Hi all! I just brought home a 10 month old foster dog on Friday and I am feeling extremely overwhelmed. I feel like I'm doing everything wrong and don't know what to do. I'm trying to follow the "2 week shutdown" or decompression protocol. I was told "Zero affection, play hard to get, be the cool kid in high school....your only job is to build a super structured routine that YOU control every aspect of then simply walk the dog through it. And no talking for a week."

But this dog wants affection so bad and I feel awful. So sometimes I give in and pet him and then he gets really hyper so I withdraw and ignore him. He also has a LOT of energy so I want to give him some exercise but there are so many people, dogs, loud noises, etc in my neighborhood and he gets distracted and stressed (ears back, eyes darting) during walks so I don't know what to do. I've tossed the ball around my office (where he's kept, it's a pretty large room) and he loves that but it does not seem like enough.

I feel like such a failure and I don't know what to do. I actually went into this hoping to adopt this dog but I don't think that's going to work. I have a cat and I'm keeping them separate and this dog is obsessed with the smell of my cat. He will stare at the door that separates them for a long time even if I offer a ball to play with or treats to distract him.

Any advice?

On the bright side, so far he hasn't had any potty accidents in the house so yay? (trying to stay positive even when I want to cry)

  • April 29, 2020 at 10:59 AM

    I am so glad I came across this post. I am on day 4 of fostering a 3 year old mix breed. I’ve never had an animal EVER, and the humane society basically gave me the dog, some food and said call if you have any issues. No instruction, nothing. So like you, I’ve been researching on the internet. The dog isn’t neutered or house trained. I take him out every hour and even if he pees outside, he comes in and pees on my carpet or curtains. He’s never been crate trained and I can’t let him roam the house at night yet. I haven’t slept in days. It’s like having a newborn. I can’t even let him out of my sight for a moment. I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed as well, and actually sat down and cried today. I feel like I’m failing. I don’t know what to do, what not to do, or if this is even going to work out. He’s a big dog as well (52 pounds) and it’s hard for me to control him on a lease, etc. Hearing someone else struggling helps me realize it’s not just me. I want to create such a loving and safe space for Hank, but I don’t know if anything I am doing is helping. I’m definitely exhausted and feeling so lost.

  • March 24, 2020 at 02:12 PM

    Hi Jessa, i'd be happy to chat if you want to talk directly. Sometimes there is a VERY good reason for a two week decompression time and not following it can result in serious problems. Other times we can be less strict. I recommend you talk to your foster coordinator about the dog you're fostering to see what they say. Who are you fostering for? As i said, i'd love to talk in person. You can reach me at segurson@maddiesfund.org

    • March 24, 2020 at 03:27 PM

      Just to clarify, the rescue didn't recommend the 2 week shutdown, it was something I had read on my own. The rescue didn't really tell me much so I had to learn on my own. The rescue is called PC Pound Puppies and it's located in Indiana. Also the advice on not talking and basically ignoring the dog was given to me by a trainer that I have decided not to listen to because he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.

  • March 24, 2020 at 11:25 AM

    YOU'RE DOING GREAT! I've always heard it's about 3 weeks for a dog to adjust to the new environment, but every dog is different. Only you can decide how to build a relationship with this dog based on the cues and interactions between you. Like kids, dogs need and respond well to structure. Exercise and activity are very important. As you've already noticed, he has a lot of energy that needs to be spent before he can focus well on learning. I can't imagine zero affection...not practical and the dog will need some form of communication from you that he has done what you wanted. Here are a couple of links that may be of interest. Be patient and trust yourself! heavy black-heart



    • March 24, 2020 at 01:56 PM

      Thank you! I think the zero affection thing was really bad advice that I received. It was not actually from the rescue but from a trainer that I spoke with online. I am looking at a more science based approach, I've been reading and watching material from Patricia McConnell today and taking her advice since she has real credentials as an animal behaviorist and she has research and science to back up her claims.

      I've been giving the dog some gentle affection today and he loves it. He keeps coming back for more lol. The only problem is that once he gets some pets, he tries to jump in my lap and/or if I stop to work (I work from home), he walks around whining. Not sure how to solve that problem just yet but one step at a time I suppose.

