The Worst Dog Owner With the Best of Intentions


Author: Linda Beard

 

Hello, Leaders!

Thank you so much for such a warm welcome to my first blog! Your response both pleased and humbled me.  It also got me thinking that I should let you know a little bit about who I am, and how I came to be offered this opportunity to engage with you on an official basis.

 

Simply put, I may well be the Worst Dog Owner With The Best of Intentions. I did not rescue or adopt my dog, Nigel. I purchased him. From a backyard breeder I found on the internet. When I purchased him and brought him home, he was only six weeks old.

 

My purpose in acquiring Nigel was to have him fill a rather immense emotional void.  I was still grieving the loss of my oldest son, and the subsequent loss of my son’s dog, which I had kept after my son died.  Nigel, a miniature dachshund whose full adult weight was expected to be no more than eleven pounds, was, in my mind, meant to fill in those emotional craters.

 

I brought Nigel home on the Saturday prior to Martin Luther King Day in 2015.  I live alone, and was scheduled to work on the following Tuesday.  I had three days to get this puppy acclimated to my home and my expectations before I left him to his own devices.

 

I was absolutely determined to never crate my dog, because I firmly believed that to be a cruel practice. So, I placed potty pads on the bathroom floor, and proceeded to encourage Nigel to relieve himself there. No way was I going to take him outside – he didn’t have his full set of vaccinations!

 

By the time Tuesday rolled around, Nigel’s feet had barely touched the floor:  I had carried him everywhere, and had even allowed him to sleep with me in my bed. His potty training was progressing nicely – all I had to do was carry him into the bathroom, place him on the pad, and viola! – he would produce either pee or poop! Who says puppy raising is difficult?

 

But, when I left for work, just in case he didn’t quite have the potty training down,  I placed him in a dog show ring, which I had constructed on my living room floor, complete with a potty pad, sleeping area, feeding area, and toys. Lots of toys. I enlisted a neighbor to check on him now and then. All those so-called experts online, who wrote about crating puppies, had obviously never even thought of using a show ring on their laminate flooring!

 

By the end of the first work week with Nigel in my home, I decided that he really didn’t like being confined.  So, I did the only logical thing – I gave him the run of (most) of my condo while I was away for ten hours. (I blocked off the bedrooms, dontcha know.) Sure, he missed the potty pad in the bathroom now and then (ok, quite often) but he was happy, I decided, because he had unlimited freedom!

 

I didn’t put a leash on him until he was six months old.  There was no reason to, really.  I wasn’t going to take him out into the world until his vaccination record had no blank spaces.  Even then, I wasn’t going to expose him to other dogs. What if they had fleas?

 

Nigel had already been given plenty of exposure to people, because I took him absolutely everywhere in my free time. I went through a succession of carriers – the over-the-shoulder sling pouch, the purse pouch, and the most ridiculous of all – I actually got an infant shopping cart seat cover so that I could put him in the cart on my weekly Target run! (I have photos!)

 

By the time Nigel was one year, eleven months old, he was entitled, bratty, spoiled, insecure, anxious, and heavily suffering from Togetherness Addiction. He knew that I was a complete pushover,  that I had no leadership skills.

 

I decided this would be the absolute ideal time to bring him to Home2K9 and sign him up for Board and Train – not to learn any manners, mind you, because I thought he was adorable and perfect – but so that he could become my service dog, and we could be together forever, everywhere.  I was not at all trying to get away with anything – I was genuinely that clueless.

 

Nigel entered Board and Train on Sunday, December 11, 2016.  

 

Nigel was returned to me on Friday, December 23, 2016.

 

Nigel holds the record for the shortest stay in H2K9 Board and Train history.  He was completely unprepared for crating. He fought his trainers as if they were his captors. In Nigel’s mind, that’s exactly what they were. He bit his trainers. He refused to go on potty walks. He preferred to soil in his crate. He barked and cried through the night, making whoever had kennel duty miserable.  Nigel’s final act of defiance was to launch a hunger strike lasting nine days. Concerned for Nigel’s health, Cameron had arranged a meeting with me and Nigel on December 23rd, to see whether I reacted with sympathy or resolve towards my dog.

 

It turns out that the photos and narratives Cameron had posted during Nigel’s Board and Train experience had been the beginning of  a wake-up call for me.  His photos and narratives were markedly different than all of the other dogs in the program, regardless of their presenting issues. It was clear that I had handicapped my dog’s emotional development to an alarming degree. He was uncomfortable in his own skin. He had never been given guidance to make good decisions, to develop self reliance or self confidence.  

