This is a simplified breakdown of my personal "foster dog introduction" process! Every foster dog is different, responds differently, has different needs, challenges, and exceptions. Below is the basic guide of what I do when I bring a new foster dog home.
The first few days will be hard. The first week may be hard. There will be frustrations and possibly exhaustion. Don't Give Up! Google videos and help articles. Ask friends who have more experience. Review materials provided by your shelter or rescue. Learn, lead, love.
- PREPARE PRIOR TO PICK UP - have space ready for dog, other pets no access to that space, leave calming music on
- CALMING TREAT - I give one upon pick up (or in their first food, if too nervous to eat a treat upon car pick up)
- LET THEM POTTY OUTSIDE - do not remove slip lead, this leash will stay on until further notice, for quick control
- BRING INSIDE TO CRATE - Give them water, food, treats in there
- LET THEM RELAX A BIT IN CRATE
- TAKE OUT FOR POTTY BREAKS REGULARLY - especially if you are unsure of potty training status!
- HAVE SOME ONE-ON-ONE out of crate time with them DO NOT LET RESIDENT ANIMALS OR KIDS INTERACT, YET
- GO INTO MILITARY MODE WITH YOUR ROUTINE - this will calm the dog and help them settle faster because they know what to expect as far as schedule goes (wake up, walks, play, eat, hang space, etc)
- PACK WALKS ONLY with resident dog(s) for 5-ish days, this establishes the dogs spending time together "working" under calm, human guidance before excited play is introduced
- LEAVE SLIP LEAD ON FOSTER until you feel confident about foster dog's behavior and reactions around resident people and pets, this is usually about 5 days for me - just leave the slip lead on them, dragging, at all times
- CRATE AS NEEDED - once I find out a dog is potty trained and non-destructive, they can move to the office as "their room" for private time and overnight; if we don't clear those things, the crate is continued; some prefer crate usage for entire foster stay, this is fine!
- FEED SEPARATELY always, for entire time with foster; food is a valuable resource, there is no reason to feed a foster dog near resident dog(s)
- INTRODUCE PLAY SLOWLY I do this after a long walk on about the 5th day and only for about 60 seconds, if it goes well, we end on that good note then build up longer sessions
- INTRODUCE SHARED SPACE INSIDE SLOWLY - again, build this up, don't just plop them into the same space and hope for the best GUIDE AND CONTROL THIS, this can start when slip lead is on with you holding slip lead, at all times
- INTRODUCE TO CATS sloooowly with dog on slip lead, always until you feel confident a dog is cat friendly, if there is any question - NEVER let the foster dog loose around resident cat(s)
- DO NOT TAKE FOSTER DOG TO PUBLIC SPACES UNTIL THEY ARE SETTLED - this includes restaurants, stores, and never ever take a foster dog to a dog park - this is against the rules of almost all shelters and rescues for many good reasons
- TIMELINES WILL SHIFT WITH EACH FOSTER - it is on the dog's acclimation time, some will go faster, others take much longer, they will hit milestones at different paces in different ways unique to each individual animal!
- DON'T GIVE UP - ask for help, watch videos online, take a breath, you got this!
It is the human's job to set the dog up for success. Failure or unwillingness to do the (very brief) initial work may result in dog fights, mistreatment, and/or abandonment. You can do it! Learn and give your pets the simple tools they need to thrive and give you a calm, loving pet household.
See the OLIVER highlight on the Dallas Love Bugs instagram page for video of the above steps.
See 3/3/3 Article for more on the typical 3 Days, 3 Weeks, 3 Months Expectations and Timeline.
The content on this website is based on personal experience and researched information. Please note no one here is a professional vet, trainer, or behaviorist. Always consult your vet and trainer about what is best for your dog or cat and their mental & physical health!