Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Recently Kiera took over the blog to talk about fosters and how important they are the success of animal rescue. If you want to know more about what it means to foster go see her blog post: Kiera’s Questions.
As we’ve been working hard to strengthen our foster network I’ve noticed a few things about people who are new to fostering. The biggest thing; they don’t know what to expect. How would they? Even people who have adopted an adult dog from a shelter only had the one experience and if they’re lucky the transition went very smoothly. So, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what to expect when you’re bringing a new dog into your home, whether its for foster or forever.
As previously mentioned by Kiera, in animal rescue we use the rule of three. Three days is probably the most crucial thing here. What should a foster or adopter, expect within the first three days of bringing a dog home:
To be honest, day one, and maybe two and three, are probably going to be pretty tough. Bear with us and we’ll run through all the things that will be second nature to you in no time. These first few days are crucial to letting your pet know where the expectations lie and where their place is in your home. Remember that while you may be nervous, your foster pet is more nervous. That’s ok though! Remember to keep calm and it will help your pet. Talk to them in calm voices and only use a harsh tone if a “No!” is needed. Remember that your pet has been through a lot today. They may have started their day in a shelter or even a home, but they are totally unfamiliar with you, and the space they are now expected to live in.
Our pets live in a relatively small world, their world consists of the walls they live in and a small outdoor area. Today, after coming to you, their ENTIRE world has changed. So be calm, be patient. Today will be tough, tomorrow will be better.
When you first bring your pet home, keep their world small. A new pet should NOT have the run of the house. Keep extra bedroom and bathroom doors closed, block the upstairs or downstairs if possible and let them become familiar with their main living space. Set up their crate in the main living space and leave the door open, place their blankets in it so they know it's a place for them. They are probably going to spend the first hour or more sniffing everything. Let them do this, it’s how they learn. Dogs learn with their noses first, then their eyes as opposed to humans, so let them do their thing. They will likely have a lot of energy and potentially anxiety while doing this. Remain calm and let them wear themselves out. The best thing you can do is to keep and eye on them from a distance, don’t helicopter as it will cause anxiety in both of you. If you can, take a seat somewhere so your body language is calm and relaxed.
Remember that your pet does not know how to communicate to you that it needs to go potty. After you’ve been home for a short time, let’s say 30 minutes, take your pet to go outside and go potty. Praise them when they go and then go back in. The next few times you take them out be sure to go out the same door and they’ll catch on pretty quickly that that door leads to potty time. If they have an accident in the house you’ll need to let them know that this was not acceptable, however, remember that they didn’t know that. Some of these pets may have been living in a shelter, and at the shelter they went potty where they wanted, when they wanted. You may give a firm “No!” and redirect them outside. Sometimes clapping your hands will startle them and stop them. The important thing to remember when this happens is that you do not want your pet thinking you are angry or that they are bad, you simply want to communicate that outside if for potty and inside is not. Once you clap or say ‘no’ you should stop reprimanding them. They’re aware you’re displeased, do not lay into them, this will likely make your new pet fearful as opposed to being able to understanding what’s happening. Take them outside and praise them infinitely so they know outside potty a good thing.
Please don’t allow your dog on the furniture for these first three days. This, along with not allowing them full run of the house is crucial the first three days because it establishes boundaries. Remember, this is not likely your forever dog and we want to work hard to create model citizens for their future owners. Some of you will not want pets on the furniture at all so don’t worry about this next part, others this will be harder. IF you do cave, which a lot of you will haha, PLEASE be sure to let your dog know this is a privilege. This means that if your dog jumps on the couch tell them no and ‘off’. Once all four paws are back on the ground tell them “Good boy/girl”, wait a few moments, pat the couch and call them up. This is the beginning of you two understanding each other and that they must respect you, your rules, and your space.
When leashing your pet to go potty have them ‘sit’ while you leash them up and ‘stay’, or 'wait' until you give the ‘ok!” command. This one takes patience, but if you’ve got the time, follow through with it. Of course there are some mornings where even though you got up early to take the pup out they’re just not cooperating, we get it. The more consistency you have with this particular rule, the better. This rule is important because the dog should know that they are now allowed to just run out doors, they must wait patiently and for permission, teaching them this is going to keep them safe in the event that a door is left open or you’re trying to get something bulky in/out of the house, they will know that running out is not permitted.
When it's meal time, pick their bowl up off the floor and fill it at a higher level. In a perfect world you'd have them sit until you command them “ok,” but the most important part here is that when you place the bowl on the ground they must wait for an ‘ok’ before being able to eat. This is meant to do a few things. One, it helps with boundaries and structure, but most importantly it will help us offset potential resource guarding.
Read your dogs behavior, perhaps you have tons of experience or perhaps this is your first dog, either way forget what you know and remember that you know NOTHING about this dog. Your dog will tell you what they’re comfortable with, let them come to you. This means never putting your face in theirs, never reaching to take a toy from their mouth, not putting your hands in their food, not picking them up abruptly or restraining them with your hands/arms. Do not hug and kiss your new dog, they too know NOTHING about you. Call over your dog when you’re sitting, does the dog climb in your lap, or do they sit next to you. Let them lead you and they’ll tell you what they’re comfortable with.
Will they bark? Absolutely. Especially if you live in an apartment. Don't stress, in fact, don't think about it at all. Remember, this place is entirely new to them. All the sounds are new and they do not know what they mean yet. You're only in the first three days! Give it time.
This may seem like overkill but learning to respect each other and each others space is key to forming a bond. Simple commands like “No,” “off,” and “okay” are a great place to start. Animals thrive on structure and without it they will run your whole house and placing them in a forever home will be hard. If you are consistent and stick to these good habits as much as possible, most dogs will fall right in line with the house rules.
I know this a lot to remember. But these first few days are super important to creating a bond between you and your pet. It sets you both of up for success for your time together, no matter how short, or long, it may be.
Questions? Comments? Let me know!
Until then. I'm out