Adopting a rescue dog is an amazing and rewarding experience; however, it is extremely important you understand that these dogs have been through very challenging situations and may have literally been fighting for their lives. Some dogs have had kinder experiences than others, but nevertheless each dog requires understanding and patience. It is our obligation to inform you that challenges and issues with behaviour may occur. Most dogs settle fairly easily but others may be petrified at first and will need time to gain your trust. Whatever the situation may be, it is our promise to you to support you and your dog to give you the best experience with your adoption.

Below is a list of behaviours you may notice with your new pet. Where possible, stay calm; your reaction can affect the dog as they will pick up on these feelings. By following the advice above on with introductions and helping your dogs to settle, a lot of these behaviours can be avoided or more easily managed. If any of the following should occur please message your admin for advice on training techniques and behavioural management:

  • Dominance towards other pets or people 
  • Growling, snarling, snapping, or biting 
  • Destructive behaviour  
  • Food and resource guarding 
  • Pulling, lead reactivity (lunging, growling etc)
  • Anxiety including separation anxiety 
  • Fear or reactivity (to people, dogs, leads etc)
  • Excessive barking
  • Hiding

If you are concerned about any behaviour displayed by your dog, please contact your admin or the Pawprints to Freedom team.

Trigger Stacking

A trigger is something which is causing the dog stress. Trigger stacking is when many stressors are actively affecting the dog at once, without the dog having time to process or decompress in between. If these triggers continue or are “stacked’, eventually the dog will be pushed beyond its coping limit causing an adrenaline rush and a fight or flight reaction.

A stress reaction is physical, it is not something that a dog could control, even if they wanted to; it’s an innate survival response to a threat. If the trigger is removed the dog will start to calm down. If more triggers are added, or existing triggers increase in severity then the brain will fast forward at an alarming rate, until the dog reacts.

It is vital to remember that what triggers a dog is based on their previous experiences, fears, personality and ability to cope.

It is very rare for a dog to not show signs of stress before they react. Recognising these signs early can help you establish what your dogs’ triggers are and enable you to manage them effectively. Signs can include:

  • Cowering, backing away or hiding 
  • Lunging, barking or growling 
  • Trembling 
  • Panting 
  • Leaving sweaty paw prints 
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Submissive urination 
  • Refusal to take treats 
  • Walking in a zig-zag motion
  • Pacing
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea

Potential Triggers

To help you identify the cause of your dogs stress or anxiety we have outlined a list of the most common triggers below.

  • Strangers in the home 
  • Cars – either cars approaching or entering a car 
  • Children 
  • Being in a house
  • Men 
  • Loud noises (especially fireworks)
  • Fast movements 
  • Smell
  • Household noises, such as hoover, washing machines etc
  • New environments 
  • Leads, collars and harnesses 
  • Being approached and/or touched
  • Seeing people or dogs when on walks 
  • In a room with doors closed
  • Being alone – being alone for too long

Please bear in mind that anything could be a trigger to your dog. If you think something in your home or everyday life is causing significant stress to your dog and you cannot manage it, contact us or a qualified behaviourist for advice.

REMEMBER: We are ALWAYS around to give advice, information and guidance. If you are struggling, please reach out and we will put you in touch our behavioural advice team for assistance.