Typically, it takes three days in a home for a dog to decompress from a shelter environment, three weeks to settle in, and then three months to learn the routine of its new owner.
“A lot of times when we see a dog coming back it’s in a month and sometimes we see it in a day,” Christenson said.
If you’re considering adopting a dog, make sure you’re prepared to put in the time and effort to care for your new family member as they adjust to a new environment. Christenson suggests, “You may have to take a few days off, you may have to embrace when you have a week off, because it won’t happen overnight.”
But, with dogs that have been adopted and returned multiple times, issues of trust and anxiety can develop.
When a dog gets used to being sent back to a shelter, “he becomes more insensitive to people,” Christenson said. “Obviously it’s just protection. Why wouldn’t they? It’s like a human.”
Some dogs may not understand what a caring and loving home looks like. For example, Barnabee, a 7-year-old Shih Tzu who was released from a breeder has never lived in a house. “He was unfortunately fired after a day because he’s so shy, and he is. But, he’s never been in a house, so he has to learn what it’s like to to be a loved and cared for dog like any dog should be,” Christenson said.
Depending on past experiences in a home, a dog may become more withdrawn to other dogs or people of certain genders. Like Midnight, due to bad personal experiences, he finds it difficult to be around men. Midnight has been at PCHS on and off for eight months, which is considered a long stay.
Then there are dogs like Zoe, she has also been adopted and returned many times. Zoe has been through four houses leading to anxiety and stress which can often lead to behaviors like chewing.
Anxiety and stress are common traits in rescue dogs, but can easily be treated with plenty of exercise or medication from a veterinarian. PCHS also wants to make sure new Paw parents know they’re not alone.
“We have really good resources here, we want to work with you through this and recommend what we can instead of leaving you alone,” Christenson said.
While these stories can be heartbreaking, Christenson says, sometimes the toughest journeys reap the best rewards. “For these vulnerable beings who have no voice, if we can stand up for them, even in sadness, it’s really gratifying,” she said. “For every dog that walks out the door, that’s a win.”
If you would like to help these dogs, PCHS is always accepting donations, volunteers and those who are ready to adopt.