Interim Housing for Rescued Dogs
Between the time a rescued dog is bailed out of the Pound and the time he is placed in a permanent home, some type of interim housing is necessary. There are 3 basic choices, each with advantages and disadvantages It is the purpose of this article to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Update 2008 : I still love having kennel runs available at home, but still use them only occasionally. The big change I have to make to this article concerns advice on vaccination, which has been over-thrown by new veterinary knowledge.
Some minor updates in 2017
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Between the time a rescued dog is bailed out of the Pound and the time he is placed in a permanent home, some type of interim housing is necessary. There are 3 basic choices, each with advantages and disadvantages : (1) foster housing in the home of the rescuer or other volunteer, (2) boarding kennel or boarding at vet's , or (3) the "hybrid" system of private kenneling at rescuer's or volunteer's home. For those dogs whose owners come to Rescue seeking help in placement, there is a fourth possibility (4) remaining with prior owner until placement is arranged.
It is the purpose of this article to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method. My own experience has been extensive with method (1)., but I have recently acquired a small kennel run and so will be gaining experience with method (3) ; see Update Note at end of section. I have also had a little experience with method (4).
The method :
The dog lives in the foster home's house more or less as if the dog were their own. Of course initially the foster people may limit the dog's freedom to the more "dog-proofed" areas of the home, especially when no human is present to supervise. The foster family begins the dog's education in how to be a civilized house-dog and in basic obedience.
Advantages for the dog:
Advantages for the fosterer or rescuer/rescue club:
Update 2008. The advice to give your own dogs extra vaccinations has been totally over-ruled by newer veterinary knowledge and the recommendations of the Veterinary Task Force on Vaccination. So I'd now advise sticking to the three year (or less often) schedule now advocated by the profession. I'd like to add that in over a hundred fosters, I have not yet had my own dogs become ill with anything more than very mild kennel cough, and that only a very few times.
The dog is boarded in a commercial boarding kennel or at the vet's. This is usually a temporary measure until a real foster home is available. Howevr in some cses it may be nescessary to continue boarding the dog until it can be place.
Essential if :
Update 2008 : I probably wouldn't describe a dog with serious dog aggression as being "highly placeable", but they are placeable if a home can be found where this dog is the only dog and where the people are very responsible and fully understand and commit themselves to the reality that this dog will always be on leash when outside their home and yard, and that the dog might have to be muzzled for some situations, such as the vet's waiting room.
Advantages for dog :
Advantages for rescuer / rescue club:
Disadvantages for dog :
Disadvantages for rescue / rescue club :
The method :
In this method , the rescuer or fosterer has at least one kennel run or other separate quarters that fill the same purpose. Ideally, this kennel run is highly secure (escape-proof) and somewhat isolated from rescuer's own dogs (which I would hope are housedogs.) Alternatively and equivalently , the fosterer may have a separate section within the home (one room) or may have an outbuilding (perhaps an empty horse stall) or perhaps a horse-trailer in which a dog might be housed with adequate safety and comfort. I will speak of all methods of separate housing on the foster's home premises as being "private kenneling" or as a "kennel run" as pretty much the same factors apply to all of these.
The newly rescued dog thus may be initially kenneled full time (for quarantine) and taken out for daily training and evaluation sessions. Spay/neuter and immunization probably take place during the full time kenneling period, as soon as it seems certain that temperament is sound. After the quarantine period and after the rescuer has established leadership and basic control, the dog may be introduced to rescuer's own dogs and family and may begin to be brought into the home on a part-time basis. If the rescued dog does not get along with one of rescuer's own dogs, the latter may be confined or segregated for these visits. If dog integrates into rescuer's home smoothly, rescuer can choose to allow dog into home full time. This system is highly flexible to accommodate dog's needs and rescuer's needs.
Update 2008 : For some foster dogs, I find it is very advantageous to have the dog kenneled the first few days or week, during which I do two walking and training sessions a day. I take the dog for a walk, during which I do basic training interspersed into the walk. Once I have a bit of control over the new dog, then I will bring along whichever of my own dogs I think is most likely to get along OK with new dog. That would be a dog of opposite sex who is good with other dogs. I introduce my own dogs and other fosters to the new dog one at a time on walks. After the new dog has met the others this way, then new dog can start spending some time in the house. Now there are other foster dogs who I start in the house from day one. It really depends on my opinion of that dog and on what history I might have on that dog. Those dogs not yet spayed or neutered almost always remain in the kennel run until after their alteration.
Advantages for dog and for rescuer:
Disadvantages for dog and for rescuer:
Update Note : since this article was written in 1994, I have acquired extensive experience with use of a kennel run as part-time or full-time housing. I have also set up a spare room inside the house for use with convalescing dogs or for part-time or full-time separation of a foster dog . I find having such facilities available gives a great deal more flexibility to my foster dog management. I would highly recommend this as the very best method of caring for rescued dogs.
Update 2008 : I love this method even more than ever. My two runs are vacant most of the year. But when I need to use them, I am most glad to have them. Out of over a hundred foster dogs , there is only one who had to live in the run most of the time he was here, and that was a terrier mix who repeatedly initiated fights with two of my own dogs. There was one dog I fostered before I had a run who would have probably spent much of his time in the run if I'd had one then because he several times aggressed against my beloved and pacifist Bonesy. . (Instead that dog wore a basket muzzle and had house-freedom by day and was crated unmuzzled at night.) But a lot of foster dogs have spent a few days in the runs. And when I find a stray dog, the run is where that dog lives while I seek its owner. Or if I am asked to board a dog for a few days for a fellow rescuer, I'd rather have the dog in the run instead of my house. My runs have roofing for shade and rain, dog houses for comfort, and are right outside my bedroom window so I can easily keep visual check by day or night..
