Mandatory Introductions at Shelters?

I’ll be doing a Webinar for the ASPCA this Thursday (January 9th, 3 tp 4:30 PM Eastern) titled “Multi-Dog Households: From First Date to After the Honeymoon.” One of the topics I’ll be discussing is the “mandatory introduction” policy of many shelters and rescue groups, in which dogs can’t be adopted unless the resident dog is brought into the shelter to meet the potential adoptee.

This issue has received a lot of attention recently, especially after Dr. Emily Weiss’s article suggesting that mandatory adoption policies should be dropped. I hope you can join us for the webinar, but either way, I’d love to hear if you’ve had an experience with a policy that required a mandatory introduction.

Here is a summary of some of my thoughts about the issue:

1. PREDICTIVE? Most mandatory introductions appear to be motivated by a desire to ensure that the dogs will get along. However, Dr. Weiss is absolutely correct that the contexts (shelter versus home, short term versus long term) are so different that the predictive value is not what we would like it to be. I’ve had scores of clients whose dogs “did well” at the shelter, but ended up fighting at home. On the other hand, I suspect there are probably a number of dogs who exhibit some form of aggressive behavior during a first meeting who would be fine once they’ve settle down. I know of no research that actually tells us how predictive these first meetings actually are. Anyone looking for a PhD topic?

2. DO THE INTRODUCTIONS FOLLOW BEST PRACTICES? In the webinar I’ll talk about best practices for introducing unfamiliar dogs, and in my experience many shelters or rescue groups can’t replicate those conditions. Most critical are lots of room and space for the dogs to maneuver in, lots of choices for the dogs to make, and a lack of social pressure (no humans breathlessly hovering).

One of the reasons this is an important issue is the number of people (shelter staff included) who tell me they would never be able to take their dog to the shelter to meet a potential housemate. Indeed, I’d never take Willie to a shelter to meet a new dog: He would be overwhelmed by the sounds and smells of so many other dogs, and it would be the worst possible environment for him to meet a potential new friend. What about you and your dogs?

3. BENEFITS? Introductions with dog-savy professionals have a lot of benefits too, including modeling how best to introduce dogs, knowledge of the behavior of the new dog, a chance to talk about how to manage the first couple of hours in a specific home, and assistance reading canine body language.

Needless to say, this is one of the wonderful topics that seems small and focused, but that actually encompasses a wide variety of issues. I hope you join us for the webinar, and/or tell us your experiences here with introducing a new dog to your resident dog.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: 20 below this morning, and windy. Even Willie couldn’t stand it outside, he pottied, and immediately began his stress-face frowning while he picked up his paws. Tootsie was the star, and hopefully you’ll all forgive me for bragging about her behavior this morning. (Non-dog people couldn’t possibly understand, but I think you will…) My little puppy mill dog, who wouldn’t set foot outside if it was even slightly damp when we got her, hesitated for a second at the doorway, and then ran to me when I called, peed on cue instantly, danced a little dance as if proud of herself–eyes shining and tail wagging furiously, and then ran with me back to the house. I realize this all might seem trivial, but I’ve had numerous discussions over the weekend with people about getting their dog out to potty in this weather. There are no small number of dogs who are, as I write, peeing on a pad/newspaper/carpet in somebody’s house right now. Forgive me again, but it made my heart all warm and gushy to see Tootsie respond to her training so well.

Here’s a photo of the sky this weekend, early in the morning. I love the pattern of the clouds.  No way I’m going out and taking any pictures today!

clouds

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Nic1 says

    Yaaaay! Toooootsie! Oh what a brilliant job you have done Trisha! That’s definitely something to be proud of!

    Hope you guys are all ok over there. The polar vortex has literally dumped arctic conditions! No wonder Willie made his frowny face! Stay warm inside figuring out 101 things to do with a box…..:)

    Will there be an opportunity to stream the webinar/ Youtube for your followers overseas at all?

  2. says

    Go, Tootsie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What a lucky girl, to have landed in such a perfect place for her, where she is carefully, lovingly, taught all the things she needs to know to thrive.

    Hooray. :-)

  3. Katy says

    The shelter from which I adopted both Claire and Yuki had mandatory introductions. Initially they insisted that both Claire and the puppy I was interested in adopting (Yuki) be introduced to one another on leash. It was certainly not following the best practices. The interaction was exactly what I would have predicted, given what I knew about the two dogs: Yuki was excited and therefore a bit rude, Claire corrected him and moved away. Based on that, I was told I could not adopt him. Fortunately, I knew the manager and was able to convince her that I could control Claire well enough off leash that we could introduce them in the fenced play area. With both dogs off-leash in a good-sized space, Claire play bowed to Yuki and they took off. They’ve been good friends ever since.

    Sadly, Yuki was attacked a few times where we used to live and we currently have 2 aggressive dogs with invisible fences in our neighborhood, so Yuki has developed some fear-aggression issues. I have been working with him and he has come a long way but introductions to new dogs still require careful management. I could never take him to a shelter to meet a new dog and expect a good reaction.

    Your pride in Tootsie is understandable. I had to push Claire out the door to potty this morning and it was 35 degrees warmer here than by you.

  4. Heather Staas says

    I sympathize with the motivation, but I wouldn’t put my own dogs through that. Firstly because they would find the environment stressful, and secondly because we do dog intros MUCH MUCH more slowly than that, days even. They are not “antisocial” but neither are they welcoming to strange dogs immediately. Even though we are a very successful multidog household, pet sit for a half dozen dog friends, and regularly foster.. it’s not as simple as tossing a new dog into the mix and having it go well.

  5. says

    As far as my own personal foster dogs go, I do prefer to introduce resident dogs to the foster before finalizing a prospective adoption, although I’ve occasionally sent fosters away to long-distance adoptions and in those cases it’s obviously not feasible. I’d categorize pre-adoption introductions as “not mandatory, but preferable to do when possible.”

    But I don’t do the introductions at a shelter. I use a nearby city park where the dogs have lots of room to move around, it’s as quiet as anyplace ever gets in the city, and it’s neutral territory for both parties. By the time I’m ready to place a foster, I usually have a pretty good idea of how my foster dog is going to react to different dogs, because I’ll have seen it living with my two mutt monsters for weeks and will also have had the opportunity to watch its on-leash responses to other dogs around town. So mostly I’m just watching the prospective adopter’s dog to see how that dog responds — and, as importantly, how the adopters interact with their own dog.

    I’ve nuked adoptions in the past because the adopters were clearly unable to read or handle their own dog, and the last thing they needed was to add to the chaos of that household. And I’ve sorely regretted not nuking an adoption where the adopters kept collar popping their dog every 10 seconds even though the dog was sitting perfectly still (and throwing off a ton of stress/appeasement signals). I was a fairly new foster then, and didn’t have the confidence to say “no” when I should have. I tried to turn the adopters on to gentler ways of interacting with their dog (including giving them a copy of Love Has No Age Limit!), and I hope they were open to considering those suggestions, but I’ll never know, and I still regret that placement.

    Anyway, doing those introductions can be illuminating not only to see how the dogs react to each other, but to see how the prospective adopters interpret and respond to what the dogs do. Sometimes it gives you a pretty good sense of whether they’re going to be able to handle a multi-dog household or not.

  6. Marjorie says

    Yes Tootsie!!! Way to go! That’s a Cavalier for ya, once they fall in love with you they are so eager to please.

