Part 1: A Behaviourists Perspective on how to Nurture Adopted and Fostered Dogs
WYLD CUB welcomed back Ria from Barney & Rosie’s, this time asking her questions surround the very difficult nature of introducing an adopted or fostered cub into a new home. Ria came back with such in depth and incredible responses to our questions, that we decided to split this into a two-parts for the community. We hope you enjoy the first part.
Ria, we know whether you adopt or foster a dog, there is a transition period for not only the cub but for the owners as well. Is there any way the cub parents can prepare for bringing an adopted or fostered cub into the home?
Absolutely – prepare your patience! Do your research on the breed – or breeds if it is a mix.
See if you can look after a friend or family’s dog to see if this is really something that is practically going to work for you.
Whether you are adopting or fostering, there is a good 2-3 months ‘decompression period’, at least. It could be more. Some say it’s between 2 – 3 weeks but from experience, it’s more for sure. I would say after about 3 months you may see some behaviour changes that indicates the dog has settled – whatever it is will be different from what you’ve gotten used to for the past few weeks! Their true colours may come out if they’ve been acting the angel.
Think about some safe spaces for them to retreat to, and have a think about your boundaries and house rules you want to set up. Are they allowed upstairs? On the sofa? What are you going to feed them?
Get them some comfy bedding to welcome them into their new environment. I would recommend a crate for a safe space, with a nice blanket or throw over it to make it super cosy for them. This will also help with the toilet training in the future. Make sure you’ve got any barriers like child gates up if you want to limit where they go. Get some organic lavender oil to burn, to help them relax. It is very soothing and they will associate the smell with their new happy calm place.
It’s common not to walk them outside on lead (depending on their behaviour of course) for two weeks or so to let them acclimatise to the home environment, which might be completely new for them. Be prepared to just spend a couple of weeks getting to know them, training them, easing them into their new lives. A dog has to feel safe and content before your training will start to go in.
Let friends and family know that during the decompression period they shouldn’t come to visit, this might stress the dog out and undo all the comforting you’ve been doing. Take very slow baby steps with them to help them settle and build up their confidence.
Get some interesting brain games for them to do, cardboard boxes or plastic bottles to destroy – they are great fun! Speak to your local vet and let them know what you are doing, they will be a brilliant source of support. There are also lots of rescue social media pages to follow, that are wonderful support, as well as the charity you got the dog from.
Ria, adopting a dog with a negative past is obviously an extremely hard adjustment but fostering can be perceived as being harder because the owners have to give them to someone else.
People who foster know the dog has to go to another home in the end, unless they adopt, but can you give Wyld Cub readers a bit of insight into how to be the best foster parent to cub(s) until they are re-homed.
It is very hard being a fosterer, it will always be much harder than you think. It is incredibly rewarding and always amazing to see them in their forever home, but it is a lot of work to help the rescue dogs get to a point where they can be rehomed as they often aren’t when they come into the charity.
You should only foster a dog if you have a vast experience with them. Having a few dogs growing up will only someway prepare you for fostering – it is not for the faint of heart. There will be accidents in the house, aggression perhaps, health concerns, chewing, anxiety, lack of appetite, scavenging to name a few things; Expect this! Sometimes the dog will just want to sit in their safe space for two weeks. You have to let them do it, that is how they are coping.
As fosterers it is our job to help the dog prepare for their new home. We will undoubtedly find that there may some ‘foster fails’ along the way – I know I’ve cried when dogs have left to go to their new home but you have to remember you can only take them so far and you can’t adopt them all!
There will be the really special ones that stand out and maybe they are for you, but remember there will be so many families who are so excited to welcome a new dog into their home and the dog will hopefully have a wonderful life with them. That is our reward.
To be the best foster parent you can, give firm training guidance and just as equally as the firmness, all the love you can. Dogs will settle very quickly if they have strong rules and boundaries because they know where they stand. Introduce these in the beginning, stick to them, show them kindness and patience and take baby steps, gradually introducing things and exposing them to things. This will ensure your success until your foster pup finds a new home! When you hand over to the new family, it is up to the family and the charity as to whether you can stay in contact, so just make sure you note everything down for them so are fully aware of everything from their routine to their funny quirks.
There is a lot to take in there Wyld Cub readers and that's why we decided to split our interview with Ria into 2 parts. We believe every piece of advice from experts needs to be digestible and fully understood. The in depth nature to these types of questions never go unnoticed, we respect Ria, her job and all of her tips. If you are struggling with fostering or adopting, or considering doing any of the above and need some help, we hope you can find some solace in this post.