Tips for new foster dog owners
June 10, 2018 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow we're adopting a 5 year old pug. My wife and I both grew up with dogs, but haven't owned any pets in the last 20 years, so don't really know the basics of dog ownership. I have many questions.

We agreed to adopt a 5 year old pug / jack russell mix, whose elderly owner (whom we've never met) had died. A major reason is that we think it would be good for our children (11 and 8) to grow up with a dog, for companionship, learning responsibility and life lessons. We live in a 3 story house in London, patio garden, with access to a park nearby. We've been told the dog is friendly, loving and child safe. I have a host of questions (answer as many as you feel like):
  1. How long is typical for a foster dog to relax and accept a new family? What behaviour should we expect in the early stages? What can we do to help him get settled in?
  2. How often would he need to get taken for a walk? How many poos & pees per day is typical?
  3. Any essential purchases? I assume we need pet insurance? Collar and tag with contact details? He's been microchipped.
  4. Once he is settled in, how long can a dog reasonably be left home alone? E.g. during half-hour school run, or half-day museum trip?
  5. We're fairly strict on hygiene (e.g. wash hands whenever we come in from outside, don't wear shoes in the house), but I expect we'll need to relax a bit. I can't help but feel compelled to wash my hands immediately after touching a dog, but do dog owners still bother with that? What should we teach the children? (We expect he'll be allowed on sofas and laps, but not beds.)
  6. How often do dogs need washing? How's it done?
  7. What's the etiquette on leashes? He'd be on a leash (with harness) whenever we take him to parks, but when is it OK to let him off?
  8. What are reasonable pet responsibilities for children (8 and 11) to assume? We hope they'll learn to take the dog to the park for walkies (5 mins away), which will include bagging the poo. Other possibilities are feeding and washing.
  9. The dog had apparently been doted on and over-fed by its owner, so is overweight. We aim to keep it to a healthy diet, and want to enforce a strict ban on non-mealtime snacks. Is this realistic?
  10. Where would be a sensible place for the dog to sleep? In the kitchen by himself? Or top floor with us in the bedroom?
posted by snarfois to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hi-- I just went from foster to adopter with a 5 year old RottieX. I was in the same position as you (dog experience earlier in life, but not recently). I can give you answers to some based on my experience (and much based on advice I got here!)

I invested in a trainer early on-- not to train her-- to train me. And it was one of the best decisions I made. It really helped me with the basics. I would recommend this.

How long is typical for a foster dog to relax and accept a new family? What behaviour should we expect in the early stages? What can we do to help him get settled in?

My dog's behaviour in the beginning was different than later. It took her 6 months to really relax and understand that it really was her house and these really were her toys. Don't be surprised if you see changes later

How often would he need to get taken for a walk? How many poos & pees per day is typical?

It will depend on the dog. But I start from the assumption that a tired dog is a well-behaved and happy dog. Huggy is walked four times a day (3 when very hot) for at least 90 minutes a day. Note that she is arthritic, so if your dog is high energy he may need more. My dog pees every time she goes out and poops every 8-12 hours. No idea if this is typical.

Any essential purchases? I assume we need pet insurance? Collar and tag with contact details? He's been microchipped.

Collar, and I would buy a walking harness rather than using the collar to walk him. Tag with contact details is a good idea. A good dog bed and some toys. High value treats. In my case, Hong Kong doesn't have good pet insurance options, but I had pet insurance on my cats when I lived in NL.

Once he is settled in, how long can a dog reasonably be left home alone? E.g. during half-hour school run, or half-day museum trip?

Six hours is the maximum I leave my dog alone. You will find many opinions on this point. On the rare occasion it ends up 8 (traffic, whatever), she's fine.

We're fairly strict on hygiene (e.g. wash hands whenever we come in from outside, don't wear shoes in the house), but I expect we'll need to relax a bit. I can't help but feel compelled to wash my hands immediately after touching a dog, but do dog owners still bother with that? What should we teach the children? (We expect he'll be allowed on sofas and laps, but not beds.)

I wash my hands before preparing food/eating or after cleaning up poo/pee but not after every time I touch her. This is a point of debate and unclear science. I would focus more on teaching your kids to be respectful of the dog and the dog's personal space. This is where a trainer is useful. Don't bother the dog when they are eating, ever. Don't scare the dog. Even a friendly sweet dog can bite if scared.

How often do dogs need washing? How's it done?

Depends on your dog. Mine is clean and dislikes rolling in stinky things. She enjoys bathing so I tend to do it myself.

What's the etiquette on leashes? He'd be on a leash (with harness) whenever we take him to parks, but when is it OK to let him off?

Please be confident about your recall command before you let him off leash. (Trainer again.) My dog is big and I don't let her off leash anywhere but in off leash dog parks. I personally think you should leash your dog unless you are in an area where off-leash is explicitly allowed. Please be aware that not all dogs are friendly, and you should never let your off-leash dog approach another dog without checking with the owner-- particularly if that dog is on-leash.