 

Nigel literally had no idea how to “dog”, and I was completely responsible for his sad condition.  The only right thing I had done was to bring him in for Board and Train, even though I had done that for the wrong reason.  That had also become clear to me.

 

As Cameron evaluated my dynamic with Nigel, I resisted picking him up, or speaking sweetly to him.  I knew I had work to do.  I knew I had failed my dog.

 

The next several months were a combination of private lessons with Cameron, me, and Nigel. We joined every H2K9 Pack Walk. We attended every Hope4Hounds community training class. I worked diligently on Nigel’s training at home, literally withholding affection towards Nigel, to effect a major shift in our dynamic.  I crated him at night, and during my daily work hours, for four months. When the time came to express affection, it was limited, earned, and appropriate.

 

My priorities with Nigel completely changed.  I no longer saw Nigel as a potential service dog. I realized that developing myself as my dog’s leader, setting clear boundaries, establishing a symbiotic relationship with my dog, served me far better than a relationship of dependency upon his service to me ever would.

 

I began to see him as a dog, not a furry human, not my salvation.  I wanted him to be confident, to respect me as his leader, to be well mannered and calm, and to make good decisions. I wanted his life to be fulfilling for both him and me.  

 

Cameron holds her Hope4Hounds classes on the third Sunday of every month, at 12 noon, sharp.  There are no exceptions to this schedule, even if that Sunday happens to coincide with a holiday.  

 

On Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, Nigel and I attended the Hope4Hounds class.  Afterwards, anyone who was interested was given the opportunity to have their dog tested for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate, established by the AKC as “the gold standard of canine behavior”. Each dog is tested on ten specific behavior objectives,  and must pass all ten in order to be awarded a certificate. Ironically, passing the CGC is highly recommended, though not required, for service dogs.

 

Because I wanted to evaluate what Nigel and I had learned in the previous months,  I elected to have Nigel tested, and  I am elated to report that he passed!! (OK, he was a bit of a squeaker on the objective requiring the dog to remain calm while his owner walks out of sight for three minutes, but he did pass!).  Having an affirmation of Nigel’s training progress,  from an objective source (AKC),  fueled me even more!

 

Nigel’s training is every day.  If I start to let the “little” things go, it shows.  I default to “soft” with him, so my training is every day, too.  

 

I’ve learned that I can and must be firm and clear with my dog.  I’ve learned that crating my dog ensures that he is safe and feels secure, and that it is the kindest thing I can do for my dog.  Nigel and I now have an authentic relationship, based upon mutual respect, established boundaries, clear expectations.  

 

Prior to my exposure to Balanced Training, I saw nothing wrong with the way I was raising Nigel.  But once I immersed myself into the training methods, followed the stories of other dogs’ training as well as my own, a light dawned. Everything that I had held as a kindness that I was giving my dog was actually having a detrimental effect on him.  That was clear in the photos and commentaries which accompanied his training journey. I had to train myself, and reframe my concept of what my relationship to my dog should be. I had a lot of epiphanies along the way, did a lot of soul searching.

 

Nigel and I have emerged all the better for my decision to recognize and learn a new way of relating to my dog, and to dig in and do the work with him.  

 

It’s amazing that an event can occur which totally challenges a firmly held set of values, which results in a clearer perspective, and changes our lives for the better, if we allow ourselves to be open to the opportunity for change

 

 

I invite you to share your goals with our group, The Leaders Lounge is a perfect place, and perhaps the first steps you are incorporating into your routine which will help you create the change you desire. Putting this in writing will also help hold you accountable, and will inspire others to work toward their goals, too. Let’s make 2018 the year we take action! I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

 

To building the life of your dreams,

 

Linda Beard

Alpha B Columnist

Damn the off leash dog! How to handle when “life” happens out there on the walk.


