The 2 Week Shutdown – How to introduce a new foster dog to your home

Your foster dog’s stay in your home may be temporary, but it’s key to a successful transition to his permanent adoptive home. With that in mind, please be mindful of the following:

First introduction to any resident dog(s): Have them meet on “neutral” ground before bringing your foster into your home. Walk them together, one adult per dog, giving them time and space to “check each other out.” If transporting them, always use separate crates, covering wire ones to ensure each dog has privacy.

Once home: For the first two weeks (sometimes longer), your foster dog must be “shut down”, his life kept simple, thereby allowing him time to acclimate himself to his new environment, to familiarize himself with the household’s “hierarchy” and to find his proper place in it. You, as the foster, must be the boss, acting consistently in everything you say and do.

Limit his freedom: Keep your foster dog in a plastic or wire crate (whichever is most comfortable for him) or x-pen set up in a well-trafficked area where he can relax and observe your household routine while you, in turn, observe him and monitor his behaviors. Leash him to you umbilical style as you move around your home. This lets him know that YOU are the person to trust, the one who brings him good things, while building trust and establishing boundaries. It also keeps him from having accidents, making mistakes or getting into trouble.

Exercise: Ensure your foster dog is burning off enough excess energy to help him relax but DON’T take him on walks just yet. Since they can be overly stimulating and overwhelming for a dog with a new person in a new environment, exercise him on a long lead in your yard until you know each other better. If you don’t have a yard, take him on controlled, calm walks during quiet hours. Don’t, however, stop to socialize with other dogs but DO explain your particular situation to the dogs’ owners.

Post-walk protocol: After each brief, leashed walk, always return your foster dog to his crate/x-pen to absorb the experience in peace and quiet.

Socialization: Resist the temptation to bring your foster dog to friends’ homes, pet stores, dog parks, etc. Too much, too soon! Wait until he trusts you more and you’re relaxed in one another’s company. Resist, as well, the temptation to use “baby talk” with him or coddle him, especially if he’s come from a bad situation, so as not to reinforce any timid, tentative or fearful behaviors on his part.

Access to your other dogs: A crate or x-pen is the best way for your foster dog to “interact” safely at a distance with your other dogs. They can smell each other and read each other’s body language, including calming signals, without having to touch. More importantly, they can’t get into any kind of conflict with one another. Rotate your foster dog and the resident dogs, having them take turns in the crate or x-pen. With your foster dog leashed to you umbilical style, you’re affording him some much-deserved freedom, allowing him the opportunity to grow more comfortable in his new surroundings and strengthening his bond with you. Keep rotating crate/x-pen time and free time for longer periods each day.

No extreme petting or over handling: With everything still so new to your foster dog, continuously petting, stroking or “manhandling” him in any way will only add to his confusion and discomfort. By allowing him time to absorb his situation without this additional pressure, he will gradually come to YOU for pets and affection.

No obedience-like training: Concentrate on relaxing play and fun exercise ONLY. Throw a few toys or tennis balls for your foster dog to go after, sniff at, chew on, and, possibly, even bring back to you. NO tug-o-war! Calm and casual, paw-lease.

No furniture privileges at first: As an essential part of setting boundaries, access to furniture should be “by invitation only” at the best of times, and certainly NOT at the beginning. To correct behaviors such as jumping and counter surfing, tether your foster dog to you with the leash and gently re-direct his attention, rewarding him with praise and treats each time he obeys.

Ignore “bad” behavior: If your foster dog barks, whines or cries, don’t cuddle or console him. It only reinforces this behavior. Instead give him attention and praise for “good” behavior such as resting quietly or chewing on a toy. And treats always work wonders.

Easing separation anxiety: Gradually accustom your foster dog to being alone by leaving your home briefly then returning, repeating this several times over a period of a day or two, then increasing the time from a few minutes to a half hour to an hour. This way, he won’t feel abandoned. When you return, walk in calmly and don’t fuss over him until he’s settled down.

Visiting the vet: Don’t let your foster dog greet other dogs and keep him calm by speaking gently to him. No dog is fond of vet visits, but for your foster dog, it may be particularly traumatic. Keeping a calm demeanor will, hopefully, ease some of his fears and allow him to process the experience more positively.

If you follow these protocols faithfully, by the end of two weeks, you should start to see your foster dog’s true personality emerge. (These protocols can be adjusted to fit your specific household). Your foster dog will let you know when he’s ready to move forward by a
shift in his demeanor, his body language and his facial expression – all indicators that he trusts you and that he can be trusted as well.

Also important: Check in with your Foster Liaison via email – to report that all’s going well or to address any questions or concerns you might have. The full resources of BTRC are available to you, and we’ll work together to resolve any issues that may escalate and require moving your foster dog to another home.

Remember: An initial Foster Dog Report must be completed and returned to your Foster Liaison when your foster dog has been in your care for two weeks.

And this bears repeating: Dog parks are NOT allowed at ANY time while you are fostering for us.