The dog had apparently been doted on and over-fed by its owner, so is overweight. We aim to keep it to a healthy diet, and want to enforce a strict ban on non-mealtime snacks. Is this realistic?

High value treats can be an important tool in training. I give treats if she obeys commands, but reduce her mealtime.
posted by frumiousb at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


>8. What are reasonable pet responsibilities for children (8 and 11) to assume?

I think one of the hardest lessons I have seen children have to learn is that the dog is not a thing, or a toy. It is a creature, and it lives with you, and you have to respect it.

>10. Where would be a sensible place for the dog to sleep?..

Crated, in the bedroom, with you.

I would very much like to see a picture of your pug russell.
posted by the Real Dan at 5:17 PM on June 10, 2018


I'm less than a year into owning a retired show dog. It seems like it took about six months for her to feel fully comfortable and confident that she's in her forever home. Over the course of those six months, her behavior and preferences evolved. She went from being uber-polite to making her wishes known. Not surprising.

The dog is probably going to take some time to warm up to your children, as I don't expect he's been around children much before. It may help to have them feed the dog and take him for walks, so the dog understands where these little people fit into the giant scheme of things.

Were you planning to bring the dog's toys, bed, and so forth along with the dog? I'm unclear whether it's better to bring the dog's familiar objects as opposed to purchasing new examples of the same sort of toys, bed, and so forth. Perhaps someone else will have thoughts about that. Wherever the dog has been accustomed to sleeping is probably the best course for you to follow, unless you have serious objections to it.

By all means, continue the dog's diet. It can be very disruptive for a dog's system to switch from one type of dog food to another. Ditto for the treats. While you certainly don't want to give the dog as much food or as many treats as before, a major change like suddenly cutting off treats altogether will be confusing at best.
posted by DrGail at 5:21 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


1. It will take a few weeks for the dog to get the hang of it's new routine. I recommend getting into a routine as soon as possible after having the dog home as it really helps them to feel secure. Make sure it's got somewhere to go that's a no kid zone, ie if the dog is in it's bed make sure the kids know to leave it alone. Even the most loving dog needs a break sometimes. It can take months for a dogs full personality to be displayed depending on how upset they get by changes. Most dogs try to be good for the first few weeks, & then you may go through a window of time where the dog seems suddenly very naughty, it is simply trying out the rules to see which ones it can get away with breaking or pushing the boundaries on. Gentle but firm reinforcement is usually enough to see you through this patch. I recommend all dog owners do some sort of positive training course with a new dog, the course isn't so much to teach your dog commands, but as a bonding activity for you & the dog & a way for you to learn a common language. It can take 6 months or so for the dog to really blossom into themselves as they get to trust you all.

2. You will want to walk them after ever meal at the very least, most dogs pee/poop after food. Small dogs should have 2 small meals a day. You'll want a walk first thing in the morning too and when you get home from being out for any length of time and one before bed. The smaller the dog the smaller the bladder, remember if you need to change up walk times shift them slowly once the dogs set in the routine so they can retrain their bladder as it where.

3. Change microchip to your name, there may be a fee. Vet visit for a once over would be my must do purchase. If you can get a copy of his medical record to take with you even better. If it's fat get it's teeth checked out, small dogs are prone to teeth problems. A bed to call it's own, one for sleeping at night & one for day time lounging down in the areas you all hang out the most if it's not going to be allowed up on the furniture. Decide that before you get the dog then stick to it, it's easier to train a dog not to jump up than to train it to stop jumping up onto the furniture once you let it.

4. I have small terriers we tend to think half a day. 6 hours is the max we'd leave our dogs & there is a small chance they'll be an accident if we leave it that long. 4 hours is our preferred maximum time frame.

5. Get everyone in the habit of washing hands before eating or preparing food. Good news is kids that are raised around dogs get less allergies etc than kids that aren't. The dog microbes toughen up the immune system.

6. Dogs need washing when they smell. I have one dog that needs washing once every couple of months & one that has been bathed twice in the 5 years I've owned him because he rolled in bird poop. His coat is so short I can wipe him down with a damp cloth otherwise. If you are sensitive to smells etc then no more than every month with dog shampoo only. would be my recommendation. Too much washing leads to the dogs fur producing more oils which leads to more doggy smell. A small dog like yours can be washed easily enough at home, but occasional trips to the groomers for nails & anal glands might be in order.

7. It's OK to let your dog off in dog parks if you live in the city. I would not let your dog off until you are really confident in your recall, Jack Russells will ignore you to chase a smell or a squirrel in a heart beat, though the Pug side may counter that a little. So I'd try to only do it in a securely fenced area.

8. Your kids can handle pretty much all the responsibilities you mentioned. As the adults though I'm assuming you'd still monitor to check the dog is actually getting fed the right amount & that it always has clean water etc. Be prepared as the parent to be stuck doing most of the walks. Walking with your kids while they walk the dog is a fun way to hang out with your kids though & I got really close to my niece & nephew over the years walking dogs with them as it's a great time to talk with no phones etc, but your 11 year old should be able to walk the dog alone as long as they keep them on the harness & pick up poop.