  7. says

    I think if best practices are observed then it’s a great idea, I’d say there’s less harm in trying (in most cases if you’re working with a reputable shelter) then not having them meet at all. My second dog was adopted from a rescue group that had no centralized shelter, it was all done through fosters, so I was able to suggest meeting in a local park that was open and neutral ground for both dogs, which I think is ideal. There were disagreements between the dogs later when I brought them home, but I think NOT meeting beforehand would have made those disagreements much, MUCH worse, and were nothing I didn’t expect since I was knowingly adopting a 4 month old GSD mix with severe resource guarding issues. Anything I could do to lessen the anxiety in that situation was a good thing!
    Even our SPCA (which has a mandatory meeting policy for multi dog households) has an outside area where the dogs can meet, which I think stands a better chance of making a good impression. But our SPCA has the benefit of having many qualified (force-free!) trainers who volunteer and train the staff, and not every shelter has that luxury. It’s hard to have blanket policies when so many shelters have staff with such varying degrees of training (and differing methods).

  8. says

    I agree with Merciel’s response 100%. We do rescue fostering, so we have around nine dogs on site all the time – and new dogs coming & going of course. I very much miss our old JRT Dodger who was my go-to-shelter test dog. He wagged his tail and play bounced decorously and charmed everyone he met – human and canine – and was a completely reliable predictor of whether a shelter dog was going to be reasonably civil in a multi-dog foster environment – we need to keep our dogs safe and sane too and we will not take in highly dog-aggressive dogs! As for meets with adopters, we require that their resident dog(s) come along to meet the potential adoptee. We do set up meets in large neutral locations when possible, but as Merciel says, you can tell SO much about the adopting family from how they interact with their own dog and how they deal with a dog to dog meet, so a meet is invaluable. We have declined adopters simply because their resident dog proved to be enormously obese, something we cannot tell from a paper application. Of course one cannot predict future squabbles arising, but those are almost always caused by owners. The basic chemistry between dogs is still pretty obvious at an initial meet. After that, adopters are pre-armed with your book Love Has No Age Limit which we give ALL adopters, we urge continued communication if and when needed, and we also have a wonderful canine behaviourist who volunteers her time to our rescue and will help adopters gratis should an issue arise.

  9. Sharon Yildiz says

    I’m against mandatory introductions, for the reasons you listed. I think it would be more valuable to send adopters home with a 30-day “no questions asked” return agreement, some 48″ steel baby-gates (on loan), and an intro protocol utilizing the gates.

    My now-deceased Jack Russell would have nailed a dog he met in a boisterous kennel environment, but happily accepted a string of fosters and permanent dogs when given a couple days to warm up with the new dog safely ensconced behind a baby-gate at my home.

  10. Barb Tesser says

    We are new to fostering and just started wrong on every level. Two big dogs introduced under very stressful circumstances. Bad first encounter that we’re trying to overcome. We’ve been doing the gate/crate/rotate thing since Nov. 23rd and this morning had our first successful meeting between them. It was short but positive and we have repeated it successfully since. Still not ready to just let them be together and both are sensitive to being on leash around each other. Our dog, Sunny is a lab and has rarely been on a leash so doesn’t necessarily associate it with good things and needs an anti-pull harness to walk well with me. The foster dog spent his life on a short chain, with no shelter and was very undernourished when he was rescued. He is 8 years old and just before he was rescued another dog got in with him and there was a fight. He was seen by a vet for treatment and was neutered just before coming to us. (I didn’t know about that at the time) Tucker is an absolute love of a dog. Shepherd/Gr Dane/ ?? mix who weighs about 100# now and could still stand to gain another 10#. The two dogs are close to the same age, both neutered and Sunny weighs approx. 130#. We also have 2 other dogs in the house, a brindle of uncertain heritage and a mini-dachshund. Since that initial meeting we’ve been taking things very slowly with the big guys. Tucker and the other two have met and made friends and he has played with both outside. I confess keeping the two big guys apart is becoming an onerous task that I would really like to see the end of. If/when we foster again, I will be much smarter about it. I’ve learned the importance of that first meet and greet but any additional advice for us now would be appreciated.

  11. Kathy says

    We have had two mandatory meeting experiences, with very different levels of success–”success” meaning that the meeting was reasonably predictive of the dogs’ interactions when taken home. I think they were so different because of the situations at the respective humane societies, because of our level of experience with dogs, and of course, because of the dogs themselves.

    The first was when we went to a fairly large humane society about 25 minutes from our house. We had a puppy and we wanted to get him a companion. We were not very dog-savvy at that point, but, being in love with our puppy, knew we wanted a dog that would not boss him around. The meeting took place in a fairly small room and we could clearly hear the barking of all the dogs in the kennels. The dog we were considering was a 6 month old female shepherd mix and she was very nervous. She picked up a toy (yes, there were toys in the room, which could have been very problematic) and our puppy (about 2 months old) barked at her. She dropped the toy and let him have it. We decided she would let him be more dominant and that’s what we wanted so we adopted her. From the moment we got them home, she started jumping on him, rolling him over, and chewing on his neck. We didn’t really know enough to stop her at first so he got bullied a bit until we figured out how to back her off without scaring either of them. It worked out okay in the end as we learned more and worked with both of them, but they were never really buddies and for a while she body-blocked him at every opportunity. Not a predictive meeting.
    The second took place at a much smaller shelter. The meeting was done outside in a fenced dog run with plenty of space for each dog to back off. By this time, we knew a lot more. We were aware we had a reactive dog (1 year-old male border collie/terrier?) and we knew we needed a dog that would play with him but not take any crap from him. We wanted an assertive dog with good dog manners; one that was responsive to people, if not trained; and one that would be able to keep up with our dog’s activity level. Once we found a dog with these characteristics ( a year-old male cattle dog mix), we brought our dog for a meeting. We started them out in the dog run, with only one person in there with them, letting leashes trail on both dogs. There was some growling and posturing, but once they started running in the same direction, they circled the dog run repeatedly at high speed, at first doing a lot of growling and neck biting, but eventually just running, running, running. Then, the magic happened: they stopped, separated, and ignored each other, sniffed the ground for a while and then started running together again. We actually saw our reactive dog voluntarily de-escalate and then re-engage in a positive way. And that meeting was very predictive of the way the dogs interacted when we got home. For the first 2-3 months at home we worked extensively on “enough!” meaning to stop wrestling and separate and get a treat. Now they are friends (with occasional brief noisy spats over toys or treats–easily fixed with a “hey!” and some downtime) and they like to race and wrestle, but even more to just sniff the same spots and run next to each other, exploring the weeds and any interesting smells. It’s been a great match, so in that instance the meeting was a good idea and because the circumstances, setting, and knowledge of the participants were all good, it worked well. We would probably not have adopted from a shelter without that kind of meeting in a fairly neutral environment–having fostered dogs as part of a border collie rescue group in the past, we are aware of how introductions on one dog’s home turf can be even more problematic.
    I’ll be interested to read other people’s experiences!

  12. Kat says

    Mandatory on leash introductions at the shelter are the one thing that I really don’t like at my local Humane Society. In most respects they are a model for how a good shelter should operate but not in that one. I understand the logic; it is easier to prevent a seriously negative interaction, read dog fight, if the dogs are on leash. They don’t make the dogs meet indoors or close to the buildings but it is still not neutral territory and the dogs are not free to choose their own interaction. Ranger is pretty nearly bomb-proof so I didn’t worry about taking him to the shelter to meet a potential new canine sibling but I still wonder what the outcome would have been with my first choice for a a new dog if they’d been allowed off leash.

