Before you introduce your foster dog to your cat, you should wait a few days until you have confirmed or instilled basic obedience in your foster dog. You will need to have your foster dog under control and know which behaviors are appropriate when interacting with a cat. All dogs are driven to chase things; some may have a stronger drive than others. In a dog’s eyes cats are wonderful to chase. They are small, furry, and have those wonderful long tails. Cats are also usually pretty fast and can lead a dog on a merry chase, which only makes the dog want to do it again and again. If we could only teach those cats not to run away! That is beyond my expertise, so the focus of this article is what we can do to help the dog stop chasing the cat.
Properly introducing the dog and cat can help things go harmoniously from the start. Never force the cat to meet the dog. Cats are cautious by nature and will approach when they feel safe. Crating or tethering the dog so the cat can get close without having to worry about running can go a long way toward making the cat feel better. Making sure that the dog is in the presence of things the cat loves, such as her favorite toy or cat nip, can also help things along. However, there are times when even the most careful introductions won’t make Kitty and Fido best friends. That’s where the rest of this section comes in.
First of all, make sure that you have a safe place for the cat to go. You can use a baby gate, jerry-rig a door to open only wide enough for the cat to slip in, or actually install a cat door in the interior door. (If your dog has full run of the house, you may need to make a safe place for your cat on all levels of you home.) In the cat’s sanctuary, have at least her litter box and water. Make sure the sanctuary is a place the cat likes to go.
The next thing you should do is work on basic obedience commands with your dog in a distraction-free environment. “sit”, ” stay”, and ” come” are a minimum and they should be very reliable off leash and out of your arm’s reach. As the dog gets good at these with minimum distractions, gradually add distractions. Keep in mind that the cat may be the highest level distraction, so it could be awhile before you are ready to introduce her to your training sessions.
ASSUME THE DOG WILL CHASE THE CAT SO YOU ARE PREPARED!
If all is reasonably calm so far, walk the dog around the room on leash, but don’t let go of the leash in case the dog decides to chase the cat. On leash interactions give the cat the opportunity to approach the dog if they choose, or to find a route of escape. During the first few meetings, the cat and dog will probably not interact face-to-face. A dog is a predatory animal. It’s a natural instinct for a dog to want to chase a cat. Assume the dog will chase the cat so you are prepared. Never allow the dog to intimidate the cate by barking or chasing. Each time the dog acts inappropriately (barking), let him know these behaviors are unacceptable; try using a verbal interrupter like “Oops” to get their attention and redirect their energy. On the other hand, if the cat bops the dog on the nose as a warning, that’s a good sign and should not be discouraged. When they set up boundaries between themselves, they are beginning to establish a working relationship.
Let them interact with the dog on leash for about 30 minutes, then return the cat back to its safe haven and bring the dog will chase the cat so you are prepared. Never allow the dog to intimidate the cat by barking or chasing. Each time the dog acts inappropriately (barking), let him know these behaviors are unacceptable; try using a verbal interrupter like “Oops” to get their attention and redirect their energy. On the other hand, if the cat bops the dog on the nose as a warning, that’s a good sign and should not be discouraged. When they set up boundaries between themselves, they are beginning to establish a working relationship.
Let them interact with the dog on leash for about 30 minutes, then return the cat back to its safe haven and bring the dog to its crate or bed. Give the dog a treat and lots of praise. Increase the amount of time they are together a little each visit. It is important to be patient and encouraging in their interactions. If you’re relaxed, they will be more at ease. Always praise friendly behavior.
Don’t rush the introduction or force them to interact more than either is willing. Pressing them to accept each other will only slow down the adjustment process. When the cat and dog seem to be getting used to each other, let the dog go, but keep his leash attached to his collar. Let him drag it around the house as he wanders, that way you can control him at any time. The cat will probably hide first. You should use your best judgment as to when they can begin supervised sessions with the dog off-leash.
Remember that this will take some time. Keep in mind that the dog is not only getting used to the idea of a cat in his house, but also his new people, routine, and what these people expect of him. It may take a month or more for things to settle into a somewhat normal existence. Also remember not to tempt fate by allowing the cat and dog to be together if you are not around to supervise. Sometimes the best-behaved dogs can get too rough in play, which can result in injury or worse. Crating the dog, or closing him in one area while the cat is in another area is a wise safety precaution, even if you don’t feel it is necessary.
