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.

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.

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.”