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BRBCR HANDBOOK: Introducing Your Foster Dog


Your mission is to show this dog how to relax and be a good family pet. Socialize him or her to life with your dogs, cats, and family members. Closely SUPERVISE your foster dog. Take precautions while you are getting to know the dog’s personality, especially when he or she is around other animals and children. Introduce them to one another slowly. Never leave the foster dog alone with children or your other pets.

Go slowly! A dog in a new situation may easily feel overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a new home, including new people and animals. New people should be brought into the foster dog’s life carefully; watch the dog for signs of stress (over excitement or excessively shy behavior are clues). Especially with children, make sure the introduction occurs in “installments”. 

Introduce the dog to your cat indoors with the dog leashed. Hold the leash in your hand and leave the cat on the floor. If you observe any of the following signs from the dog, you may want to ask for advice from other members via the Groups.io email:

  • Teeth clicking or snapping
  • Ears alert (by itself could indicate curiosity)
  • Fixed gaze or stare which cannot be broken
  • Trembling or lurching

One of the first things to remember is that your attitude is important. You need to be calm and in control to set the tone for the introductions. If you are uncomfortable the dogs will definitely pick up on it and won’t trust your leadership. Be the leader you would like to follow – calm and confident. This is one of your first opportunities to establish trust with your foster dog so it’s important that it goes well. If your own dogs are excitable around new dogs or simply not educated in proper doggy greeting behavior it’s important to get them under control first. Many problems can be avoided by keeping the introduction low key.

If you’re unsure about how to handle the introduction at any point, ASK FOR HELP. A list of the board members’ phone numbers is attached, and they will be glad to advise you or find someone else who can help.

It’s a good idea to have the first contact through a fence or baby gate to see how the dogs react to each other initially. It takes the pressure off you and the dogs when you know there can be no direct physical contact. If any of the dogs show ANY aggressive behaviors i.e. growling, barking, showing teeth, hackles up, stiff body language, high tail carriage with or without wagging proceed no further. It is extremely important that all the dogs are relaxed and that you have control of the situation before progressing with the introductions.

Keep in mind that even your very friendly dog who “just wants to play” can be intimidating to an insecure dog and cause a dominant dog to react aggressively. A proper doggy greeting behavior is to approach the new dog calmly with the tail wagging slowly. High stiff tail wagging is a sign of aggression so again proceed no further if you see this. Direct eye contact is another aggressive sign and should not be allowed either. (That is true for humans introducing themselves to the new dog also.)  The dogs should sniff each other through the fence politely and wag their tails in a relaxed fashion. At that point the ideal is for the dogs to loose interest in each other a bit and wander off to find something else to do. If a high level of excitement continues proceed no further. Remove your foster dog from the situation and keep him separate from the other dogs for a little while and then try again. There should be no closer contact between the dogs until they can greet each other calmly through a barrier.

If ALL the dogs are exhibiting obvious play behavior at the barrier you can then let them greet each other without a barrier. Most rescue dogs are too stressed in a new situation to be relaxed enough to play right away though.

If your new foster dog is frightened you will need to go very slowly with the introductions. Again you will need to keep a barrier between the dogs until the frightened dog is comfortable enough to approach the barrier and sniff the resident dogs.

When all the dogs are comfortable sniffing through a barrier you can introduce them to each other outside in a fenced yard or in another large space. It’s important to have a space large enough that they can move away from each other if the social pressure becomes too strong. Introduce the new dog to the area without any other dogs so he can explore without any pressure. Then remove the new dog and let the resident dogs out to explore the scent of the new dog.

Bring the new dog into the area after the resident dogs have settled down. You may want to have a second person help you if you feel that you might have trouble controlling any of the dogs. Always have ALL the dogs dragging leashes so you can control any dog whose behavior is inappropriate. If the new dog is obviously uncomfortable and trying to get away from the other dogs do not allow them to follow him and potentially corner him. The new dog may then act in an aggressive defensive way causing the resident dogs to aggress back. Remove your foster dog and try again later. If any dog reacts in a questionable fashion remove that dog and let the others get to know each other. Often after the other dogs have settled down the problem dog will be fine.

NEVER leave the dogs unattended and NEVER have any toys or chew objects around when they are getting to know each other.

Feed your new foster in his crate or a separate room and also only give him high value chew toys in his confined space. It is much better to make it clear that the newcomer doesn’t have the same privileges as the resident dogs. Don’t worry about hurting the new foster’s feelings. He’ll be better off in the long run if he has some time to integrate into the pack.

After the dogs have been successfully introduced you can follow the Guidelines for Adopters to continue to help integrate your new foster into your home.


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