Tips on How to Be a Successful Foster Parent

The idea is: you want to help, like dogs and want to make a difference.

The realty is: you are working with rescue dogs, you never know what you will get.

What you expect: you open your home to a rescue pup, they are grateful and happy and integrate into your home nicely. Including playing with your pups that you already have in your home. They are socialized, balanced so you will be fine. You will help the new dog feel better, do better and find it a good home!

What you find out: the dog can be fearful, scared, snippy, unbalanced and can be unpredictable even go as far as aggressive. Some need additional help, you are confused on what to do, overwhelmed and think maybe you made the wrong choice?

Important things to remember: you are there to HELP the dog. Create a good environment and help improvements happen to encourage an adopter to want to accept this pup into their home. You are not a professional dog trainer, you don’t always have every solution and sometimes you just feel helpless. THIS IS NORMAL AND COMMON. This is why the rescue group is there for you as a support system. If you have a trainer nearby to help, follow their advice and see success happen!

Tips on achieving great results as a foster parent:

Tip #1: Always Create Boundaries in your Home.
Make sure that your home stays your home. If you allow rescue life to take over, the dog(s) will also. Crates, gates, leashes and boundary is your best friend. My RULE FOR RESCUE is: Feel bad for DAY ONE, after that start training.

Tip #2: Don’t think about how to integrate them into your home, think about what skills they need to become more adoptable.
Do they need to be potty trained? Do they have trust issues? Are they unfamiliar with basic commands? Do they suffer from anxiety?  These are the skills you as a foster parent need to recognize early on. These are the skills you need to work on.

Tip #3: Is your “Pack” balanced?
You may think your pups are balanced because they exist well in your home, however, are they ready to TRAIN a new foster pup? You may have awesome dogs but bringing in a foster pup that needs balancing may create unbalance in your home and the transition can be hard and take more patience and time than you expected.

Tip #4: Understand there may be scrapes and bruises.
Your pups in your home may have disagreements with the new foster. THIS IS NORMAL. Both your pup(s) and the new foster are trying to distinguish what they can get away with, where everyone stands in the pack(household) and how everyday life is going to be. Chances are where the new foster was before there were no rules, no boundaries and everything was fair game.

Tip #5: You have now become the trainer, not the “cuddle-buddy.”
Your job is to create a game plan, provide boundaries, consistently show rules and abide by this EVERY DAY. Cuddling can be done later when the pup understands the rules and is showing behavior that you are looking for.

Tip #6: Don’t give them EVERYTHING.
The couch is not their spot, the bed is not required for happiness and a fenced in yard is not a structured, daily walk. Again, my RULE FOR RESCUE stated above applies again. If you feel bad for them every day and give them no structure, they will take advantage of you every day and run the house.

This is only the first step to success. Once you have achieved structure in your home, you then have to work on the dogs behaviors and what to change to help encourage a potential adopter to be interested. You have to work on reliability with proper commands, realistic expectations, a regular schedule, socialization along desensitization in a home and out in public. Once you do these things, balance comes and so does their new potential family!

Foster families exist all over world and so many people want to help and make a difference, however, education is needed to create balance in the foster world. The RUFF Dog Project works with multiple rescues and provides training for rescue pups that are focused and need direction. There are trainers available to help provide education to foster parents.

If any questions exist relating to this subject, go to and contact Rebekah Hintzman. Subscribe to our blog for more great training information! Follow us on Facebook! The RUFF Dog Project!



Dog Trainer vs. Dog Owner

Every now and then, as a professional dog trainer, I forget that what I classify as “manageable” and “trainable” can still be too much for an average dog owner. Every owner longs to have a well behaved dog accompany them in their home, listen to commands, greet everyone politely, stay in the yard, come when called and most importantly never bite or show assertive behaviors.

If you purchase a puppy from a breeder, there are better chances to start them right and with consistency and training end up with a pretty wonderful pet. However, it still comes down to the pups beginning that makes a big difference what behaviors you will encounter as a dog owner. If bred correctly, with positive traits from both stud and bitch, the pup will have a blank slate to start.

