New Foster Dog - Help!

My husband and I have agreed to foster my best friend’s dog.

Bobos is a 10yo lab/retriever mix… and a bit curmudgeonly in his old age. Unfortunately, when my friend was feeding him some table scraps, her son toddled over, and Bobos bit him. :frowning: It was just a quick snap, but it was enough that James needed some stitches. And Bobos needed a new home. FAST. Bobos has zero previous bite history, and it was obviously a food thing. But that was it.
He had his 10 day rabies quarantine, and was declared A-OK by the vet.

So my husband and I agreed to take him. We have two dogs (Apa and Iroh), and pretty much the perfect setup for dogs. They have free access to the fenced in back yard (via doggy door). And we work less than a mile away, so come home for lunch. Our dogs ran in a pack before we rescued them… so they LOVE other dogs. Our dogs have had several doggy and kid play dates, with lots of success.

We had the introduction yesterday. We met them outside, and immediately took all three dogs for a long walk. It went well. Then our dogs invited Bobos inside. Lots of sniffing, but no real playing. But overall, it went well.

Then I made my big stupid human blunder. I started making dinner for the four of us (me, my husband, best friend, her husband). My dogs were hanging around my feet while I made dinner (per usual), as I will inevitably drop something. Bobos came over for the same reason. And they began to fight. :eek:

It didn’t last long (5 seconds), with four adult humans. And no injuries. I felt like such an ass. :smack: It was pretty much the same scenario that caused the bite with James. Anyway, we are still determined to make this work. Our dogs our totally fine, just a little keyed up. Bobos is freaked about being in a new place, but will hopefully figure it out.

The plan, thus enacted, is this… Bobos will stay in the basement (finished) at night and while we are at work. We will walk the dogs together at night, and gradually work them up to spending time together (always supervised).

Any suggestions or ideas (or even your stories)??? This is our first foster situation. Are we crazy???

Changing a 10 year old may be difficult. His problem does seem to be strictly food related. Modern psycho babble calls it resource guarding. There are no quick, simple cures that I can explain here. Unlike some other things, I don’t have an extensive, successful history remedying. Try some books,

What All Good dogs Should Know, By Wendy Vollmer, 1991

How to Raise a Dog When Nobody is Home, Jerry Kilmer, 1991

Puppy Primer, by Brenda K Skidmore and Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., 1996

Beginning Family Dog Training, by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., 1996

I haven’t read many of those, but I am partial Patricia McConnell. She manages to present the newer, effective, positive methods without decending into the psycho babble abays. Many people like Jean Donaldson. I wasn’t able to finish her one book I tried to read. For the very best of the 50’s, there is Ceasar Milan.

He should improve with time, but it will be slow. We had 6 dogs in the house over Christmas. 5 of them could be left to compete for the favored position under the highchair. The sixth tore into one of the others when he walked by where she was eating. She came from a shelter, and is slowly becoming more tolerant of other dogs, but has a long ways to go.

I am new here, and it seems people willing to be honest are welcome here. I have extensive experience and training in getting dogs off to a good start. Fixing problems in older dogs is an entirely different skill set. I will not pretend I am strong in that area.

I wouldn’t assume that they had to be separated just from one food squabble. I think it’s pretty common for dogs to do that before they figure out the social order.

I have a 1 year old German Shepherd (Eva) whose best friend in the world is a dog (Rocket) owned by a friend of mine. They have played together since both were only a couple of months old. One day my friend’s dog was at my house and came upon one of Eva’s bones. He doesn’t get things like that too often where he lives, so he was pretty excited about his find. When she came over to see what he had, he growled and snapped at her, which he had never done before. Well, Eva decided she wasn’t going to take a dog growling at her over her bone, and a squabble ensued. Sounded ferocious, but I doubt either of them was touched. The bone of contention was removed, and they were playing again 30 seconds later. I have noticed, however, that ever since that incident, Rocket is much more cautious about going for an object of common interest (stick, bone, etc.).

I would try to feed them separately, but unless you see otherwise, I would think they would be fine together in most situations. Have they fought about anything else?

Thanks for the info! No other fights so far. Not even growling really.

Mostly I think Bobos is just freaked out about being in a new place. He is missing his home. So he is on edge. He is not even eating his own food. Which for him is huge. So it is just going to take some time for him to be comfortable.

Thanks for the encouraging stories! They are making me feel better.

Simply feed him separately. His problem is food related, not social. Since he is elderly, he may feel that he has to protect his food more. Otherwise it is best for him to socialize at all times.

Yeah, I wouldn’t freak out over this little incident. We’ve fostered dozens of dogs, and generally there is a squabble or two at the getting to know you stage. No blood has ever been drawn. I personally wouldn’t separate them, but it is a good idea to feed them separately.

Thanks guys…

Maybe separating them will do more harm than good. I just wish it was the weekend so I could be around during the day. Heading home for lunch. We will see how day 2 is going.

There’s nothing wrong with separating them physically, for safety, when they’re not supervised. Especially at first. Feed separately as has been mentioned. Observe them carefully when you’re there and they’re together, and you’ll know when you can let them be alone together safely.

When incorporating a new dog – especially an adult dog – into an existing dog household, I would be surprised if there WASN’T a minor squabble at some point over something (food, toy, favorite spot, attention from owner, etc.).

Since the OP is seeking advice, this is better suited to IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Separation won’t hurt anything, but eventually you should only need to keep them separate when feeding them. It might be a good idea to at least temporarily keep the new dog out of the kitchen during human food preparation and eating since he has been used to getting hand fed table scraps.

I had similar issues when I used to dog sit a friend’s lab, food is something they will guard with growling or snapping when another dog is around. As long as I kept the dogs separate for feeding and treats there were no problems. You really can’t expect the dog to change his natural instincts so you’ll have to adapt instead.

I would also remind you that it is not unheard of for dogs to try to establish pack order with a child. Unfortunate, but not unheard of.

Have you considered using this issue to establish YOUR alpha status? Make them sit and wait in turn for treats? While rotating the order of course.

Once they all get the idea that you, and only you, decide who gets what food, they might find the transition easier.

Thanks for all the reassurance guys. I knew I could count on the SDMB.

We walked the dogs together last night, and all hung out last night and watched a movie. No problems at all. I am very optimistic that by the end of the week, they will be packmates… with all attendant heirarchy established. Fingers crossed!

The pack leader moderates the amount of fighting that goes on, so if they do start facing off or just jump each other, break it up, but give the offender(s) the “evil eye” (show your disapproval with tone of voice, staring, and body language) and they should get the message pretty fast.