House Training - By Sherry Woodard
When you get a new puppy or dog, you’ll need to show him or her what is acceptable in your home. Different people may have different rules: Some want to train their dogs to eliminate in litter trays or on paper, while others want all “bathroom” business to occur outdoors. For your dog to know what you want, you have to establish a predictable routine.
Potty training your dog or puppy
For the first couple of weeks, a new dog of any age should be supervised when he has the full (or even partial) run of the house. During those times when you cannot supervise him, it is wise to restrict the movement of a new animal during the house-training phase. You can potty train your dog by using a crate. Or, for limited periods of time, you can confine the dog to a small, easy-to-clean room, like the bathroom, equipped with a child gate.
Your dog should consider this space a safe place, so add the dog’s bed, water and things to chew on to create a comfortable den. The dog should be fed in this space as well. To keep this space safe, make sure that nothing that would cause her discomfort happens here and keep children out of this area.
Set up a daily schedule where you walk your dog on lead (or carry her) to the desired elimination spot after meals, after naps, and every couple of hours in between. To reinforce that the trip has a purpose, you should not play with the dog during trips to eliminate. Use a word or phrase (like “do your business”) to remind the dog of her duty. As soon as she has produced, praise her lavishly and give her a treat.
What do I need to know about potty training a puppy?
Puppies cannot hold their bladders and bowels for more than a few hours. Even the most intelligent and well-intentioned puppy has to wait until its muscles develop before it can exercise appropriate bladder and bowel control, just like a human infant. If you must be away for more than two or three hours, and you are training the puppy to eliminate outdoors, you will need someone to help by walking the puppy for you.
If you are training a puppy to eliminate on paper or in a litter box, the space the puppy is contained in will need to be large enough for a sleeping area away from an elimination spot. (Dogs don’t like to eliminate where they sleep.) Keep in mind that a puppy, if trained to eliminate on paper or a litter box, may have a lifelong surface preference; that is, even as an adult, he may eliminate on paper if it is lying around the house. Having a puppy eliminate in the house will prolong the process of teaching him to eliminate outdoors.
How long does house-training take?
After a week or so of no accidents, you can begin allowing the dog freedom in the house after each successful trip outdoors. Supervision will still be needed, however, as well as praise and an occasional reward. Supervise the dog anytime he is given free run of the house, watching for signs such as circling and sniffing corners.
How do I deal with “accidents”?
If an “accident” happens and you catch the dog in the act, stop him and escort him to the correct spot. Praise him if he stops eliminating when you ask him to. Be sure not to yell when you catch him in the act because this can cause him to discontinue eliminating in front of you, thus prolonging the potty-training process. If you find the results of an accident after it’s happened, again, do not punish the dog, since punishment could make him afraid to eliminate in your presence. It’s more effective to clean up the mess and put it in the designated elimination spot, so the smell will help your dog recognize that this is where to go.
To clean up accidents, use an enzymatic cleaner. Urine contains pheromones, chemical markers that say essentially, “Go potty here.” Only enzymatic cleaners break down the pheromones, which keeps dogs from sniffing out and using the inappropriate potty area.
If you’re training a puppy, keep in mind that a puppy’s muscles are still developing, so he may not be able to control himself when he eliminates in an inappropriate spot. Puppies mature at different rates, and some will take longer to develop bladder and bowel control.
Finally, there’s a difference between a dog who “marks” his territory and a dog who isn’t house-trained. Early neutering will reduce a dog’s inclination to mark surfaces with his scent. But, if a dog who is already potty-trained starts having accidents, check with your veterinarian because there may be a medical cause.
Why should I consider crate training my dog?
Dogs are hard-wired by their genetic history to be den animals. A den is a small, safe, well-defined space. It is a place in which dogs feel instinctively safe. It is also a place that they instinctively avoid soiling. The combination of these two native traits are what make crate training, done in the right way, a kind and effective component in house-training your new puppy or dog.
A crate can also be a place for your dog to rest or have “down time.” If you have just acquired a dog, a crate can limit access to the entire house until your new dog knows the house rules. A crate can help with house-training by setting up a routine. For example, you can feed the puppy in the crate and, afterwards, carry him or walk him on a lead straight out to an elimination site where you can use a word or phrase to remind the dog what the trip outside is for.
There are other benefits of crate training. At some point in your dog’s life, it may be necessary to use a crate when you are traveling with your pet or when your dog is recuperating from an injury. Such potentially traumatic situations will be much less stressful if your dog is already familiar with and comfortable in a crate. Crates are also useful for keeping destructive dogs out of mischief when you’re not home to keep an eye on them.
Where do I purchase a crate and how do I know which one to buy?
