Decompression – The What, The When and The How

May 16, 2023 | Greyhound care

Decompression is something we talk about a lot here at Greyhound Rescue. We will talk about it when you first take your hound home on trial, after a particularly stressful walk, for some hounds it may come up post vet visit, and more. If you’ve ever wondered just what we mean, we’ve put together an explanation below. 

What is it?

When we talk about decompression, we want you to think of it as a calming period, necessary time for your pooch to chill out. It is time away from potential stressors, time to process the new things they’ve experienced and ‘switch off’ for a while. 

It’s also key to building a successful and trusting relationship with your hound. 

When a dog experiences stress, adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body. While a natural amount of cortisol is needed by the body, a regular production of too much cortisol can lead to negative implications. Behaviourally, the more cortisol there is in a dog’s system, the more likely they are to be highly nervous and reactive.

It can take up to 72 hours to return to a normal level of cortisol. If stress occurs, it is critical that your dog is given time at home for those cortisol levels to reduce. 

Some examples of when you might need to allow time to decompress include: 

  • Walking your hound frequently at a high level of arousal and in a reactive state. They are over threshold, and in a constant state of stress. 
  • Arriving in a new home. Most greyhounds have been raised in rural areas and in a kennel environment. Everything will be new to them which means they will be experiencing a level of stress.
  • You’ve had visitors, and although you made sure your hound had a safe space, there were lots of loud voices and much squealing. It kept them in a distracted state. 
  • You’ve just moved house and everything is new. 

In all of the above examples, your hound will benefit from decompression time. 

What are the benefits of decompression time?

  • When it comes to moving into a home, decompression time is critical. They will be highly stressed and unsure of their new surroundings. This ‘calm’ time enables them to become more familiar with their new world. You can find more on what to expect in the first few days of bringing your hound home here.
  • They will learn that you aren’t pushing them when they are uncomfortable, and place their trust in you.
  • Your hound will be able to return to a balanced state of mind. 
  • It’s good for their health. While your hound may learn to cope with these prolonged high stress levels, this can have long-term physiological and psychological effects. Providing time to decompress significantly reduces this risk.

How do I know when my hound needs time to decompress?

Firstly, you should be taking note of what your hound is communicating to you. Know the signs of stress

Next, it’s important to learn what your hound’s specific triggers are. Once you understand this, you can evaluate what may have caused stress levels to rise in any given situation and remove them from the stressor.

Be aware of trigger stacking, which is when too many stimuli that the dog is sensitive to occur in a short period of time. Behaviour will continue to escalate until your hound is given time and space to calm down. 

If you spot signs of stress in your hound, can see they are overwhelmed and are having big reactions to their environment, then it’s probably time to decompress for a couple of days.

What can you do instead of walking? 

We have a great article here with alternative activities to walking. These include things like enrichment, a ride in the car, and more. 

If your hound has had a negative experience, then get back to basics and keep things simple. It’s the best thing you can do for your hound.

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