I’m not sure what’s worse…
1) the off leash dog approaching you unexpectedly or
2) the leashed dog complete with disconnected/disrespectful owner exclaiming, “It’s ok! He’s freindly!”
Ugh! Face. Palm. Right?
Either way, I know you’ve experienced both, perhaps numerous times, and how to handle these situations is among the most common questions we receive here at Home2K9, in the Leaders Lounge, and during our FREE monthly community class, Hope4Hounds.
My team and I set out to answer these questions in a comprehensive video today, so I thought I’d take a moment to ensure you were notified and flagged of this content – in the event that it might be helpful for you!
Keep reading for a ton of key breakthrough ingredients broken down for you to create a successful result out of these clustercuss encounters, but if you don’t have time to read everything now and just want the video, find it
>>> HERE <<<
The biggest issue with answering this question for you is that there are SO MANY VARIABLES in these situations, and while we can address the most common dynamics of an off or on leash meet, we struggle to articulate exactly every detail that might be present or otherwise play in to your success or failure when faced with this challenge.
Your dog, their history, YOU and your energy, the other dog and THEIR handler… so many potential triggers stacked up on BOTH sides, that you really must look at these scenarios as something you can do your best to train for, but never fully control/prevent/guarantee the outcome of.
And you know what? That’s ok. Your best is good enough, and struggle is not failure.
You only fail if you quit. So let’s start by taking the pressure and blame out of the mix, and focus instead on moving forward. All that matters is that you decide to work at it, that you determine to set you and your dog up for the best possible outcome if/when you’re confronted with challenges, and that you commit to learning from the result – however perfectly imperfect it may be.
Sound good? Ok. Here we go!
Some of the key ingredients to ours and our client’s success in these scenarios are listed for you below. Have a look, dive in to the video visual examples, and let us know if you have any remaining questions. We’d love to hear from you about anything we might not have clarified on one of our LIVE stream Q&A shows, Fix It Friday, on the Home2K9 Dog Training Facebook page.
How To Handle The Unwanted Dog Encounter- On or Off Leash:
1) STAY CALM!
Your physical energy, mental process (the dialogue in your head), effects what happens next more than you realize. True story. Do not underestimate the power of building mental grit in other areas of your life to improve your mental game when caught unawares by a stressful/pressure fueled safety risk – particularly where animals are involved.
Dogs read energy before verbal commands or any amount of noise you manage to cough up in a panic, so become a zen master of your body and mind, and train yourself to stay cool and collected under pressure so your dog, and others, will trust/respect what you say when the stakes are high.
2) Any self-respecting individual, recognizing the impending threat of an unsanctioned dog confrontation, calls out to the oncoming dog/owner and advocates immediately – zero hesitation.
Your aforementioned mental game should include the immediate thought (ghetto voice optional), “Oh helllll no, this ‘aint happenin on my watch!”
Optional messaging to owners of dogs leashed, or not, may include “Sir/Ma’am, we are leashed because I cannot guarantee a safe and appropriate greeting, please call/leash your dog right away to prevent a bad experience for everyone.”
Other choice words may be required, but honestly it’s so very rare. You don’t need to be a jerk, but nowhere in the history of EVER will you see one of us pros fall victim to a selfish and irresponsible owner’s behavior, we just simply do not go down as easy as we see our client’s routinely do.
Here’s where that personal development hooey becomes far less hooey, and far more POWER. If YOU think you deserve the time of day, and shouldn’t have your day (or perhaps your months and/or years of hard work) ruined by someone literally CHOOSING to own the road, then you step up and take action to prevent it. You teach people how to treat you based on how you treat you. BOOM. <—— THIS is why we trainers have to get deep with you guys and really push you to not just handle your dog better, but to handle you better too. 
3) Correct your own dog if you can/need to, but not because you’re freaking out and don’t know what else to do.
We often see handlers panic, start correcting their dog (too late), and then later have the perspective that their dog fall apart when faced with the challenge. In reality, what happens more commonly is that the handler was behind the eight ball, didn’t have a cool head so they missed their “window” to act/lead/advocate, and the dog has therefore taken action and jumped past the correction level for a meaningful boundary to be established by the handler.
Alternately, handlers will just simply be correcting for the wrong thing, and now we have a dog who is more confused, more frustrated, or even more nervous/anxious/fearful than before. Bummer for all. We talk about these nuance timing details in the video, please be sure to focus on your education of reading your dog’s body language, and recognize the importance of training to decrease the struggle for your dog, as well as INCREASE your window of opportunity and chance of success at delivering a well timed and clear direction/correction to your dog if needed when the stakes are high.
4) Body blocks are effective, use your body when you can.
Since dogs deal in energy and body language FIRST, not verbal communication, it is extremely powerful to understand the ways in which you can use body/spacial pressure to establish your boundaries with dogs.
When you are approached by a dog and you wish for them to in fact retreat, step toward them, not away from them. 
As trainers, we instinctively use our bodies as a tool, it is actually our best/first/most important training tool when communicating with dogs, and by handling many dogs (especially with such variety of personality/temperaments) over the course of our training life, we learn to do things such as step in or out, raise or lower a hand/arm, and pull our shoulders forward or back to convey meaningful requests, corrections, or even demands on dogs. This clarity creates respect, and thus reduces risk of behavior based in status challenge, arousal, or even over excitement.
You can learn this also, and you will find that experiences being approached by dogs you are not interested in engaging with will become much less stressful and dangerous when you are prepared/confident to take action with this readily available tool.
So those are my basics for you, and I can’t wait to hear how some of these tips may help you in your experiences with dogs approaching you in the future. We simply cannot guarantee you won’t confront these issues, but you can confront your own struggles to manage the above keys, and you can prepare your dog better.
Keep up the great work, training (and our relationships with dogs) are a journey, not a destination. What matters is that you keep moving forward.
Last, but not least, are you in the Leaders Lounge?! Lots of great progress being made over there by dog owners and trainers, just like you.
To your training success,
Cam