    When we decided to add another dog and I started watching the shelter for the right choice I fell for a a lovely very bright AmStaff who had been resident at the shelter for eight months. Mostly black pit bull types with too much exuberance aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. On leash his social skills were abysmal. He was repeatedly strangling himself (on a flat buckle collar) trying to get to Ranger. The AmStaff was so focused on getting to Ranger that he couldn’t even stop to sniff the place when I asked Ranger to pee on a downed log and he complied. It was disastrous. Still when the AmStaff was returned to the small outdoor area attached to the building and let off leash his behavior was much more reasonable and even though Ranger was still leashed outside the pen the Staffie was able to exhibit a couple of appropriate behaviors, turning sideways and standing calmly beside the fence. Unfortunately, each time Ranger offered an reciprocal greeting behavior the Staffie lost control again and was trying to climb through the fence to be with Ranger. It looked like a desperate desire to be with Ranger rather than any sort of aggression but it was not appropriate and not surprisingly Ranger wanted no part of it. We tried again a second day rewarding the Staffie for anything that even remotely resembled appropriate behavior but an on leash introduction was not successful and I reluctantly abandoned my first choice. I did, however, donate a substantial portion of his adoption fee and he was adopted out about 10 days later.

    A couple days after the unsuccessful introduction I spotted Finna and liked what I saw. Her leashed introduction to Ranger was exactly what you’d like to see from two leashed dogs. Her behavior was perfectly appropriate, she immediately took to Ranger as if he were her ideal companion and Ranger indicated that he was willing to accept her as a playmate and potential friend. Finna came to live with us and after a couple months showed us who she really is. Thank God Ranger is so good because Finna is rude, pushy, and unstable. It interests me that as she becomes more sane and stable Ranger enforces more expectations and she complies. He’s exceptional and she’s extremely fortunate that he voted for her addition and has put up with her nonsense. If he were not as stable as he is this could have been a disaster but bit by bit she learns better behaviors and appropriate manners.

    And from the perspective of dealing with my own damaged dog Hooray for Tootsie!!! That’s a huge tribute to the time and effort you’ve put into her rehabilitation. I’m wiggling here in my seat doing my own happy dance for you both!

  13. says

    Oh, I love hearing about Tootsie’s successes! I can just imagine the joy on her face; there are few things better than a dog who is proud of herself.

  14. Ellen Pepin says

    I have adopted 3 dogs. For the last two adoptions we were required to have our existing dog meet the new one. The first of those was the local SPCA in Annapolis, MD. We brought our dog, a shepherd/ terrier mix to meet the new dog, a shepherd/Rottweiler mix who was 20 pounds heavier than the terrier. They saw some problems when the dogs played, Nikki, the terrier, seemed too dominant, but said we could come the next day when the supervisor would be there. We brought Nikki back the next day, and the supervisor said they seemed ok, so we took Dakota home. Nikki did dominate him for two years, but gradually Dakota asserted himself. They never fought and lived peacefully until Nikki died 4 1/2 years later. Nikki was my heart dog and it was a year before I wanted another. We still had our Dakota. I wanted a female collie to go with Dakota, a male. I found a great collie rescue group, and picked a beautiful white collie, Tess. We had all sorts of hoops I n order to get her, including a home visit by one of their evaluators. These people are very careful when selecting potential adopters. Yeah for them. Then we had to bring Dakota to meet Tess at the home of her foster family. Things seemed to go well. Dakota, in his play excitement, knocked Tess to the ground. She got up and seemed fine. She was ours. However, after an adjustment period, she always seemed a little afraid of him. She would snarl if he came too near. We sought help from an ACAAB here in MD. Dakota became aggressive about food. We managed by keeping them physically separated any time food was present. Otherwise, they kind of ignored each other. We lost Dakota in August, and Tess really likes being an only dog. She can seek our attention without having a jealous Dakota push his way in between us.

    I think meetings are important, but I’m not convinced of their predictive value. As far as Tess and Dakota it didn’t work that well. Initial meetings should probably be on neutral ground, but that will not show how the dogs will act in the adopter’s home. The Houston Collie Rescue group, they have a FB page, has a sleepover program. After some initial meeting, not sure where that is, the potential adopter takes the new collie to his/her home for an overnight stay. Sometimes problems are discovered and there is no adoption. It seems like the people are allowed to try again with a different dog. I’m not really familiar with how the program works, but it sounds like the idea could be useful.

  15. Bonnie H. says

    My parents had a pug that hated the snow. In Kansas, this is not an option… this dog would run down the steps, run in a big circle in the snow all the while peeing, then run back up the steps and into the house. Non-stop. It was so funny to watch her!

  16. Jan Standish says

    My Border Collies, and little mix, all rescues of course, prefer to potty in ‘their’ shower, in 2nd bathroom. We get more rain than snow, but both are too cold and wet. They learned to use fake grass which is easy to clean up, and especially appreciated as the girls, and especially myself(!) get older.
    I love your posts and pics-thanks!!!

  17. Mungobrick says

    And here we are trying to housetrain a puppy in this weather. She is absolutely wonderful about it, thank heavens. A rugged little soul! Hurray for Tootsie!

    We’ve had two shelter introductions. The first went fine, because our resident dog was a very easy-going Golden retriever. The 8 yo male OES was just fine with her and continued to be so. He just tried to kill every other dog he met. The shelter failed to tell us about this, even though when I phoned them about it, they knew about it… We had to get rid of him in the end, which was awful.

    The second was just this summer – our nervous noise-phobic but perfect reader of other dogs Daisy and a pitbull? mix touted as being great with other dogs and cats. The conditions were all wrong for their meeting, but they seemed okay together. The minute we got home the new female started mounting Daisy, which continued every time they were together and within two days was trying to dig through our sofa to get at the cats. Another failed attempt.

    Really, we’ve had more issues with nondisclosure, I guess! And we always end up getting a puppy instead of an adult dog as a result. I can understand that shelters are desperate to find homes for their dogs, but they should be a bit more concerned about the permanence of the homes…

    Elizabeth

  18. Christina_K says

    The shelter I adopted by 3rd chihuahua from required a mandatory dog introduction. The first problem was their policy to hold a dog for 48 hours, but couldn’t schedule a dog introduction for over a week because they required two staff members to attend and due to limited staffing couldn’t fit me in earlier. After escalating to a manager, they agreed to hold the dog longer even tho I pressed for a meeting earlier to take my new dog home, but they could not accommodate that.

    When the dog-dog interaction happened, it basically played out exactly the way I had anticipated. 4 adults (myself, my brother, and two shelter workers) standing around while 3 little chihuahuas under 6 lbs sniffed one another tentatively with the shyest one retreating behind my legs due to her discomfort in the new surroundings. It was over in 3 min.

    Personally, I understand the intention behind dog-dog interaction testing but I do not feel it is representative of how the dogs will actually behave over time. I am active in dog fostering and I am well aware of the often true rule of thumb of “3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months” to represent the progression of a dog integrating with a new home with rules, other animals, and people coming and going (or not).

    I am eagerly looking forward to your ASPCA webinar to learn more about this topic. I seriously felt it was a barrier for my adopting a dog in need (with known issues) and wonder how many people have encountered similar hurdles and if this well-intentioned practice should fall by the wayside.

  19. Beth says

    Hmmm. I can see where the shelter would want to meet the existing dog and see how the dog and owner interact. And I think in many cases meetings are good, but once again shelters should not have a “one size fits all” policy and should be willing to make exceptions, especially for more experienced owners who have valid reasons (“My dog is good with one or two other dogs but gets overwhelmed by noisy environments so would not meet well here” or “My dog gets so travel sick that bringing him here to meet would leave him cranky and snappish.”