Most pet-supply stores carry dog crates; pet catalogs sell them as well. Considerations when buying your crate: Make sure the crate is big enough so that the dog can stand up, turn around and lay flat on his side in comfort, but small enough that there isn’t enough room for the dog to sleep and eat at one end and eliminate at the other. If you are training a growing puppy, you can buy a larger crate with a divider for adjusting the crate as he grows.
How do I introduce the crate?
You can prevent problems with crate training by setting your dog up for success. Your dog should only associate good things with the crate, so start by putting treats and/or toys in the crate and encouraging him to go in. Some dogs may need to warm up to the crate slowly. If your dog is afraid to go in, place a treat in the crate as far as he is willing to go. After he takes the treat, place another treat a little further back in the crate. Keep going until he is eating treats at the very back, then feed him his next meal in the crate with the door open, so that he can walk in and out at will. Crate training a fearful dog can take days, so be patient and encouraging. If a crate is properly introduced and used, your dog will happily enter and settle down.
Should the crate be used at night?
Sure, you can use the crate at night. Put the dog in with a treat and a cue like “kennel” or “kennel up” delivered in a cheery tone of voice. The crate should be situated close to you so that you can hear the dog whine or whimper if he needs to eliminate during the night. (Dogs will usually make some kind of noise rather than make a mess where they sleep.)
If you are training a puppy, be prepared for one or two trips outside at night to eliminate. If the puppy goes outside and doesn’t produce, do not allow any extra time for play or long drinks of water when you come back inside. Instead, encourage the pup to return to the crate. He may whine a bit, but if you have given him ample opportunity to eliminate, try to ignore the protest and the puppy should settle down quickly.
How much time in the crate is okay?
No dog, young or old, should be living in a crate full-time. Dogs are social animals, so for a dog to have a good quality of life, social isolation should be kept to a minimum. All dogs need daily exercise and some interaction with others. Even four hours in a crate without a break during the day is a long time for many adult dogs. If you must crate your dog when you’re not home, arrange to have someone stop in and let her out for a potty break and to stretch her legs. Except for nighttime, crating a dog for long periods of time is not advised.
Puppies, especially, should not be left in a crate for long periods of time (more than two hours). It is important that puppies not be neglected and forced to break their instinctive aversion to soiling their sleeping area. Unfortunately, this is what happens to many pet-store puppies and it can lead to serious house-training difficulties. Also, since they are still developing, puppies have even more need for social interaction than adult dogs. If they aren’t socialized to the world while they are young, they can develop fears and aberrant behaviors of many kinds.
Most adult dogs can stay in a crate for the entire night without a trip outside. However, young puppies and some old dogs cannot physically hold their bladders and bowels through the night.
When should a crate not be used?
A crate should not be used as a form of punishment. As mentioned earlier, your dog should have only warm, fuzzy feelings about her crate. Even though a dog can come to see her crate as a safe place, it is not the solution for a dog with separation anxiety, since she could injure herself trying to get out.
Dog Bite Prevention With Children -Article by Sherry Woodard
Children can have the most amazing relationships with dogs if both are taught how to properly interact and respect each other. Proper training and management of both children and dogs can prevent tragedies from ever happening.
When a child is bitten, both the child and the dog pay a high price. Even if the child is not physically damaged, he or she is still emotionally affected. The dog may end up homeless (and a poor adoption prospect) in a shelter or be destroyed as a future safety precaution.
What does my child need to know to prevent dog bites?
What does my dog need to know?
What do I need to know?
Finally, if you have a dog that is not okay around children, it is your responsibility to protect your dog from her tendencies. Never allow her to be in a situation where she might bite a child. If you teach both children and dogs how to properly interact, they will enjoy a wonderful, safe, fun relationship.
Back to basics / Obedience
-Article by Sherry Woodard
If you want a well-trained, well-mannered, well-socialized dog, interact multiple times every day with your dog, with the goal of building a foundation of trust and a healthy relationship.
All dogs benefit from learning and practicing skills daily. Keep all interaction fun; if you are stressed on a particular day and will not play nicely with your dog, skip spending time with your dog that day. Dogs are sensitive to your emotional state and will pick up on your stress.
House-training. I add the words “Go potty” right away. I set each dog up for success by walking him or her outside about every 45 minutes on lead to allow the dog many opportunities to get it right. I supervise the dog inside the house because it’s much easier and faster to help her learn where to go potty before she starts having “accidents” in the house.
Name recognition. Use the dog’s name often when you’re praising and playing with her, and always with a happy tone. Dogs should have only positive associations with their names and nicknames.
Recall. Call the dog to you often; again, always using a happy tone. Add treats sometimes to pleasantly surprise her and keep her coming to you fast. Remember to practice recall frequently, not just when something fun is about to end. People often lose great recall because they only call the dog for negative reasons or use a negative tone. Why would any dog want to come running to you if you seem angry or if the fun almost always ends when she runs to you?
