Where do your dogs sleep?

Whenever we had fosters, all dogs in the house were crated when we weren’t home or when we were sleeping. When we just had Pyrrha, though, she got free reign of the house during the day and at night. Pyrrha is one of the most trustworthy dogs I know with house independence, mainly because she’s fabulously lazy and not the slightest bit mischievous.

By Juju's bed

But since we added Eden to the household, we’ve gone back to crating both dogs, whenever we’re absent or sleeping.

This is fine, because we train all of our dogs, fosters or permanent, to love their crates, but one of the girls’ repeated points of tension with each other is when I come home to let them out of their crates. Pyrrha gets very agitated by my re-entrance and often takes it out on Eden with growling and snarking. To mitigate this, I let them out of their crates and into the yard separately, but it’s always kind of a pain. And I wonder if this would be resolved if they both got to be free when I came home.

The girls

That said, I don’t think Eden is ready for full-house independence when we’re not home, but her foster told me that he didn’t crate her at night (and this was back when she was only 4.5 months old, and notably crazier). She is still very much the puppy, and endlessly curious about things, so for her safety (and the safety of our shoes and houseplants), I still think it’s smart to crate her during the day when we’re not home.

But. I’m debating with the idea of letting both dogs choose where to sleep at night and keeping the door to their room and their crates open, so they could sleep in their crates if they chose (which Pyrrha probably would, although they both love that little rug in front of the French door, as pictured above).

What do you think?

Where are your dogs when you’re not home or sleeping? If you made a transition from the crate to house freedom, how did you manage it? How did you know your dog was “ready”?

Georgia visits and Rainer gets exiled

My husband graduated from his graduate program this weekend, which was very exciting, and my in-laws came to visit, bringing along their sweet pup Georgia (whom you may recall from our earlier visits).

Georgia baby!
Georgia baby is growing up!

She has gotten bigger, but not as big as I thought she’d be! Georgia is about six months old now, and I’d say she’s still only about 30 lbs. For those with goldens or golden mixes, how big would you think she’s going to get? I imagine she may never be much more than 40–50 lbs. Sweet little thing! She is still so spunky, and has such a fun, cuddly personality, and we love her…

… but Rainer? Not so much.

Rainer’s introductions to Georgia did NOT go well. Their first meeting was outside, on leashes, and Rainer ran full throttle into Georgia and got her by the throat. Really bad sign. No calming signals, no politeness, nothing: just straight into attack mode.

I was shaken by this, obviously, as was everyone else; thankfully, Georgia was OK. After things had calmed down, we let Rainer into the kitchen with the baby gate up and kept Georgia on the other side of the gate in the living room. But things did not improve. She tried to sniff him, and he lunged at her, ready to bite. We waited for a while, hoping he could calm down, but he seemed incapable of it; he was just fixated on her and doing whatever he could to knock down that gate and get to her.

This was not behavior that we could manage all weekend in our tiny house, so Rainer got to live in the sunroom for two nights.

Rainer in exile
Rainer in exile in the sunroom.

Rainer still got time outside with Pyrrha in the backyard, and I took him on two walks by himself, so he wasn’t completely isolated, but I know he was sad to not be inside with us. We just couldn’t have him snacking on Georgia, so this was the best solution for the weekend. Sigh.

Kitchen table chats

That aside, however, the rest of the weekend with Pyrrha and Georgia went well. They still get on very nicely, even though they had a few sibling squabbles over toys (nothing too serious and nothing that a time-out for both of them couldn’t fix).

Sniffs
At least these two still love each other.

Pyrrha will be spending a week with Georgia in June while we’re at the beach, so I am of course always glad to see how much they enjoy each other’s company.

Caged beasts
Caged beasts!

Moral of the weekend: Thankful to have taught these dogs that crates are happy places! Rainer, Pyrrha, and Georgia all got treats and kisses when they went into their crates, and they go into them willingly, without a fight. This made the whole dog-separation shenanigans all weekend SO much easier. And easier on my conscience, because I knew that they didn’t feel like they were being punished when they were crated.

The other lesson learned, however, is that Rainer probably isn’t great with small dogs.

Based on my short descriptions of his behavior, what do you think about Rainer’s aggressive behavior with Georgia? It didn’t really look like fear aggression to me. Do you think it could have been territorial aggression? Or just straight-up prey drive? Ever seen such a thing in a dog before? (No signals, no typical dog-greeting behaviors, just straight into attack mode.)

What do you think? And how can we help Rainer with this? I am now frightened for him to meet any small dogs going forward.

