Foster Friday: 5 Tips for helping your foster dog feel more comfortable.

I have a new foster pup, Devon, and she is adorable:

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While she is adorable(!), she also came with some baggage, just like all dogs, rescued or not. She’s only my third foster, if we’re not including foster fail Pinot…and I hope to do a lot more fostering in the future.

Here are some tips for helping your new foster dog feel comfortable in their new (temporary) home:

  1. Give them a cozy spot: Some dogs aren’t used to being in a house, so crating may be necessary to save your house. Make that spot fun and safe by feeding your foster in their crate, and playing crate games so that they WANT to be in their crate. Covering the crate, always offering a treat for getting in the crate, and not leaving the dog for long periods of time are all good ways to make the crate a happy place.

  2. Feed out of puzzle toys: Maybe not every meal right away, but learning to work on a food puzzle is great mental stimulation for all dogs. Kongs and Busy Buddy toys are just some of the great ones available.kong
  3. Handfeeding: This is a great way of building a bond SUPER fast. Simply prepare your foster dog’s meal, and then take the dog to a nice, low distraction room. Offer them handfuls of food until it’s all gone. You can combine this with training, or you can simply feed them! This reinforces to the dog that you are a wonderful person who makes good things happen. With dogs of unknown origin, this is very important.

  4. Teach them their name: Play the name game! Say the dog’s name one time in an upbeat voice, and feed! Wait for eye contact/ attention before feeding, and try using distractions–for example, handful of food held out to the side. Even if your foster dog is destined for a name change (most are), having a dog that responds to *something* is better than a dog who doesn’t know their name. When your foster gets adopted, tell the new owners about the name game and they can teach their new dog a new name.

  5. Exercise: Walks, playing with toys, and running in the yard are good for the soul, and are some of the reasons fostering is great. Instead of sitting in a kennel all day, your foster dog gets to be…a dog! See below:IMG_2274

If you’ve never fostered before, I definitely recommend it. You get the fun and excitement of a new (short term) dog, but also the benefit of helping out a rescue in need–and seeing the adopters with their new family member is pretty darn amazing!

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Dog Walking Tips & More from Professional Dog Trainer Lulu Clarke

Looks like we have a storm coming! Stay tuned for tips on keeping your dogs busy when the weather is miserable (and potentially dangerous!) outside. In the meantime, I recently had the fun opportunity to do an interview with one of my favorite dog supply vendors, Best Bully Sticks. They’re a local Richmond, Va company, just like me, and they are the best! All natural treats & chews, and they do good work for rescue? Can’t beat that. Pinot would like to add that the Bully Bites are his favorite thing ever.

Click here to read the interview!

[I was not compensated for this blog in any way…I am just a huge Best Bully Sticks fan!]

Mindful Mondays

I’ve always loved camping. There is just something about sleeping outside, among the bugs, creeping nighttime creatures, and the occasional excitement (like that time a bear poked me when I was hammocking in Kentucky!).

When I adopted Galley, I had a pretty good feeling she’d be a great camping dog. She spent her first months in the woods, so she is a happy girl when she’s able to just be outside. When I first took her camping, she loved it, and seemed to love that her person was inside this nice spacious (to her…it is a two person tent!) crate-like-spot.

Pinot on the other hand, is a whiney little dude. Hence the name. Wine-y? Get it? He gets frustrated easily, and while he is pretty good off leash, I don’t trust him 100% yet, so there would be tethering (umbilical cord!) involved in any camping we do.

As anyone who’s worked with dogs before knows, tethering/leashes/boundaries can create or enhance frustration and tension. Something that I have been focusing on with Pinot is relaxing. I’ve been approaching it almost like mindfulness. Instead of blindly reacting to things we find uncomfortable, why not make peace with it first and then analyze it to see if we can change it? I’ve found that dogs trained using shaping and capturing — thinking dogs — have an easier time with this, since they are already used to problem solving.

Anyway, I’m writing this from my campsite. Both dogs are sitting calmly, one on my lap, one between my knees, looking out over a wide open field. We’ve seen a herd of deer…yes, we barked! And then we settled. I just realized I haven’t said a single word to them since we woke up. Haven’t needed to. Now, I’m sipping coffee as the sun warms us up, and frankly, there is not much that could be better than this.

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Pinot’s Gotcha Day

Well, today is the one year anniversary of Pinot. One year ago, a client texted me about a dog they had found…and of course she included a photo–how could I resist those ears?! Her neighbor was out walking her dog early in the morning, and when they got home, oops! They had a stowaway! Pinot had apparently joined up with them and followed them all the way home. She wasn’t interested in dealing with him, so she passed him on to her next door neighbors, long time clients of mine.

I went to “see” him right away…and instantly loved his giant ears and big personality. Of course! I’d take him and see about finding his family or fostering/rehoming him. Surely, this lovable, adorable, chunk of a terrier mix had a family. His ultra long toenails and intact male parts suggested otherwise, but I was determined. I plastered his face at vet’s offices, pet stores, street corners, and got nothing.

So, a month went by.

A month in which I realized Pinot had zero house skills. He could not settle at all and went everywhere at top speed, mouthing and parkour-ing off of anything and anyone in his way. He humped my other dog compulsively (luckily she didn’t mind). I mean, non stop. If she moved, he mounted her. The only time he stopped zooming was to hump her. Or to make his mark. Everywhere.

So. Much. Pee.

I felt like a failure when I broke down and bought belly bands and maxi pads. FOR A DOG. Shouldn’t I be a better trainer than that? I shouldn’t need those. Hm.

When it became clear that he did not have a family, I excitedly decided to get him neutered, which, lucky for me, did help the marking a LOT. It doesn’t always, especially with a dog of unknown age. Who knows how long he’d been practicing marking??

I got him into playing ball. Which channeled his energies enough to curb his drive to hump.

I got him on the prey model raw diet, which satisfied his appetite, and I believe, helped with housetraining AND overall behavior. This little guy does not need any sugar rushes in his life. Raw fed dogs generally drink less water, due to the water content in their food…and since he wasn’t chugging water to compensate for kibble, his tiny-dog bladder wasn’t constantly needing to be emptied.

He learned about chewing on toys, kongs, puzzle toys, dog beds, and with some strategic tethering, he learned that he could in fact relax. It was possible.

Over the course of this year, he has gone from being crated (or on leash/tether) 100% of the time when not outside, to having full run of the house 100% of the time.

Turns out, he came with a brilliant recall, and it has only gotten better.

He still jumps on people and loves people just a little too much…but is that such a problem? Maybe for some, but I guess I had other priorities.

He goes kayaking with me.

He sleeps in the crook of my elbow. Yes, under the covers.

He and Galley love each other ridiculously.

He is one lucky little dude.

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