How I Integrate New Foster Dogs

One of my chickens

One of my chickens

You would think it would be difficult, bringing in dog after dog to a household with existing pets. I now live on my own, in my parents guest house. I have dogs, cats, and chickens. So, how do I do it?

It’s easier than you might think. The cat part is the easiest – they don’t live in my house! They live in my parents house. One is “my” cat, the other is my mothers. As much as I love my cat, it’s nice having a cat-free home when it comes to fostering dogs. I don’t have to worry about dogs being good with cats, or bringing home a dog that wants to kill my cat. It was manageable, fostering dogs and having cats, but it’s much easier having them live in my parents house. I still get to see them every day without having to worry about them being injured by a dog. I cat-test new dogs by bringing them to my parents house and letting them see a cat while on leash. If they do well, they’re allowed to get closer to the cat. If they show that they want to chase or injure the cat, they leave and are not allowed to go to a home that has cats.

Nelly playing with her favorite of all my foster dogs, Tweed.

Nelly playing with her favorite of all my foster dogs, Tweed.(AKA Tweedles & Tweedledee)

Introducing new foster dogs to my dogs is harder. Since it’s summer and I am fostering two dogs at a time, there are 2 dogs that my new foster dogs need to meet – my personal dog Nelly, and whatever other foster dog I have at the time. Usually, my foster dogs are pretty good with other dogs so that is not a problem. Nelly, however, is a brat. People don’t believe me when I say it because she looks so sweet and innocent, but don’t let that cute face fool you. She is a possessive jerk. She guards doorways, gates, chickens, cats, food, toys, you name it. However, I can’t complain, because when I got her she wanted to rip the throat out of every single dog she saw. Using positive reinforcement training, I taught her that other dogs are not something to fear(aggression is rooted in fear) and now we are at the point where she can usually meet another dog with just raised hackles, sometimes a little bit of growling is involved but lately there hasn’t been any. I’m very proud of the progress she’s made so I have to say that I’m happy with raised hackles and growling. I continue to work on teaching her that she doesn’t need to be scared of other dogs. It is a never-ending process.

A former foster dog, Kipper(Kip)

A former foster dog, Kipper(Kip)

When I introduce new dogs, it always through a crate for everyone’s safety. Usually what happens is this: I bring the new dog home – they ride in a crate in the back of my car. I let Nelly out and she right away jumps into the car and sniffs the new dog through the bars of the crate. She feels safe this way and usually there is no growling or hackles raised. This is the safest way to introduce new dogs, as I don’t always know if the new dog will be good with other dogs or not. If they do try to attack, they won’t be able to hurt my dogs as they’ll be separated by the wire bars of the crate. So far, I’ve never had a dog try to hurt another when introducing this way. This is not how I would recommend someone adopting a new pet introduce them to their existing dog, though. I do it just because it’s easy and safe, but it’s not the best way to go. If you have any concerns about your new family member getting along with the existing one, make sure they meet on neutral territory, then walk them home together.

Dustbathing chickens.

Dustbathing chickens.

The chickens can be a bit difficult to do introductions with, as they are scared of new dogs(which is pretty smart of them!). They will all start clucking and run away. What’s really nice is that my chickens now have their own yard, separate from the dog yard. It is separated by 6ft chain link fence, so a dog would have to try VERY hard to get to them. If a dog obsesses over chickens at the fence, they are not allowed to be outside alone as I don’t trust them to not hop the fence to get to them.

Nelly with a baby chicken.

Nelly with a baby chicken.

When I introduce a dog to my hens, I leash the dog and bring them into the chicken yard. If they try to chase, it’s over and they’re not allowed to be around the hens. It seems there’s two types of dogs: the ones that pretty much ignore the chickens, and the ones that want to tackle and hurt them. In my experience, most dogs want to chase the hens, but I still do get dogs that are okay with chickens.

Tweed had severe separation anxiety.

Tweed had severe separation anxiety.