The most important phase dogs go through after the shelter is the Decompression Phase, also known as the Two week shutdown. The Decompression stage lasts anywhere from the first day to a few weeks to even, in extreme cases, months. This guide will show you step-by-step what to do from the moment your rescue arrives through the first days and weeks to set up your foster dog for success.
What IS the Two Week Shutdown?
A very brief overview of the Two Week Shutdown is this:
Your new dog needs time to adjust and there are many scenarios that people put their new dog through that only encourage negative behaviors
to surface. Dogs may be resilient creatures, but they do also need to know that we are in control of situations, that we will protect and provide for them, and give them clear expectations and routines to follow.
Two weeks is just a guideline. Most dogs advance faster but depending on the individual dog and how closely you follow the guidelines, it may take longer.
What Does The Two Week Shutdown Mean To Me?
When you bring home a new dog, young or old, we KNOW you are so excited and you want to share your new addition with everyone you can!
Did you know that by taking your dog to pet stores, friends and families homes, dog parks, pet events or other really busy, social settings you may inadvertently be telling your dog to act out?
Think about this: the majority of us, when put into new situations, do not put all of ourselves out there. We put forth what we want people to see or think they want to see. Also, we are much more likely to withdraw from situations that make us uncomfortable. What would you do if you were on a date with someone new and they took you to meet their family who constantly hugged you, kissed you or otherwise invaded your space? What would you do if they then took you to meet all their friends and they did the same? Would you consider your date sane? Would you consider your date someone you could trust? Sure, you liked them initially to go out with them on a first date, but wouldn’t their actions throughout that first date dictate whether you would see them again? Would you see them again if they put you in so many situations that made you uncomfortable? Consider this as well: say you had to go live with a new family who spoke a language you didn’t understand. You’ll be reserved, perhaps a bit detached.
What if they doted on you, as a new family member, speaking to you in a language you don’t understand, expecting you to interact with all their family members and friends? Would you feel comfortable? Would you want to retreat to a safe place? Would you know where a safe place was? Would they give you one?
Things many people forget is that we expect our new dogs to be so accepting of everything and we put them in these very similar situations and then become alarmed when they “act out.” Your new dog is acting out or misbehaving because they don’t view you as the decision maker. Remember, to them, you are putting them in situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Keep reading to find out how to help your dog adjust and begin to view you as the decision maker of the home and to help them put their trust in YOU, where it belongs!
Trust is EVERYTHING to building a good and solid relationship with your dog!
So, How Do I Get Started?
Even if you’ve had your dog a few days and are beginning to notice some issues behaviorally, you can still start fresh and get them started on the shutdown.
Some things you want to keep in mind with your new dog when you first get them:
- A tired dog is a happy dog! Exercising your dog(s) regularly and thoroughly will help ensure they relax into their new household a little easier. Without that pent up energy, they’ve GOT to relax! However;
- Do not take them on walks yet. Walks provide an overabundance of stimulation and there are many variables you may encounter that you need that trust built FIRST before subjecting them to those new situations. Instead, exercise your dog in the yard on a long lead (20ft plus) and spend some time getting to know one another 🙂
- Do not take them to pet stores, dog parks, other people’s homes, etc. Again, these situations provide an overabundance of stimulation that your dog needs to have the trust built in you for YOU to handle the situation so they don’t have to.
- Keep them leashed to you at ALL times when they are not crated. Yes, even in the house and yes, even if you have a fully fenced yard. Why? It builds the precedence with them that YOU are the bringer of everything in life. Additionally, keeping them leashed to you keeps them from getting in trouble. If they aren’t house trained, they can’t very well go run out of your line of sight and have an “accident” if you have them leashed to you huh? Or, if someone new comes in the home, keeping them leashed to you can help prevent the reinforcement of undesirable behaviors like jumping on people. When the dog is leashed to you, YOU are in control. The dog WILL begin to understand this.
