This post was written as a guest post from the law firm of Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC of Mesa, Arizona as a way to provide guidance on transitioning a pet into a foster home and issues that the Foster Home should be aware of when taking care of a pet that is not theirs.
Separation anxiety is not only for humans. Your pets can have it too. There are always concerns when you have to leave your pet at home for extended periods. It could be worse though. You could be a member of our armored forces and not know the exact particulars of when you will return home to tend to your pet’s needs. That is where organizations like Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet come in. The kind individuals who volunteer for this and similar organizations help arrange foster homes for pets of soldiers so that they can get appropriate care and attention during their human’s absence.
The transition, however, may not be as easy as it seems.
Pets require that three core needs be met when transitioning into a foster home —comfort, fun distractions and perceptive caregivers.
While it has been documented that a dogs’ intelligence is similar to that of a toddler, dog owners know that their emotional intelligence goes much deeper. Sudden changes in a dog’s environment can lead to anxiety, depression, separation anxiety and even fear-aggression. If you are a family that is looking to foster a pet for a soldier, it is important to remember that many factors go into easing the pet’s confusion of unfamiliar surroundings. When transitioning into a foster home, it is not uncommon for dogs to act aggressively out of fear. Not only is it important to provide a temporary safe home for your new furry foster friend, but it is also important to ensure that the dog feels safe and secure, both for the dog’s sake and for the sake of members of the foster family.
When a child goes for a sleepover at a friend’s house, they likely take their own pillow or blanket. Taking items that are familiar to the pet to the foster home can also provide some comfort as they cope with their temporary loss of
their human. Be sure to learn ahead of time whether the soldier’s pet is comfortable with other animals and small children. This will also help the transition process. If the pet does not feel comfortable or recognize familiar items such as their favorite dog bed, snacks or toys, they may slip into depression or even exhibit fearful and aggressive behavior. When the pet first arrives to your home, be sure to allow it plenty of space and allow it to meet other members of the family, including other pets, on its own terms. Provide a safe place for the pet, such as a familiar crate or room, that the pet can “escape” to when it wants some alone time.
Great foster families will be able to provide the pet the distractions it needs, whether it is another four-legged companion to play with, or frequent outings such as walks and trips to the dog park. It especially helps if the foster family lives in the same neighborhood because their foster pet will have their favorite spots to sniff! Granted, the distractions will not always prevent moments of sadness or depression, but it will help to make the transition easier – just like a child at camp or with a family member leaving home to live on-campus at a college.
Caring for a pet is very similar to caring for another human. As humans, we have a sixth sense, so to speak, to be keen on when someone around you is suddenly upset, sad or angry. We also tend to pick up emotional cues from changes in body language. Take aggressive dogs for example. Common signs of a dog feeling aggressive include the following:
- bared teeth
- raised hair on their backs
- stiffened limbs
- lowered heads in an attempt to seem intimidating
- Fixated stare
When a dog shows these behavioral traits, they are feeling aggressive or threatened in their “territory.” This behavior can be expected from protective or possessive dogs as well as dogs that are experiencing fear. Failure to heed these warning signs can escalate the situation. The dog is clearly warning everyone to stay away, but if nobody listens, the dog may feel it has no choice but to bite. In order to prevent this from occurring, the caregiver must first take care to avoid triggering an aggressive reaction (see more on that here). If the dog begins to exhibit these behaviors, immediately jump into action. They could take the following actions:
- Call the pet away (if the pet will listen)
- Stay calm (don’t get panicked) and avoid eye contact with the dog
- Walk away from the dog slowly and instruct everyone else to give the pet some space
- As soon as the dog stops growling or baring its teeth, offer a high-value treat such as a small piece of cheese or meat.
- Take things at a slower pace and reward the dog for interacting positively with members of the household.
If a dog bite has occurred, take the following actions:
- Do not overreact – keeping calm will help calm the pet down. Do not punish or discipline the dog, but if possible, gently escort them to their safe area of the home, so they can calm down.
- Separate the aggressing factors (such as two opposing dogs) to help neutralize their feelings or emotions. Most dog fights are over in seconds with very little damage done, so it is important to not make a big deal out of it, and simply keep the dogs separated at any time where you cannot supervise.
- Get identification information from all involved as well as two witnesses, if, for example, you are in a public place. Helpful identification factors include name, address, phone number and even insurance information in case medical care is sought.
- Treat the bite (some bites are minor and only require antiseptic solutions and bandages; other bites are more serious and require medical attention)
- If you are the owner or caregiver of the biter, seek legal representation in anticipation of any legal charges.
Fostering a pet for someone else will come with its challenges, but anticipating the potential issues will help make you prepared for any and all possible scenarios. By attending to the pet’s core needs, you will help make their transition to your home the best it possibly can be.
Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC of Mesa, Arizona provided this guest post as a courtesy to increase awareness of how dog bites occur. Our law firm has excellent perception into dog bite cases as well as those regarding other serious personal injuries. If you would like additional insight into your injury case, please seek our legal representation by filling out our contact form today!