When I first started fostering dogs, they would be out in the house with me almost all the time. I quickly learned that this was a fast way to cause separation anxiety in a new dog. They go from a scary environment(a shelter) to a new environment(my house), so naturally they are feeling pretty scared. This causes them to cling to their person, and consequently they start to freak out when that person leaves their sight or the house. Now, my dogs do not get much freedom when they first come to me. In the morning when I wake up, they go outside and that is where they stay until it gets hot out. Then, they come inside and go to their crate. They usually get no time out in the house with me on their first day. Their second or third day, they get about an hour, and we work up from there. Since I have started doing this my instances of separation anxiety have dropped tremendously. Separation anxiety is a problem that greatly increases the difficulty of getting that dog adopted. I will soon write up an article on separation anxiety – how to prevent it, and what to do if your dog already has it.

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Can I Foster & be a Student?

I started having health problems in the 8th grade. First, it started with a bad back. Then, the chronic nausea hit. Then, I was diagnosed with IBS-D. To put it frankly, my life has been a living hell, especially since I started having problems with IBS. But I carry on.

Roxy, a former foster dog.

Roxy, a former foster dog.

In my junior year of high school, I was failing everything. Straight D’s and F’s. It’s not because I wasn’t smart, and it’s not because I didn’t care about my grades, and it’s not because my parents didn’t try to get me to get good grades. It’s because I was depressed. I was depressed because I was dealing with health problems that made my life horrible. I would go to school, get home and then sleep all day. I’d wake up for dinner, then go to bed for the night. I almost never did homework because I was just too mentally and physically exhausted. I finally convinced my parents to let me leave regular high school and go to an alternative high school. It was 4 hours a day, all on a computer in a classroom, with no homework. I was finally getting good grades for the first time in years.

Loretta, a former foster dog.

Loretta, a former foster dog.

After we moved from Sacramento, CA to Redding, CA we decided to enroll me in independent study high school. I would meet with a teacher once a month and he would give me homework to do, and it would be due at the next meeting. This was the best type of schooling for me, as I could work on my own schedule. If I didn’t feel well, I didn’t have to do work right then. I could do it later when I felt better. I wasn’t pressured to do a load of homework every single night. I worked at my own pace. As long as everything got done on time, there was no issue. With independent study, I did my work, I got it all turned in on time, and I got straight A’s for the entire year I was in independent study. (note: parents, let this be a lesson to you. Don’t be afraid to try a new type of schooling if your child isn’t doing well in traditional school! It just might turn things around for them!)

Riley, a former foster dog.

Riley, a former foster dog.

Now, I’ve graduated high school. My transcripts don’t look great because of the first 2.5 years where I failed everything, but the last 1.5 years look darn near perfect. I just went to my new student orientation on Friday at the local community college, and will be setting up an appointment soon to meet with a councilor to create a preliminary education plan. I already know what I want to do after school – I want to run my own business. I think it’s something I would really enjoy doing. I could run a pet supply store and bring my dog, who is my unofficial service dog, with me to work every day. Life would be good.

Archie, a former foster dog.

Archie, a former foster dog.

My concern now, is actually going to college. I’m going back to a type of schooling that was very hard for me, and this time there will be even more work. I no longer have chronic nausea, that went away after I went vegan, however I still suffer from back pain and pretty severe IBS. I worry that I will fail classes again. I also worry that I won’t be able to continue fostering dogs because I’ll not be able to spend enough time taking care of them. On one hand, foster dogs need more time and attention than my Nelly does. They need training. They need to be taught how to be good family members. Will I still be able to do this while I’m in college? On the other hand…even if I can’t work with them very much, should I still foster? It’s still saving lives, even if they do end up having to go to their new homes without much training. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to continue fostering dogs throughout college, because fostering is something I really enjoy doing. I’ve been doing it since I was 15, and I don’t plan on stopping unless I really have to.

I love fostering dogs.

Stella

Stella sure is something! I could talk about her all day long. I just love this little puppy! She is such a happy, happy, dog. Whenever she sees a new person, her reaction is to happily run up to them. We were having solar panels installed on our new house, and every time Stella saw one of the workers she would run up to them to be pet. I honestly cannot believe she has not been adopted yet, she is such a fantastic little girl! She LOVES other dogs, one of the first thing she did when she met Tucker was race around the yard with him. She gets along great with the cats in my parents house(I now live on my own), she’s interested in them but keeps her distance and mostly just wants to play. Just yesterday she was trying to convince our grump cat Buddy to play with her. She was jumping all around, barking, and play bowing at him. The cat just growled at her, he didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

Stella, exhausted after playing with Tucker.