The joy of touch. Teach your dog to enjoy being touched on all body parts. Start with getting your dog to enjoy your touch and work toward the goal of getting him comfortable with being touched by people he doesn’t know. It is important that dogs allow us to touch them because they may need to be handled by various people: strangers, rescuers after an emergency, the vet, the groomer. They may need to be picked up off the ground or floor for grooming or medical reasons. If you can lift the dog’s body up off the floor, practice this to help him relax and realize that nothing bad happens when he is lifted.
Can you trim your dog’s nails? Is he comfortable having his feet touched? Grooming has many benefits for dogs, so teach your dog to enjoy grooming. Make sure that anyone who grooms your dog is kind and gentle to help ensure that you have a dog who is safe for others to handle. You can help him to feel more relaxed by adding positive experiences to his grooming memories.
When I have a new dog in my home, I massage the dog every day, touching his entire body and continuing to touch him until he relaxes. Many dogs are so excited and reactive to our touch that this is a challenge. To help the dog learn to relax and enjoy touch, I do the massage in a quiet room without a lot of human or non-human traffic. If your dog does not allow touch, please read “Teaching Your Dog the Joys of Touch.”
Rest and relaxation. Dogs don’t know how to control their own energy and the result can be destructive, nuisance or rough behaviors. There are dogs who bark incessantly, chew up everything within reach, dogs who mount, pull humans around by the limbs or hair, knock down children, and decapitate Barbie! People must teach their dogs to have an “off” switch. Many dogs are dropped off at shelters because their people became frustrated and felt they could no longer control their dogs.
Every day, you can help your dog by teaching her how to rest and relax in your home and during outings. Going on walks or riding in a vehicle should be relaxing for both human and dog. When I have a new dog in my home, I practice R&R daily by having the dog either tethered to me or crated for a while. I tether new dogs or crate them for travel; I do not allow them to jump around barking while I drive.
They also enjoy walking on lead without pulling. How? Because they are taught to walk without pulling: I simply stop walking until they ease up on pulling. Going for walks is much more enjoyable if the dog isn’t yanking you along. Also, any dog will be more welcome in public settings if she has manners. Her energy will be more focused and calm if she is not in emotional overdrive while out walking.
Retrieve. The retrieving game is not for every dog; those who enjoy it will let you know. I start with a toy tied on a lunge whip. Drag the toy around excitedly and the dog will probably chase it. If he does, this can be the game for a while. Then I start throwing one toy tied with a thin line a short distance and have another toy in my hand. If the dog goes to the thrown toy, I guide her back with the line and show her that I have another toy.
The two-toy method helps many dogs learn to interact instead of just taking a toy and going off to play with it. The dog also learns to trade the toy in his mouth for the toy you have in your hand, which is more fun because you can keep that toy moving to entice him to continue to play with you. I add words for trading toys; “trade,” “drop it” or “give” are common words used.
Tug. I teach dogs to tug. The game of tug, with rules, is a very healthy, educational game. You start and end the game, and if the dog ever puts her teeth on your skin, the game is over. I use an emotional tone to say “Ouch!” if I feel teeth on my skin. This helps dogs learn to play within limits. Self-limiting behavior is normal for dogs: Watch well-socialized adult dogs play with puppies or senior dogs. They sense what is appropriate and play accordingly. Again, you can use two toys to help the dog learn to drop the one she is holding, signaling the end of one game and the start of another.
Search. Keep them thinking! I hide food, treats and favorite toys to encourage my dogs to search daily. When a dog finds these hidden treasures, I reward him with lots of praise.
Agility. Many dogs enjoy agility training and benefit from the experiences that come with doing something physical. In agility training, dogs learn how to really use their bodies — and all four feet. Fearful dogs learn to be more confident, overweight dogs get some great exercise, but just about any dog can benefit from learning to negotiate his way over, under, through and around objects. Agility training can be fun for your dog – and for you, too. Remember to check with your veterinarian before beginning any weight loss or exercise program with your dog.
Getting the behavior you want
Be proactive by teaching your dog to perform the behavior you want! We can reward any behavior we like and want to see more of, including being calm and gentle. The most effective way to squelch unwanted behavior is to ignore it. Why? Because giving any attention (even negative forms of attention, such as saying “no!”) for unwanted behavior is still seen by the dog as a good thing because he’s getting attention. You can immediately ask for another wanted behavior while ignoring what the dog has offered.
Hand-feeding. Taking treats gently from all human hands is a valuable lesson and, of course, dogs love practicing it. Hand-feeding a dog is a great way to raise the value, in his mind, of interaction with all people. This simple human behavior builds trust in fearful or shy dogs. For all social dogs, we can hand-feed while practicing all known cues.
