Your own pets have likely been very much aware of your foster dog even while your foster is in quarantine. That doesn’t mean that you can skip a careful introduction, however. You want everyone to get off on the right foot.
There are numerous ways to go about a careful introduction. In all instances, if you have more than one of your own pets, you want to introduce them to your foster dog one at a time. Bringing everyone together at once can lead to at least one dog in the pack feeling crowded or displaced. In addition, any negative feelings can be catchy.
Following are several scenarios that have worked for foster homes in HRI.
When introducing a foster dog to the family dogs, it’s possible to do so by bringing in the empty crate the foster dog has used. This gives your family dogs a chance to smell the crate and thus the foster dog. Then remove the dogs from the room and bring in your foster dog, with nobody else around. Let the dog explore while she’s on a leash.
After the foster dog has checked out the room, and noticed the smells of the other dogs, place her inside her crate which you can place up on a side table so she’s off the floor. Then bring in one of your own dogs and let the two dogs smell each other through the crate. After a few minutes, bring your first dog out and bring another dog in until every dog has had a chance to be in the room with their new foster sister in the crate. At that point, leave the dog in the crate up on table
and allow your family dogs to join you in the room.
Depending on how your foster dog is adjusting to the bustle of your home, bring her out into the living room with one of your family dogs at a time, with her crate on the floor and open so she can retreat if she wants. Start with a dog that is most likely to accept the foster dog. When things are working well with individual dogs, let two of your dogs at a time in the room with your foster dog roaming freely. You should ALWAYS be present to supervise when your foster dog and family pets are getting to know each other. Do not leave them alone for even a brief period of time.
If you have a cat, it’s important that you first introduce your foster dog to your cat in a way that protects your feline. It’s easier to prevent a dog from chasing a cat than it is to cure the habit. Good introductions can lead to at least tolerance if not friendships.
Introductions at our house always take place outdoors. With a separate fenced yard inside our fenced backyard, there is space for a new foster dog to explore safely. One family dog at a time is allowed outdoors. I always begin with the dog most likely to be accepting of a new foster dog.
First the dogs meet through the wire fence. I can help both dogs practice good manners by dropping a few treats on the ground near each dog. They sniff the ground (looking for treats) which is polite dog manners when meeting a strange dog.
After they’ve had a few minutes to greet through the fence and assuming all is going well, I lift my own dog over the fence and stay in the smaller fenced yard with the two of them.
After the two dogs have had time to be accustomed to each other, my family dog is removed and placed back in the house and another dog is brought out to go through the same process.
When each family dog has met the foster dog individually, I let several dogs be outside in the yard at once. They typically play with each other and are not overly interested in the foster dog at this time as they’ve already met. Another family dog is added to the large fenced yard until all four family dogs are out. One at a time, depending on their interest, one dog is brought into the small yard with the foster dog while the other dogs continue to play in the large yard.
This introduction has worked well for many years. There is enough space for everyone to have room for retreat, if they wish.
After several days, when the foster dog is reliable about coming when called or easily able to be brought into the house by a leash, the gate to the small yard is opened and all the dogs are able to play together anywhere they want in the yard.
Introducing dogs inside without a crate is similar to both greeting scenarios already listed. The foster dog is allowed to explore one of the larger rooms in the house, most often the family room or living room. One at a time, the family dogs are brought into the room so each dog can meet.
After each individual dog has met successfully, a pair of dogs most likely to accept a foster dog well are allowed in the room along with the foster dog. This can continue for as long as necessary until you are able to have your usual mix of dogs in the room along with the foster dog.
At least one crate is provided for any dogs that want to make a retreat.
Variations of the introduction scenarios above can be done with the use of a baby gate or ex-pen to separate dogs as they get to know each other.
Watch the interactions to see that each dog is exhibiting good manners. Looking off or looking away, sniffing the ground, yawning, play bows, and approaching in an arc are all signals of good manners. Hard stares and stiff body postures almost always indicate a negative interaction will occur. Call off the interaction and separate the dogs.
Never make dogs meet face to face. (Think of people that greet each other, carrying dogs, who push their dogs toward each other “so they can say hello.”) That is how people greet, but it’s extremely rude in dog language and can instigate a growl, snarl or snap. Don’t set your dog up for a poor introduction.
Give the dogs space to meet each other and to position their bodies in a way that indicates polite dog manners.
In multiple-dog homes, always introduce the family dogs one at a time to the new foster dog.
Always remain with your foster dog and your family dogs when they are together. If something requires you to leave the room, do not leave the dogs together. Place your foster dog back in her crate or in another room until you’re there to supervise.
Remove any items that can cause problems. Leaving “chews” or favorite toys out where dogs are interacting can stimulate resource guarding or defensiveness.
Please keep in mind that dogs that have been introduced and are doing well together still should not be left unsupervised when you are away from home. Your foster dog will adjust to spending time in the x-pen or another room until you return from your errands or work.
With thoughtful introductions, you help your foster dog get off on the right foot and your family dogs have the opportunity to play with new companions.
From the Puppymill Committee