What's Fetch's biggest challenge right now? Our foster parents are too good. They're awesome at introducing dogs slowly. They're really cautious with dogs and kids, and ensure safety for all involved. They're consistent and successful at potty training dogs, and many never have an accident. They're excited about training dogs, and work them through separation anxiety, door charging, leash reactivity, and stranger danger. They're adamant about getting their dogs the exercise they need. Overall, they're just phenomenal advocates for their foster dogs, and aren't afraid to stand up for them. Seriously, these foster parents kick butt! Sounds like a pretty great problem to have, right?
The problem comes into play when these Fetch dogs then go home with their new adoptive families. Everyone is flush with joy and love. There's cuddling and playtime and the treats overfloweth! It's tough to be the bad guy, but I'm here to tell you - you're not doing anyone any favors. While we work hard to keep our dogs placed in their adoptive homes (that's why they're called furever families, after all) through training and advice, it's often what happens when the trainer isn't around that makes or breaks you. So, here's some advice for you. Follow our steps -- listen to us! We really do know how these dogs work best.
The key to introducing two dogs successfully is time, patience, and leadership. Here are the steps foster families follow prior to introducing resident dogs to foster pups. The important thing to remember is this - it does not matter if the dogs are both friendly. When a dog is moving into a new home, this is an extremely stressful transition. You can decide to test your dogs, and hope that it works out for the best, or you can take the decision out of their paws and ensure that the introduction is a positive one.
- Day One
- Keep the dogs in separate rooms - they can sniff each other through the door crack and hear each other moving around. They should also be walked and fed separately - no interactions on this first day!
- Day Two
- Use a baby gate to keep them separated, but the door can be left open. If they are anxious about it, keep them on a leash at first, and/or put a towel over the baby gate so that there's still a visual barrier.
- Day Three
- Finally, have both dogs on leash outside, sitting by their handlers. If they're calm, let them approach sideways, they can sniff necks and butts for two seconds, and then call them back to you. Do this three or four times. If they're calmly sniffing each other and have quiet, calm bodies, they can sniff each other for longer periods of time. If you want to learn more about dog body language, check out one of these good resources.
- Continue to allow them to interact for longer periods of time as they remain calm. If they get agitated (have wide eyes, are heavily panting, raised hackles, vocalizing, etc.) separate them until they're calm and you can try again. Interrupt frequently with breaks.
- Eventually, you can drop the leashes, but keep both dogs on leashes so that you can grab it and quickly intervene if necessary. Don't give them any toys, bones, or human attention - just let them calmly be in each other's presence.
Some of you may be thinking, "This seems extreme! Just let them loose and they'll work it out!". And that's certainly true . . . sometimes. And other times, it results in a dog fight. When you are adopting a dog, you're planning on having them for the remainder of their life. Is a little caution and patience too much to ask for a successful introduction into your canine pack?