Lure training and capturing. These are primary ways to train easily and quickly. In lure training, I guide the dog with a treat or toy — the lure — into a sit, down, stand, or up (jumping or climbing up on something). You can use lure training to teach a dog to use his paws to touch an object. For example, in my house I have a bell on the door to the yard. I show new dogs that the bell ringing causes the human to open the door. I teach dogs to ring the bell to go outside, which is helpful once a new dog has been house-trained.
I use capturing to reward any behavior I like, such as sneezing. You can capture any behavior and cause the dog to repeat it by assigning a word to the behavior and rewarding the dog whenever she does the behavior. I give it a word right away and use the word every time they do the behavior. Many dogs in my life sneeze as a way to request things they want; I prefer this to barking as a way of asking for things. I do teach “Speak” and give it that word (speak) from the beginning. However, I am careful to only reward “speaking” (barking) when it is wanted. Otherwise, “request barking” can become a problem behavior; if a dog believes that barking will get her what she wants, it can easily be overused by the dog.
Teaching “wait.” I teach every dog to wait. I use wait at doors before going in or out, in the car, when I’m giving a dog a bowl of food, if I drop something I do not want the dog to pick up. The cue I use is a hand signal: palm up, facing out toward the dog. I say “au auat” (a sound more than a word); my tone is firm but not harsh. The dog can be standing, sitting or lying down. If the dog tries to move forward, I physically block him with my hand, trying not to touch him but clearly communicating that he needs to pause briefly.
Teaching “stay.” Once a dog has learned to wait, it is easier to teach stay, which is used for longer periods of time than wait, times when you don’t want the dog to move. To start learning to stay, the dog should be in a sit or down position, since standing for long periods can be physically difficult, causing the dog to break position to get more comfortable.
I start very close to the dog and reward often for non-movement. I build up the length of time the dog stays still before I start to move away. When I start to move during the stay, I take baby steps around the dog, not away from him. Many dogs want desperately to be near us, so go slow when teaching stay. If we cause a fear reaction, it is much more difficult for the dog to learn. Just like us, dogs learn best when they are enjoying the learning experience and aren’t stressed, emotional or distracted.
Teaching social skills with other animals. Most of us want to take our dogs out in public. Going places, of course, means that our dogs meet a variety of people and other animals, and they get to practice their social skills. Please protect your dog by not letting her have negative experiences. One way to help dogs learn to have more socially acceptable behavior is to have people meet you with their dog-friendly dogs to allow the dogs to have positive experiences. If your dog is not social, please read “Managing a Dog with Behavior Challenges.”Some dogs require more management than others, but with our help they can go out safely and enjoy a bigger life than the house and yard offers.
How to introduce dogs to dogs
If you have a dog and a new one will be entering or visiting your home, there are things you can do to ensure that the meeting goes off without a hitch. A new dog can mean you are bringing home a foster or a new family member, someone who has a dog is moving into your house, or someone is visiting with a dog.
If you know that both dogs are very social with a variety of other dogs, the meeting should be easy. However, some dogs don’t get out and mix with other dogs that much, or may have only had one or two dog friends in their lives. These dogs may seem to have better social skills than they actually do, so introducing them to new dogs may require more care and effort. Another factor to consider is whether or not the dogs have been spayed or neutered; if not, the meeting may be more difficult.
If you are uncertain how one (or both) of the dogs will react, be cautious. First, plan to have the dogs meet on neutral ground. Choose a place where neither dog is likely to feel territorial. Even your dog’s favorite park is not a good spot, unless it is a dog park (since dogs are often used to meeting other dogs there). If you are adopting a dog from a shelter, ask the staff if they can help to introduce the dogs. If your dog is accustomed to meeting dogs at a pet supply store like PetSmart or Petco, you can ask the store’s trainer to help with the introduction. The dogs could casually meet while you are on a shopping trip. If either dog has a history of difficulty getting along with other dogs, the best strategy would be to hire a certified professional behavior consultant to help you gradually introduce the two dogs to each other.
When the meeting occurs, have each dog on lead, each with a calm, relaxed adult handler. Keep the leads loose, since tension on the leash might communicate to the dogs that you are fearful or anxious about their meeting, which will in turn make them more fearful and anxious. Walk the dogs side by side with a safe distance between the dogs. Then, cross paths (still maintaining that distance) and allow the dogs to smell where the other has walked. If either of the dogs barks, snaps and lunges toward the other, consider hiring a certified professional dog trainer or behavior consultant to teach you how to do the Look at That game to help the dogs feel calm and happy around each other before proceeding to the next stage of introduction.
Next, let the dogs meet. As the dogs approach each other, watch their body language closely, paying attention to the entire body. The dogs may need to do a little posturing or make a little noise, but if you don’t know how to tell the difference between dogs getting to know each other and dogs who don’t like each other, have someone there who does.