    That said, I can see why shelters generally want to see a greeting. People’s love for their dogs does not equate with their knowledge of dogs. I have known plenty of people who totally misread what their own dog is doing and incorrectly report accordingly. Sending the new dog home and accepting it back in a few days when things don’t work out is very stressful for everyone. I think dogs have a limited ability to adapt to a new home, and going out two and three and four times to be returned could leave you with a now unadoptable dog.

    We got our second Corgi as an adult. The breeder wanted the dogs to meet, though we did so on neutral ground and it was one-on-one. We had looked at a different adult with another breeder who clearly would not have worked out; she hated our existing dog. In this case, both were bitches who had been bred and were being retired to pet homes. My own very limited experience is that bitches with breeding experience can be a bit particular about what new males they warm up to. This may certainly not be true of all bitches, but it is true of at least some of them. If she’s gonna hate him, she’s gonna hate him and while the new owner may be able to work with the situation, who wants to bring in a new dog and have it not like their existing dog?

    Personally, I would not want to bring an adult dog into a home with existing dogs without them meeting. A puppy would be a different matter, of course. But again, I think for shelters, informed flexibility is the key. If one of your well-known foster homes falls in love with the new drop-off and knows she’d be a perfect permanent addition to her own crew and was ready to bring her home with no meetings, then common sense would indicate things would probably work. If someone the shelter has no experience with walks in and claims the new female JRT would be just a perfect match for her existing female JRT, I don’t think many shelters (or breeders or fosters) would be comfy sending the dog home without some way of seeing how everyone handles being together.

    I think that the “mandatory meeting” is as much to size up the person as to see how the two dogs work out.

  20. EmilySHS says

    We do mandatory intros at our shelter, for a whole host of reasons other than just making sure that the dogs will get along. As some folks have already mentioned, I really want to see the resident dogs and how the potential adopters are with them, and oh boy have we had surprises. Dogs in poor condition, morbidly obese, curling under nails, ear infections, matted coats… It’s not at all that the owners don’t love them, but we’re a very poor rural county and the expense of vet bills is a real consideration. So I want to know before we place a dog, especially a puppy, that the resident dog is receiving reasonable care. Since we don’t have the resources to do home checks, the dog-dog intro is my best opportunity to make sure of that.

    Second, we get an amazing number of potential adopters who want a new puppy because their 13 year old dog passed on and they are convinced that their 11 year old dog is lonesome. And I’m totally okay with them adopting that puppy if the 11 year old is okay, or will be okay with it… But a lot of times, the old guy or gal is absolutely horrified. The potential adopters are often shocked–they just assumed since Fido was “good with” their old dog, Fido needs another dog ASAP. I usually end up explaining that if we lose our long time companion that we’ve know since we were puppies, having a screaming infant dumped in our laps may not be a satisfying replacement… Absent extreme aggression (grouchiness is expected), I’m still okay with the adoption; curiously, though, quite a number of these folks are quite relieved to NOT adopt–they really weren’t ready for a new dog, but felt they had to for Fido’s sake. If they still want to go through with it, it gives me an opportunity to do a lot of counseling on how to make the addition easiest on their old guy, etc. And since the potential adopters are often pretty freaked to hear their old dog (quite appropriately) growl at the pup, I like that they see that behavior at the shelter or park (where I can coach them on what’s reasonable and what’s not) rather than have it be a shock in their living room.

    My other concern is, frankly, so many of the dogs at my shelter come in with fear/shyness issues, dog-dog issues and various socialization deficits, and we work our tails off to get these issues sorted out. Then, there are all the puppies in their most critical period of socialization. While it’s admittedly better for the resident dog to be as comfortable as possible, letting the shelter dogs or pups get nailed or have a nasty encounter with another dog can’t be right, either–it can be a disastrous set-back for them. And as well-intended as our potential adopters are, when it comes to orchestrating dog-dog introductions, I’m ridiculously more experienced at it than they are, and I know the shelter dog better. If I’m adopting out Jolly Roger, maybe I’d be more comfortable just letting folks take the dog with a good hand-out on how to do the intro at home. But Jolly Roger is our rare exception, and the idea of weeks or months of rehab getting nuked in 30 seconds in someone’s backyard… I’d love feedback on that one. Shelters are all so different in their dog populations, I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all policy to be found.

    Predictive value… are we asking the right question? Does the predictive value rest on the choice of procedures (to meet or not to meet) or on the test (dog-dog intro) or on the expertise and experience of the people interpreting the events? If someone’s really good at reading meet-and-greets, they’re probably a lot more predictive than if the person watching the behavior isn’t that keen. How do we measure the predictive value of the procedure without the confound of vastly different expertise? Sorry so long, but what a great topic!

  21. Beth says

    I have an interesting (and probably unique) shelter story. I have a casual friend who owns hunting beagles. He usually has about 3 or so at a time, all from the same female line. He breeds every few years (normally has a grandmother, mother, and daughter and breeds to replace his own as they age into retirement). His puppies are sought after and generally placed before the litter is even planned.

    An unrelated gentleman in a neighboring town ran afoul of local ordinances with his own dogs and ended up with too many. He too bred beagles and had a whole pack, but lived somewhere where he could not have so many dogs. Beagles are noisy and people complained and he agreed to surrender some dogs to authorities and permanently reduce his numbers going forward. Some of the surrendered beagles were still intact.

    My friend, the beagle fancier, went to see them and thought one of the bitches was quite lovely. He wanted to take her, and hunt her, and if she proved to be sound and a good hunter have a litter from her (and if not he would have her spayed and still provider her with a good home). Since he is a long-time fancier, he saw it as keeping her genes from narrowing out of the beagle gene pool. The shelter was positively shocked and of course refused the adoption.

    I think each “side” went away from that interaction shaking heads at the cluelessness of the other. The shelter is thinking “There are already too many dogs!” and the fancier is thinking “I have people begging for dogs I don’t have!” What we need is a better system of matching.

  22. Beth says

    Nearly forgot my Cold Dog story. It was hovering around 0F and my husband had the dogs across the street on their leashes when Madison decided it was entirely too cold. The single paw lift soon turned into a double paw lift and she started to tip over. She then refused to move at all. He had to carry her home. I wish I had a camera to capture the look of contented joy on her face! She looked like a princess being borne on a litter, wondering why the heck it took us so long to come up with such a wonderful system. At 30 pounds, my dogs don’t get carried often, but she sure could get used to it.

  23. LisaH says

    My male is a terrible greeter on-leash but is absolutely fine if off-leash, and allowed the opportunity to move at his own pace. The only condition I had with the breeder of my second dog was that I would return her if she genuinely stressed Java out – anything else I figured was manageable or trainable but I would not sacrifice his stability to satisfy my desire for another BC. When we picked up Lola (8 wks old) it was in a park with 5 of the litter and Java all in a fenced in baseball field. He did not care for the crazy puppies though and went to obsess over a couple playing tennis on an adjoining fenced section (probably hoping they’d throw him a tennis ball??) Once home it took literally 10 days before Java acknowledged Lola, and they have been fine ever since. We never would have been able to get a second dog if we had to do a mandatory on-leash greet, and we have 10 acres but none of it fenced so that would be another strike against us. Yet I know my dogs have very enriched, active and healthy lives. I wouldn’t think a meet and greet in a shelter would be feasible for a lot of people or dogs, and I agree with a few others that having a fence is not a guarantee of exercise either.