Hello Leaders! A New Year’s manifesto to face fear, and conquer doubt.


Author: Linda Beard

 

Hello, Leaders!

How exciting it is to be welcoming a new year – it’s a year that is full of possibilities, opportunities, potential! Of course, it’s up to each one of us to set the stage for that success.

Maybe you remember that I wrote a piece in the Leaders Lounge back in December, regarding a favorite lamp in my living room that broke, and my subsequent realization that I didn’t need that lamp at all. Well, there is an important lesson behind my choosing to post that essay.
Once that essay was written, I hovered my mouse over the “post” prompt. And I began to think. My brain told me that the essay was stupid – that it wasn’t worthy of the Lounge, that it didn’t deal with a specific dog training success, (complete with photos), that it was too unconventional for the Lounge space, blah, blah, blah. To shut off the noise in my head, I clicked “post”.

My gut (instinct, intuition) had told me to write the essay. My gut told me that there was value in what I had written. My gut spoke softly, but insistently. My brain hollered and berated that the essay was ridiculous. It was louder, and more insistent, than my gut. But my gut told me, softly, that my brain was bullying me, and I should not listen.

How many times has your gut steered you wrong? How many times has your brain steered you wrong? Is the score about zero to a bazillion? Our gut is guided by our subconscious, which has the sum of all our experiences, sorted and stored, ready to dispense the correct response on a moment’s notice. Our brains are guided by our conscious self – the one with all the inhibitions, doubts, excuses, fears – the part of our Self that’s afraid to take a risk.

And you know what happened when I took that risk? I got invited by Cameron to write for her beloved business, Home2K9!! I’ll tell you now, that her invitation was quite literally a dream come true. Writing has been a release for me, for as long as I can remember. I have been told on many occasions that I should write more often, or write for a living – but I never found any venue wherein I felt that I could contribute meaningfully more than once or twice.

My journey with Home2K9 evolved quickly from client to lifestyle. Home2K9, and Cameron, have expanded my knowledge of my dog, of my Self, of the limitless possibilities that the world has to offer, which are ours for the taking.

As a result, I am no longer content to just schlep through life: work, home, sleep, work, home, sleep…. I want Purpose. I’m frustrated that I see so many people who have realized their Purpose, their Passion, their Calling, and proceeded to evolve into the life they were meant to live. I’ve lived a life of caution, of planning, of playing it safe. I haven’t dared myself, unless my back was against the wall. Absent an urgent need, I haven’t challenged myself.

It may seem a small thing, but accepting Cameron’s offer (read Challenge!) is a risk for me – I am stepping into my Fear of Failure, doing the very thing that I have dreamed of doing – contributing a relevant, official role in the Home2K9 community. I don’t want to blow this opportunity, but even if I do, I won’t truly blow it, because I will learn something important through that failure.

Follow your gut. Listen to it, respect it. Shush the noise in your head, and go within, to your true Self. (Meditation helps tremendously – but that is another essay!) If you do, you may well find your passion, and you may well be guided to an outlet for that passion. It’s so simple, that it hardly seems like effort, but it is. “Stepping into fear” (how I love that phrase of Cameron’s!) may be counter-intuitive, but it allows us to experience our Authentic Self. It feels amazing!