If the dogs have shown no signs of hostility toward each other up to this point, take them to an enclosed area, drop their leashes, step back and give them space to get to know each other. We have a tendency to micro-manage these interactions, but in general it’s best if we allow the dogs to work it out with minimal interference. Humans hovering and getting too involved can be frustrating to the dogs, which can make them tense and spoil the interaction.
For the most part, dogs in this situation respond well to verbal feedback from humans. For example, if the dogs are getting too tense around each other, saying something in a soothing tone of voice (such as “It’s OK, guys, cool your jets”) can help them to take it down a notch, shake off and start fresh. If one dog is getting too overbearing and the other isn’t correcting her, we can often help out by saying something like “Hey, knock it off!” If the dogs do shake off their tension and engage with each other in polite, appropriate ways, we can reward them for those behaviors and encourage more of them by speaking in a happy tone (“Good dogs! Well done!”). In most cases, that kind of verbal guidance is all the interference they need from us. We must only step in and physically separate them when they are becoming too excited and cannot give themselves a break, or when it becomes clear that their relationship is headed for conflict.
Here are some general body language signs to look for to get a general idea of where the interaction is headed:
If they stiffen their bodies and stare into each other’s eyes with their hair up and their teeth bared, they probably aren’t going to become fast friends. If they lunge at each other and try to fight, separate them and don’t try further introductions without help from a certified professional behavior consultant. Some dogs cannot safely interact with other animals and therefore should be the only pet in the home. Most of these dogs can be taught to ignore other animals while out in public, but they may never be able to safely interact with them.
Be wary of nose-to-nose greetings. This type of greeting is very stressful for many dogs, particularly those who are fearful or feel threatened by eye contact. For these dogs, nose-to-nose greetings may cause them to make a bad decision and bite out of fear and defensiveness. When dogs first look into each other’s eyes, the appropriate behavior is to give a glance and then look away. A hard stare into another dog’s eyes is a challenge — not a friendly way to greet. If the dogs practice inappropriate behavior like stiffening or staring, try to get the dogs to calm down by offering verbal feedback. If that doesn’t work, you can pick up their leashes and walk them around until they shake off and loosen up, then try again.
If the dogs rush up to each other — with or without the hair raised at their shoulders and at the base of the tail — and engage in loud, raucous play, stay alert. This type of play can often escalate to fighting if the dogs do not know how to calm themselves down.
If one dog pursues the other continually and ignores the other dog’s corrections (e.g., lip curls, growls or air snaps) or requests to take a break, it can turn from play into bullying. These kinds of corrections are frequently mistaken for aggression, but they are actually part of healthy, normal dog communication. Dogs should be able to correct each other when one is being inappropriate; likewise, they should be able to pay attention to another dog’s corrections. It is also important for dogs to take turns being the chaser and the one being chased, and to take breaks when they get too amped up. If they are not able to do that for themselves, pick up their leashes and walk them around until they shake off and loosen up, then try again.
If the dogs try to play by pawing or play-bowing with their legs stretched out in front of them, they may want to be best buddies. Allow them to get to know each other, and give praise for each nice interaction.
If the dogs seem fine with each other, drive them home, preferably in separate crates or cars so that the close quarters of a vehicle won’t create unnecessary tension between them. At home, let them settle in, but make sure you’ve put away your dog’s toys, bones and food bowls first, since these items may be sources of conflict. Whenever you feed the dogs, and certainly if you’re going to offer high-value items like Kongs or chews, it may be best to separate them while they eat. Once the dogs are good friends, they may be more willing to chomp side by side on food and high-value items.
To introduce a puppy to a dog, use the same procedure as above. If the puppy is under six months old, both the dog and the puppy may need frequent breaks from each other. Some adult dogs will quickly lose patience with puppy energy. If the dog does not like the puppy, do not leave them alone together.
-Article By Sherry Woodard
Finally, if you are not confident or comfortable at any point, please contact your lead foster for assistance.
Table of Contents:
How to introduce dogs
How to introduce cats to dogs
How to avoid dog bites with children
Basics for trust building/Obedience
House training / Crate Training
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How to Introduce a Dog and Cat -Article by Sherry Woodard
Some dogs do fine living with cats; others simply cannot live safely with felines. Sometimes, a dog can live with certain cats (depending on their age, temperament and activity level), but not others. Even if your dog has successfully lived with cats in the past, it is important to remember that each dog and each cat is an individual and therefore each introduction is different.
When introducing your dog to a cat, pay attention to the body language of both animals. If the cat’s ears are pinned back or his tail is swishing back and forth, this is a good indicator that he is displeased. You particularly want to be aware of dog body language that could be potential warning signs. If your dog has a strong prey drive (the inclination to seek out, chase and potentially capture animals seen as prey — usually smaller animals such as cats or rabbits), she might become very focused on the cat. She’ll stiffen, stare, and may start barking or whining. If you see these signs, do not let her near the cat. Ideally, her body language will be loose and relaxed around the cat. It’s OK if she pays attention to the cat, but you don’t want to see her fixated on him.
