MemberMay 13, 2016 at 5:51 am320
Maria, First off it’s great to hear that you have been willing to try homing so many rescue dogs. If you don’t know the full history of the dogs then it will always make life a bit more challenging I guess. I think Mike’s advice is spot on. For what it’s worth I can tell you how we deal with new dogs and large packs although I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation as extreme as yours. To give you some background, I own 5 dogs, 2 of which are working dogs (drug detection dogs). All of my dogs bar one are collies or collie mixes and very high energy and excitable. The other dog is a Malinois, also high energy but more reserved and nervous than the collies. We also board dogs that transit the island where I live as they are moved from the UK to our sister island of St Helena and back as people move to and fro for work contracts. We can have up to 14 dogs living in the house (and yes on the furniture 🙁 ) at any one time. Some dogs may stay a few days, some a few weeks and one, who arrived pregnant, stayed 6 months and had pups in my bedroom – I gave the owners a bit of grief about that! Kept one of the pups though 🙂 Anyway when I collect the dogs they are at the end of a 12 day sea voyage, I never know what they will be like and they can be any breed. We’ve had everything from little terriers to rotties. Some are well socialised, some aren’t. We always try to do everything we can not to set the dogs up to fail. They are introduced to our dogs in a large neutral area (usually the beach). We learnt early on that the dogs needed to feel that they could retreat and get away if need be. We then usually go for a long walk that doesn’t include any fetch games or toys. We also try an stay a bit aloof – it’s hard not to feel that you should show a new and unsure dog extra affection but we’ve found simply not drawing attention to the newbie seems to help our dogs accept it into the pack much more quickly. I guess we like to think we’re good at reading body language but the dogs get on so much easier without our interference. We’ve got pretty good at feigning indifference when the dogs are all together although we’re obviously keeping a watchful eye. Back at the house we have no toys or treats left out for them to compete and fall out over. Our dogs are all good at meal times so, unless the owners have told us otherwise, we feed the new dog alongside ours but for the first few days we stay close in case there are any issues. If the new dog has a habit of being food aggressive or over greedy and stealing our dogs food, we just move it to the other end of the yard and separate them a bit until they are all finished eating. We also remove all the food bowls afterwards. We have had the odd fight (usually between female dogs) but spotting the cause early on and removing it is key. In 20 years of doing this we have had no serious incidents or injuries and by the time the dogs move on they have settled well into the house and its sad to see them go. We’ve taken on dogs that people have said can’t be homed with other males, other females, any dogs, can’t be homed with children etc. and been successful. One that springs to mind was a beautiful GSD (Sable). We were her 3rd home and were told she would kill any other female dogs and she didn’t like children. One day I’ll find and post the photos of her curled up with our rescue bitch collie and out walking with my daughter who was about 6 or 7 at the time and took Sable everywhere on the lead. I guess what I’m trying to say, albeit in a long-winded way is that you shouldn’t give up and with consistency and a firm approach you will succeed. Just don’t set them up to fail and be sure that you can spot the triggers. I agree with Mike about separating the dogs if need be but be extra vigilant if you re-introduce them after separation. Think you have a long road to travel but it will be worth it. Good luck.