    Re: the pottying issue- its brutally cold right now in Central WI too … My dogs need tall grass, brush or trees to potty and its a little distance from the door to the trees, so I took my Christmas tree down early and put it outside the back door and sure enough, they are using it to potty! I may just leave it till spring :)

  24. AL says

    I don’t think I would ever take any of my dogs to the shelter to meet another dog. For one of my dogs, trying to introduce her to a new dog in that kind of setting would guarantee disaster – there would be no hope of a good introduction there. For my others, well, they are former shelter dogs themselves. Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit, but I can’t imagine what they would think if I took them back there for any reason. Just not worth it to me to put them through that. There are plenty of places to go to adopt a rescue dog.

  25. HFR says

    Congrats on Toots! What I love about this story is that even with all of your years of experience in training and behavior, all of your degrees, published books, world-renown expertise…You are still just as thrilled when you are successful communicating with your dogs as anyone without such knowledge would be. A lot of people in your position would just expect such success. I think that’s what makes you so good at what you do. Lucky Tootsie too…

  26. Trisha says

    To EmilySHS: Excellent points about the shelter staff being able to evaluate the condition of the resident dog. I suspect that you are right… that issue is somewhat dependent upon the shelter’s setting (although the worst abuse case I ever saw was in the backyard of a ridiculously wealthy couple). And I have had the same experience with people being SURE that their dog loves other dogs, only to learn that 1) the dog had only known only one other, who is now deceased and/or 2) is actually terrified by any other unfamiliar dog and/or appears to despise the idea of sharing life with another dog, now that its competitor has finally left the home.

    To Beth: Your cold dog story resulted in a spit take. Please make your next comment something about cleaning up tea, with milk and sugar in it, off of one’s keyboard.

    And to HFR: I so appreciate your comments. Usually it works the other way–so many people just expect my dogs to behave perfectly that they never pay attention to something I’m bursting with pride about. For example, a few years ago I was out in the woods bird watching with friends. We all heard a bird about 50 yards ahead in the brush by the trail. Willie was up ahead of us too, so I quietly whistled one flat note to ask him to stop in order to avoid flushing the bird. He stopped instantly, literally as the whistle came out of my mouth. Still concerned about flushing the bird (a Yellowthroat Warbler to those who are interested), I held out a hand in a visual signal to ask him to stay still. He stood like a statue for about 30 seconds, until I said “Okay” and released him. Everyone just kept walking, as if nothing of note had happened, and yet my dog, who was running free 50 yards ahead of me in a highly distracting environment, had stopped on a dime and stood frozen in place for 30 seconds to 2 almost imperceptible cues. I finally stopped walking and said something like “Did anyone else notice what happened here?” I just couldn’t help myself, I was so proud of Willie, and I just couldn’t bear that no one else realized how special it was that a dog would behave as he did.

  27. Trisha says

    Oh yes, one last thing, lest one might think I am getting cocky: This morning Tootsie stood at the door and refused to go outside. I called twice, then shut the door and went out with Willie. When we went back, I tried again and Tootsie trotted right out and peed immediately. But don’t ever think I am not subject to being
    humbled by my dogs!

  28. liz says

    Oh so many angles of approach.
    Some thoughts: I did take my dog-selective, ex-shelter pup back to the shelter for a meet n greet. Loads of prep work including walks in the area of the shelter, continued conditioning, and steady obedience training all while considering adoption prospects. About six months of preparation before a single meeting, including filling in a staff member on his preferences aka better with females, medium energy level, ok with puppies but “puppy license” does have an expiration.
    Our first meeting was a no-go. Second meeting with a new pup showed no snarkiness but my guy was borderline obsessive with the lil girl. Too interested. Third time was perfect- interested and amiable but willing to be apart and do their own things, then rejoin on their own, rinse and repeat. They did live happily ever after- they rely on each other but not too much, six years and not so much as a spat, and countless moments of using one another as pillows.

    So many different discussions can be pulled from this story. First, the level of expertise is always a tough one to me where, in the field of dog behavior, even experts disagree. Yes, the extremes are often agreed upon. And there is no substitute for the experience/repetition of professionals. However, what people expect of “normal, acceptable dog behavior” still comes in many shades of gray. For instance, upon meeting the first pup, she immediately ran up to my guy and pawed/punched him in the nose. With gusto. My guy growled. End of meeting. Moving on, not a good match. But one of the staff, who I hadn’t been working with, suggested he was best as an only dog. I didn’t fault my dog for being offended by this type of greeting, felt his response to be controlled and somewhat appropriate, and that recommending he be an only dog was a bit much. The other staff member I had been working with disagreed with her co-worker and she and I continued from there.

    Second, the whole training/meeting process was time I got to spend with my dog working on our skills and relationship. If at any point he indicated he was miserable I could changed my direction. I thought going back to the shelter area was going to be much more traumatic for him than it was. I can best described his initial response as, “Alright, another walk around the block.” I’d like to think that easing him into it with many little trips -in which we returned home afterward- made the experience tolerable if not enjoyable.

    Third, from a policy standpoint, the “solution” I have mentally sketched, roughly, is one where meet n greets are mandatory for some dogs only. This isn’t perfect. But maybe some shelters could select a handful of their population and say that for them, meet n greets are optional. Who would they chose? Puppies? As my own story illustrates, all puppies are not equal. So maybe the middle of the road, super easy-going dogs? Well most often those are few and far between. Overall it’d be great to have the option of meeting a dog to those who want the experience, but also have the option of not having to bring resident dog/s in where circumstances don’t allow. But without going into detail, a policy lifting all mandatory meetings is dangerous for dogs know to show aggression in a kennel environment. If an aggressive dog will be going to live with other dogs meetings should be mandatory and extremely well-considered. Another case where meetings might be mandatory is when a shelter has a population of several similar dogs and the best fit could be found among a certain type…

    Fourth, predictive value! If meet n greets would be mandatory only for some dogs, we would have to hold the predictive value of temperament test/behavior evaluations in very high regard to determine which dogs require the meeting. So how predictive are temp tests? (Trisha?;) They are often seen as a snapshot in time, one that loosely helps decisions be made. They provide information which is better than nothing, and I often feel the same way about meet n greets. I remember a study a food-aggression in a shelter not necessarily translating to possessiveness in the home, and I remember a meta-analysis of temp tests showing that the only consistent traits puppies under 6 mos. retain are aggressive and shyness. Adult dogs however, seem to behave consistent when re-tested later, showing that the test hold some predictive value. I forget the sources, and I may be misquoting, but maybe a similar analysis could be performed for meet n greets?

    Sorry for the length, and great job to Trisha and Tootsie!

  29. EmilySHS says

    Thanks, Trisha… and I’m sooo glad you can still be humbled and you’re so kind to share it with us, I can’t tell how much hope it gives me with my own dog :)

    Brava to Tootsie–what a brave girl she is. I wouldn’t go out in that cold :)

  30. kabbage says

    My first Aussie came from a shelter. After a couple of years I got her a female Malinois that she picked (friend of mine owned the Malinois and thought fewer dogs in the house would be better for her). Then several years later I wanted to get another younger dog. Found an interesting one at the shelter and took the Aussie down there to meet the prospect. As soon as the door to the shelter opened my dog knew where she was (9-10 years after she left there), and she kept getting smaller and smaller the further we walked into the building. We used one of their outside pens for the meeting, and my girl totally ignored the new dog. Instead she was searching for a way out, going to all the spots that had seemed promising when she was an inmate. I didn’t take the prospect, just got my girl out of there pretty quickly.

    I ended up purchasing a puppy when the Aussie was 13 (and the Malinois had passed). The older Aussie met the pup at a friend’s yard, then we got in the car and went home. They did well together, and that pup is now nearly 5 years old and raising my current puppy….

