Friday, March 22, 2013

Foster Dog

As I mentioned earlier this week, things are going to be relatively quiet while we have Artie, the foster dog (only until next Thursday, don't worry!)

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.

Very big.

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...


  1. I'm so glad that even with 3 dogs already, you had an open and loving heart and found room for Artie :) This is such a confusing time for a pet, who had a pet parent who had to give them up, transitioning into your home, and changes coming up again. He's found a safe place for a while with you, and I, as a dog lover myself, thank you!

    1. Thank you, Jeanna! It's certainly a learning curve for all of us but even when I'm fuming mad about something I just have to remember compassion because he doesn't know where he is, where he's going, or what's going on. I can't imagine living with all of that uncertainty.

  2. I would absolutely foster again... but it takes a lot to get Matt on board with it because I have cried after all 3 dogs have left... one of them we even only had for 16 hours and I cried because I LOVED HIM. So Matt feels bad that I get so sad. And it throws the cats out of whack.

    After my last experience, fostering a dog that had no home and finding one for him (which took months), I needed a mental break. It literally broke my heart and I cried for days when he left-- to my best friends house. Who I talk to everyday. lol. I'm thinking we'll take another one in in the fall.

    We foster big ass dogs too, none of them have been under 70 pounds. I've given up hope on having nice things but luckily all of them have been awesome at being home alone with Dutch while we're at work (and we've separated the cats when we're not there). Dutch only gets mad if I'm giving them more attention, so if I'm not there it's not an issue.

  3. I don't know if I would ever have the strength to foster a dog. You are amazing. Like, you really deserve a medal. I hope your weekend goes well!

  4. 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.

    I broke this rule with the dog we fostered this fall, and it bit me in the ass. Heh. She was a nightmare! I'm so glad Artie is a sweetie, even if he's a Chewbacca sized sweetie.

  5. Good tips! We're planning to foster again once Lucy is gone. At least I am. I don't know about Dave ;). I do approach it very cautiously since we've had so much trouble with Lucy and dog aggression. I have dog fight PTSD.

  6. Great post! Artie has such a sweetie pie little face! We fostered a dog last year and it was tough on our forever dog, but worth it in the end because he found a loving home. I'd definitely do it again, but I'd do it differently. I'd love for you to do an article like this but with tips for bringing home a forever dog into a home with existing dogs. Our dog HUGE, but such a velcro dog and very attached to us, would love to hear suggestions on how to safely bring another in and make them both feel loved and special. Love your blog!

  7. What great tips! My foster dogs have been baby bottle-fed puppies, so my two aren't at all interested. By the time they're big enough to play, they're onto another foster for socialization.

    Found you through a comment left on Vintage Revivals. I loved your blog name. :) Can't wait to check out your blog!

    1. Hi Nessa! I've actually never had any "puppies" in the house. Everyone has been at least 4 months old when they've come home. Don't worry- as soon as Artie is home, we'll get back to the DIY and Decorating!

  8. I so appreciate your tips! My mom adopted two scruffy pups (about 4 or 5 months old) right before Christmas after her 10 year old wire-haired terrier passed away. She is currently on vacation and I am doggy sitting her crew. I was super nervous about bringing them into our home and integrating them with our dogs (1 scruffy and 1 lab-bull). I am happy to report that things have been going well. My lab-bull occasionally "mumbles" when she is super annoyed but other than that, they seem to kind of love each other. Looking forward to Saturday when the pup's real mom gets home! :)


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