping you and your pet build an unbreakable bond. Our program has been designed to make sure that animals adopted from HSC are happy, active, and fulfilled.

We believe that with a positive training plan and basic life skills, your pet can lead a happier, healthier, and more productive life. This behavioral science approach helps pets and their parents form a bond of trust through training.

Questions? Email our Behavior Training Team today!