Now here’s the thing – I want you to experience the thrill of stepping into your fear – of doing something, however big or small, that you’ve wanted to do, but have prevented yourself from doing due to fear of failure or embarrassment.
It’s time to redefine your boundaries, and Just Go For It. I challenge you to do One Brave Thing in the coming year, and to let us know in the Lounge what that was, and how your experience unfolded. I am anticipating awesomeness!

 

To building the life of your dreams,

 

Linda Beard
Alpha B Columnist

10 Tips for Fostering a Dog to Success


Hello, Dear Reader!

So glad to have you here, because obviously you’re a kind and caring soul – who wants to help animals, otherwise your internet browsing may have landed you on something less savory than ‘top tips for foster dog parents’. ;-D Well, we here at Home2K9 Dog Training and Hope2K9 Rescue, think you’re AWESOME, and the aim of this piece of writing is to give you tons of support as an existing or potential foster dog parent, so you can get it right – and help save a life. 

 

As I type this, our country has been hit with a particularly heartbreaking amount of flooding and widespread fires recently, both of which are displacing animals (wild and domestic) by the thousands. As more caring people like you step up and extend themselves to help these creatures, we want to ensure that you have a healthy process, and a solid plan.

 

Our rescue partners are mobilizing to make as big a difference in the stress and burden these affected pets and their families are experiencing, and we look forward to seeing our collective efforts bring about some calm after all this storm. Unfortunately, this won’t be the end of the rescue need, nor was it the beginning, and over the years I have witnessed many a foster family’s tragic departure from rescue and volunteer positions on account of a lack of training, respect, and support.

 

We want to change that, and I believe we can, but your job is to follow through on the important rules of the foster parent’s role, AND let your leadership know when something is missing or unclear.

 

By becoming a foster parent to dogs currently held in shelters and rescues, you can add time, quality, and increased opportunity to their lives. You can be making necessary space for those organizations to recruit funds, help more animals, or even find a little relief/reprieve (HUGELY important to staving off burnout). As a foster parent, you may also give that dog a chance to relax and come out of its shell, or to learn some life skills and show itself more appealing as an adopted companion. You’re also at risk of creating more problems for/in that foster dog, and of costing that dog its chance at a happy ever after. It really can go both ways.

 

When you become a foster parent under the right circumstances, and for the right reasons, you can add value to your own dogs’ lives, or the lives of those family members who contribute to your foster dog’s care as well. This is what we want for you as foster parents, enjoy the journey, while also respecting the individual dog and his/her primary and instinctual needs.

 

So, without further adieu, here are our tried and true Top Ten Tips For Fostering a Dog to Success, and we hope they help you in your volunteer journey.

 

We begin with the all important Rule #1, the Numero Uno, absolute Head Honcho of guideposts, and something you simply must respect as a foster parent:

 

1. You’re harboring a species (predator) that can bite, never ever take that for granted:

By definition a predator is: an animal that naturally preys on others, a person or group that ruthlessly exploits others, or a company that tries to take over another. We’ll focus on the animal that preys on others part for the sake of this piece of writing, but it’s remarkable how applicable those other examples are in the canine world as well.

Predators use their teeth, they choose between fight or flight when stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, or obstinate. Your foster dog can and may bite; if stressed enough, willful and resistant enough, sometimes because of poor socialization with people or other animals, frustration, arousal (leash reactivity, etc), or even because of a chemical imbalance. Biting is a big deal, and should not be taken lightly, but it’s also the way of dogs, and isn’t an automatic reason to freak out or assume the dog is broken and not adoptable.

The truth is, in the same way that we are not able to guarantee with 100% accuracy whether or not we will battle cancer one day, we cannot guarantee that our dog (foster or otherwise) will NOT bite, so we should assume he/she WILL – then play our cards to prevent it.

Responsible rescues work diligently to select only the best candidates for their adoption programs, and carefully focus their efforts on dogs who are good natured, well socialized, and overall good citizens and ambassadors for their breed(s). Regardless, dogs can and do present with biting behavior issues based on environment and relationship, so your job as a foster (or adoptive parent) is to respect a dog’s potential based on biology and psychology, and be proactive in your advocacy and leadership for him/her.

A good rule of thumb, to prevent fights, bites, and heartache, is to not allow strangers or unknown dogs to approach your foster dog, on or off leash, and to never leave your foster dog unattended with other dogs or children. It takes time to get to know a dog, and foster dogs are actively “setting in” or revealing themselves to us over many weeks and even months.