Stella, exhausted after playing with Tucker.

Stella even gets along with my chickens. There were two days where she thought they would be fun to chase, but that stopped. My chickens have their own yard at my new house, and one day I accidentally left the gate unlocked while Stella was alone in the yard. I came out to find her in the chicken run, sniffing around and looking for any leftover scraps that the chickens hadn’t eaten. The hens were ignoring her and she was ignoring them, it was pretty cute. I learned my lesson that day, though – always double check to make sure that the gate to the chicken yard is locked! If that had been Tucker, I very well could have come outside to injured or dead chickens. I got lucky with Stella.

It is a mystery to me why she has not been adopted yet. You’re going to be very hard pressed to find a more loving, adorable, and friendly puppy than Stella! She’s a great little girl and even does good off-leash around my property. I would not let her off leash in public because she would run up to everyone she saw, but when there’s no distractions she just follows me around. I hope she finds her forever home soon, she really deserves it.

Tucker

Tucker could be a supermodel. Really, he is gorgeous and he loves to pose for the camera…unless there’s something more exciting going on! If you meow, he’ll look at you and give a little head tilt, like in the picture to the left. It’s just a little one, but boy does it melt my heart!
Tucker is only a year or two old. The shelter estimated him to be two years old, however we are thinking he may only be a year old because he’s tall and lanky and has perfect white teeth. He is a darling dog, and very friendly! As I mentioned in my previous post, he and Stella became best friends after less than one day together. They love to wrestle and chase each other around.

It is going to be really good for Stella to have Tucker around – she really needed a buddy to play with. My Nelly tends to be a bit of a brat and refuses to play with Stella. My last foster dog, Dallas, would not play with her either.
When it comes to Border Collies, they don’t really hit maturity until about 4 years old. Until then, they’re usually pretty crazy and need a lot of attention. Tucker is no different. He is a busy boy, always wanting something to do. I’ve already found that he loves Kongs and bones, so those are going to be used daily at our house to keep him occupied! The nice thing about Tucker is that unlike some Border Collies, he does know how to settle down. After he’s gotten his crazies out, he’ll lie down and nap. I leave him and Stella out in the yard for a few hours each morning, so they can run and play and get out all their energy.

Tucker does need a home without chickens. He seemed to do okay around my hens, so I let him off leash in their yard. That’s when he decided to tackle one of the girls and pull out a mouthful of feathers. Poor chicken! She’s okay, she was just a bit shook up after that happened. He also likes to jump up on people – lightly – and put his paws up on things, such as the kitchen counter. He’s simply curious about what’s up there. These are the only bad habits that I have noticed in him so far, overall he seems to be a very kind, gentle, well-mannered dog. I am hoping he finds a home soon…although to be honest, I’d rather little Stella get adopted first. She’s been looking for a home much longer than he has.

Bringing Home Your New Companion – Setting Yourself Up For Success

It’s important to set yourself up for success when bringing home a new dog. They will be a part of your family for many years to come, so you’ll want to make sure that you start things out on the right foot! The following post is information put together by myself and the president of Shine On Animal Rescue. You can find us on Facebook, and IG.

Introductions

Chances are, your current dog(s) met your new family member at the adoption appointment, so they should be getting along well. It is fine to just bring them home and let them be together, since they’ve already met. Introducing your new dog to cats and poultry(if you have them) can be a bit more tricky. With cats, the dogs are put on leash and walked up the cat. If they show too much interest, walk them into another room and try again later. Often times a cat will swat at a new dog, and the dog will leave them alone after that. With poultry, leash the dog and walk them up to the birds. If the dog tries to chase, turn around and walk away. This may need to be repeated several times. We will not adopt a dog out to a family with small animals such as cats or poultry if they are known to be bad with them, so if you are bringing a dog into a home with a cat, the dog passed the “cat test” at it’s foster home. If you’re bringing it into a home with chickens, that means it passed the “chicken test” at it’s foster home.

