Fostering a dog when you have a resident dog (or more) at home can be done with a bit of pre-planning and coordination! The first step in the process is being honest and realistic about what type of new foster dog your resident dog can handle. For example, does your dog have any quirks with larger or small dogs? What about male or female dogs? Having a general sense about who your dog would enjoy spending time with is key.
Once you’ve coordinated with a rescue and found a foster match, bringing a foster dog home and introducing a foster dog to your resident dog is best done outside and with baby steps. Enlist a household member or someone your dog trusts to help you with this process since you’ll need four hands!
We recommend the below seven steps to introduce a foster dog to your dog. As always, you know your dog best so please make sure to read your dog’s body language at all times since the goal is a slow, controlled, and positive introduction.
- Establish a Trust with your New Foster: Spend some time with your new foster dog to establish a basic relationship. The goal is to let him sniff you and take a short walk outside together so you can feel each other out. It can be helpful to bring treats!
- Co-exist on Neutral Ground: Once you feel comfortable with your new foster dog and he feels comfortable with you, the next step is to have your helper bring your resident dog outside to neutral ground, such as the sidewalk.
- Co-exist in Shared Space: Do not let the two dogs rush to meet each other on-leash. Instead start walking with your foster dog and let your helper walk your resident dog at a distance. Slowly begin to close the gap between the two dogs by either walking slower or having your helper speed up a bit, but keep moving forward.
- Sniff Each Other Out: As the distance between the two dogs becomes smaller, let your new foster dog and resident dog each take turns sniffing each other while walking. If either of them is signaling that they are overwhelmed or uncomfortable, increase the distance between the two to a point where the reacting dog is not triggered and repeat step 3.
- Create the new Pack: Now that the two dogs have ‘met’ each other, establish the new family pack by continuing your walk all together – ideally for the length of a normal walk or about thirty minutes.
- Co-exist in Partitioned Home: When you return back home from introducing a foster dog to your dog, create separate space within your home for each dog. This can easily be done by putting up a pen or baby gate to separate the two dogs or having them spend time in their own crates near each other for a few hours.
- Co-exist in Home: When you feel comfortable letting your new foster dog and resident dog into the same space in your home, leave their leashes on or put a slip lead on each dog so you can more safely redirect any behavior should you need to.
If at any time there is a rift between the two dogs, immediately return to giving them space and move slower through the process. Please also remember to never leave two dogs unattended or without human supervision.
The Complete Dog Fostering Guide with Jess of @101Fosters
Don’t forget, if you are fostering puppies, you are required to pay puppy tax in the form of cute photos and videos. If you can, consider fostering a mamma dog and her puppies!