In every single circumstance you face with your foster dog, ask yourself if you have the upper hand or not. Do you have control of the situation, and can you prevent a potential behavior issue? That is your number one priority at all times, no matter how cute and fluffy a puppy. A bite on a rescue dog’s record is very bad news, and can mean the end of the line for a dog who was once full of potential.

It’s bad enough for dogs to bite when they have a committed owner, but once a dog without a committed owner has bitten, he/she loses a certain amount of support and advocacy, and the options dwindle for that dog’s chance at happily ever after. Time and time again, we have been involved in training/rehab/rehoming situations where a dog in limbo has exhibited his natural instincts and bitten in circumstances that were preventable. Be smart and always cautious – it’s not worth the strike for anyone involved. 

If your foster dog has bitten you, a family member, or any person they engage with while under your care, inform your rescue contact immediately. If you are unsure of the motivation or causation behind that dog’s choice, or uncomfortable with addressing and preventing it in the future, this dog may be above your dog level and require a more experienced training/foster situation. Nipping, if not addressed correctly, can escalate to worse behavior, and biting doesn’t just go away on it’s own. Nipping or biting is a sign of deeper foundation issues, and a need to tighten up the ship for that dog.

 

2. Be sure that now is the right time to foster:

Before signing on to foster, or accepting a particular dog, you are responsible for ensuring this is truly the right time/circumstance for you to add a rescue dog to your plate. In spite of our best efforts, no organization can truly interview or assess you and your lifestyle thoroughly enough to ensure that there is never a chance someone joins the foster pool who really should not be at this time.

Quality shelters and rescues do their best to inquire on your skills, experience level, competency and reliability, but only YOU can know what your bandwidth truly is at this time. Just because your heart is aching for those in need, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to heap more onto your To Do list. There are many ways to help, and fostering is hugely important, but it’s not the only way. If you’re not honest about your abilities at this time, and a dog comes into your home only to be met with chaos, confusion, instability and a lack of advocacy, you will have, in fact, made things worse for that dog. 

Be honest with yourself and others, if you have several small children, are sleep deprived, feeling stressed in your marriage, overloaded and unhappy at work, financially struggling or facing health issues, now is absolutely not the right time to foster. If life needs some sifting and sorting on your end right now, or at any time after signing on to foster, please DO NOT foster for awhile. Give of your heart, time, or financial support in other areas.

You are wanted and needed in the rescue community, but not to the detriment of yourself or others, so please secure your own oxygen mask FIRST. I promise the opportunity will still be there when you’re truly ready. <3

 

3. Dogs crave leadership, and you can’t lead with empathy:

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a foster dog parent (or dog owner in general), is to try to lead with empathy. It doesn’t work. No matter where your foster dog came from, or what he/she has been through, dogs -predators, and pack animals especially – crave leadership. The order of hierarchy is extremely important. A leader is not leading with focus on her followers weaknesses, she is leading with focus on her followers strengths. Leaders motivate, guide, and hold their followers accountable to achieving their very best, and this is your job with your foster dog.

From the moment you are handed your foster dog’s leash, your job is to communicate that he/she is at the bottom of the pecking order, and that you are the leading source of all important information. This is created through a balance of correction, direction, then affection, and must start immediately – and continue indefinitely. You will be actively assisting this dog in moving through some pretty stressful transitions with much greater ease, if you create a solid communication of leadership and advocacy in your relationship.

Your time together is usually a drop in the bucket compared to this dog’s remaining life. Don’t get stuck in the story of where they came from or what might have been, your foster dog is living in the here and now, so show them what they have to look forward to, not what they should continue to fear, manipulate, or otherwise manage.

Bring a confident, calm, and assertive energy to the relationship, and do not allow rudeness, disrespect, or avoidant behavior. Even the most fearful, shutdown, or overwhelmed dogs are better served with advocacy and a steady, consistent, believable leadership. We teach people how to treat us, this is exactly true from the moment you are introduced to your foster dog and he/she will fall in line if you represent a respectable leader.

Join us in the Leaders Lounge if you need more motivation for what healthy leadership looks like.

 

4. Structure = Freedom:

If you want to accomplish more, reach bigger goals faster (and more reliably), or feel more in control of your days, the key to success is structure. Dogs crave structure, they thrive when their days, relationships, and resources come with consistency, predictability, and believability.

Set an intention from day one with your foster dog to provide him/her a schedule, routine, and systems they can count on, especially with puppies, so they can feel secure in offering you behavior you want, and avoiding choices that don’t serve them.

