What does a dog being overwhelmed mean?

All dogs have a threshold – which basically means they will have a point where they can no longer cope with a situation that has been thrown at them, and if pushed it can either regress and shut down or respond negatively to a situation. Use the Dog Body Language section in this pack – as no dog can speak to you to tell you what is wrong, as their owner, you need to look out for signs they present in their body language which will tell you when enough is enough.

What can overwhelm a dog?

  • Fussing over them shortly after arrival into the home

Advice: Leave them alone and let the dog to get on with it. Get on with your life as normal and don’t pay too much attention to the dog. Do not panic that the dog is not coming over to you. They have been roaming the streets, caught by a dog catcher, manhandled, abused, taken to a shelter, put on a van, driven 3-4 days to the UK, arrived at Oakwood, met different faces, met you in a viewing and then taken home shortly after this… A lot to read? Yep, it is a LOT for a dog to deal with. Leave them alone, they will come around in time.

  • Trying to get them to walk on a lead/accept a lead within days of arrival

Advice: Your dog needs time to settle, really settle into the home. ALL of these dogs will have been strangled by a noose-type device called a catchpole in Romania. Some dogs will panic the second you apply tension to the lead as it triggers fear from their catchpole experience. You MUST stop and do not try to make them accept it. You will need to slowly introduce the lead over a period of time (could take weeks/months, but it takes as long as it takes). They will decide when they are ready, not us. Try a well-fitting harness if the dog panics with tension around the neck. You need to work at this too – these dogs will not know what a harness is.

  • Walking them too soon

Advice: Again, it takes as long as it takes. These dogs have NEVER been walked before. They need to practice around the garden until they are confidently walking by your side and are not panicking at pressure being applied to the lead. The first outdoor walk should only last 2-5mins. You need to find a quiet space without lots of dogs, people or traffic. It will be a MASSIVE sensory overload if we walk them in busy areas. If they put the brakes on – go home. If they pull back – go home. All dogs have a threshold, stopping or pulling back is their way of saying they are uncomfortable, if you try to pull them forward or make them walk, they will enter a highly stressed state and you run the risk of the dog becoming reactive to people/dogs/traffic (anything that may panic them) or escaping off the lead and running away. ALWAYS double lead your dog until you are sure they will not run away from you.

  • Having visitors come to the property too soon

Advice: The dog needs a couple of weeks to settle into the home before visitors come. When you feel they are ready (after a couple of weeks) keep visitors to a minimum and intro individually or 2 at a time. Any more than this at a time can really panic a dog. Please see the Visitor into the Home Process in this pack.

  • Changes in the house/decorating/having work done to the property as they are settling in

Advice: Hold off any changes to the garden/property until the dog is more settled. Although we tell you not to tip-toe around a dog, making lots of changes, having workmen in or having lots of loud noises, such as drilling, ladders being moved around the place, new furnishings being brought in can be really startling to a dog and can really set them back. Wait until they are more comfortable in the home and shut them away whilst work is being taken out.

  • Changes to work patterns, especially if you have not got them used to being alone

Advice: You MUST work with the dog to prepare them for being left home alone. You cannot expect a dog to deal with it if you have not prepared them. Do not tell them off for destruction in the home, toileting or developing separation issues. Taking on a dog is a LIFETIME commitment. You would not leave a young child home alone if work commitments changed. Contact Oakwood Canine Services for further advice on this topic, however, we recommend using the Teaching your dog to stay Home Alone section in this pack to prepare them for this. You may find that you need to employ a professional dog walker or dog sitter to come in to break the dog’s day up. Returning a dog to rescue because of the above is not a good excuse, this can be worked around.