Patience is a virtue, and especially so when you foster a dog but have another pooch at home. Or it could be that bringing a foster dog home proves to be the perfect playmate for your existing pet.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to go slowly when introducing a foster dog into your home. Here are some ideas on how to go about it:
- For the introduction, keep both dogs on a leash so they are under control, but don’t keep the leash too tight. “A tight leash sends a message to the dogs at the beginning: watch out,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor at the veterinary school at Texas A&M University and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “So the owner’s anxiety sends a message upfront.”
- Introduce the two dogs on neutral territory if possible, like a dog park, or even the sidewalk, so the resident dog doesn’t have to defend his or her territory. This also reduces the dominance factor and is fair to both dogs, says Sarah Oren, founder of Foster Dogs NYC.
- Once you let the dogs off leash, if you are at all concerned, leave a short drag leash, says Beaver, so you have something to get hold of.
- You could also keep the dogs in separate rooms at first, then let each one sniff under the door of the other, says Sharon Mear, a trainer with the Alliance for NYC’s Animals. “Dogs and cats interpret the world predominantly by smell,” she explains.
- If there’s some growling it doesn’t mean it’s going to get nasty. Step back for a little while and see, so long as you’re comfortable,” suggests Oren. “Don’t jump the gun too early but don’t let it turn into something it shouldn’t.
- Walk the dogs past each other a couple of times to see what their reaction is, says Chrissy Dahn, foster program coordinator for the Michigan Humane Society. “If there’s no growling or baring teeth, the dogs could get closer to each other.”
- Don’t have the resident dog’s toys everywhere when the foster dog arrives. The resident dog might become very dominant over the toys, Oren points out. You should even try to avoid having any toys if you introduce the dogs at a dog park. It’s just an additional stressor, she adds.
- Make sure each dog has his own crate and his own toys. “They need to have somewhere to retreat to that the other one isn’t welcome in,” Oren says.
- Make sure your resident dog knows his commands so you can have some control.
- If the two dogs fight, throw a blanket over them, or get a broom you can lodge in their mouths, or throw water over them, Mear suggests. “Be prepared with this before you introduce them—just in case.”
- Have someone else with you when you introduce the two dogs so you have more control, Mear advises. You could even call in a trainer to help out if you don’t feel confident.
- Keep a very calm household which means you set the precedent for the dogs, says Jade Giuggio, owner of Polite Paws, a dog training company in Downingtown, PA. “If you’re high energy, high stressed, don’t get into fostering right away because it’s better for the dogs.”
- Make sure you have plenty of time. If you work, make sure you can exercise the two dogs in the morning and evening, and if not, try and find someone who can come over to walk them. “Dogs need physical and emotional stimulation,” Giuggio says.