Quarantining a rescue dog in foster care is a way to help safeguard your own pets from possible illness or parasites. Most dogs in HRI and other rescue groups are NOT quarantined in a veterinary clinic, but rather are quarantined at home. This has a number of benefits.
By quarantining in your home, the foster dog is able to interact with household members several times on a daily basis. This is important for a dog that has spent time living in a kennel at a shelter or in a puppy mill. Your regular contact is already helping to forge a bond with your foster dog.
By using methods to quarantine your foster dog until there's an "all clear" given by the vet, you can protect your own pets while helping your foster dog adjust to your home. Additionally, quarantining within your home is far less expensive than putting a dog into a veterinary boarding situation. This is important because we have many dogs who need our care and attention and we need to spend our funds wisely.
How can I create a safe place for quarantine inside my own home?
One of the easiest and most effective ways to quarantine a dog within your home involves using an x-pen inside a room with a baby gate to keep your own dogs out of the room. If you want to make a bit of a visual barrier in addition to the space created by the x-pen and the baby gate, you can throw a towel or small blanket over the baby gate.
To protect your floor, many people place a tarp, shower curtain, or even a flannel backed plastic tablecloth underneath the x-pen. This will be your "first layer" of protection.
You can place washable piddle pads on top of the tarp. This will give the dog a place to toilet within the the x-pen. If you plan on using piddle pads later, it's a way to begin training your foster dog to use the piddle pads for toileting.
A crate with an open door can be placed inside for the dog to rest. This, combined with the piddle pads, is actually one of your first steps in HOUSE TRAINING. (We'll discuss this more in some other posts.) You are creating, possibly for the first time in your foster dog's life, a place that is set for toileting and a place for sleeping. Additionally, you can create a place for eating by putting down a small placemat along with his or her water bowl and food bowl.
If your foster dog is a climber, it's possible he or she will jump to the top of the crate and then jump over the x-pen. In that event, you may need to take apart the plastic crate so only the bottom of the crate is there with a blanket or washable cushion or dog bed inside for them to sleep.
Is a baby gate enough for quarantining? How can I keep my pets from touching noses with a foster dog through a baby gate?
Use a baby gate at the door to keep your dogs away from your foster dog(s) in the x-pen. If you don't have an x-pen, a very very large crate that can be set up to have a "sleeping" side and a "piddle pad" or toileting side, can be used. An x-pen is one of the ideal ways to quarantine, however.
How long do I have to quarantine?
This is something to discuss with your vet. Some rescue groups and individual rescuers suggest 2 week quarantines. Others will find that a vet will say with no signs of illness (sneezing, coughing, mattered eyes, or any parasites, for example) it's possible to let dogs have initial limited contact after a week to 10 days.
How can I keep my own dogs away from the area my foster dog is using for toileting outside?
It's important to quarantine both inside your home and outside. Simply taking the dogs out at separate times is not sufficient if you are allowing them on the same lawn. You want to separate your dogs and foster dogs toileting areas until you have a report of a clear fecal exam from your vet. It is important to pick up quickly after your foster dog both to prevent any spread of parasites, if present, and also to prevent bad habits developing.
You can use a rust proof (i.e. plastic) x-pen outside if you have one. It's also possible to build a temporary fence with step in fence posts and a roll of wire.
If I build a temporary fence with fence posts and roll out wire, can I leave my foster dog in that area alone?
Absolutely not! Your temporary fence or outdoor x-pen is NOT meant to be used as containment devices. Think of it instead as a way of keeping YOUR dogs off from this portion of your yard until after you get an "all clear" from the vet.
ALWAYS remain outside and supervise your foster dog when he or she is in their quarantined area of the yard. Do this for 1) security and 2) to reinforce outdoor pottying. When you see outdoor toileting happen, you can begin labeling the behavior. i.e. as soon as you see your dog move into position to toilet, use whatever phrase works at your house such as , "go potty". You want to wait until you see it about to happen so the dog begins to make a connection between his behavior and your "directive" (because it will eventually become a directive). You also can follow up immediately with a "yessssss! Good potty!" Some dogs like treats but it can take a little time before your foster dog from a puppy mill accepts them from you. Verbal praise is a good start and demands nothing from your foster dog.
We'll talk more about approaches to house training and other socialization skills in future emails.
How do I spend time with a dog that is in quarantine?
There are a number of ways to spend time with a dog that's in quarantine. If your dog is ready for physical contact, you can sit and watch TV with your foster dog on your lap. For a dog that is still fearful, simply spending some time in the same room without placing any demands on the dog is a good way to help desensitize your foster dog to your presence. For example, you might sit near the x-pen and read a book. If you read aloud, your dog is hearing your voice.
Some of us begin getting our foster dogs used to our voices by talking and singing to them during transport. If you're giving your foster dog their first name, or helping them learn their name, putting their name in a song is another way to help your dog make this association.
Even when you're not in the room, it's important to give your dog some stimulation such as quiet music playing in the background, or perhaps a television that is on during the day or waking hours of the evening. (It may sound counterintuitive, but Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel are NOT necessarily good choices for our dogs. It can be over stimulating for them to hear barking, whining etc on the television. We lean towards various home improvement channels at our house. There's little screaming since it's not a drama and rarely are animals or barking involved in the shows.
Remember to wash your hands after handling your foster dog in quarantine.
How should I transport a dog that is or will be in quarantine?
Please use a crate for safety for any Havanese your are transporting. (Be sure to clean the crate thoroughly with disinfectant before you use it again.)
Most of us place a sheet or towel on the car seat or on the floor of the SUV or van before we place the crate on top. Be sure to secure the crate so it doesn't slide around with your foster dog inside. The sheet or towel will help protect your vehicle if your foster dog should become car sick. The sheet should be washed, even if you don't think it's dirty, just in case your foster dog has a respiratory infection and hasn't yet shown any symptoms.
Where can I get x-pens and washable piddle pads?
Craigslist, Freecycle and rummage sales can be great places to find equipment for rescue. If you don't see any listed, place an ad yourself, indicating you’re looking for an x-pen or crate because you do dog rescue. It's possible someone will have something they're willing to donate.
HRI has some washable piddle pads that have been donated to us. The puppy mill committee recently requested a donation from an organization that provides them to us for the cost of shipping. If you are fostering a dog from a puppy mill, please request some washable piddle pads from us to help with your quarantining and house training process.
It's also possible to get donations of washable piddle pads yourself by contacting nursing homes and even hospitals in your area and indicating you are from rescue. Many of these facilities have piddle pads they donate either to groups in their community or to larger organizations such as the one that makes these available to HRI and other animal rescue groups.