9. Dog treats are a vital training aid. Specially with anything with terrier in it (they are very much a what is in it for me kind of dog) & pugs are highly food motivated too. It's not hard to allow for treats as part of their diet though. Also leaving the dog with a kong with Peanut butter or cheese in when you go out is a great way to leave them with positive associations with you leaving & to help head off separation anxiety, which it may have it it's older was home with it a lot.

10. I recommend sleeping on the top floor with you guys. As you don't want it on the bed, a dog bed of it's own is a perfectly good setup. It might take you a week or 2 to grasp that's it's sleeping spot, but firm & gentle will help them realize. My MIL's dog sleeps in the hallway outside the bedrooms as it likes to guard everyone & get pats when they get up to pee during the night. Ours sleep in our room either in their own bed, on the floor or on our bed. Again it's all OK as long as you're consistent. Dogs do really like to be as near their people as possible so keep that in mind.
posted by wwax at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking of a good, longer answer to add onto the great advice you've already gotten, but as a pug owner, one things leaps to the top of my mind ... if your new friend is part pug, s/he likely will have a double coat. So that means you'll have a fair amount of shedding, and you'll want to get a thing called a Furminator to help manage that. These things are miracles ... buy it and start using it regularly on Day One and you will have much less vacuuming to do.

Congratulations! Show us a picture!
posted by mccxxiii at 5:49 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


9. I've seen plenty of owners of small dogs parcel out the daily food as training treats throughout the day. To suddenly go to no "treats" might be hard for the dog. (Please note I have one dog and not much other dog experience.)

10. Our dog sleeps in our bedroom on his own bed on the floor, no crate. He is very sad if he knows we're around but he can't see us.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:58 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


How long is typical for a foster dog to relax and accept a new family? It will take a week or two for him to feel relaxed, but you won’t start seeing his true personality for a month or two. The more at home he feels, the more he’ll feel comfortable being himself.

What can we do to help him get settled in? Not too many rules and corrections, and when you do have to correct a behavior do it as gently as possible, or use distraction rather than correction.

I can't help but feel compelled to wash my hands immediately after touching a dog…
I would think you’d need to wash your hands immediately after touching your kids more than your dog. For most people this isn’t a thing. Of course, wash your hands before preparing and eating a meal - just like before you had a dog.

Washing? My dog hates water so he only gets a bath twice a year or so, or as needed. I do wash his face every day though.

What are reasonable pet responsibilities for children (8 and 11) to assume?
Walks, poo pick up, feeding, water bowl and brushing. Even if your dog doesn’t have especially long hair, gentle brushing in the evening can be a nice relaxing end to the day and a good bonding experience. It’s a no-calorie way of doting.

We …want to enforce a strict ban on non-mealtime snacks. Is this realistic? No. You want to reward him for good behavior and it’s fun for the kids to have him sit and shake and whatever else and then he gets a treat at the end. Try very small treats as used for training. Another good option is string cheese - low-fat and you can just give little strips. My dogs LOVE string cheese.

Where would be a sensible place for the dog to sleep? If you make him sleep in the kitchen it will break his heart and probably your kids' too. Your dog should sleep near you or kids. He can have his own bed in one of your bedrooms. Some people use crates.

Congratulations! Your kids will love you for this. Hope you'll post a photo!
posted by mulcahy at 8:05 AM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


How Puggy is this dog? You may want to connect with local pug people for tips on ears and eyes and anal glands and face wrinkles.

Also, many Pugs need surgery to help their breathing.

If your pup has the modern pug skull, find some pug people to guide you on the extra care required.

If you can find a trainer who does a basic "puppy" type class teaching small humans basic dog skills, that would be tremendous.

Enjoy!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:07 AM on June 11, 2018


As you think about training, bear in mind that pugs -- while absolutely adorable -- are not the smartest kids in the class. Often very food motivated, but not always sharp tools. I love my two with all my heart, but let's get real they're dumb as rocks. :) So don't expect miracles beyond basic obedience; you are not adopting a standard poodle who you could probably train to make you a martini if it had thumbs.

Pugs were bred to be companion animals, they just want to be with you and receive love and affection. Please set your new friend up for success by managing expectations all around.
posted by mccxxiii at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the wonderful answers, everyone! Meet Chip. (He turned out to be all pug, no terrier.)
posted by snarfois at 3:35 PM on June 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


Gorgeous! Congratulations!! He is lucky and so are you!
posted by mccxxiii at 6:46 PM on June 11, 2018


Chip is super adorable. He looks like he's a friendly guy too, look at that great smile.
posted by wwax at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2018


6. I take our dog to the groomer's for a bath and nail clipping every 3 months or so (whenever he starts to smell). Yes, we have done it ourselves, but he's 50 pounds, it takes two people and all our towels, and he comes back softer from the groomer's.

YAY CHIP!!! May you have many years of snuggly happiness together.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:44 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


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