Providing structure to a dog looks like;

  • giving direction regularly (place command, structured walks, crate routine…)
  • holding them accountable to right choices (correction, consequence)
  • limiting freedom unless/until earned (leash on at all times until you know you have a good listener, no free access to the entire house if you’re unsure about potty training, destruction, etc.)
  • keeping up rituals/routines, and being proactive about rules/boundaries (communicate with your entire household – exactly how to handle the schedule, and common or uncommon scenarios you may run into with your foster dog)
  •        be consistent and stable (no losing your cool because your foster dog doesn’t know the rules yet, is waking you up at night because crate training is new to him/her, or after your shoe is chewed when you weren’t paying attention…)

 

5. Separation Anxiety is Togetherness Addiction, and you are your dog’s dealer:

Watch the video, this is a BIG ONE. Separation anxiety is a common piece of luggage in rescue dogs, but it can be eliminated almost instantly if the foster/adoptive parent knows how. Separation anxiety does not have to worsen, or even continue, in the majority of cases, and you must understand that the chances of successful placement for a dog with severe separation anxiety are not good.

Nip it immediately, stay strong and reach out for professional help immediately if you find yourself over your head with a dog battling separation anxiety. These dogs need you to not be excessively emotional, affectionate, or obsessive.

 

6. Tools bridge the gap:

As soon as a new dog comes in to our rescue program or begins a private training service, we focus on applying the right tools for the job. In dog training, tools bridge the gap between our two species and ease the difficulties we face on account of speaking different languages. You don’t build a house with a spatula, and you especially don’t build a sturdy structure successfully that way, if you’re not at least a professional. Using the right tool for the job makes finishing the project easier, and more enjoyable for all.

Don’t shy away from the tools that work. There are many ways to arrive at your final destination, but we have found that 99.9% of the dogs we serve get where they need to go quickly and easily, when we use tools that allow for clarity of direction, calmness, consequence, relevancy, and motivation.

In our professional environment, the absolute go-to tools for training success are crates, prong collars and e collars, and consistently leashing dogs who are not trained/reliable yet, providing satisfying mental challenges each day, or  chews in the right context for dogs calmly crating or relaxing on place. We do not advocate for the use of training tools unless you have experience, a clear and confident process, or the supervision of a professional trainer, but the simplest thing you can always due to ensure your foster dog has clarity and accountability is to keep them leashed at all times until they have shown themselves to be reliable and safe in their day to day situations with you and others.

Feel free to browse our YouTube channels and Facebook pages for much more information on the tools we use, and the commands we teach our rescue dogs each and every day, which ensure a great chance at success in their adoptive homes. Some tools work better than others, and the absence of the right tools could mean increased and unnecessary struggle for you and your dog. Dig in and get to know what’s available, talk to your rescue or shelter organization about their rules and regulations for tools and training, and be sure you’re empowered to problem solve for your dog if not addressing training needs will present a danger to themselves or others. There’s a solution to pretty much every issue your foster dog may throw at you, but the mechanics and dynamics should be clearly understood before implementing them.

 

7. Nothing In Life Is Free: 

This one is a bit hand in hand with the Togetherness Addiction conversation, because often the same mistakes of excessive/unearned attention, affection, and freedom are contributors to attitude and ego as well as anxiety. Use common sense… you care a whole heck of a lot more about your paycheck when you’ve earned it, right? This too, is true for dogs also.

Bringing home a foster dog and turning them immediately loose to roam the entire house or yard, to possess a basket full of toys, bowls full of food, or allow lounging on furniture and claiming human laps, is like purposefully creating a spoiled rich kid – who can’t fully appreciate (or respect) that which he/she has.

Dogs become entitled, bratty, jealous, resentful, and possessive too. Don’t be the kind of foster parent who takes pride in being “the fun one,” you’ll not be doing much to help set your adoptable dog up for success in the real world, especially if his/her new owners have to pay the price for the dog’s developed reactivity, anxiety, or willfulness when things must be tightened up.

Make your foster dog earn everything. Ask for a sit before food or toys are given, enforce manners at the door and expect calmness before being released from the crate. A permission based dynamic creates reverence and respect, and promotes a calmer state of mind that employs impulse control when making decisions. Expect excellence, and your foster dog can build confidence as they rise to the occasion. Give everything away for free, and you risk representing someone your dog views as optional – and open to negotiations.

