Wednesday, January 14

Sirius and Slow Intros

We ask our foster homes to practice slow introductions for all our new fosters.  A slow introduction is when you keep dogs separate for a period of time while the foster dog grows accustomed to the smells and the rhythms and the sounds of the new home.  Sometimes a well-balanced and friendly dog can be ready to join the household in as little as 3 days.  Sometimes dogs need a little more time, maybe a week or two.  Very occasionally we get a dog who is so distrustful or lacking in confidence that they take months to join the family.  

Sometimes dogs just never do reach the stage when they are comfortable around the dogs in the foster home, and those foster homes must "crate and rotate," which means the foster is in a private room or in a crate while the resident dogs are in the house for a while, then the resident dogs are crated and the foster gets to spend time with the family.  At some point, dogs may be allowed to be loose in a bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or guest room, but the door is babygated off, and then the babygate is covered with a blanket to keep the dogs from seeing each other.

Recently, one of our foster dogs had a breakthrough.  This is what her foster mom wrote about the experience:  

Both a little tentative about what to do next.
Sirius has been here since right around Thanksgiving. She really is silly, funny, cute and all the things that make us love Frenchies. She's also reactive, unsocialized, hyper and ill-mannered. I always do slow intros and as I explain to folks, sometimes that can mean as little as a week and sometimes, it can mean much longer.

I know you're thinking Cleo has Sirius pinned at the leg. Not true.
 It took three weeks before we allowed Cleo and Sirius to meet on leash and the first few times it was a brief passing each other on the street. Crate and rotate was the routine, along with baby gates with blankets (after doors could be opened).

The positive thing about Sirius is that I've learned her cues and she's pretty consistent. So she's graduated to being out of the crate at the same time Cleo is out of hers for at least part of the day. They play bowed to each other about two weeks ago and did have a couple of play sessions. One ended on a not-so-great note but we were able to stop anything before a big escalation.

This morning, I walked the two of them by myself. I live on the edge that way. They're good together on walks now and Cleo has taken the role of teacher, for the most part, when it comes to Sirius. When we got home, the three of us went into my office. I was watching them closely and was stunned when they both got in Sirius' dog bed. Not only because they both got in it but because Sirius had no clue that dog beds were fun and comfy until about a week ago.

It makes my heart happy to see them do this. Do I trust them now? Absolutely not. But Cleo is a snuggler more than a player, and she's loving this. Sirius is learning that she can be calm and safe with another dog around and with people moving around.

I love slow intros. They work wonders.


Our foster families are the ne plus ultra of foster families.  Patient, skillful, generous almost to a fault.  It's not easy to be this careful and consistent.

They got up for water and went right back to it.
Sirius is a good example of a dog who will be made available with a request that she be an only dog, just because it is so difficult to do a 2 month slow intro.  Applicants sometimes see photos of available dogs with other dogs in the photo and they get confused because the blurb makes it clear that the dog must be an only.  It's understandable that they should be confused, but after many years, we've found it's better to allow a dog who is really not comfortable around other dogs to just have her own home as an only dog.  A foster who can live in an uneasy truce with a resident dog is not the same thing as a dog who enjoys and really needs the companionship of another dog.

But it is nice to see a dog grow more comfortable in the company of her own kind, thinks

The Frog Princess

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