Adapting to Adoption

By Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis, Tallgrass Founders

Miles, an 11-year old black and tan dachshund, looked so pathetic in his cage Sandy had to take him home. His coat was a powdery gray instead of shiny black. His belly was bloated. And, his tail looked as if it had been broken a number of times, but he was anxiously wagging his entire hind end hungry for human love and attention.

Sandy and Miles arrived home to be greeted by the rest of the pack: a 12-year old spaniel mix, a 10-year old Greyhound, and a dog-friendly cat. As scared as Miles had looked in the shelter, he looked doubly stressed and ready to fly out of Sandy’s arms. What now? 

Bringing a new dog home is as exciting as it can be stressful and challenging for all concerned. Sandy has to deal many unknowns while introducing the new dog. The existing pack is confronted with having to meet the new addition and reestablish the pack hierarchy; while Miles’ life has been completely disrupted. This is a lot all at once.

When adopting a new dog, we need to find ways to ease the dog into the new environment and pack. The goal is to minimize stress and avoid serious injuries to both the newcomer and the original pack members. This is not always a simple task. There are many pack-management techniques suggested by canine behaviorists such as: slowly introducing the new dog to the current household pets; or, selecting one dog to meet the new dog so that they can bond before introducing the entire pack; or, having the dogs meet for the first time on neutral territory like a park; or creating a safe barrier between the new dog and the original pack so that they become acquainted before meeting nose-to-nose. Experienced dog people can offer many sound guidelines for careful re-homing.

Combining Acupressure & Behavioral Techniques

Combining acupressure sessions with behavioral methods of adapting and bonding can contribute to having both the new dog and the existing pack make the necessary shifts in status and accept the newcomer. Adding acupressure sessions can lead to a much shorter period of upheaval and return to peace in the home more readily

The new dog is forced to deal with a number of difficult factors– loss of his original pack, loss of any known routine, a new physical environment, new routines, new food and water, new people, and a new pack. There are acupressure points, commonly called “acupoints,” that can help him adjust and feel secure.

Offering the new dog acupressure only solves half of the problem. We need to work with the existing pack, too. Offer an acupressure session to the most dominant dog in the pack first since the dominant dog will most likely be the most threatened and thus resistant to any change in pack status. Other members of the pack will benefit from the same acupressure session as well. The intention is to reduce the length and severity of readjustment and working with both sides of the “formula” is essential in regaining the balance of the pack.

Acupressure Session for the New Dog

Upon arrival, the new dog is anxious and fearful given the fact that his life has been completely disrupted. This type of change is difficult for a dog and we can select specific acupoints which help to reduce fear and anxiety while building trust to support creating new relationships. We want to begin with acupoints that calm and dispel fear.

Heart 7 (HT 7), Spirit Gate & Pericardium 7 (Pe7), Big Mound, when used in combination are known to calm the dog’s spirit while strengthening and clearing the mind. These points can be held simultaneously with one hand while the other hand is placed gently on the dog’s body. Place the soft part of the tip of your thumb on Ht 7 which is located in the indent on the outside of the dog’s forelimb just above the carpus (wrist). Place your middle finger on top of your pointer and gently press Pe 7 on the exact opposite side above the dog’s wrist on the inside of the leg. Then count to 30 very slowly before releasing the acupoints. Repeat this procedure on the other foreleg. These two acupoints together are powerful.

Going just above Ht 7 and Pe 7 toward the trunk of the dog’s body, there are two other acupoints that can be stimulated simultaneously and have an equally powerful affect on the dog’s energy. These points are:

Pericardium 6 (Pe 6), Inner Gate & Triple Heater 5 (TH 5), Outer Gate together regulate the energy of the heart, calms the mind while also building trust and helping the dog adjust to a new environment. The dog needs to trust his new human and new companions while being open to accepting his new environment, Pe 6 and TH 5 helps the dog build new relationships and feel more comfortable in his new home.

acupoints for change issues

Stomach 36 (St 36), Leg 3 Miles, is an important point that relates to the earth and helps the animal to feel more grounded. Additionally, St 36 is considered a good acupoint for gastrointestinal tract and can help the new dog with any digestive issues, which are common during change. St 36 is located on the outside of the hind limb, below the stifle (knee), just to the side of the head of the tibia (the larger bone connected to the stifle).

Acupressure Session for the Original Pack

The existing herd is experiencing a mixed sense of threat to the pack as a whole and having to jockey for their positions within the pack. Each dog or animal in the pack will have their own reaction to the new dog and offering them acupressure can help diffuse some of the upset and potentially violent behavior.

Again, we can begin with Heart 7 (HT 7), Spirit Gate & Pericardium 7 (Pe7), Big Mound as we did for the new dog. We want to calm spirit and clear the mind of the other family members so they will not feel anxious and threatened. Please follow the same directions given previously under the “Acupressure Session for the New Dog” heading.

Liver 2 (Liv 2), Moving Between, helps to harmonize the emotions and dispels the heat related to anger and aggression. Liv 2 is located on the hind limb on the top of the webbing between the first and second digit (“toe”). This acupoint can be stimulated using gentle thumb pressure while your other hand is relaxed and placed on another part of the dog’s leg. Hold this acupoint on both hind limbs legs in succession while counting to 30 very slowly.

Gall Bladder 21 (GB 21), Shoulder Well, brings energy down and is used to disperse excessive worry, resentment, and anger. Lowering the original pack-members energy surrounding the introduction of a newcomer can help gain his acceptance. GB 21 is located in the soft tissue just in front of the scapula at about its midpoint.

Dogs have their social order that we need to respect, but we are responsible for mitigating the impact and avoiding violent behavior that may result in serious injury when introducing a new member to the family. Canine behavior management and acupressure provide the best possible means of helping dogs sort out their hierarchy more safely and peacefully.

PS. Miles is living happily in his forever family after lots of acupressure and good guidance from the rest of the pack.

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