  • March 23, 2020 at 09:24 PM

    I am 3 days into my very first foster also. Nobody told me squat except when to bring him for ... alterations. I am by no means an expert, but that sounds like torture for you both. I know I didn't bring a dog needing lovins home so I could give him the cold shoulder. 🙁

    • March 24, 2020 at 01:53 PM

      Thanks, I think it was just some bad advice that I received. This advice did not actually come from the rescue, it was a trainer that I spoke with briefly online. After reading more, I think his advice is terrible and I won't be following that. Obviously I don't want the dog to jump in my lap for attention but I do think he deserves some affection.

    • March 24, 2020 at 11:11 AM

      "...alterations". BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!! rolling on-the-floor-laughing

  • March 23, 2020 at 08:19 PM

    Hi! Thanks for fostering. You are not a failure you are a hero! You are trying and you got the pup into a household where you will see things that you can share/write down for the future adopters/rescue. Invaluable!

    In the situation that you described it may not be possible to fulfill his needs and keep your cat safe as well (he may not be ready to meet a cat). You are not a failure...you just may be miss-matched. Another calmer-older-cat friendly/cat experienced dog may be a better match right now (?)

    In the meantime, you can try including him in all of your chores/activities in the house (and outside if this is practical and safe). Put a leash on him and walk him to the sink for dishwashing/laundry/getting the mail etc. Do you have any large Kong toys that you can fill with his kibble for his mealtimes? Will he sit while you hide his playtoy so he has to search for it? Any games that tap into his breed mix or other games he has to work at can help. Can you walk him at quieter times of the very early morning/day/evening? (With that energy I would be especially careful to have the correct type of collars/leashes for him. We use two at a time for walking each of our dogs from young pups to seniors). And of course, a backyard for playtime is great-you may need to get creative with your office space. We have had success with a treadmill for one of our very high energy dogs (you would need to look up the correct way to do the intro. etc. first).

    You have done a good thing for this pup and you have begun fostering! You also know a little more about it now and what may work better for your family next time (don't give up!) We too had to learn what worked best for our family. Once we did we were able to set routines and systems in place that fostering just blended in as a beautiful-sometimes challenging-but fairly seamless part of our lives.

    Praying that in the future, you too will be able to say the same. Sarah, AdoptPetsLocally.com

    • March 24, 2020 at 01:51 PM

      Thank you! I'm feeling a lot less overwhelmed today! I think yesterday was just a bad day. Today I've been reading/watching things by Patricia McConnell and I definitely feel like the shutdown is wayyyyy too strict especially for this pup. I'm incorporating a lot more petting today, essentially rewarding him when he stands quietly near me (no pets when whining so he doesn't think he can whine for attention in the future). He is eating up the attention. He sat near me earlier and I gave him lots and lots of attention because it was only the 3rd time I've ever seen him sit still lol. He loooooovvved it so much!!!

      We (my husband and I) did find a quieter place and time to walk him, there's a little subdivision just a short walk (like 2 minutes) away and so far, I haven't seen any dogs over there and there's one street with no houses facing out so fewer distractions there too. We walked back and forth down that street for awhile, sometimes slow and sometimes fast. He seemed to really enjoy that. We have a martingale collar on him, we tried a harness but he didn't seem to like that very much, maybe it wasn't adjusted correctly though. No backyard, unfortunately but there are some large lots nearby and I did buy a 20 foot lead so we could have some play time in a larger area when he's more comfortable with the outdoor sounds.

      I bought 4 Kong toys (2 large, 2 extra-large) and I have been giving him one meal out of the Kong toy. He threw up a little bit of bile yesterday just before dinner and the rescue said it could be acid reflux and said to try splitting his food into 3 meals instead of 2 so I gave him lunch out of the Kong today while in his crate, he loved it. He has some issues getting the last bits out and he gets frustrated but otherwise he has a blast.

      • March 25, 2020 at 07:03 AM

        Thank you so much for the update! So glad things are going better! Have a blessed day. Sarah