Go for a walk!

Your dog is in a new environment. It is highly recommended that you take your new dog out on a walk around the neighborhood, so that if it ever gets out of the yard or gets away from you, it will have some sense of where it is and how to get back home.

Crate Training

When trained properly, a dog will view a crate as his or her “den”, a safe place that they can retreat to when they are nervous or just want to take a nap. We highly recommended crating your new dog when he or she has to be left alone, and at night. This doesn’t have to be a permanent thing, and is not required, but we do recommend doing it for at least 2 weeks after your new dog has come home. In our experience, this helps to keep the dog, and your belongings, safe when you can’t supervise them. All dogs adopted from our rescue are crate trained or in the process of being crate trained. A “large” dog crate(appropriately sized for a Border Collie-sized dog) can be bought at most Walmarts for only $60. It’s always good to have a crate on hand, in case you ever need one. Remember to never use the crate punishment. You want your dog to like the crate!

Meet the neighbors

If your neighbors that you share a fence with have a dog, ask if your dogs can meet to prevent possible fence fighting or barking at each other. It’s best that everyone gets along!

Leashes are your friend!

We highly recommend keeping your new family member leashed in the house for the first few days, then watching them closely after this. Dogs adopted from any rescue, ours included, may try to chew, potty in the house, etc. We believe in full disclosure so if a dog has done any of these things in their foster home, we will be sure to let you know – this way you can know what to expect while the dog is adjusting to your daily routine. Keeping them leashed and/or supervising them at all times for at least the first week helps to prevent problems such as accidents in the house.

Potty Breaks

We recommend taking your new dog out to go potty 10-15 minutes after every meal & drink of water, and every few hours. If you see the dog start to sniff around in the house, immediately take them outside as this is an indicator that they need to potty. Take them to the same potty spot every time as this makes housebreaking easier if the dog isn’t already housebroken.

S/A Prevention

Separation Anxiety(s/a) is a common problem in dogs going to new homes, especially when they come to their foster homes. The dog has gone from a terrifying shelter to a completely new environment, so they’re bound to be a bit nervous. Dogs will also often be nervous when going to a new home. Nervous dogs will cling to their people, and consequently freak out when the people leave their sight or the house. To prevent separation anxiety, we recommend giving the dogs no time to explore on the first few days. I keep my foster dogs crated their first couple days, then slowly increase the amount of time they’re allowed out with me, starting with one hour then increasing by half hour increments. Since doing this, the number of dogs I’ve had that developed s/a has drastically reduced. Separation anxiety is a serious problem – it is like a non-stop panic attack for the dog while his or her people are away, so preventing it is very important. If the dog you have adopted shows signs of separation anxiety, we will have let you know. If we didn’t mention separation anxiety to you, that means the dog has is not exhibiting any symptoms of separation anxiety when we leave.

Have fun!!

Last but not least, enjoy your new family member! Go for a walk, relax on the couch, and just have fun together. “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

 

New foster dogs!

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted – you know how it goes. Life happens, and some things take a back seat. For me, blogging was one of those things. I hardly even touched my camera in over a month. But, I’m back at it now and just did a photoshoot yesterday!
I am no longer fostering for Border Collie Rescue of Northern California, as the rescue split in two and I was too far north to be able to continue working with the original rescue. So, I decided to start fostering for a good friend of mine who runs her own small rescue. The rescue is called Shine on Animal Rescue, based in Redding, CA. You can see our website HERE.
Since it’s summer time and school is out, I’m now fostering two dogs at a time. I currently have Stella – a 5 month old Border Collie/Pit Bull mix puppy…

Stella

Stella

And Tucker – a 1 or 2 year old gorgeous Border Collie.