Stone prefer to adopt a rescue pup and everything gets a bit trickier. If it is a puppy under 3months old of age, your chances of bad behavior are few. If older, you run into issues with socialization, pack order and possibly multiple owners. Multiple owners mean that there may have been inconsistent, different types of or no training whatsoever. This then leaves you with what wet call the “do-over” responsibility. To start from scratch with the pup to get them to square one.
The “do-over” can be tricky. It can be going over proper basics such as sit, down, come, stay and leave-it. With consistency, training classes and proper structure the pup can improve quickly. If it means behavioral issues such as bite inhibition, fear, socialization with people/dogs and potty training it can take more time and patience.  Guidance from a professional trainer may be recommended and depending on the severity of the issues, a behaviorist may be needed.

If you are an experienced dog owner that has had multiple dogs, attended training classes and understand common breed behaviors, you will have more success with basic behaviors and probably have more patience with some behavioral issues. For a first time owner or an owner that lucked out and had the perfect pup for years and now has a “problem child,” it may just be too much.

Before deciding to get a dog there are important things to consider. If you want a puppy, ask to see the stud and bitch. If you can’t, that’s a red flag. If you can see them, their behaviors will depict way you will see in the pups. If you decide to adopt a rescue dog, blessed your sweet heart. Know that if you do choose a rescue pup, the training may or may not be there. Do you have the time to put towards the rescue? If not, it may not be the one. Most important, if you struggle with knowing what is best for you, please consult a professional trainer. They can give you great tips t


o help you be successful in your adventure!

To train or not to train?

In my profession, I see quite a few pups come through my training classes, private training sessions or rescue work.  Ultimately there are three primarily reasons that owners need my help.

Reason #1: Socialization issues.
Whether I hold classes, assist owners with private in home training or work with rescue dogs this is usually the #1  common denominator. It is EXTREMELY important that pups are socialized when they are young and continued to be socialized as they grow up. If they aren’t properly socialized behaviors can arise such as fear, anxiety and aggression. Dogs are pack orientated and enjoy the company of other dogs whether through play at the local dog park or accompanying them in their home as another part of their pack.

Reason #2: Desensitization.
If owners are unable to expose their pups to new things at an early age, behaviors can show up later on when introducing them to things such as new people/dogs, new surfaces, riding in the car, protective behaviors at home when guests arrive and separation anxiety. I have even seen dogs afraid of grass because they were confined to a kennel in the beginning stages of their life. Even going for a basic walk can be a challenge to some owners and dogs.

Reason #3: Who is in charge?
I see a constant struggle with leadership between the pup and their owner. Whether you are a first time dog owner or not, dogs will challenge their owners daily to see what they can get away with and who is the leader of the “pack.” If you have a family, there is a pecking order to where the dog sees everyone in the “pack.” I find myself helping owners gain confidence in training to then be able to provide proper communication to their pup. Once this is established, training becomes MUCH easier.

What are the solutions to these problems?

Solution #1: Attend Training Classes
Some experienced dog owners feel that they don’t personally need classes as they know the proper steps and commands needed to train their pup. In actuality, the classes are more for the pup then the owner. Socialization and Desensitization are important while establishing leadership with your pup.

For the first time dog owners, it is crucial that they enroll in a dog training class and continue through to the Advanced level to provide strong and consistent leadership through the growth of their puppy or rescue pup. Think if you stopped school as a 4 year old and was pushed into the world to be a responsible adult? Unrealistic right?! The demands of what is expected from young pups is far too much and by attending classes owners understand their pups development process and stages to provide realistic expectations. Thus, great results for the future!

Solution #2: Get out!
As soon as your puppy has had all the vaccinations and can be exposed to the outside world, go everywhere! Go to the park, visit friends, go on walks and get them out in the world!! Have them sit on benches, walk on bridges, see/hear vehicles, horns, the wind, kids playing, trash cans knocking over, etc. The more they see and hear, the less they become afraid of. This then helps with anxiety and aggression which can both come from fearful behaviors.

Solution #3: Contact a Professional.
Whenever you have a question regarding your pup whether it is training related or behavior based, please contact a professional trainer. Your friends, that neighbor next door, your dentist and especially the person at the dog park that has 6 dogs running around may have advice of what may work or what they have done, however, you will find yourself becoming confused with all of the opinions that are given to you.  You would go to veterinarian if your pet was sick right?  Well, if your dog is acting up, call a professional trainer!

With these key ingredients to working with your new dog, you should have success not only currently, but for the future as well! Good luck!

Please feel free to go to my website for more information about RUFF Academy for your dog training needs! Also subscribe to my blog for more information about training your pup! God Bless!