10 things you need to foster a dog

We haven’t been fostering very long, but these 10 essential things have been SO helpful to us in our dog fostering adventure. So, here are some items to have on hand for your venture into the world of dog fostering.

Last day with Brando
A foster home is always full of crates. Foster Brando and Pyrrha.
  1. A crate. Crates will be your lifesaver! Crate training keeps a dog safe when you can’t watch them, prevents them from tearing up your house until they know better, separates dogs when necessary, and gives adjusting fosters a sense of security. Many fosters will be unused to crates, so it may be rough at first, but make the crate a happy place for sleeping and receiving good things. We give our fosters treats once they’re in their crates and reward them warmly when they are calmly crated. Never use the crate as a place of punishment! We love crates, and our dogs do, too!
  2. Baby gates. A corollary to crates, baby gates will also save your sanity as a new foster parent. Since you don’t want your dogs to always be crated, baby gates in key areas of the house will help you keep dogs separate while feeding or when you can’t keep an eye on one of them. We have a baby gate to our kitchen walkway, and it has been a huge help. We have this gate, and I really love it. The swinging door makes it much more convenient for humans, too!
  3. Martingale collar. I am a huge devotee of martingale collars, like the ones made by Premier. If you foster shy dogs, as we often do, being involved in German shepherd rescue, martingale collars will be immensely helpful to you. A nervous dog cannot back out of these collars, but they do not endlessly and dangerously tighten, like a choke collar. Love them. I have a martingale collar in every size for all of our fosters! (Note: We often just use martingales for walks and outings. They can catch on things if they are too big for the dog or during dog-on-dog play.)
  4. ID tag. Make some generic ID tags with your name, contact information, and address for your fosters, particularly if your rescue does not provide this for you. Make sure your foster is wearing this tag at all times! Jeffers Pet has some very affordable ID tags in a variety of sizes, and I bought a number of them with our info on it for our fosters to have, while we are waiting to get tags from Southeast German Shepherd Rescue (SGSR).
  5. Kongs, sterilized hollow bones, or other stuff-able toys. Dogs are going to get bored, and new fosters are likely going to be anxious about their new environment. A Kong or a hollow, sterilized bone, stuffed with something like kibble, canned pumpkin, or peanut butter is a great way to keep a dog occupied, happy, and out of trouble.
  6. Vehicle restraint. If you can’t fit a crate in your car, find an alternate method of restraint for a dog in your car. I made the mistake of assuming that other dogs would be as calm as our dog is in the car. Not so! (Brando, particularly, was a NIGHTMARE in the car.) Get a car harness that straps down or buckles into the seatbelt. Or get a grate that prevents the dog from clambering up into the front seat and endangering you while you drive. If you’re like us, you’ll probably be transporting your foster often, so a trustworthy method of vehicle restraint will be very helpful to you.
  7. Lots of old towels and blankets. I’ve given up on expensive dog beds. Our dog and our fosters like to rip them to shreds, and they can often be difficult to wash. Instead, I’ve been going to thrift stores and buying lots of old, cozy blankets and old towels to put in their crates. These can provide just as much comfort as a dog bed; they’re inexpensive; they’re easily replaceable; and they’re easy to clean in the event of accidents. (Old towels will also be very helpful in the car and around the house on wet, muddy days.)
  8. A trustworthy local groomer (or self-serve grooming station). Fosters often come in reeking of what we like to call “the shelter stank.” (You’ll know it once you’ve smelled it.) A reliable local groomer or a self-serve grooming station will be your best friend. Grooming makes a lot of dogs, especially rescue dogs from uncertain backgrounds, very nervous. We don’t have a great set-up at our home for bathing indoors, and so our local self-serve grooming operation has been a godsend. We’re huge fans of Wash & Wag!
  9. High-quality food. Most rescues have been eating pretty poorly. As SGSR recommends, we get our fosters on a high-quality kibble immediately. Grain-free kibble is important to me, so we are always researching what’s best for our dogs. Even though we can’t afford (financially or time-wise) to feed our dog or fosters raw, we are passionate about improving their health right away through a four- or five-star kibble. Dog Food Advisor provides great information and reviews on dog kibble.
  10. PATIENCE. And this is the most important thing of all! Foster parents need lots and lots of patience. But you probably knew this already. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work. There’s nothing quite like helping a dog transform into a happy, healthy, functional member of a family!
Laszlo in the evening
Foster Laszlo with a toy.

For those more experienced fosters out there, what do you recommend? Anything I’ve missed on my list?