  31. Donna in VA says

    Interesting article and I appreciate the insights. Although the county shelter where we have adopted most of our pets from requires a dog-dog meeting at the shelter, when we went to get a cat (and brought the dog along with us) they would NOT allow a cat-dog meeting in 2011. This was despite the fact that the cat we had selected was used as their in-house “dog tester” for cat friendliness. No explanation was provided. However after deciding we would adopt the cat regardless (we had to return the following day without the dog to transport her home), we did take Max the dog into the shelter to be admired since he was adopted from them 6 years prior. He did not seem overly stressed to be in the shelter main room with various people, but was not in contact with any other dogs. I take him to a lot of public places so hopefully he thought this was just another place we were visiting.

    1 degree F at our house this morning, we took a short 15 minute walk. He was enthusiastic walking out and equally enthusiastic when I turned around to come home. Max only turns into a wuss when soft snow packs between his toes, then he is a total baby.

  32. Miranda says

    The shelter I adopted my (third) dog from required a meet and greet at a shelter, which seemed like it went great! With the last adoption, the ride home with three dogs in the back of my car also went great! Then we got home and the heckles went up and gnashing teeth came out…along with some fur. It’s been three years and there are still issues we are working through. At the time I was basically clueless about body language or behavior unless the dog was a snarling beast or had its tail tucked between its legs. I also doubt the abilities of the shelter staff member who observed the dogs together. I can vaguely recall the dogs that have issue with each other showing signs of stress at the meet and greet. Again I was clueless to the panting and pacing and staring.

    Looking back and knowing what I now know I doubt I would have adopted our third dog. Though, she was the one who prompted my reading book after book, signing up for training classes, reading blogs, watching videos, and so on about behavior and body language. So I suppose I owe her (as do my other two dogs) some credit for helping me to figure them out.

  33. HFR says

    Never thought about it from that side! Altho I know most people think my dogs should be much better trained than they are cuz I’m such a dog nut. Yeah, right.

  34. Kate says

    I got my second dog from the same shelter I got the first one from, they did meet outside in a run and were basically indifferent. Later on that evening I thought my female was going to rip the newcomers head off when I attempted to let him back in. She got over sharing me very fast but I don’t think the meet had any benefit. When we lost dog #2 our next border collie came straight from his previous home and we did not take our old lady with us as it was a 2 hour drive, we had a repeat performance even though at 13 she was not as capable, but made it very clear the new dog was not allowed near me, a couple of days later she got over it.
    When she passed at 15 we got a rescue border collie puppy, the dogs did meet but it was really so the rescue was sure my husband was on board, not Brody.
    I have had fosters just arrive at my house and we have never really had a major issue.

  35. Triangle says

    I know of shelters that require mandatory meetings for cats, which is just…it shows such a complete misunderstanding of the feline mind that I can’t help but assume everyone involved has never actually *known* a cat.

    Totally understand about the little things, and how good it feels to see an animal blossom and respond. Eight years ago we adopted a 3 year old female cat. EXTREMELY affectionate, but also very shy in some circumstances and with some very odd responses. Robin would have a complete meltdown if left in a room with a locked door, to the point she would urinate on herself. She would panic when picked up, and would absolutely never go up the stairs to the second level of the house.

    Just this year, at almost 11 years old, she’s suddenly decided the upstairs is fine and will voluntarily come up on her own. She now sleeps with me at night in the upstairs bedroom and visits frequently throughout the day. The first time I was able to pick her up and carry her for ten seconds, I could have cried. I have no idea why it took so long for her to reach this point, or why the change happened.

    I can also vividly remember the first time Jonas ever responded to a “leave off” command. This is a former only-mostly-reformed feral who could win awards for the most stubborn feline. His behaviorist basically told us trying to teach him not to bit was a losing battle. Granted, he’s still a complete brat to this day, and when he does obey commands you can see the resentment in every line of his body, but I still wanted to shower him with confetti and break out the good wine.

  36. Diane says

    My first blog response. I am not a multi-dog person, and at my age of 60 only had 4 dogs. I’m shy of sharing my opinions because reading all these responses to this and past blogs, there’s some great experience out there!!! Shelter Meet and Greets: In general I don’t think anyone can PREDICT anything. If you think it is safe for your dog to do this, then the visit to the shelter is fine and you may gather useful information..always taken with a grain of salt. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but like anything else, there’s pitfalls and misinterpretations. I admire people who try with good intent!
    I can relate somewhat to Tootsie. Took me a while to convince my dog, Ralph, it was OK to poop on the driveway in these sub-zero weather conditions instead of his usual stomping ground that was snow drifted (of course, not explained in this way to him!) He’s a smart dog and now has gone 3 times on the driveway – so that part is proofed, I think. . . the real test is whether he continues to do so when the weather breaks! :)
    Thanks everyone!

  37. liz says

    In a face-paced attempt to finish my last comment, I (made at least five typos, eek, so sorry) forgot to mention that the successful meeting between my dogs was the beginning of a good relationship. It was my responsibility to facilitate the relationship and keep it on good terms. Eventually the new puppy proved to be much higher energy than she had presented in the shelter. I knew my resident dog was limited in his tolerance of prolonged solicitation for play or attention. As such, a very customized training and exercise schedule was designed for the new one as part of the peace-keeping mission:) I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think their relationship would’ve been as strong if I had put both dogs on a similar daily routine… Or if I had relied entirely on their first meeting to predict their future.

  38. em says

    @Beth, what a vivid image you’ve conjured with your cold dog story! I can absolutely picture both the tippy stance and the blissful ride. Sandy does the cold-foot dance once it dips into the single digits, but like Maddie, when Otis gets too cold, he does this thing where he tries to hold all his paws off the ground at the same time. He can only hold up two at a time while standing, (he does at least understand that they need to be diagonals), so he sits on his hocks, with one forepaw raised and both his back feet held up off the ground. Since at 150lbs there is NO chance of anyone carrying him, this is our signal to make a beeline back inside. :-)

    As far as introductions go, ours was kind of unusual in that we knew and had some rapport with both dogs separately first- Otis was our dog, Sandy belonged to a family member and had spent significant (weeks) time with us pre-Otis. It created a little bit of a weird situation since BOTH dogs seemed to feel like they were the established member of the family and the other was the newcomer. Fortunately, both Sandy and Otis are very good with dogs in general, and neither is prone to possessiveness or resource guarding.

    We introduced them initially when we were just dogsitting Sandy. We chose neutral ground (a park near our house, so more familiar to Otis, but well-populated by many, many other dogs), My husband had Otis and I approached with Sandy, whose leash manners were very, very rusty. From fifty or so yards away, Otis looked VERY interested, but not at all hostile and Sandy caught sight of my husband (her buddy) and started going into paroxysms of joy , so we moved into a large but enclosed area and turned them loose. Sandy was wild but wildly happy and enthusiastic, so Otis just rolled with it. Sandy, to my delight, had enough sense to greet Otis (circling to the right, bowing, licking his muzzle) before charging up to my husband or back to me. She and Otis had a little dash around and that was it. She was in. We went for a long walk together and entered the house at the same time, but it was just a formality at that stage, she and Otis gelled from the first.

    She stayed for about a week, and it went beautifully. I was very careful to create a non-competitive environment, perhaps even more cautious than I needed to be. Both dogs had designated spots to wait before meals, they were not allowed to approach one another during mealtimes, and indeed, they were always closely supervised and managed in the presence of food. It became very clear early on that Sandy had absolutely no interest in competing with Otis for his toys indoors, and he had no interest in competing with her outdoors. We did our best to discourage pushiness on her part when it came to seeking our attention, and made sure that both dogs had their own dedicated space and comfortable beds available.