 

8. Treat puppies the same as adult dogs:

Puppies are not exempt from any of the above keys to success, in fact, they’re even MORE in need of these resources in preparation for adoption (and long term) success. Your job as a puppy foster parent is even more involved than that of an adult or senior dog foster, and what you do or do not commit yourself to accomplishing with a puppy (specifically 6 months and under) while in your care, will have an impact on their life as a whole.

Puppies need a ton of socialization with balanced adult dogs, exposure to a very wide variety of experiences and stimulus on a daily bases, and they need more patience than the average rescue dog. The key to puppies is to treat them as adult dogs and hold them to the same behavior and training potential, but with more bathroom breaks and patient repetition of new tasks to master.

Handle and engage with puppies in the same way you would want or need to handle or engage with them when they are full grown. Touch and condition your puppy to tolerate invasive grooming, bathing, and examinations such as the ones they will face over and over as they grow throughout the years. Expose them to different kinds of handlers: kids are more rough or startling and offer a different conditioning than adults most of the time. Also, if you will not be able to tolerate a 75 pound dog jumping on you, then do not allow that future 75 pounder to jump on you (or others) simply because he/she is currently 10 pounds.

Your foster puppy may be adopted by a family who works full time, so he/she will need to be able to be calm and confident in their crate for parts of the day. Focus then, on setting them up for success by creating a healthy level of comfort and respect during crate time, even if you work from home and have the luxury of spending extra time with him/her.

These are examples of where your responsibility as a puppy foster is greater, and potentially more rewarding, but why it absolutely can’t be about you – or what you want to do with your days cuddling that squishy nugget of rescue goodness. More information, if you’re interested, can be found on our Facebook page video playlist, Puppy Raising 101.

 

9. The Big Picture – Nutrition, detox, and immunity in the face of stress:

Many rescue dogs find their way into foster homes with a laundry list of health issues or a history of behavior problems which can be linked to poor health/nutrition. Some rescue pups show up and seem perfectly fine, only to blow up in a serious skin rash, urinary infection, or digestion issues due to food changes, stress, or social exposure.

We advocate for all dogs to have a biologically appropriate diet, and to be on the highest quality food possible – as this can and does contribute to better immunity, as well as better behavior. When a dog goes through transitions from one home/holding solution to the next, they can’t help but experience some cumulative stress. Stress is a big culprit of immune deficiency or malfunction, so it’s even more important to pay attention to food/nutrition as a part of your foster dog’s care program if they are already showing signs of stress or immune issues.

The vast majority of rescue dogs receive a once over vetting assessment and are automatically updated on shots or spay/neuter surgery regardless of the availability of past medical records. These heavy hitting stresses on the immune system of especially vaccines and anesthesia, can cause all kinds of physical side effects that you as the foster parent should be mindful of, and not rush to assume a vet appointment is needed.

Whether your foster dog is already showing signs of wear and tear, or has recently received treatments that would be hard on their system (surgery, vaccines, antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, etc.), your focus should be on building the immune system with safe and holistic measures from the inside out. Seek out fresh, natural, high protein food that is grain free and USA made, educate yourself about supplements and natural solutions for complementing the incomplete commercial pet food diet (probiotics, vitamin c, omegas…) then give the body time to regulate.

 

10. Tell the truth and stand for the honest needs and potential of your foster dog.  

Your job is to learn everything you can about this dog, and to tell it like it is to everyone you’re in contact with at the rescue, shelter, or direct adoption prospects. NEVER sugarcoat a dog’s behavior, disposition, or lifestyle needs and NEVER assume adopters will accept, tolerate, or enjoy certain quirks or nuance in a dog the same way you do.

It’s best for your foster dog to be presented authentically, so they can find a forever home that will truly be a best match, and so your organization can maintain it’s duty to the public by placing safe dogs who represent their breeds well. Misrepresenting an adoptable dog increases it’s chances of being returned, unnecessarily stressed, and/or a danger to itself or others. 

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to work your way through this blog, it’s a doozy! Please don’t hesitate to share your stories of fostering success and the adventurous journey of rehabilitation, you can connect with us in the Leaders Lounge for more support and encouragement, or email your questions for our weekly Q&A series to alphaadmin@home2k9.com. You can find more information like the above top tips on our Facebook page(s), YouTube channel(s), and website mailing list. Good luck, and happy fostering!

 

To your training success,

 

-Cam