ART: Introducing the foster dog...
INTRODUCING THE FOSTER DOG AND MY OWN DOG...Hello again, and welcome back to this continuing story of fostering. In Issue 3 you read how to bring the new Airedale rescue into our rescue program and you‘re pretty sure you can handle that part. Reading about the Part-Time Buddy Club in Issue 4 has really spiked your desire to become a member of that club, but there is still one area you’re concerned about: How will the foster dog and your home dog get along? What is the best way to introduce them?
Yes, there are general guidelines to follow when introducing a new dog to the pack, and yes, there is more than one way to do it. We are terrier people, and as such, we generally think our own method is the best way to do something (we’re just like our Airedales in many ways, aren’t we!) What I’m going to share with you is the method I derived in my 18 years of doing Airedale rescue, having introduced several hundred rescued Airedales to my home pack of ‘dales. While this method may seem unnecessarily cautious to some, I can only say I’ve done it without a single dog fight breaking out in all those years.
Whenever possible, I much prefer to begin the introductions early in the day, allowing ample time for the new foster (let’s call her Suzie) to explore her new foster home, and meet her new foster family. Before bringing Suzie into your residence, make sure your home dog (we’ll call him Bozo) is crated or otherwise secured out of sight and sound of the introduction area. A minimum of two dog-savvy adults is needed for introduction time. Keep things as quietly relaxed as possible.
When weather permits, the introduction can be made in your fenced yard. Keeping Suzie on lead, take her into the yard and walk her around as she explores this new area. She will want to sniff and learn what she can about the other canines in the family from the scents in the yard. Give her at least 15 minutes or more to explore and to interact with you and your helper. When she seems to be relaxing, you can begin the introduction to your own Airedale, Bozo.
The reason for keeping both dogs on lead during the introduction process is to maintain control and avoid conflict. The foster dog is generally nervous and may need to feel the protection of the lead until she sees there is nothing to fear from this other dog. If a growl erupts, a firm negative sound from you for that behavior will usually solve the problem. You are the pack leader in this introduction and will set the tone for behavior.
With your helper holding Suzie on lead, you bring Bozo on lead into the yard. In a calm and reassuring manner, begin the introduction by giving each dog enough lead to get up to each other to meet. They start nose to nose but quickly want to sniff the opposite end. Allow them to do this, all the while being careful not to allow their two leads to become entwined. Expect Bozo to be very interested in this new girl, just don’t allow him to be too overbearing so he doesn’t unnecessarily frighten Suzie with his attention. Drop Bozo’s lead when he has settled down. Keep the lead on Suzie until you feel confident all is well, then drop her lead too.
My Airedale pack normally consisted of 4 or 5 of my personally owned Airedales plus another one or two fosters in-house. If you are a multi-dog family, introduce your home dogs one at a time. It can be overwhelming to the new foster to have a pack of home dogs swarm over her all at once. I’d first introduce my pack leader dog to the foster. When those two were comfortable, I’d bring in the next dog and begin the process again, introducing each home dog individually. Soon all are playing together.
When weather prohibits an outdoor introduction, the second choice is the home kitchen. Arriving at your home, the foster dog should be taken on lead into the fenced yard. Walk Suzie around the yard so she can explore all the new sights and smells. Hopefully, she will also use this opportunity to relieve herself before entering your house. Taking her in, keep Suzie on lead and walk directly into the kitchen. Allow her to explore this new room. When she feels comfortable with you and this new room, it’s time to bring Bozo in, following the same procedures as outlined above, introducing one dog at a time.
When ready to introduce Suzie to the rest of your home, do so on lead, one room at a time. You may think it the biggest kindness to give Suzie immediate full run of the house, but I strongly suggest giving freedoms gradually. Too much too soon can be confusing for the foster. Let her first feel secure in a special place, i.e. her crate, or a small room. Expand her world gradually.
If, during the introduction time, things are not going well, simply back off and be prepared to do things more gradually. You can try again in a little while. If the foster dog is especially fearful, she may be too nervous to accept the introduction. In this case I’ve found it easier for an especially fearful dog to simply have the time to watch the family interact before she is expected to be part of it. In the safety of crate, which has been placed in the kitchen (or the best spot in the house), Suzie can watch and learn. Let her just watch the dogs play. Let her watch how the humans treat the dogs and see that the dogs have no fear of the humans. In a few hours, or a day or so, depending on the individual dog, the foster will learn there is nothing to fear. In this more relaxed state of mind, the introduction can take place.
If the dogs are not accepting each other right away, it may be necessary to keep them separated at first, which can be accomplished by use of baby gates, dog gates, crates, etc. That is definitely not the normal expectation but if it does occur, contact your local coordinator or experienced Airedale rescue volunteer to discuss the solution that will best work for you.
Some general suggestions when bringing a new dog into the house:
- A foster of the opposite sex of your home dog is usually easier to deal with. That does NOT mean dogs of the same sex can’t be housed together! All depends on the temperaments of the individual dogs involved.
- It is normal for a male dog to lift his leg to pee in a new environment, to put his claim on the new territory. A good reason to bring any dog into your home on lead as he adjusts to this new environment.
- If a male has been recently neutered, he will not lessen his hormone-driven tendencies for many weeks following that surgery. Hormone-driven behavior usually lessens gradually after neutering.
- If the rescue has not yet been housebroken, that new behavior can be accomplished quickly by using many of the same rules for training a young pup. I’ve housebroken many adult Airedales and found it to be a quick and easy procedure following these rules. An adult Airedale acquires this new behavior quickly, learning from the training rules and by watching your home Airedale. Dogs will mimic behaviors they observe - good and bad!
- Belly bands can be used effectively for controlling male leg-lifting in the house.
- If a rescue has not yet been crate trained, that can be accomplished easily. Ask us!
- Be sure to give your home dog attention so he isn’t jealous of the foster. It’s easy to give special attention to the foster, and that’s fine. Don’t ignore your home dog in the process. Equal attention makes both dogs feel secure.
- Situations that create competition between dogs and can cause conflict include things like food treats, special toys and possessions like their favorite resting spot. Be aware and be fair!
- Avoid crowding at doorways with dogs jockeying for position.
- Feeding the foster in her crate gives her the security and privacy she enjoys.
My hope is that this has given you the courage to begin your membership in the
Part-Time Buddy Club. The rewards of fostering are so great. I really want to encourage you to share those joys. If your question about the introduction hasn’t been answered here, send me an email to let me know.
I look forward to hearing from our readers and learning if these articles are helpful - especially for those volunteers seeking additional knowledge and training. Please take a few minutes and send me your comments about what we’ve done so far and what you’d like to see covered in the future. Thanks!
ART Newsletter Copyright 2009 by Sally Schnellmann and National Airedale Rescue. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden without the publisher's written permission.