    I knew it had gone well, but I was still surprised at how miserable Otis seemed when Sandy went home. He moped and sniffed and looked for her everywhere that her scent lingered (in the car, at the park). For about two weeks he looked for her every time we came back into the house. So when the time came that Sandy needed a new home, I knew it would work.

    After about six months since their last meeting, they greeted each other ecstatically. We did a repeat of the protocols from the first time just to be safe (we’re still pretty careful about mealtimes despite three years of perfect behavior around food on both their parts. I find that I really like the vibe of a nice, calm feeding ritual. It makes me feel like we’re all part of a team.), but we’ve had a ridiculously easy time of it. They love each other, and I thank the universe every day that we’ve been so lucky.

  39. Trisha says

    Mandatory introductions of cats! Eeeeps! Oh my Triangle, I share your distress. (Not to mention that of the cats.) But congratulations on your own successes, lucky lucky kitty.

    And welcome Diane, so glad you joined us!

  40. says

    At my small town non-kill shelter, where I volunteer, we know that it’s unfair for a meet and greet to be “normal” at a shelter, so introductions at the shelter itself are not mandatory. Thankfully, none of the shelters in my area require introductions at the shelter itself.

    We work with the idea that the people know their current dog at home best and also knows what is best situation for that dog to meet a new dog…and it’s not always at the shelter. Goodness knows bringing my dog to a shelter to meet a potential new dog would be a complete disaster. Not to mention that we have plenty of dogs at the shelter that cannot and should not interact with other dogs while there because they have arousal and impulse control issues…and living in a shelter is full of severe highs and lows when it comes to states of arousal. These same dogs in a home atmosphere would probably do just fine living life with another dog.

    If a potential adopter decides to bring their current dog to the shelter to meet a potential new dog, meetings are outside away from the kennels, on leash and on a walk. Then if things look good we take them to one of the large play yards where the dogs can interact off leash, and without people hovering. Granted, there are plenty of people that come in that haven’t a clue, but then again not all of our dog volunteers are savvy enough to know the best practices to follow during a meet and greet anyways.

    One of the other things we do is have the potential adopter foster the new dog for a few days, a few weeks or a few months before we make the adoption official. That way if things don’t go well the dog has to legally be returned to us instead of ending up somewhere else.

  41. LisaW says

    Our last two dogs, who were BFF’s and doggie soulmates, first met at our local Humane Society. We had Ester for about 4 years, and it seemed time to bring on another, so I went alone to the HS and met Grace, a shy, emaciated pup with ears bigger than her body. She had had a rough start and was sweet and smart but so unsure. I spent some time with her and then brought hubby and Ester to meet her the next day. We all met outside away from the building, and Grace did a quick greeting and quicker bark at Ester and that was it, they were inseparable until Ester died 9 years later. This was maybe 18 years ago, and I don’t think it was mandatory. I think I wanted to make sure that Ester was ok with it, she was pretty bomb-proof, but I wanted it to be a good thing for her not an annoyance or worse.

    Now the requirement of spaying before adopting out is a good rule in general, but in this case, Grace was so underweight and needed to be treated for a few other health conditions that spaying her would have been extremely risky. The HS wasn’t going to let us take her until they spayed her, so I got my vet to petition the HS to let us take her home and we all signed a contract saying that as soon as she was healthy, we would have her spayed. I was willing to go to those lengths, but I’m not sure that’s the norm. I think there should be a little more flexibility in terms of the rules.

  42. says

    A couple of years ago I was searching for a second dog to add to my household. I had moved in with my grandma and brought my 11 year old chihuahua with me. He was lonely since at my parent’s home there were two other dogs around. I quickly discovered that adopting a dog could be such nightmare! I scoured pet finder and found a beautiful chocolate and tan chi and went to the rescue event she was at. It was a chain petstore and of course I left my resident chi, Dane, at home. I knew the combination of many over excited dogs and people would have been a nightmare. We set up the mandatory home visit and I specifically asked that when they came over with the little girl I wanted to adopt that I meet them OUTSIDE with my pup to walk let them meet out there and walk them together a bit. I knew to bring a strange dog in to our home it would have been a nightmare. The man I spoke to from the rescue agreed and said that was the ONLY way to introduce two new dogs. If any rescue wanted to do differently run the other way and do not adopt from them. Unfortunately he was not the person who brought over the prospective dog. Her foster mother was, and she immediately tried to walk into my home with the dog. As was expected, Dane, reacted by barking and growling at this sudden intrusion of the woman trying to push her way in and this new dog with her. I told her I wanted to introduce them outside and walk them a little bit. She backed off and agreed but by this time the damage was done. Both dogs were keyed up and would growl and snap at each other a bit. The tone had been set but they were settling down. Then we took the dogs inside (sooner than would be ideal but it was December in Michigan and we were dealing with chihuahuas). The dogs were curious about each other but still growling and posturing a bit. I know with 100% certainty that I could have handled the adjustment period between them just fine. However the foster mother deemed my yard unfit for this second chihuahua. I think ultimately she wanted to keep the dog for herself. She was supposed to call me the next day and never did…

    I ended up finding another chihuahua at a shelter where I knew a volunteer and where my parent’s had adopted their first dog after they got married. The shelter had a mandatory rule about the two dogs meeting. I was at least happy they were meeting on neutral territory and since there was no big event happening there, I knew that Dane would be ok despite the new smells/sounds/etc. They took us into a quiet room in the shelter and brought in Frankie, the new chihuahua. The room was not very big but for two chihuahuas it was more than adequate. Both boys were off leash and able to interact comfortably. They sniffed each other a bit and both sought out human attention and affection. They would revisit each other to sniff some more. No posturing or growling other than when Frankie had unintentionally cornered Dane. All the humans were totally calm their entire meeting, not making a big deal out of anything, no pressure for the dogs to interact, etc. So of course, it all went well. The adoption counselor asked if I was ready to take Frankie home that day and the two boys have been great ever since. What a difference a good introduction makes!

  43. LS says

    I think there are great reasons for requiring dogs to meet at the shelter, though I don’t know how predictive I believe it is. People whose dog experience is limited to the 2 or 3 dogs they have owned themselves and interacted with in their own home don’t always have the knowledge to predict how it will go when they adopt a new dog. Shelter staff have a lot more insight, having dealt with so many different types of dogs. I would also echo the above comment about the value of seeing how owners interact with their dog and being able to see the condition of their dog. I have been shocked when doing home visits for potential adopters to find that something that sounds on paper like a nice country estate with lots of land and other ‘rescued animals’ can end up being a collection of ramshackle buildings and a borderline hoarding situation with way too many animals in poor conditions.

    If I were to do shelter introductions with my own dogs, I believe they would probably be fairly predictive. I have a dog who is ok with the dogs she lives with and very tolerant, but she will not hesitate to bite a strange dog and could not live peacefully with most other dogs. If I were an owner without much dog experience and only saw the dogs in my home, I could very easily misread the situation and assume she is good with other dogs. She would definitely not be able to successfully meet another dog at a shelter, so the dangers would come to light before bringing another dog into the home. However, 6 years ago when I adopted the other dog she now lives happily with, I was not required to bring her to the shelter for an introduction (which she would have failed) but I had chosen the new dog specifically because I thought he was the rare dog who could live with her – and they have have been fine together. I couldn’t have adopted him if a meeting had been required. and I’m not sure I would disagree with that… I am excessively careful in managing her and she is always crated if I’m not home, just in case, because I don’t totally trust her. To say that she would do best as an only dog in the average home would probably be right. The shelter staff really don’t have time to evaluate the level of expertise the dog owner has, but I think that the shelter staff I know would probably make a decision based not just on how the dog reacted in the meeting, but also on the experience and management techniques of the owner. I suppose I’d say better safe than sorry and that guidelines have to be geared to the best outcome for the most people/dogs.

