5 Tips for Fostering a Dog Who Needs Some Love and Work

I’ve previously posted about my foster dog Ozlo. We have had him for a year and a half now. He has had no good contendors for forever homes since we’ve had him and at this point we are likely going to adopt him and foster-fail. He knows and loves us and we understand his needs and would do anything for him.

Every single person who has submitted an application to adopt him and then has done a meet and greet with him, have all done the same thing. “Look how handsome and pretty he is! Oh I love him!”, they all exclaim as Ozlo cowers behind us. But Oz is more than just a pretty face. He is complicated and needs a family who is going to take the time to work with him and love him for who he is.

Now in my last post I mentioned that when my boyfriend got him from the shelter, he was chosen because he was supposedly the most difficult dog they had that nobody wanted because he is “so high energy”. Yeah, he’s a couch potato for sure. Don’t get me wrong, he loves a good yard to run in and summer swimming, but he will snooze all day. I think he likes the quiet and is definitely not opposed to cuddles.

So here are a few tips to working with your new rescue, especially if you were told you have the worst behaved dog in the shelter:

  1. Rescue dogs have a different personality at the shelter than they do in a quiet home.
    • Ozlo is insane at the shelter. We occasionally take him there to use their yards since we don’t have one in the city. He very quickly gets so full of excitement and anxiety and can become hard to handle as one person. Ozlo is not that way at all at home. He is quiet and will keep to himself or he will come sit on top of you since this 45lb terrier mix thinks he’s a lap dog and can’t get enough affection.
    • Don’t judge a pup by their shelter personality. It is a stressful place for them.
  2. If your pup is dragging you down the sidewalk, do not yank the leash to jerk them back to you, especially if you are attaching the leash to the collar.
    • For one reason, this can really hurt their neck, so please consider using a harness with your dog instead of attaching the leash to the collar.
    • The other reason, even if using a harness, it almost becomes tug of war. If your pup is dragging you, and you yank them back, they will continue to yank forward. It is not helpful at all and will continue to make you more frustrated.
    • Instead, tie 2-3 break/stopper knots in your leash that you can hold the leash in front of, so when your dog pulls, your hand gets stuck on the knot instead of nearly pulling your shoulder out of its socket.
    • Also, slow them down and make them walk closely beside you at your pace or stop them altogether if they start to pull too much. You can practice making them sit too. This slows them down and says, “Hey! You’re walking at my pace.” Ozlo used to be really bad about this, but walks really well now on a harness.
  3. For any bad behaviors such as barking at other people, leash pulling, getting into trash, etc., I highly recommend getting Pet Corrector. It is a little red aerosol can full of compressed air that makes a hissing noise when released. Ozlo doesn’t listen to us saying “No!”, but is terrified of the Pet Corrector and will immediately stop his behavior. It’s a noise version of saying “No!”. The science behind this is that the hissing noise resembles that of a snake or predator giving off a warning because you are getting too close.
  4. Use treats for training.
    • Oz already new basic commands of sit, stay, lay down, come, and paw shake. It never hurts to continue practicing them for obedience training.
    • It’s important to only use treats until they get the behavior under their belt and then slowly transition out of using them so that they will listen to you and not just the food.
  5. Be patient and help introduce them to new things.
    • Oz is terrified of literally everything that is not me or my boyfriend. He is afraid of people, boxes, foil, chairs, wheelchairs, skateboards, etc. Anything you can think of. He is not aggressive at all. He’s a total baby. It’s important for us to help him realize a lot of his fears are irrational.
    • If an item is small enough, we will let him smell it and show him how we interact with it so that he knows he doesn’t need to be afraid of it. If the trashcan lid falls on the floor he will freak out and hide in the bedroom. I usually give him baby-talk to comfort him and love on him and try to bring him near the trashcan lid to see that it is not a potential danger.

It’s really important to take the time to understand your dog and their needs. What do they need to work on most? How can you help them get better about it? Take the time to research online for help, ask the team at the shelter for advice, and love on your pup. They deserve happy greetings and all the cuddles.