Monday, March 19, 2012

Prepping for Visitors

With a few fosters and various visitors under our belt, I'm starting to develop a handy checklist for making sure everything runs smoothly with an ever-shifting pack. These all came into play this week when Bruce Wayne came to stay. If you're thinking about fostering for the first time, or would like to have more canine visitors, here are some preparations that have proven useful in our house:

1. Know Your Dog

Myron, Buster & Billy

If your visitor is just going to be temporary then you're not looking for the perfect fit but still keep your dog's preferences in mind when deciding who you're going to foster, dogsit or even invite to a playdate. I have a weakness for big-headed lugs but Billy often finds them intimidating and it's much easier to introduce him to smaller dogs which is why we foster the small fry. He does love to play rough so he gets to spend time with bigger dogs in more manageable small bursts of play time with friends that we trust. Of course, at 60lbs, his best buddy Buster broke the small dog rule, so never forget that each dog is an individual and let your own pup guide you to what he/she is most comfortable with.

2. Do a House Check

Sharing the couch with Buster & Clover

I have a Billy-proofing checklist when I leave him alone in the house but revisit your set up when you're adding another dog. If I have a puppy mill escapee on the way I always lift up the rug for the first week, and whenever a strange dog is coming to the house I get down on my hands and knees to look for things that Billy ignores but that could be irresistible to another dog. Knowing that Bruce has a penchant for paper, I moved a couple of files out of reach in the room that he'd be staying in. 

3. Plan for Smooth Introductions

How not to pose for a photo!

I always make sure that Billy has a good long walk before he meets a new dog. He's not territorial and tends to get less excited meeting dogs in his own backyard than out in the street so we'll occasionally do intros there but best practice is generally to meet on neutral ground. Before expecting them to settle down in the house I always go for a walk with the dogs to give them time to get bored by each other. Billy already knows Bruce but, since it was easy to organize, we did a walk earlier in the week as well to make sure his arrival at the weekend wasn't too exciting.

4. Create Space

Snuggling with foster Lucy

Perhaps your initial dog-to-dog meeting goes so smoothly it should be in a textbook. That's no guarantee that the dogs won't have a difference of opinion at some point so I always make sure that I have a way to separate them when I'm not around - even if I'm just leaving them in the apartment for a minute while I answer the front door. A crate can be your best friend but if you don't have any concerns about potty training or destructive behaviors you can also just use separate rooms. Bruce gets to hang out on the daybed in the spare room, which is also a bit quieter so that he doesn't get too wound-up by all the activity on the front street. When I'm in the apartment the scene is usually pretty snuggly but I'll use time-outs if things get a little too exciting.

5. Make Exercise Your Friend

A hot walk with Clover

We all know that a tired dog is a good dog - that's twice as true when you double the dogs! If you want peace and quiet in the house, don't skimp on the walks.

6. Remember: not everyone likes to share


You'll have seen plenty of photos like this on my blog but I NEVER assume that any dog that comes into our home is going to be willing to share. I always start off feeding the dogs separately and I reduce or completely remove the toys and chews that might be lying around the house. I'm lucky that Billy has no resource guarding issues (yep, he let the chihuahua steal his bone) but that doesn't mean that I don't keep an eye on the situation whenever high value resources are in play. That goes for attention too, so don't forget that you yourself are a resource, and a potential problem, where dogs are concerned.

Nala Bean and her protector

What tips and tricks have worked for you when opening your home to other dogs?


  1. This is such a great post because it is so important to make sure everything goes well for the sake of the resident dog, the new dog, and the people. Sometimes we do forget because our dogs are so easy going. LOVE your new foster! How fun will he be??

  2. These are all great tips! You said this in another way, but I'd just say don't get too comfortable. For example, she hasn't exhibited any food aggression since the first week we had her (I think she was just unsure in a new setting,) but I still always supervise eating. I'd rather be too careful than sorry later!


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