Tucker

Tucker

 

Dallas

Dallas

I am still fostering almost all Border Collies, though I did foster an Australian Cattle Dog that I fell in love with at the shelter. He was just adopted about a week ago by a very nice family. His name is Dallas, and he is an amazing dog! He had one blue eye and one brown/blue eye. Dallas was 60 pounds when he came in to the shelter that I rescued him from, so he was about 15 pounds overweight! With diet and daily exercise, he was almost at his ideal weight(45 pounds) when he was adopted. He will now spend his days riding around in a truck, cruising pastures with his new dad. Dallas was a very easy dog to have around – at about 6 years old he did not have that puppy energy that younger dogs have. He was happy just to hang out all day long. He got along great with all other dogs, cats, and even chickens. His new family is just going to love having him around!!

Stella and Tucker
Oh my goodness, what a pair these two are. I just picked up Tucker from the shelter yesterday morning, and already they are best friends. The two of them love to play together. They wrestled and chased each other around for probably half an hour, nearly nonstop, before bed time yesterday.

Tucker(left) and Stella(right)

Tucker(left) and Stella(right)

This morning when I woke up, I put them outside then went back to sleep for another hour and a half. When I woke up, I looked out my bedroom window into the back yard to see the two of them running around together, holding onto the same stick. I will post more about both of these dogs this week. If you’re in Northern California and know of anyone looking to adopt a dog, please share Stella and Tucker with them! Tucker has only been looking for a home since this morning(and has already had one application), however, sweet Stella has been looking for a home for about 6 weeks now. I can’t believe she has not been adopted yet. She is such a loving, HAPPY dog! Every time she sees someone(stranger or friend) she runs up to them, wiggling her entire body. It is the cutest thing to see a puppy so overjoyed at the simple sight of a person.

Tweed, Dakota

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will probably remember Tweed and Dakota, pictured below.

Dakota(Husky mix) and Tweed(Border Collie)

Dakota(Husky mix) and Tweed(Border Collie)

I just thought I’d give you guys a little update on them. Dakota I was fostering through a shelter. He survived the treatment for a severe case of heartworm, and was shortly after rescued by a great organization. No doubt he was adopted shortly after as most of their dogs are adopted in about a week. Tweed was adopted, and then returned a month later due to no fault of his own. He was with me for several more months before finally finding his forever home! He’s now been with his new people for 8 weeks, and they love him! Although he is STILL not getting along with their cats, they refuse to give up on him. They say that they will keep him even if he never learns to get along with the kitties. I absolutely love their commitment to him, and I am so happy that my sweet Tweedledee has found his forever home. It took 8 months, but it was worth the wait.

Dakota

Tweed

As you all know, I have a foster dog named Tweed. Due to his stranger fear and separation anxiety, he is very hard to adopt out. It will take a long time to find him a home, it’s already been 3 months that he’s been with me. At this point, Tweed has become an easy member of our household, even though he is a foster dog he acts more like a personal dog. Just an all around easy, great pup to have around. I don’t mind fostering him for as long as it takes to find him his forever home.

I am part of several Facebook pages that network shelter dogs in my area, trying to find them homes, foster parents, or get them into rescue before their time runs out. There was a beautiful white Husky named Dakota who was desperately needing a foster home so that he could start treatment for a bad case of heartworm. For at least a month they had been trying to find him a foster home, and not a single person would step up. I have no idea why, as he is a stunningly beautiful dog.

I couldn’t stand the thought of him dying in that shelter because nobody would take him in and get him treated for heartworm. Heartworm treatment involves the dog doing nothing but staying in a crate for 3 months, and the treatment is all covered by donations. So, a little over 2 weeks ago, I said I would foster him. He came here and started 2 weeks of antibiotics, then went in for his first treatment a few days back. So far he’s doing good!

Dakota had spent his life on a chain. He was seized during a raid of a (probably large-scale) marijuana growing operation, he and a German Shepherd were being kept to guard the place. Living outside on a chain meant he was exposed to many mosquitoes(mosquitoes carry and transmit heartworm disease) and as a result, he had a bad case of heartworm by the time he was seized and turned into the animal shelter. His treatment is going to cost at least $600 dollars, and is completely covered by donations from some awesome people! Heartworm treatment requires him spending all of his time in a crate for about 3 months straight. If he gets too excited while undergoing heartworm treatment, he will die. He’s taking 3 pills twice a day right now.

