A Day in the Life of a Foster Dog

What is it like bringing a new foster dog home? It’s different every time.

But I thought I’d share Titus’s first few hours with us to give you a taste.

Titus – The Beginning

3:00 p.m. Two awesome SPCA staffers pull up in front of the house (their willingness to drop Titus off seriously decreased the stress-level of this car-free family). Although he looked uneasy, Titus perked up once he met Honey on leash and had a little frolic. Off to the back yard for some off-leash play time and last-minute instructions.

Titus is a pit mix foster dog.

4:00 p.m. After some crying when his friends left, Titus alternated between pacing and panting and lying down in the grass. Every time I come near, he turns his head away. I pull weeds in the garden to give him time to get used to things.

4:30 p.m. Titus lets out a few pitiable howls. Perhaps this pit is mixed with hound?

5:00 p.m. Titus approaches me, allows me to scratch him under the chin, and offers “kisses.”

5:30 p.m. Dinner time. I’m thrilled when Titus finishes every morsel.

Honey the Golden Retriever is a smart alec.

6:00 p.m. Honey is not too sure about Titus. He solicits play but she wants nothing to do with him. Is it because he’s an intact, adult male? I’ve never seen Honey refuse to play.

7:30 p.m. Now that he’s been here a few hours, Titus appears to be settling in. Oops, there’s Mike coming home from work with his bicycle. With something/someone new in the environment, Titus reverts to the fearful and tense behaviors he showed when he first arrived.

Titus the pitbull mix foster dog is smiling.

8:00 p.m. My neighbor meets Titus from her back porch. He’s curious and interested and does not bark or act afraid of her.

9:00 p.m. Titus is more relaxed and seems comfortable in the house. Although he’s concerned when I go upstairs, he won’t follow me. Honey, surprisingly, decides to stay upstairs with Mike while I’m downstairs with Titus.

10:00 p.m. Titus will not follow me upstairs. Rather than leave him downstairs alone, I toss my sleeping bag on the living room floor next to his blanket. He settles down to sleep. Luckily, he does not snore.

What I know about Titus

Titus is a very gentle and mild dog. If this is what he’s like as an adolescent with testosterone coursing through his body, I can’t imagine how calm he’ll be once he’s neutered.

We’ll spend the first 24 hours not expecting anything from him. That’s his time to get used to being around our home.

I did try luring a sit with a piece of hot dog. But raising the treat over this head frightened him and he backed off. Way off. Two rooms away off.

I’ll have to see if he minds the noise of a clicker and try capturing a sit.

Titus also needs antibiotics in his ear. But he was frightened when I tried to clean his ears. I’ll spend the day trying to get him used to me handling his ears and try again later with the antibiotics.

What’s Next

It’s all about helping Titus feel comfortable with normal things that make him uncertain now—leashes, harnesses, a crate (maybe), stairs, strangers.

My secondary goals are to teach him some helpful cues—sit, down, stay, come.

Honey the Golden Retriever is very pretty.

I’m hoping Honey relaxes a bit and is willing to play with Titus. It would be good for both. But we’ll have to see.

As long as Titus doesn’t exhibit some weird, antisocial behavior once the honeymoon is over, he should be a gentle family dog once he gains some confidence. I can’t wait to see who this sweet boy turns out to be.

Your Turn: What’s your best advice for introducing a new dog to the household and building his confidence?


  1. So sad that something has happened in poor Titus’s life to make him scared of a hand over the head. I’m really glad he’s in a good foster situation now and wish you all the best.

  2. http://Sue says

    Sounds to me like you’re doing a good job so far. Just follow your instincts would be my advice. As for building Titus’s confidence, I would start with the touch … Maybe instead of the clicker in the beginning, use a soft-voiced “yes” or “good” and when he seems more comfortable, then you can try a clicker. That’s what I would try. AND the touch will help Titus get used to your hand. The fear he showed when you tried to lure him into a sit tells me he may have been hit/slapped by a human hand in his former life.

  3. Poor Titus, I’m glad he has you to help him through. I’ve never done fostering so my only piece of advice would probably be, lots of treats without asking anything. Once he understands that good things come from you, then I would start asking for simple things. I’m sure you know but some fearful dogs do not like the clicker at all, so you may end up using a verbal cue.

    I can’t wait to see how this guy turns out after the Pamela, Mike and Honey touch.

  4. Oh poor sweet Titus. What a handsome fella.

    I think your instincts are spot on but I would echo what Sue ^^ says above. “Touch” might be easier than sit and can be used to introduce him to scary objects down the line. It’s also something that he gets to choose without any scary hands in the way. I would also echo her concern about the clicker. Bella was afraid of the clicker and we had to work with her to make it effective as a training tool.

