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Bringing Home A Foster Dog

An Essential Part Of

Animal Rescue

Chill Out! Decompression Tips For New Foster Dogs


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. Now what??? 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 will have its own past/history to overcome with your guidance.

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.

 Smell Before See. See Before Touch.  - week 1

Dogs can learn a lot about the world through their nose. In fact, it is their most powerful sense. 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 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.


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.


Remember the 5-second rule.

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.

By Steffen Baldwin


Decompression time to new environment


  • It takes about 3-4 weeks for foster or rescue dog to decompress to a new home.


  • first few days ( do nothing !) Allow the foster dog to adjust to their new home and you. Give them few days to get familiar to the new surroundings.


  • Do not take them new places ( ie)  petsmart, dog parks, beaches , soccer games give the foster dog time.Walk the foster dog around your neighborhood


  • Creating BOUNDARY for your foster dog. Use a crate and give RULES. Do not enable the foster dog to have the entire space. Use a crate positively & give them scheduling. Foster dog will need exercise before being placed in a crate. Without exercise they can have built up energy that may cause anxiety.  Once the dog get exercise, they can stay in crate up to 4 - 6 hours. Provide water before place the dog into the crate.


If you already have pets ?


  • SEPARATE FEEDING must feed foster dog in crate / separate room


  • Do not leave bully sticks, balls, chew toys in the same room < pets + fosters. Possession items could trigger reactions


  • When leaving the house keep the foster dog in a crate/ another room.


  • separate with cats ( look out for neighbors cats )  

Things to look for ?

As a foster, its important to understand the dogs behavior and triggers.

Here are the things to look for :


  • Other dogs

  • Cats

  • Skateboards

  • Fireworks

  • Friends coming over

  • Loud noises

  • Crowded places

  • Strangers petting dogs face


When guest come over to the house, It's safest to keep the foster dog separate in a room or crate. New people in the house may cause the foster dog to get anxiety, nervousness or reactive reaction


Crate scheduling

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