How to Fail with Your New Foster or Adopted Dog

So many good-hearted people want to save a “rescue” dog either through foster or adoption. And while their intentions may be beautiful, their actions may actually set the dog up to fail. There are several key mistakes that people make when bringing home a rescue dog that must be avoided in order to avoid failure with your new charge.

(1) Give your dog so much love!

Your new dog may have been neglected, abused, or otherwise mistsreated by humans. You must shower this dog with love and affection!!!! Snuggles, treats, praise at every movement…


Even a small amount of calm praise and affection is going to go a long way with a dog with a sad history. For dogs that are fearful or shy, overwhelming them with affection can actually be counterproductive. Giving affection while a dog is in a fearful state can actually (positively) reinforce that state… meaning encourage that behavior.

The Pet You Pet Is The Pet You Get!

That means, if you pet a dog in a calm state, you will get a calm pet. If you pet a dog in a fearful or anxious state, you will get a fearful or anxious pet.

When your dog is feeling startled, fearful, unsure, it’s better to provide calm leadership and wait for the dog to follow your lead and settle. THEN, provide praise! Do not coddle a dog in a fearful state.

My advice for fosters/adopters with fearful dogs: Try not to feel sorry for your dog and try to treat your new dog as though s/he is “normal.” (Dogs will often meet our expectations!) Give appropriate amounts of crate time, exercise, potty breaks, and affection.

(2) Give your dog so much freedom!

Your new dog has been crated or cooped up, tethered, or banished to a yard… they must need freedom, so go ahead and give them free reign of your house. Better yet, DON’T!

Please, for the sake of the dog’s success, do not give your dog foster or adopted dog too much freedom right away. Restrict access to the house, and whatever you do, DO NOT let your foster or adopted dog on the couch or bed (right away). These are “high value” areas and may create conflicts with other members of the household (human/canine/feline).

Provide strict boundaries and routine in the beginning and you will reap the rewards of a happy well-adjusted dog in the end

Practice the umbilical cord or crate approach for at least the first 3-5 days.

That means, if the dog is not crated, it is on a leash with you. This will prevent potty accidents, chewing, or other unwanted behaviors. It also has the added benefit of promoting bonding!

Take the dog out regularly on leash for walks and to potty. After a few days, you can relax the strictness and increase freedom.

(3) Give your dog so many treats!

Treats are GREAT for training new behaviors, (or things a dog doesn’t know) such as sit, down, shake, roll over, agility, etc. However, treats are far less useful for deterring negative behaviors (i.e. barking in the crate — wait until behavior ceases — treat). Without the help of a professional trainer, treats should not be used to address unwanted behaviors, because the situation and timing is so important. As much as possible, save treats for learning “tricks” and rely on your bond (the dogs desire to please and communicating clearly yes/no) for feedback in other situations. Don’t be afraid to create clear boundaries for dogs; they thrive on structure!

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Guest Post by Dog Gone Seattle adopter Julie D. Barnes I acquired my first ever dog a few months ago, an eight week old Terrier mix.