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Common initial foster dog behaviors - what to expect

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

FANTASTIC! Looks like you have decided to become a foster and are about to have a special, furry, houseguest. :) First off: Congratulations! Second: You are awesome and we THANK YOU! Now it’s time to prepare for the little critter’s arrival. We bet you’re wondering: How might the first few hours/days go? What can I expect? Great questions. When we bring a new animal into our home, we are introducing them to a new environment… no matter where they just came from, their previous circumstances, now they are surrounded by new people, strange sounds, different smells, unfamiliar sights. As anyone would be, our new friends are likely scared, stressed and overwhelmed from their journey and will always need a little bit of time to adjust. This is perfectly normal. Building rapport/gaining trust takes time and patience and kindness. It’s very much the type of process that must be experienced to fully grasp-- there’s no way to know how each individual personality will react, so practice makes progress here always. BUT we can help you feel more prepared by sharing some of the most common behaviors we’ve seen. Common initial foster dog behaviors and expectations are:

  • Not house-trained

  • Pottying outside-- most foster pups haven’t mastered this when we meet them. They will need your patience and guidance to build this skill. Take the dog outside frequently. Don’t rely on him/her to tell you when. If you have questions or would like help in this area, please reach out!

  • Crates-- some animals are not accustomed to crates, some hate it. They may need time to accept this arrangement if you crate-train. Please keep this in mind when planning a space for your foster to be in your home.

  • Commands/manners-- our new friend might be a sloppy eater or jump up or *talk* a lot. Set up rules/routines early. Stick to these rules and be firm, but gentle. They’ll learn the ropes soon enough.

  • Door Dash-- no, not that one! Dogs often bolt for open doors. Be mindful and watchful to keep them safe!

  • Need slow integration

  • Let them come to you as much as possible at first. Don’t try to cuddle or pick them up more than necessary and avoid getting in their faces.

  • Give them time to adjust to their new space before adding new animals into the mix. If you are able to separate initially / gate off when you do introductions to resident dogs & cats, that is best practice!

  • Having a quiet, safe space for them to go to and be when they feel scared or overwhelmed is crucial. Some dogs want to hide, sleep or just be alone at first. Others may exhaust themselves from over-excitement and need the spot to rest later. :)

  • Try to carve out extra time to be nearby in the beginning. And refrain from planning trips/activities at first as this may add to their feeling of sensory overload.

  • Tummy troubles

  • Stress, anxiety, changes in food and environment, medications, etc. can all trigger an upset tummy in foster dogs. It’s not unusual for new arrivals to have a day or 2 of loose stools as they acclimate. (But if it lasts much longer, please take note and tell us).

  • Sleeping trouble

  • Often the first two- three nights are tough. Our new friends might not sleep through the night. They might even whine and ‘cry’ a little too. Hang in there! It gets better, we promise!!

  • Aggression/ pent-up energy

  • One of the less common - however potential Behaviors such as: snapping/biting, growling, guarding food and toys, chewing on inappropriate items can happen. It absolutely does not mean the dog won’t like you or is “bad.” In fact, some form of these behaviors is incredibly common. They are testing boundaries and learning. Knowing dogs’ body language and behavior cues can be vital here to alleviate the fear factor triggering the response. If you need support, we are only a quick call away!

  • They also might be bored! A dog may act out when they want more attention or exercise or mental stimulation.

  • Separation anxiety

  • Sometimes rescue dogs do not want to be left completely alone. They fear we won’t come back for them. In these cases, using a crate with toys for several short periods each day can help.

And there you have it! Those are common bumps in the road one might expect here. Typically it doesn’t last long though and now that you are armed with the info and have a plan, you can do it no problem!! So long as you commit yourself to understanding and patience to build needed trust and learn your rescue dog’s personality…. You’ll be good to go! Plus, you have us to back you up!

Oh-- we almost forgot the most important one! ..LOVE.. If all goes according to plan, another foster dog behavior you might commonly encounter is unconditional affection and companionship!!

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