Ups & Downs of Professional Training

In my profession, there will always be competition. There will never be a boring day and some things you can never have control of. My mood seems to change daily depending on the case I am working on. Mondays currently consist of training with Lainie the doodle, Intermediate Class and theater dog training. Tuesday’s are rescue dog day, Pet therapy and obedience/agility classes. Wednesdays are private training and Yappy Hour. Thursday is usually open until obedience class at night. Fridays can either be busy or completely dead. The weekends vary from private training to Yappy Hour Brunch and getting ready to start everything all over.

Ultimately, there are things that encourage the day to be good or bad. Clients that are extremely happy or others that find themselves being constantly challenged by their dog.  My job at a professional trainer is to be Switzerland. Neutral. Have no opinion. Sometimes, I just want to say forget it.

A good day usually consists of some private training either with great promise or great practice and great experiences. A bad day is an owner deciding to give up and quit or a challenging dog with a headache that day.

Lately, my obedience classes have been great. Owners are committing to the training and are having fun! I have fun as a teacher, they have fun a students.

Euthanasia? No! Save a life!

As a professional dog trainer, I have a different day every day. One day I can be doing an in home consultation, followed by another private in home training session while another day I could be working with rescue dogs and holding obedience classes.

I try to be objective, see the positive in every situation and help aid and prevent possible liabilities and unsafe situations. I recently have started working with two cases that have required more attention. One is a small Yorkshire/Maltese mix(Morkie) which needed to be taken out of her home for a definite intervention! She had an incident with the neighbor and now thought of as an “ankle biter.” The other is a German Shepherd that had been living in a home with another dog, but a recent incident led to police involvement and quarantine.

Neither of these two are a danger to the community, a liability with a goal of euthanasia. However, the Morkie was set to be put down and the German Shepherd was set to be put down after quarantine. They were both saved by multiple parties help.

The Morkie was in a kennel for 2weeks as a neutral testing area to work with other dogs, people and environments. She passed with flying colors and is now being fostered for in home rehabilitation. Our goal is to transiting her back into her existing home! Positive things about her is she is extremely smart, willing to please and social with other dogs and people.

The German Shepherd is going to stay in the kennel for now to work with training, rehabilitation and to find the best fit for the right home. She is confused, however she is doing well. No issues with people, dogs, etc. We would like to find a foster home for in home rehabilitation and then a forever home! Positive things about her is she is extremely smart, knows quite a few commands and is very good with kids. She likes other dogs, but needs a job.

So, these are two cases that there is no payment to my company, 100% passion to help these dogs succeed and a support system to do so. We are looking for two things: a friend for the Morkie and a home for the German Shepherd. Please share!!



Private training vs. Rescue work

I run a full-time dog training company called RUFF Academy Real Life Dog Training. I also help out multiple rescue organizations with my community outreach program The RUFF Dog Project. In the years that I have trained dogs owned by individuals I had one state of mind. Then I started to work with rescues. The worlds are TOTALLY different. I go home and look at my spoiled pups every night and think about those in kennels and even in foster without a permanent home. It stinks.

Working with dogs is my number one passion. It is the number one reason why i can put a smile on my face. There are days that that smile is harder looking at dogs struggle and seeing owners that don’t want to commit to training because it is easier to say it is the dogs fault.

Rescuing a dog isn’t as simple as taking it out if it’s environment. It involves a state of mind, better health and overall well being. It isn’t cheap. So many people say, if they won the lottery they would build a sanctuary for animals, open a shelter, buy some land and create a wonderful place for pets to live. The reality is that there are a lot of dreamers and there need to be more realists. Ones that understand the process, work at making it a reality and follow through. I used to be a dreamer. Since working in the worlds I have been, I have become a realist.

Working with the mind of a pup that came from a breeder versus a pup that came from down south, rescue organization or even a shelter is a completely different process. It takes TIME. So much time. A puppy from a breeder you can mold to exactly what you want. It has not had traumas of life to effect it’s primary way of thinking. It sees life as a wonderful utopia.  Training definitely takes patience.

It is hard to make a firm decision about which dog I would choose, a pup from a breeder or a rescue dog. I truly think that the dog chooses the owner. Whether you search through adoption websites, talk to a neighbor, find a pup through someone at work, you eventually find your dog. Overall, taking the time to train the pup, understand it takes patience and knowing that you are responsible to teach your pup manners is the most important task. Oh, and if you win the lottery, then you can follow through as a dreamer. Otherwise, you are a realist.