- Do not allow your new dog and your existing pets get into a 24/7 free-for-all. Remember, your existing pets don’t know this new “intruder” and the new dog doesn’t know the routine of the home and what’s permissible. Setting a routine with the new dog first, without the full distraction of other pets will make life 1000 times easier when you begin integrating them.
- Do not allow your new dog furniture privileges. They haven’t earned them yet. Create a spot for them to be when they are out lounging around in each room. Furniture privileges can be given later on down the road if you so please.
- Do not give your new foster dog unstructured affection. Any and all affection from you must have a purpose. No kissy face or baby talk. I know it is hard, especially when they have likely never had love before but you will not be helping him or yourself if you do this.
- DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE IN YOUR NEW DOGS FACE. They do not know you and this can be very intimidating for your new foster dog. They could growl or worse, bite out of fear/anxiety. They need to trust you so don’t assume that you can do this because they appear friendly.
- Do not allow your new dog to “go ahead of you”. Establish this rule right away. You go out and in FIRST through the door. In fact, it is a good idea to have them sit before they can enter, before you leash up, etc.
When bringing your new dog home, give them a brief tour of their primary living area or the places they will be most often. Now, it’s crate time! It’s time to give the dog some time to itself to take in everything that’s happened thus far.
The crate will be used as a tool in the shutdown, not as a prison. Think of it more like their safe place. Sure, some may cry initially but with positive reinforcement (yummy crate-only treats, no coddling, etc.) they’ll learn to accept their time alone and realize it’s not so bad! Something to remember is to NOT let the dog out of the crate while they are crying. Do NOT give in as this will only serve to reinforce their crying and barking to be let out of the crate. Being inconsistent will likely train your dog to be a screamer in the crate and that’s not what you want at all!
Initially, keep out of crate interactions short, just like time in the crate should be short. 20-30 minutes at a time initially will help keep interactions with you positive and help reinforce positive crate training. You will increase the time as needed as the days move forward, little by little. You are using the crate as a way to give them a time out to collect their thoughts and to process the new information they received in their interactions with you. If this is a new and only dog, you’ll likely find that progress will move swiftly! No worries! Patience is a virtue and you will be handsomely rewarded!
You will know as a guardian when this phase is truly over. Use your gut. Some dogs don’t get it right away, others take longer. Once they are into a routine, seem relaxed and confident, tolerate the crate well, and look to you for guidance, they are probably beginning to feel safe and secure in their new world. Pat yourself on the back – job well done.
Patience and consistency with your new dog will reap the greatest rewards!
Have Other Pets? Take things SLOW and easy!
When bringing home a new dog to a home with existing pets, it’s important to realize that everyone in the household will need time to adjust to the new living arrangements and routine. It’s important to take things very slow initially and keep things positive and upbeat.
First, let me go ahead and say that the initial meeting of the new dog with resident dog(s) needs to happen OFF your property in a quiet, neutral setting. We don’t need your resident dogs to feel the need to “protect what is theirs” without having the opportunity to get to know one another first.
Now, after the initial meeting, if things go well and you choose to bring the new dog home (or this can be tweaked if you’ve already introduced some other way that wasn’t recommended here), it’s time to crate and rotate initially. I’d say for at least the first 48 hours, keep the new dog and your existing pets separated. Sure, let them sniff around. Shoot, crate them side by side (never nose to nose!) to help them get used to the other being around. But, keep at least the first 2 days for yourselves and don’t expect the new dog and existing dogs to interact and everything be hunky dory.
After the initial time has passed, do another outdoors meeting on leash first, then bring them indoors and let them further interact. KEEP LEASHES ON. This is just in case something unexpected DOES happen. You’ve got leashes on to help keep things under control. It can also help when you interject a too hyper play session to encourage the dogs to settle and relax. Keep new interactions VERY short initially. I’m talking 10-15 minutes. End things on a positive note and give the dogs’ time to process everything that happened. Doing things this way does a couple of things. It gives the dogs the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company without becoming overstimulated and it also gives them the desire to want MORE interaction. Sure, you might have to deal with a bit more whining from them because they want to play, but remember, YOU call the shots. Not them. Being very deliberate in the amount of time they have to play together and WHEN they get to play together sets that precedence of YOU being the person they look to for direction. And with multiple dogs, that’s what you WANT!