Dakota towers over little Tweed

Dakota towers over little Tweed

He was very matted when he came to me, in fact I had to shave off ALL the long fur on his tail after our first photoshoot. He also had many mats clipped out from the fur on his legs and behind his ears. He gets along extremely well with my personal dog Nelly and my other foster dog, Tweed. The very first thing he did when he met Tweed was give him an invitation to play. Unfortunately I have to keep him separated from my dogs, as he is so set on playing with them. He cannot get excited(and this includes playing) until he is cured of the heartworm.

So, at the moment I have two foster dogs in the house. All Dakota does is stay in his crate, so it’s pretty easy having him around. For the first time in his life he’s learning what it’s like to live in a house and be loved by people. After 2 weeks he is just now starting to really warm up to me.

Oh, did I mention he is GORGEOUS? He is all white, and both of his eyes are brown and blue!

Posted.

After 7 weeks in rescue, Tweed has finally been posted as available for adoption. It took so long because I was dealing with assessing his separation anxiety and extreme stranger fear, and communicating with a trainer on how to deal with it. I also had to go out of town for 2 weeks, so we decided to wait to post him until after I got back from vacation.

Here is what his posting says:

Tweed is a beautiful, happy boy who is on the small side for a Border Collie.

Tweed’s previous owner said he was housetrained, and this seems to be true as he has not had any accidents in his foster home. Besides the occasional jumping up on someone, he has great manners. He loves to give kisses and he especially loves to cuddle.

Tweed has the energy to go out on hikes and long walks, but at the same time he is equally happy to have lazy days where he does nothing but cuddle with his people. He is definitely a “velcro” dog that follows his person everywhere.

He loves any toy I give him, including tennis balls and Frisbees. He is a big fan of sticks and can frequently be seen dragging sticks longer than his body out of the oak forest area of my yard. He also loves to play with the water coming out of the hose.

Tweed will chase a cat that runs, but does just fine with cats that hold their ground. He has been living peacefully with the cats at his foster home for many weeks now, as they don’t run away when he, on occasion, sniffs or pays attention to them. He needs to go to a home where he won’t have access to chickens as he thinks they are fun to chase.

Tweed gets along great with other dogs, and listens extremely well when they tell him to stop something by giving a warning signal. He is very playful and loves to wrestle and chase with his foster sister. Unfortunately, he does try to hump any dog he sees. My personal dog does not allow this and after just two warning nips, he never tried it again with her. The foster parents who watched him while I was on vacation said he tried to hump their dogs, but stopped when they told him “no”.

Tweed came from a home where it seems he was never socialized, and because of this he is very afraid of new people. Because he is afraid, he clings to his person and does not like to be left alone. I am working with Tweed, with the advice of a professional trainer, to fix his issues but it is a slow process. Besides these problems, he is a GREAT dog! His foster family adores him and although they love him, they want him to find his forever home! At the moment we are only considering homes with a good amount of dog training experience, where he will not spend time alone during the day. Because he likes to chase things, we will not consider homes with young children.

Because this question gets asked a lot, I’ll answer it right now – No, he is not at risk for being euthanized. Dogs in our rescue do not have a set number of days until they’re euthenized, like they do in many shelters. Like any other dog in our rescue, he will be safe with us until he is adopted, and we DO NOT settle for the first applicant. For every foster dog I have, I wait as long as it takes for the perfect home to come along. Sometimes a dog gets lucky and that perfect home is available right away, and they’re adopted quickly. Other times, we reject a lot of applications – I had a dog that had herding/nipping problems, and we rejected something like 20 applications before he found a suitable home.

Because I have high expectations for Tweed’s potential adopters, it will probably take a while to find him his forever home.
But we can cross our fingers and hope that it happens soon.

“It’s All About How You Raise Them”

In 2007, Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting. Somewhere around 50 dogs were taken from his property, the majority of them being Pit Bull Terriers.

