Decompression and an adjustment period are by far the most underestimated steps when adopting or fostering a new dog.
Many people are confused as to why decompression is different from your everyday crating. Decompression means to lesson pressure and that is exactly what you are doing for the dogs. There are a lot of pressures put on dogs when they go from one home to the next or for a shelter to a home. The dog is going into a different environment and each place has different rules, different dogs, different sounds, etc. It is scary. So the decompression is allowing the dog acclimate without the pressures of watching their own back. Throwing a dog into an environment is not fair without giving it some information via decompression.
Crates are a containment system which have a number of reasons that the human can choose from to use on a daily basis.
I like to do at least 48 hours of decompression per each week that you are going to have them. Halfway in, start watching for body language changes.
If you are going to have a long term foster, like 3 weeks or longer, you want to do a minimum of 6 days. Transport, change in human energy, stress, and nervousness are hard on the dogs, so evaluate after 3 days. The go to was 10-14 days a few years ago, but now that is excessive in my experience and not practical. Halfway in, watch for breathing patterns, the way they are looking around, if they are eating while others are around (while they are in the crate), tightness of lips, if they are sleeping while the others are active around them and calmness. If they aren’t holding their breath, have loose lips, sleeping while others are around and active, same with eating, start to ease them into social activities. 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. Start interactions positively and end it positively.
If a puppy is under 6 months, they are usually in decompression an average of 2-3 days.
Dogs that are older have gained preferences to things and don’t acclimate as quickly. I’ve worked with dogs with abuse in their past so they take a little longer.
The big thing is to watch for those things I have listed regarding napping, eating, eyes, breathing, lips, overall stiffness, etc and go from there.
If you are questioning the completion of decompression, take a video and rewatch it, it’s a great way to check progress.
When a dog comes out of decompression, this does not mean to throw them in with the rest of the crew. That is a recipe for disaster. Go slow.
If you have specific questions, you can always reach out too.
If you don’t decompress, you are setting the dog up for failure. Does every single dog need it, no, but if you don’t do it, I hope you are a training professional in the dog world. If you need help finding a trainer in your area, please reach out.