Friday, June 8

Ask the Frog Princess: Slow Introductions

Someone asked, "Why do you have photos of some of your dogs on their available page with other dogs, but the bio says the dog has to be an only dog?  It's confusing!"

You've probably seen that there are a number of dogs on our available pages who show up in photos with other dogs, but when you look at their boxed info, the answer to the Dogs? question is NO!  How can this be?  Why would we show a dog hanging out with other dogs and then say "NO other dogs!" in the bio?

It's because many times a dog has been given a lot of time to learn to live with the dogs in her foster home, and there's a great photo op that includes another dog.  So we use it.  Dogs that are reactive to other dogs at first can often learn to live safely with other dogs if they go through "slow introductions."  We have asked all our foster homes to use the "slow introductions" method when they bring home a dog.  Minerva is a case in point.

Minerva has a puppy mill past, and like a lot of dogs from puppy mills or breeding situations, she hasn't been properly socialized with other dogs--even though she probably spent a lot of her life living in a crate slapped up next to, under, and/or on top of other dogs' crates, she has never learned the finer points of doggy etiquette.  So when she meets or sees another dog, she is reactive.  She barks, pulls, lunges, and so on.  You've seen reactive dogs at the park or behind fences. 

We get a lot of foster dogs who are reactive around other dogs.  This is a problem, since very few of our foster homes have no other dogs.  So we consulted smart people, and this is what we learned.

When dogs are moved into a new home, they need time to decompress, time to learn the new routines, to smell the new smells, identify and learn to ignore new sounds, and to get comfortable in the new environment.  Of course, some dogs are really easy-going and they will let newcomers wander in and never raise a hair.  Some newcomers are really easy-going, and they are able to walk in the door and fit right in like they were to the manor born.

But mostly not.  Slow introductions means we ask our foster families to set aside a room in the house where the new dog can hang out all by herself for at least 2 or 3 days and maybe as long as 3 weeks.  We are building confidence in the foster dog that she's ok and no one is going to hurt her or take her food or endanger her in any way.

During this time, the dogs of the household dogs can go about their business, but they aren't introduced to the new dog inside the house.  The people in the house can stop by and visit with the new dog, but the resident dogs don't get to come in the room.

After a couple of days, the new dog and the old dog will meet outside in no man's land.  They can take a walk together with separate people holding their leads.  Then back into the house, one at a time, and back into their respective corners.  After several days,  all the dogs will have been introduced to each other, and maybe, if the walks went well, they can meet in the backyard.  And back into the house in their separate spaces.  Keep this up until you are convinced that there will not be fighting--when you introduce your new dog to the dog inside the house after they've met on neutral ground several times and then in the backyard, allow the dogs to meet each other indoors, but keep a leash on them.  Let them drag the leash for a few days.  If you have been careful and all the stars align, the reactive dog and the resident dog will be able to get along.  You'll still have to be careful to keep anything that might be fought over (toys, food, beds) picked up until you learn where the reactive dog might be reactive--what their triggers might be-- but eventually your dogs should all be able to get along.  Like Minerva and her foster brothers!

Sadly, when we've placed reactive dogs in adoptive homes with resident dogs, we've found many adopters are simply not willing to follow instructions about slow introductions.  They are excited to have a new dog in the house!  They want their friends and neighbors and family to come over and meet the new dog!  They want the new dog to meet the old dog!  And it's all fun and games until the new dog or the old dog loses an eye and then the new dog has to come back to FBRN.  Patience is hard in the face of a new dog.  We do understand.  And because we understand that it's just too hard for most people, we say no to families with dogs when our foster dog is reactive.

So that's why you may see photos of dogs like Minerva cuddled up next to a dog in some of the photos on her available page, but the requirements for adoption say "No other dogs."  We don't want anybody's dogs to get hurt, we don't want anyone to be injured breaking up a fight that broke out because adopters didn't want to do slow introductions, and we don't want to upset the foster dog by breaking up her routine more than we have to.

We want what's safest for everyone, affirms

The Frog Princess

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