Over the course of a few days, slowly increase the time they are out together. Remember to end things on a positive note and be on top of their play 100% of the time. Do not allow over excited play because it can quickly amplify. If one of the dogs is walking away from play, step in and separate. Pay attention and supervise and you can help keep a peaceful multi-dog home.
Make sure to monitor toys. Actually, at the very beginning of interactions, I recommend not having any toys at all for them to play with. Let the dogs learn one another first before introducing things which may be of high value to one or all. Give them the chance to realize one another’s signals for play and for agitation. It is also YOUR responsibility to learn these things as well. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Ultimately, slowing things down and setting a solid routine helps tremendously. It will help him learn who makes the decisions and it will help build the relationship between your new dog and all the members of your household. It may sound like tough work, but it’s worth it!
Perhaps your dog is an adult and was never properly house trained. Or you have to move across the country and need to put him in a crate for the trip. Or maybe the pooch has just started acting out in destructive ways while you’re away from the house. There are many reasons why you might need to train your adult dog to sit calmly and quietly in a crate.
Unfortunately, this is something that can cause harm to your dog if you don’t do it in the right way. What you don’t want is for your pooch to panic in the crate and end up getting hurt.
Crates provide safe havens and dens for dogs. They calm them and can help prevent destructive chewing, barking and housetraining mistakes. Puppies should not be crated for more hours than they are months old, plus one. For example, a 4-month old should not be crated longer than 5 hours. How long an adult dog can be crated will depend on many factors. For example, if your foster dog was left outside, it has never been required to hold it for any period of time. It will take time for this dog to learn to hold it and you will need to start slowly. Older dogs and dogs with medical conditions may only be able to successfully hold it for short periods of time.
Rigorous exercise should be given before and after any long periods in the crate, and good chew toys should be in the crate at all times. You may want to crate your new foster dog for the first few nights in your bedroom – most of them feel more secure in their crate and it protects your house from accidents.
Crates should NEVER be used as a means of punishment for your foster dog. If used for punishing the dog will learn to avoid going in the crate. Crates are not to be used for keeping puppies under 6 months out of mischief all day either. Crates should be thought of as dog playrooms – just like child playrooms, with games and toys. It should be a place dogs like to be and feel safe and secure when they are there.
Place the crate (with blanket inside) in a central part of your home. Introduce your foster dog to the crate after a good walk, when he’s tired and sleepy. Keep all chew toys in the crate so that he can go in and out as he pleases, selecting toys to play with. Feed your dog in the crate with the door open. If the dog hesitates going in, place the bowl inside the door so their head is in and their body is outside.
If your foster still refuses to go near the crate, put the smelliest, tastiest wet food (or a steak!) in the crate and shut the door. Let the dog hang outside the crate for a while, smelling the food inside. Soon he should beg you to let him in!
Now that the dog is familiar with and willing to go near the crate, throw some of his favorite treats in the crate. Let him go in and get them and come right out again. Do this exercise three or four times. Then, throw more treats in and let him go in and get them. When he is in, shut the door and give him another treat through the door. Then let him out and ignore him for 3 minutes. Then, put some more treats in the crate, let him go in, shut the door and feed him 5 bits of treats through the door, and then let him out and ignore him for 5 minutes.
Next time, place treats, peanut butter, freeze-dried liver or frozen food and honey in a Kong, so it is time-consuming to get the food out of the ball, and put the Kong in the crate. After your foster has gone in, shut the door and talk to him in a calm voice. If your dog starts to whine and cry, don’t talk to him or you will reward the whining/crying/barking behavior. The foster dog must be quiet for a few minutes before you let him out.
Gradually increase the time in the crate until the dog can spend 3-4 hours in there. We recommend leaving a radio (soothing music or talk radio) or TV (mellow stations: educational, art, food) on while the dog is in the crate and alone in the house. Rotate the dog’s toys from day to day so he doesn’t become bored of them. Don’t put papers in the crate – the dog will instinctively not go to the bathroom where he sleeps/lives. Instead, put a blanket or crate bed in his crate to endorse the fact that this is his cozy home.