    I think a real downside to shelter introductions is that if a dog has come from a shelter, there are very strong associations with the sounds and smells of the environment. Shelters are usually not the best part of a dog’s life and would be frightening to return to for some.

    Rescues that offer trial “Sleepovers” or a week long trial period seem to have hit upon an excellent arrangement, especially if the foster ‘parents’ bring the new dog to the house and help with introductions, but sadly shelters don’t have the time or staff to do that.

  44. diane says

    To Lisa (sorry if I got the protocol wrong). I agree about flexibility in rules. When we tried to adopt a shelter or rescue dog we were refused because we did not have a fenced in yard. Is that rule a good rule . YES!!!! I very much understand why that would be a great question for shelters to ask. But we put in a lot of time to boundary train our dogs. If it would not work, then the leash it is. The dogs we had did well with boundary training. It is so nice when people walk by and say “electric fence?”…and I say, NO – smart dog! Point being that the rule prevented a good home to a dog due to a fence issue. On the shelters behalf, I also admit that it would be very difficult for a shelter to assess this due to volume and only so many resources, and thus the rule.

  45. Beth says

    I DO think that while introductions should be required for some, but not all, there should always be some careful discussion on how to introduce the dogs. I know I got lots of advice before I added a second dog and followed it to the letter and things went well with only a few small hiccups.

    However, one night we found a loose Pom out in the driving rain at 10pm on a worknight. There was really no way to properly introduce the dogs at all. We brought him in and dried him off and stuck him in an ex-pen, where we found to our decided annoyance that the poor little guy was not crate trained. He barked. And barked. And bark-bark-barked for hours.

    My poor dogs! Both are pretty dog-social. Both are used to meeting lots of dogs. Jack is bomb-proof, Maddie is the typical dog who likes many dogs but not all. But they were horrified. Jack laid at the top of the steps on guard (something he never does). Maddie hid in a corner. Imagine if he were to be their new housemate? What a terribly stressful introduction for everyone, yet I am sure so many people would just bring in a new dog that way and wonder why things didn’t go well.

    (My husband finally caved around 2am and went down and slept on the couch so he could let the dog loose, and the little Pom promptly hopped up next to him and went to sleep. I came down in the morning to find he’d [the dog, not the husband!!] peed on every chair, wall corner, and dog dish in the place— he was intact— and promptly called the shelter. I turned him in and his owners did find him. Please crate train your dogs!!!)

  46. LunaGrace says

    So glad I popped in to see what the latest topic was — very timely for me as I expect to hear, momentarily, from the breeder of my new puppy that he is ready to be fetched home. Yogi will have a new little brother. Different breed this time, a Keeshond to his Karelian Bear Dog. Both boys but one is 9 years old, the other a mere infant. Not replacing any other dog, just obtaining a playmate and a younger family member who can “learn the ropes” of our household while Yogi is still patient and able to teach him.

    Since Yogi goes just about everywhere with me, he came with me on the weekend visit to check out (and be checked out by) this breeder. Not the ideal situation for Yogi as he was going into territory where many other Keeshonden lived so he was the “invited guest”. He is used to going to dog shows and The Puppy Stores (PetCo and PetSmart), and usually enjoys the company of other like-minded dogs. So he behaved as I expected he would, attentive to having our mission explained to him so he could decide whether he wanted to participate or not. Didn’t actually PLAY with any of the other adults as they were never together. But sniffed through the chainlink with most of the adults — males and females alike — with a half-hearted wag of his tail. And politely inspected a litter of rambunctious 9 week old puppies who wanted to meet him over the short fence in the Litter Room. And then decided he would like to get back in the car and have a drink.

    Days later, when I phoned the breeder to ask how much I should send for a deposit, she told me that she didn’t think Yogi “would play very much” with the Puppy. I didn’t agree with her as breed and individual personalities are very different from each other, but didn’t say so. Kees are generally easy-going, cheerful, and obliging; Yogi is independent and task-focused as hounds tend to be tho’ a bit on the posessive of me side. He tries (unsuccessfully) to block the cats from approaching me when they come in the house. And the breeder didn’t turn me down for a dog based on her assumption.

    When we go to GET the New Puppy, however, this time he will be coming home with us. In the car, for 8 hours or more. And I wonder how patient or annoyed Yogi will be with “having a squalling infant dumped in his arms”. Difficult to explain that, eventually, the New Puppy will grow up and perhaps be the playmate that Yogi has been asking for. But I’m going to keep a positive and hopeful attitude and expect positive outcomes, that they will have no difficulties adjusting to each other.

    And hip hip horray for Tootsie! Such a brave little soul to trudge through the snow to do her business. Shows the power of positive reinforcement!

  47. Robin Jackson says

    One thing that’s interesting to me is that although one of our dogs did come from a shelter, he loves going back there because they have a wonderful behavior department and he has taken many training classes there, all of which he loved. So he’s met many dogs in the group workshops and classes in that environment. It’s true he’s a “loves everybody” dog, but I wonder how different the mandatory meetings are for dogs who have attended group classes at that same location?

  48. Jackie d says

    Fascinating. I was really worried about this issue when we wanted to adopt our second dog; all shelters in the UK seem to require introductions yet I knew that the worst thing you could do to our reactive, nervous, first dog was first make him travel a long journey in a car, then walk him through a busy shelter environment full of people and dogs, then expecting to interact in any way positively in an enclosed area with yet more strangers in it. Even taking him to a strange house to meet a fostered dog would really freak him out. As a result we were incredibly cautious about going to see potential new dogs.

    As it happened we finally ended up going to a small privately run rescue where because of his issues the dog-dog introduction was made in a quiet lane outside the main area, then we were given the new dogs lead and told to take them both for a nice long walk in the fields surrounding. (Our dog was muzzled for safety). The absence of shelter personnel absolutely maximised the chances of the dogs getting on. We had as much time as we wanted to establish that the dogs at least had the potential to relax around each other, (though we still expected their to be tensions between them when we actually got them home, and indeed were all ready and prepared for them to travel separately in the car – good thing given the amount of growling that went on!)

    (Ironically, despite the respect and empathy given to our two dogs and our positive experience of the adoption , and after-adoption advice, the rescue has since been in trouble for providing poor kennelling for the dogs. I think the flexibility of small organizations sadly goes hand in hand with increased vulnerability to being overwhelmed by the numbers of dogs they are asked to take, and potential disaster if a crucial person is no longer available for whatever reason.)

  49. Pike says

    The webinar was great as always! Thanks.

    And Tootsie is a star!!! I, too, was proud as can be when my little Pom braved sideways rains here on the Pacific Coast for the first time and peed outside anyhow!

    Mandatory introductions at the shelter would take me out of the potential adopter pool, as it would not work with my reactive hound. Then again, mandatory spaying/neutering has already taken me out of that pool ever since I have learned more and more about associated health problems (especially leaky females due to spaying).

    Our local shelter offers trial sleepovers which are a great way, both, for introducing everybody to each other and also for taking away any “must keep dog even if I have a bad feeling” pressure off the potential adopter. If good matchmaking is the best way to ensure that the dogs will remain at a new home then trial sleepovers should be good predictors of compatibility or incompatibility.

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