Normally, my dogs do not really reflect how productive I am.
See, the thing is that Artie is BIG. Don't really know what I mean by "big"?
Here he is laying next to Teagan on the couch.
But, what surprises me about this giant Bear is the fact that he is so blessed sweet. Like...not a bad bone in his body (though his bark would certainly lead other people to think so). This has lead to some complications because all Artie wants is a family- but we can't let him get too comfortable or when he goes to his real home next week he'll be devastated again.
And nobody wants a sad bear.
We have been trying to crate train him, but the only time he is ever not nervous and is quiet is if we're all together. And I mean all of us. He wants all the dogs and all the people (although he seems to forget if Nate is gone faster than he forgets that I'm gone)
Here are a few things we've always told people who ask us about dogs and how to co-mingle them. Now, fostering a dog has totally different rules than keeping the dog. These are our suggestions for fostering a dog**.
1. Make them comfortable and safe- but don't change your daily life to suit them, you're in charge, not them.
2. Do not let them get overly attached to your dog(s) as that will make the separation when they leave that much harder.
3. Do not let an alpha fight happen. Especially if you have more than one dog of your own. If one happens it will change the pecking order which will have to be reestablished as soon as foster dog leaves. Now, with three dogs I would hate to go through that process again...
4. Do not let them sleep on the bed with you and your other dogs as this can make your permanent dogs very unsure of their place.
5. Feed the separately as most fights will happen during food time (someone tries to steal a nibble and next thing you know someone's got gashes on their face)
6. Warn your neighbors. You will have a barking dog in your house- there's no avoiding that and it's going to be out of the norm. As long as you are kind enough to warn them, they are usually cool about it.
7. Give your permanent dogs as much as normal or more than normal levels of attention as they're probably going to be wondering why there is someone new in your house.
8. Make sure to take some time with just your foster dog. You need to instill in him that everything is going to be fine and he's not alone. Take him for a walk alone, snuggle him on the couch, tell him about your day. He may have lost everything he's ever known, wouldn't you want someone to talk to?
9. If it's negatively affecting your dogs you need to make other arrangements. This is their home- not the foster dogs. You may be trying to do the right thing but do you want to then hold your dogs paw while they recover?
However, Artie like....doesn't fit in with these "rules" so we've been having to play it as we go. The main thing that is kind of throwing us off is how much he wants to fit in and how hard he tries to please the other dogs.
Due to his sheer size, we've had to make accommodations to our daily schedule to him. I'm so not going to whip out a gallon of paint around this oaf- he'd honestly probably think it's water. Love him dearly, but he's a very curious guy.
We're trying to not let everyone get attached (though Seamus doesn't seem to have any interest in getting attached...Artie makes him nervous) but as we stated, Artie is only quiet when he's with all the dogs. We have tried several sleeping arrangements and guess what? The only time he will sleep is if we're all together in the master bedroom. If he's alone in a crate he will howl the entire night. If he's in one room with one of us, and the other is in the guest room with the other dogs he will cry all night and scratch at the doors. If it's me, him, and Teagan he is better but still sad, it wasn't until last night when we caved that we all piled in the bed (equating to about 700lbs+) that he fell fast asleep.
I know this breaks a lot of rules, but the most important thing you can do for any dog is to let them be well rested. You do not want a dog you don't know very well to get exhausted to the point they won't sleep and he lashes out. Think of them like toddlers. You know how if a 2 year old doesn't get to bed within a certain time frame they won't sleep and they just get mean? Try that philosophy with a 100lb dog with teeth.
The only reason we let him on the bed with us was for everyone in the family to get some sleep and our dogs seemed chill with it. Well, other than Seamus but he's a dick and once he realized it was bed time he just shut up and fell asleep.
Having a foster dog is like walking a tight rope between safety and comfort, and living with you.
I honestly think my biggest piece of advice for people with foster dogs is to keep the new owners (if the dog has one) very involved. How could you take care of a dog that is going through something so hard and love on them and then not want to keep them? Our saving grace has been keeping Artie's new parents very up to date. Pictures, texts, all that kind of stuff. That way they know what he's doing so they stay excited and it reminds us that he is not our dog. We're just giving him safe passage.
I am very interested to see how this weekend goes with all of us being home. I need to do something....Artie likes laying on my lap watching TV so I may or may not have already watched two seasons of Alias this week. (Rockin' 2001 ABC what whattttt)
I know a lot of my regular readers have fostered, would you guys do it again? Do you wish you'd never started? What tips do you have to share for people who are thinking about it?
**Note: we are not dog experts we just have acquired a lot of experience in the last few years...