In addition, a dog’s interaction with a cat can change depending on the environment. Just because your dog is OK with the cat inside the house doesn’t mean she’ll exhibit that same behavior outdoors. She might fixate on the cat and start stalking him when they are outside together. So, be aware of her body language around the cat in each new situation, until you know how she is going to respond toward him.
There are many different ways to introduce a dog to a cat. If the first method of introduction you try doesn’t work or you don’t feel comfortable with it, try a different option. Even if the dog has had experience with cats and the cat has lived with a dog before, proceed cautiously during the introduction. It’s best to have two people present — one to intervene with each animal, if necessary. If you have more than one dog, introduce each dog separately to the cat.
Option 1: Slow and steady desensitization
If your dog is too fixated on the cat, you can try desensitization, the goal of which is to reduce your dog’s reaction to the cat by gradually increasing her exposure to him. Put the cat in a room (e.g., a bedroom, a bathroom or a spare room) with a tall baby gate across the door. The room you choose should be one the dog cannot access and doesn’t need to access. For example, if the dog sleeps in the bedroom with you at night, don’t pick that room for the cat. The idea is to separate them and only allow them to view each other during specific times.
In his room, give the cat all needed supplies: litter box, toys, food and water. Keep in mind that cats are good at squeezing through small gaps and are also good climbers and jumpers. So, make sure your cat can’t get past the gate you put up. The gate needs to be a barrier that allows the cat and dog to see one another, but does not allow them to access each other.
To begin desensitization, let the dog view the cat briefly through the gate, and then get the dog to focus on something else, such as playing with a toy or practicing cues. Sometimes it helps to keep the dog on leash so that you can move her away from the cat when you try to refocus her attention. Praise and reward the dog for being able to focus elsewhere. Continue to give the dog short viewings of the cat throughout the day.
Sometimes, even seeing the cat at first is too exciting for the dog. If this is the case, close the door and begin feeding each animal on his or her side of the door: The cat eats his food in his room, right next to the door, and the dog eats her meal on the other side of the door. This allows each animal to associate the smells of the other with something good: food. You can also swap out the blankets and bedding of each animal, giving it to the other. That way, the dog can get used to the cat’s smell and the cat can get used to the dog’s smell, without overstimulating either of them.
Hopefully, through this process of slowly letting the dog see the cat and get accustomed to the cat’s presence, the dog will eventually become desensitized and lose interest in the cat. In some cases, the dog will lose interest in the cat within a couple of hours, but it can take days, weeks or even months. Each dog (and each cat) is an individual and will learn at his or her own pace.
With that said, though, it is possible that your dog may not ever be able to safely share space with a cat. If you don’t feel you can trust your dog around your cat, you should keep them apart. Many dogs can injure or kill a cat very quickly, and your dog can also be injured by the cat. Your first priority should be ensuring that everyone stays safe.
Option 2: Face-to-face introduction
This is a more fast-paced introduction. One person should hold the dog on a loose lead and watch the dog’s body language. Someone else should watch the cat’s body language. If the cat is not raising his back or hissing around the dog, he can be allowed to move around freely. A cat is rarely a threat to a dog, but some cats will be on the offensive when meeting dogs.
If the dog is calm around the cat, you can ask the dog to sit, or lie down and stay, if she has been taught those cues, while the cat moves about freely, sniffing the dog if he wishes. The dog should be praised and rewarded if she ignores the cat. If the dog is too fixated on the cat (e.g., staring at the cat, has stiff body language, will not listen to you when you call her name) or if she lunges and tries to chase the cat, you should try a different strategy for getting them to share space, such as Option 1 or Option 3.
Option 3: Look at That
If the quick introduction did not work and your dog is not becoming desensitized to the cat, you might need to try some more structured training. By playing Look at That (LAT) with your dog, you can help to teach her not to fixate on the cat. You’ll be teaching her to look at the cat and then look back at you for a treat. Essentially, she’ll learn that it is more rewarding to not pay attention to the cat.
To start working on LAT, you need to figure out the dog’s threshold while on leash: At what point does she notice the cat, but still respond to you when you say her name? That is her threshold. Each dog has a different threshold. For one dog, five feet away from the cat might be her threshold; for another dog, it might be 25 feet. You’ll know you have gone past the threshold when she starts barking or lunging at the cat. Another sign that you’re getting too close to the cat is if she starts moving more slowly, staring and stiffening her body. If you call her name and she doesn’t respond to you, move a few feet away from the cat.