About half of his fighting dogs spent their lives chained to buried car axels, just out of reach of one another, and most of them were in poor physical health. At his property there were rape racks(devices used to restrain a bitch so a dog can mate with her without being attacked), a fighting pit, and blood-stained carpets. Dogs that did not perform well were killed, either by hanging, drowning, or being repeatedly slammed against the ground until they died. While I don’t know the specifics about the upbringings of these dogs, I think we can all agree on one thing – it was probably not good. I highly doubt that Vick spent time socializing, petting, and playing with each and every one of these 50-something fighting dogs.

And yet, of all the dogs taken from his fighting ring, you know how many had to be euthanized due to aggression?

One. Just one.

Many of Vicks dogs have gone on to earn their CGC’s(Canine Good Citizenship), some are therapy dogs, some are beloved family pets.

And this is why I feel the overwhelming desire to slam my head against a wall when people say “It’s all about how you raise the dog,” or “Blame the owners, not the dogs.” Clearly Michael Vicks dogs were not raised in the happy, loving environment that true dog lovers will provide. So if it’s all about how you raise the dog, why were Vicks dogs not vicious man-killers? Why is it, then, that people who have done everything right sometimes end up with dogs that are aggressive?

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I've ever known.

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I’ve ever known.

It’s because of genetics, the driving force of who we are. Genetics is why reputable Border Collie breeders only breed together good working dogs – to produce more good working dogs. Genetics is why you can’t breed together a dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” with another dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” and expect to get a great trial dog from the litter. Genetics is why no breeder in their right mind is going to breed together two aggressive dogs. Genetics is why reputable breeders will only breed dogs of sound body and mind.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that environment/upbringing does not play a big role in a dogs behavior, because it certainly does! However, “nature vs. nurture” with dogs is something to be covered in another post.

The point of this post is to explain that it is absolutely absurd to claim that all aggressive dogs are simply products of bad upbringing. The saying “it’s all about how you raise them” leads so many people to think they can go buy puppies from backyard breeders and then expect them to all grow up to have stable temperaments as long as they are raised right, and that is just not always the case.

“It’s all about how you raise them” is nothing more than a dangerous myth.

I Play Favorites

After fostering dogs for a long time, you learn to pick out which dogs are extraordinary. I believe all dogs are special, but sometimes you meet a dog that just stands out from the rest. And this post is about those extra-special dogs, my “top two”.

Number One

My number one favorite dog is named Levi. I had him the longest of any of my foster dogs – 4 months. He had good pictures, he was an awesome dog, but nobody wanted him. He received very few applications in his time with me, and none of them worked out. His only problem was separation anxiety, which can be fixed.

He is such a relaxed, happy dog. While he loved to go out and play and run and wrestle with Nelly, he was also perfectly content to spend an entire day lounging around the house with me. He was constantly trying to convince my cats to be his friends, but the cats didn’t think so much of that idea. He did manage to make friends with the younger cat, but my Buddy remained wary of him.

My Nelly is very picky about what dogs she will play with, but Levi was also one of her favorites. I have a “no playing in the house” rule, but Levi was constantly trying to get her to play inside. It’s all he wanted to do, play! He would grab her neck scruff and gently pull on it, or paw at her, or nudge her with his nose until she gave in and played with him.

After those 4 months with no luck finding him a home, he went to another foster home further south in my state. There he was adopted by a lady who has added me on Facebook and says I can visit him if I am ever near. She posts a lot of pictures of him, and I can tell he is very happy there!

Number Two
Another favorite of mine is a recent dog, adopted in May, named Riley. Riley was found wandering in a wildlife refuge, where dogs will often get shot if they are caught harassing wildlife. He got lucky – he simply jumped into a person’s truck when they came through, then came to rescue. Riley had a bad leg, it appeared to have been broken and healed crooked some time in the past. He didn’t let it slow him down!

Riley was a near perfect dog, his only real behavior problem being that he was obsessive about herding people by nipping at them. I worked with him on it, and waited patiently for the right adopter to come along – someone with Border Collie experience. Eventually I got an application that was up to my expectations, and they adopted him. They loved him and continued to work with him, and tell me that his nipping is now a rare occurrence. His adoptive mom says he’s “the best dog in the world”.

We rejected about 20 applications for Riley before finding his perfect home.

Few things make me happier than knowing a dog I’ve fostered is in a loving, happy home.