We all love dogs for their loving and loyal companionship. It’s no surprise that many foster parents find dogs to be a rewarding experience. In order to introduce a new dog into your home, you may need to make some changes, and you will have to train yourself and your family members on how to interact with your foster.
Preparing your Home
A new dog will explore your house. This may be a simple perimeter check or an intense sniffing session into every cupboard and corner. As they become more comfortable, they may stick their nose into other places. Check each room and make changes as necessary:
- Many household items are poisonous to dogs. Put away cleaners, lotions, and medications. Put up or hide alcohol, chocolate, onions, and raisins. Use childproof latches on any cabinets that contain these items. Consider hanging indoor plants or placing them on a tall stand.
- Block any holes or small spaces. Small dogs may hide in them and medium or large dogs may get their heads stuck.
- Cover your trash cans or get trash cans with lids.
Meeting the Kids
Before bringing your foster home, teach your child how to greet a dog. They should be slow and gentle with their movements and allow the dog time to decide if he wants to interact.
- With the first meeting, have your child extend their arm under the dog’s nose to encourage the dog to sniff. When your child pets the dog, start by petting on the side or back to avoid startling the dog.
- Spend time with the dog in the same room but doing different activities. Let the dog walk around and sniff as you read a story or sit on the floor.
- Don’t allow wrestling, pulling a dog’s tail, or riding a dog.
- Don’t leave a foster dog and a child unattended.
Meeting a Cat
Cats are territorial and creatures of habit. The dog will interrupt both of these, so you will have to be patient with your cat as she adjusts.
- Have a safe space for the cat to go at all times. You can use a gate to block off a room or install a cat door. It’s paramount that your cat feels safe in their own home, and their own space helps with that.
- Have someone hold the dog on a leash while you introduce the cat. Have the dog sit or lay down while the cat sniffs. Reward the dog for good behavior with treats or praise. If the cat hisses, put her in her safe space and try again later.
- This may take more time, but, if the dog is too fixated on the cat, separate the two with a gate. Allow them to see and sniff each other, and reward the dog for good behavior toward the cat. Try switching their bedding or feeding them right by the gate on either side. Attempt a meet and greet daily, if it’s not too stressful on either of them.
Meeting Another Dog
Dogs don’t immediately take to other dogs. Like humans, they shouldn’t be expected to like everyone they meet. There are many different ways to introduce a new dog to a resident dog.
- Have them meet outside of the house first. Take them on a walk or to a dog park. Drain the energy in both of them, preferably side by side.
- Next, bring them to your yard. If you don’t have a fenced yard, take them inside to an enclosed room. If they show no aggression, let them off their leashes. Monitor their interaction but don’t interfere unless they show extreme anxiety or aggression.
- An additional option is to use crates or rooms to keep them separated. Switch their bedding and toys every day. This will familiarize them with each other’s smell. Do a meet and greet or play session in a neutral area each day.
Dog Body Language
Know the signs that a dog displays when anxious or aggressive. Some dogs will display multiple signs while others will only use one. Be prepared to intervene if you see any of these.
- Tail between the legs.
- Body lowered.
- Panting or licking the air.
- Ears back.
If this is a first meeting, remove the dog if you see these signs. Try again later or try a different approach.
- Raised fur.
- Curled lips.
- Stiff legs and body.