    These poor dogs. How could anyone raise their hand to such a sweet soul?

  5. Titus is handsome. I hope it goes well. It must be very scary to find yourself somewhere different and not know what’s going on. And we don’t know what had happened to him to be in need of a home.

  6. Try the clicker in your pocket. It softens the harsh metallic sound that fearful dogs can be scared of. Sadie used to hate the clicker until I figured out it just needed to be in my pocket. He looks like such a sweetheart once he relaxes and starts accepting how very safe he is now. I hope Honey relaxes too!

    • Oh and if he continues to be skittish about your hand over his head, why don’t you work on that rather than sit? Try baby steps of the sit luring motion and treat as he accepts every few inches. Start with treating him for being relaxed with your lure in front of his head and then slowly work your way up. While not a cue that you can show off, it will be crucial to his success in overcoming his fears.

  7. What a sweet face! It sounds like those first 24 hours were as good as they possibly could have been. I’m sure Honey will come around as Titus relaxes. I think confident dogs sometimes feel like “what the heck is wrong with this guy… I better stay away.” I just ache for dogs like him. Being fearful is hard enough, but then being bounced from his original situation to the SPCA to your loving home to another (hopefully permanent) home… it’s a lot for a scared boy to take! He’s very lucky that you’re his foster family!!

  8. It is so sad when pets are so scared! Hopefully he can sense the love you have and that is in your home and he will settle in soon.

  9. Oh I hope his fear subsides soon!

    Stop on by for a visit

  10. Dingly dangles! I LOVE IT! That’ll make me smile all day! Schooner still has his dingly dangles, and now that’s all I’m ever going to call them! (He’ll be neutered, we’re just waiting as long as we can so his large bones can take advantage of the testosterone to grow big and strong.)

  11. I have never fostered a dog. I have thought about it but we rent and I am not sure my landlord would be cool with it. I do dog sit on occasion but they have only been other Dachshunds. Chester and Gretel just think it’s a playdate 🙂

  12. He sounds like he will be the sweetest pup. We hope he settles in well and Honey makes friends with him. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly.

  13. Best of luck Pamela. We’ve fostered a couple of times, but not for a few years. I think your approach is good – just let them settle in and explore and slowly introduce them to new things. Maybe a good ‘pack walk’ will help Honey accept him more?

  14. What kind of honeymoon period do you expect? I’ve found, just personal experience, that a dog’s true personality doesn’t really shine through until at least a month. Maybe longer. I’m glad he’s so calm for you, even if he’s timid. Beautiful dog. 🙂

  15. Oh, poor Titus. How scared he must have been. It sounds like you’ve done wonders in just a short time, though. Hopefully, he’ll adjust soon and be the good boy he sounds like he can be.

    It’s interesting to hear how Honey reacts to an intact male. When Sage meets one, she immediately goes into a dance and initiates play—something she normally doesn’t do with other dogs. It’s really funny to watch.

  16. Poor guy – if he has an ear infection that could be why luring a sit didn’t work. When Felix was an allergic mess, we used that have huge problems with it. (Vet said tilting his head up like that like hurt and/or made him dizzy)

    Welcome to the pack Titus. Your Foster family is pretty darn great and they’re going to help you feel a bit more confident before you go find your new family. You’re one lucky guy!

  17. Normally, I’d say let a more confident dog lead him in the situation, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here.

    One word of caution about the ear infection. One of two rare times I have been bitten by a Greyhound, it was over a severe tooth infection. I hadn’t even touched her yet and she got me but good. It was my fault, I don’t blame her. She’d just been left by a family she’d lived with for about eight years, was scared and in pain, but we couldn’t know that yet. After she got in to see the vet, she became a new dog, very sweet and gentle. Ear and tooth infections are something to be really careful with!

  18. He looks like such a sweetie! It will take a couple or few days for Titus to get comfortable. Honey too. I can’t wait to check on your blog again to see the progress. 🙂

  19. http://goldenrescue says

    I pay very close attention to my own dog’s body language. What that tells me is more informative than what I see. I haven’t had my own dogs mislead me about a foster yet, in over ten years of fostering.

  20. I’m an only dog so I don’t really have any helpful tips. But sounds like you’re on the right track. Just keep doing what you’re doing xx

  21. Surprised Honey doesn’t want to play with your new foster, but I guess we can’t love everyone we meet, can we?

    Thank you so much for taking this sweet pup in and helping him to adjust…I hope he finds a great home soon.

  22. Poor Titus. Going from home to home is scary and he’s not sure what will happen to him now. You are so patient and gentle I’m sure he’ll come around soon. I’m catching up on blog reading so by now I hope he has settled in.

    I feel so bad for these dogs. They don’t understand why they’re going from place to place. Every time they settle in, they get moved somewhere else.