Update 2017 : I love this method even more so. Same comments as in 2008. I should add that I have a lot of stretch gates all over the house, so it's easy to separate dogs. (I routeinly separate them for the few minutes of their meals.) I have several crates and one 2 foot x 4 foot covered X-pen for short term separation. My spare room is no longer available however. The two kennel runs are still vacant almost all the time , but it's nice to have them available.
The method : placement by the referral system :
When a rescuer is called by an owner who is seeking to find a new home for his dog, it is often possible and sometimes safe to have the dog remain with that owner until placement can be made. Sometimes however this can be very unsafe for the dog, resulting in its death.
The rescuer must first interview the owner to determine how the owner feels about the dog and what the problems are that cause the owner to seek placement. Also rescuer must attempt to decide if owner is a stable and responsible person, committed to keeping the dog until it can be placed.
The rescuer must also acertain whether or not the dog is spayed or neutered and should insist that the owner provide written proof of spaying or neutering before any potential adopters can be referred. Rescuer must tactfully but firmly explain that it is Absolute Policy not to assist in placement of reproductively intact dogs because to do so would quite likely result in prodution of accidentally or deliberately produced puppies, many of whom would wind up requiring rescue services. As an alternative to demanding written proof, the rescuer could instead make an appointment to visit the owner's home(or for them to come to he rescuer's home) to meet the dog and evaluate it; during the course of the behavioral evaluation, the rescuer can discover if the male dog is neutered or if the bitch has an apparent spay scar, and the owner can be asked to produce the apay/neuter certificate as well as a current Rabies certificate.(Note : asking a dog to lie down and lie on its side or roll belly-up is a legitimate behavior test, requiring the dog to give a degree of submission and/or trust, and it makes it really easy to see if the dog is neutered or has a spay scar.)
On rare and happy occasions, it will turn out that the owner still loves the dog and really would prefer to keep it, but is having some problem with the dog that could be solved with training or other means and that the owner is willing to attempt such a solution. If so, rescuer should counsel the owner towards a solution but also begin efforts to place the dog, either by giving the owner a list of potential homes for owner to contact or by rescuer making such contacts (preferably by postcards or by e-mail to save the rescuer's phone bill). Rescuer must make frequent check up calls to the owner until the dog is either fully reconciled with his owner's requirements or has been placed
I've had a couple of wonderful experiences in enabling such owners to solve their problems, change their relationship with the dog, change their own behavior to produce changes in the dog's behavior. Sometimes it's a matter of providing information, including reading recomendations, and sometimes it's a lot of very specific instructions on what to do, and there's also a certain amount of "hand-holding".. The owner's motivation and willingness to do the work and make the changes is essential.
On other occasions, it will turn out that the owner still has feelings of fondness and responsibility for the dog and is willing to continue to keep it as long as needed to find a genuinely good home, but the owner is quite certain that he cannot or does not want to keep the dog permanently. In this case, if rescuer is quite sure that owner is sincere about keeping dog as long as needed, rescuer should first make certain to dramatically warn the owner that abandonment into a Pound or Shelter almost always results in the dog's death and that the rescuer must be notified immediately if the situation deteriorates so as to tempt the owner into considering the Pound as an answer. Next the rescuer should make suggestions as to training or other procedures to make the dog more placeable, and should insist that the owner get the dog spayed/neutered and made current on shots before placement (with suggestion that owner ask for an adoption fee from adopter to cover these expenses and to ensure a more responsible attitude from the adopter). After the spay/neuter has been accomplished, the rescuer should provide a list of potential homes for owner to contact (and/or should begin to make such contacts himself) and should advise owner on how to run an appropriate ad with an appropriate adoption fee to weed out the fast buck artists (who will resell the dog to a research lab) and the many many easy-come-easy-go homes (who will abandon the dog later, eg at the first large vet bill) --- dangers of which the owner should be dramatically warned. Rescuer must make frequent check up calls to the owner until the dog is placed. If the owner's efforts to place the dog remain unsuccessful (especially due to behavior problems requiring skills or time the owner lacks for their improvement), it will probably be necessary to move the dog into boarding or foster/hybrid care.
However, in the many cases where it is clear that the owner is fed up with the dog or has little feeling of affection and responsibility, or where the rescuer senses that the owner is a flake, or where there is any reason whatsoever that the owner will not be able to keep the dog for a possibly lengthy period until placement can be made, then it is essential to get the dog out of there and into boarding kennel or foster/hybrid care immediately. Even if the owner is somewhat willing to keep the dog "for a while" but is not fully committed to keeping it as long as needed to find a truly good home, for the rescuer to give way to the temptation to leave the dog there could be to leave the dog's life in serious jeopardy. I know of cases where the owners suddenly "snapped" , ran out of patience, and --- without even attempting to contact the rescuer --- took the dog to the Pound or to the vet for slaughter. (I know some horrible case histories of this!) All doubts MUST be resolved in favor of taking the dog into Rescue care immediately, even if that means kennel boarding.