To help your foster get accustomed to the crate, place his favorite bed inside it and place it in your bedroom. If you’re fostering a puppy, you can try placing a warm hot water bottle wrapped in towel next to him. Warmth makes puppies sleepy. Make sure the sides of the bedding are tucked in firmly so the puppies don’t get lost or suffocated in a fold of the bedding. Be wary of dog crates during hot weather – a dog may want to lie on the cool floor instead of the crate. Make sure the crate is not in the direct sun.
There are few things in life you have control over but, THIS IS ONE OF THEM.
You are the only one who can guide the introductions to ensure that the new dog and your resident dog(s) in your home have the absolute best chance of co-existing peacefully and happily.
To throw dogs together and “let them work it out” is an urban myth. DON’T DO IT. Dogs that are new to each other are often anxious, over-excited and stressed and that state of the mind is the perfect setup for dogs on both sides to make bad choices.
While a friendly and social dog may have no problem meeting another dog face-to-face while on a walk or at the dog park, dogs that are not as friendly and/or socialized need a little extra assistance to make sure a good “first impression” is made. Much like people, first impressions with dogs are also very important. If your dog falls into the category of needing a little extra help in the department of being friendly to new dogs, this page should be of some assistance to you. By taking the time and effort to remove that excitement, stress and anxiety from the interaction—while giving them human guidance—sets them up for success, not failure.
These are guidelines. The techniques and tips mentioned below are to help prevent your dog’s “first impression” on another dog lead to dominance and/or aggression. They are flexible according to how well adjusted your resident dog(s) are and the temperament of your new dog.
Do not cause tension!
Remember to remain calm during the introduction process. Your dog will feed off of your energy, so by remaining in a calm state of mind will help allow for your dog to do the same. If you are anxious, nervous, jumpy, etc., your dog will sense that and he too will become anxious, nervous, jumpy, etc.
Typically, the better trained your dog is prior to meeting new dogs, being introduced to new situations, etc., the better! Your dog knowing basic obedience beforehand will definitely make things easier for both you and your dog.
Make sure that during the introduction process you are holding the leash in a comfortable manner. Like always, your dog should be walking by your side, not 4 feet in front of you. Keep the leash tension-free; meaning that you should not hang on the leash making it tight. Tightening the leash should ONLY be used for corrections.
In general, keep extra verbalization to your dog to a minimal. Try to stick to the commands he knows, and do not use extra communication, such as “stop it”, “move over”, “what are you doing?”, “you are not listening!”, or any other terms/phrases people tend to use that are irrelevant to the actual training/handling of their dog.
Once you are home with your foster dog
Allow your foster dog to settle down and get to know your surroundings first before you start introductions to unfamiliar animals. Take your time and create a stress-free environment. Allow the dog to become comfortable in his own room. Once he is comfortable, let him explore the rest of the house for short periods each day while the dog is out or in another room. This will allow them to pick up each other’s scent. After a few days, allow the two to meet but keep the dogs on a leash.
- Allow the dogs to meet on neutral grounds (down the street, etc.). If you have the dogs meet in the house, the yard, etc., then you have the chance of your dog being protective of his home and therefore aggressive. Make the introduction place somewhere semi-quiet (not a dog park) so the humans and dogs can work without distraction.
- Make sure both dogs are on-leash and are both calm when the meeting takes place. A hyper dog that is barking and jumping around will escalate any potential negative behavior your dog may have and will make issues worse.
- A lot of people will say to walk the dogs straight towards each other (face to face), or walk them single-file (one behind the other). In fact, if you look online for ways to properly introduce dogs, these are probably the top two suggestions you will find. We do NOT recommend either of these methods, as walking the dogs straight towards each other causes escalation in potential bad behavior. Walking them single-file will allow one dog (whoever is in front) to feel more in control/superior. By walking the dogs’ side-by-side, you are allowing the dogs to be equal. When you are walking the dogs, have both dogs to the same side of their handlers (either on each handler’s left side, or on their right side– most trainers recommend generally walking dogs on the left)… so the pattern would be “dog, human, dog, human” or the opposite “human, dog, human, dog”… the dogs should not be in the middle of the two humans together, as then they could get into direct contact with each other and it would be harder to control them from bad behavior.