Once you’ve figured out the dog’s threshold, grab a clicker and some really delicious, pea-sized treats. If you don’t have a clicker, a verbal marker (a word like “yes” or “good”) will work just fine. Put 10 treats in your hand and keep the bag close by for later.
When you see the dog looking at the cat, click the clicker or use your verbal marker and give her a treat. The first few times, you might have to put the treat right in front of her nose, but fairly soon she should start looking expectantly at you as soon as she hears the marker. That’s because the marker (either a clicker or a word like “yes”) always means a treat is coming. Use up the 10 treats, clicking as soon as she looks at the cat.
The 11th time, before using the marker, wait and see if she will look at the cat and then look right back at you. If she does that, either click or use the verbal marker when she looks at you and then give her a treat. If that doesn’t happen, go back a step. Mark her 10 more times for looking at the cat and then try again. Once she is reliably looking at the cat and then looking back at you, you can slowly start moving closer and closer to the cat. If the dog becomes fixated on the cat when you move closer, you’ve gone past the threshold and need to move back.
As you train, her threshold decreases, which means that the two of you will be able to move closer and closer to the cat. Continue practicing LAT with your dog until she can be right next to the cat without an issue. How quickly your dog’s threshold decreases will depend on you (how much you practice and the types of treats you use), your dog (since every dog learns at a different pace) and your cat’s comfort level.
Introducing kittens and puppies
If you are introducing a kitten to a dog, keep in mind that kittens may not have any fear of dogs, so you must watch the dog carefully. Because kittens are small and want to run and play, dogs with a strong prey drive may be very excited by a kitten’s movements. Even if your dog is OK with your adult cats, it is important to watch her closely when she’s with a kitten. If your dog is young and high-energy, she could hurt or kill the kitten simply by trying to play. So, for safety’s sake, keep kittens and dogs apart any time you are not watching them.
Introducing adult cats to puppies can sometimes be easy, since a well-socialized adult cat might be fine with a puppy acting like a puppy. However, if your rambunctious puppy is chasing your shy cat, it is up to you to intervene. Until the puppy is old enough to have more self-control and has had some training, you will want to manage their interactions. You don’t want your puppy to learn that chasing the cat is a fun game. Baby gates can be used to keep the animals safely and comfortably apart. To help you keep an eye on your puppy, you can also put her on a leash. That way, if she begins to chase the cat, you will be able to easily direct her away from that behavior.
Seeking help from a professional
Animals with good past experience often adjust well and quickly to a new pet in the house. But if introductions don’t go well, seek help from a professional dog trainer or behavior consultant. Don’t ever use punishment: It will not help and it could make matters much worse.
Congratulations, you’ve decided to join the world of altruistic fosters! You are opening up your house, your life, your kids and your other pets to a new dog that might otherwise be put down at your local shelter. You are literally, becoming a life saver.
The first three weeks after bringing a foster dog into your home are the most critical weeks to set your new dog up for success, and ensure a successful and peaceful integration into your home.
Each dog you take in, is an individual with its own needs. Each dog will have its own past/history to overcome with your guidance.
But the following, is a general “how to” guideline on the basic steps every foster should take as they bring a new dog into their home. Some of these steps may seem unnecessary but we only take in dogs that are victims of cruelty or have behavior problems. The extra steps and the extra time ensure a smooth transition for us to the tune of hundreds of dogs each year.
Step 1: Chill Out!
Shelters are stressful environments full of strange noises and smells. All of that can be overstimulating for a dog, causing them to act out in ways that they might not normally.
Your new foster is going to need quiet time in your house, before anything else. Basically, the dog needs to CHILL OUT, which we call “decompression time.” Skipping this step is a sure-fire way to make sure you have problems.
You should have a quiet, crated area for your new foster to decompress in. Get it out of your head that a crate is a form of punishment. Every tool can be used properly or improperly, properly used a crate gives a dog a safe, “den like” area which is very natural to them. Make sure the foster dog is provided with lots of ways to be stimulated mentally (Kongs with frozen peanut butter, interactive toy games, etc). I also have music playing 24/7 in the room. Specifically, classical music, since the piano tempos slow down the racing heart-beat of a stressed dog.
Stressed dogs destroy crates and act out. Calm dogs do not.
Step 2: Smell Before See. See Before Touch. Repeat. Smell Before See. See Before Touch.
Dogs can learn a lot about the world through their nose. In fact, it is their most powerful sense.
A dog’s nose is thousands of time stronger than ours, which is why some dogs can detect oncoming seizures and other medical emergencies with their owners, before they happen.
We also already know that our foster dog is coming into our house already overstimulated from too many people, dogs noises and sounds at the shelter, and we need to help the dog decompress. Not only does this alone time let the dog relax, it also allows the dog to explore your house with his nose, while crated and secure but still learning about your other pets, children, etc without the stress of a face-to-face meeting where body language might be misunderstood.
This will probably be one of the most time-consuming but most important parts of the fostering process. But if you do this step properly, life will resume to a certain degree of normalcy soon.
Here’s how it works at my house: My dogs all go out the back to potty in the yard. The new foster dog comes out of his crate and immediately goes out the front door to potty.
The new foster is then allowed to come inside and explore the larger part of the house, and typically they will go right to where my dogs hang out and start rolling around and exploring those scents. After a minute or two, the foster gets a delicious treat and goes to enjoy it in his crate.
My dogs come back inside and they immediately start rolling around too, smelling the new dog and getting used to him. Then they all get rewarded with delicious treats, too.
New dog smell=GOOD.
I will never put a time frame on how long the “smell before see phase” lasts. Each dog is unique and will need more, or less time. I gauge it more on the body reaction of all the dogs in the house.
If you’re unsure about reading dog body language, you should probably learn a little more before bringing in a new dog to foster since missing or misunderstanding their cues causes most problems with new dog greetings.
SEE BEFORE TOUCH
Now, you open up another sense for the dog which is the sense of sight. The dog’s position in the house remains relatively the same but the door is opened up and then baby gated shut.
The dog still spends more time in their crate than the other dogs, and you offset that by spending more time out of your day exercising the dog individually; ensuring that all of their physical and mental stimulation needs are met.
Now, when your dogs go to the bathroom, if your fence is more open and visible on both sides (like a chain-link fence), you can bring your foster dog around from the front yard so everyone can see each other while they go to the bathroom.
Keep your foster dog moving around the house and reward positive body language while redirecting unwanted body language. Don’t let them sit in one spot and stare at each other, and gauge their reaction to seeing the other dogs.
If you need to start off at 50 ft away, start off at 50 ft away. If you can be a few arm’s lengths from the fence without any problems, then start there.
Did you just decide to foster a 9 month old puppy? I hope you’re a runner! Or a longboarder, like me. Because your dog is going to need A LOT of physical stimulation and it’s not going to come from playing with your other dogs just yet.
It’s going to come from you, the committed foster who goes to bed a little earlier and wakes up a little earlier to give their foster dog what they need to thrive.
I don’t put a timeline on the steps above. But two weeks is the standard amount of time it takes and about how long you should plan to spend before moving on to letting your dogs meet.
Some dogs will need more time. I’ve stayed in the, “see but don’t touch” phase for several months, with some more extreme cases.
Every time, with positive reinforcement and a focus on mental and physical stimulation and the positive projection of my own energy, the dogs have eventually advanced to the next stage.
When you’re ready to get your dogs to meet each other, you have to think like a dog if you want a good interaction. Humans like to stand in one spot, make eye contact, and talk.
Dogs like to run around and move, they avoid too much direct eye contact, and they’d rather smell than talk.
So, take your dogs for a walk. A nice, long walk. Have your spouse or a friend help you and spread it out. Dog-Person-Person-Dog.
Keep everyone moving forward and remember the 5-second rule. No, not about dropping your food on the floor. If you have dogs in your house that food shouldn’t last 5 seconds on the floor. The 5-second rule about eye contact. Nothing good ever comes from more than 5 seconds of two new dogs locking eyes.
Watch them, count silently in your head, and around the 3 to 5 second mark, take the lead and redirect the dogs BEFORE any negative body language, growls, or snaps happen. Reward them positively for the good, short interaction.
Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Always short interactions, always ending on a positive note.
Dogs are wonderful, loving creatures and we’ve enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with them for thousands of years.
Not all dogs know how to be dogs but many are willing to learn if we help them, and if we can just slow the process down and give them time to learn.
Dogs learn through experiences, both good and bad ones. Through those experiences, they shape their understanding of the world and how to react to certain things.
Your dog’s way of thinking can be summed up by a sequence of “If/Then” statements. If I see a dog, then I need to do this. If I see a cat, then I need to do this. If someone rings the doorbell, then I need to do this. The more we shape those experiences with positivity, and the more positive experiences we provide, the more we can do for misunderstood, abused, unwanted and neglected shelter animals that might not otherwise make it out the front door.
Everything is about being realistic with your abilities, your time and your other obligations. It’s the only way to set your dogs and your foster dogs up for success. Not to mention the rescue you are helping.
Many of them will only take a dog in because someone offers to foster. If you’re unprepared, you’re going to place a big burden on that rescue soon as you force them to quickly find another foster while you deal with unexpected behavior problems you’re ill-equipped to handle.
You, as the foster, are on the front lines of deciding the final outcome for the dog you’re taking into your house. Take that responsibility seriously, and you will experience one of the most rewarding feelings ever.
- Article by Steffen Baldwin