- If one of the dogs goes to the bathroom during the introduction process, once that dog is DONE going to the bathroom and he/she walks away from that area, the other dog can be allowed to sniff the “waste”. The dog is ONLY allowed to sniff the waste, not the other dog (until you get to step #3 below in “The Introduction”).
- Have one dog standing with his handler up further on the sidewalk, have the other handler with the other dog walk up behind them (do not end up directly behind the other dog at this time, as the dog approaching the stationary dog should not be allowed to sniff the other dog yet) and then once they are at the point where they meet up, the stationary handler and dog should begin walking so that everybody is walking together side by side. Do not let either dog sniff the other yet.
- Continue walking both dogs for about 5-10 minutes. Remain relaxed, as the dogs can sense if their handlers are tense. If either dog tries to be dominant/protective (tail standing straight up, hair on back standing up, trying to put their head high over the other dog’s shoulders/neck/head, growling, mounting the other dog, curling upper lip, staring at the other dog in a very intense and/or statue-like manner), do a quick jerk/snap of the leash and an “AHH!” sound to snap them out of the bad behavior. Then, continue your walk. DO NOT stop and make a big deal over bad behavior once the situation is corrected.
- Once the dogs have walked with each other and appear to be calm and comfortable with each other, they can now begin to smell each other’s behinds in a CONTROLLED manner. Meaning, do NOT just let them both smell each other freely, but stop walking and allow the dog who appears most relaxed to slowly (and not in a dominant/aggressive manner) approach the other dog’s bottom to sniff for a few seconds. During this time, the handler of the dog who is standing still to be sniffed needs to hold their leash with one hand and put their other arm on their dog’s neck, to prevent that dog from turning around and biting the other dog as he/she is smelling them. Do not tightly restrain the dog’s neck though (as he will feel trapped and will panic) and do not kneel down and get your face in the way (you should be standing up still, just slightly bending over to block the neck with one arm to prevent turning around). Once the first dog is done sniffing, it’s the second dog’s turn, so do the exact same thing for him/her. Once the second dog is done sniffing, continue walking again and do not let them sniff each other while walking. Again, correct any negative behavior, as stated above. Remember, do not have the leashes tight and tense during this introduction, or the dogs will feed off of that. Only tighten the leash briefly for corrections.
- If/when the dogs are remaining calm and comfortable you can walk for a few minutes again, allowing the dogs to sniff each other again the exact same way. After that, continue walking.
- Continue the walking/sniffing methods until both dogs appear to be OK with each other. Then you can allow the dogs to stop and slowly mingle some more. Do not stand there and let the dogs mingle for minutes… but let them mingle a little, then walk again… mingle a little longer, then walk again, and so on until they both feel comfortable with each other.
TAKING IT SLOW SETS THEM UP FOR SUCCESS, NOT FAILURE
The bottom line is that you do not want to rush into the introduction process, as first impressions are everything. It is much better to spend 20 minutes on a walk/introduction, than rushing into it all in 5 minutes and causing the dogs to have issues with each other for the rest of their lives.
The slower you take it, the greater chance of a successful integration. You might think (or want) your dogs to get along right off the bat, but chances are if you put them together too quickly, that relationship will get off on the wrong foot. You want this to work out and work out well. For that to happen, YOU have to be the one who exercises control, patience and sense. Your dogs’ depend on you and you need to step up!
- Holding the leash too tensely as dogs react with defensiveness.
- Leaving toys and chews around the house. This can cause resource guarding which can escalate very quickly. Remove all toys and chews before you arrive home with your foster dog.
- Feeding your foster dog with your resident dog. It is best to separate them initially, and to supervise always.
- Over-stimulating your foster dog with introductions to many people or neighbors’ dogs.
From February 11th-17th, Free Bird Tattoo in Newton, NJ is hosting a Valentine’s Day Charity Flash Event to raise money for our rescue!
15% of the event proceeds will be donated to our animals.
If anyone is interested in participating, feel free to pop in/call the shop to contact the artist who’s flash you want to get tattooed: (973) 756-3053
Their address is 180 Spring Street, Newton, New Jersey
View event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/416464399098600/?active_tab=discussion
View their Instagram account: instagram.com/freebirdtattoonj/