Is Dog Fostering Right for Me?
For dog lovers, hearing about the six to eight million pets who enter shelters each year (according to the Humane Society of the U.S.) leads to a sharp pain in the heart. Adoption may be out - perhaps you already have a dog or two or can't commit to a lifetime of care. But there is a way to give these forgotten dogs a better chance - become a foster provider.
Fostering a dog is becoming a popular way of helping dogs in shelters prepare for a forever home. It might even save a dog's life as the shortage of space for keeping dogs in shelters is always increasing. The exact requirements for foster homes varies depending on the shelter or rescue you are working with but here are some basic guidelines.
Training: A foster provider is usually responsible for training. Shelter dogs come from varied pasts - many of them have been abused or neglected. The most common reason dogs are surrendered to shelters is behavior problems. Therefore, be prepared for dogs who are nervous, fearful, unruly, even aggressive. They will need patience and, sometimes, special training to overcome their issues. And you may have to do some basic training such as housebreaking.
Finding a Home: Again, it depends on the organization but sometimes dog foster homes are expected to help in the search for a permanent home. This can include putting an ad in the newspaper, posting your dog's information online, hanging posters in places such as pet stores, and attending adoption events.
Length of Stay: Make sure you and the animal shelter are on the same page regarding the length of fostering a puppy. If you take on an older dog, it's less likely he'll find a home as fast as a puppy will. Some shelters take dogs back once they're well-adjusted; others expect you to keep them until they're adopted.
In addition to knowing the requirements, before you become a dog foster home there are some considerations. Fostering a dog means changes in your household routine. It also means more time and energy and possibly an upset in your family's life. There are some considerations before you take on this task.
Family Members: Make sure everyone agrees to fostering a dog. Discuss the added responsibilities, the benefits and the drawbacks. The shelter you work with should be able to help you find a suitable dog for your family. Keep in mind that many dogs from shelters are mutts. A good rule of thumb is to determine what the breed the dog most looks like then research that breed. He will likely act most similarly to the dog he mirrors.
Other Pets: If you have a cat, make sure your foster dog is good with felines. If you have a dog, make sure both your dog and the foster are not aggressive.
Age of Foster Dog: If you are interested in puppy adoption and fostering, your experience will be much different than getting a older dog. Puppies need all the basic training and sometimes special work with issues such as stopping nipping and chewing shoes. However, puppies are more malleable and less likely to have a bad past. Older dogs often have more health issues, may need help with things such as hip problems, and, again, are less likely to be adopted.
Dogs per Household Limitations: Double check your town's rules regarding how many dogs are allowed per household. Likewise, if renting, make sure the lease allows more pets.
Adoption: Will you be able to let the foster dog go when he gets adopted? Dog foster homes often find that they get so attached to the dog, letting him go is heart wrenching. Also consider that he might not find a home. Can you send him back to the shelter to await his fate there? Are you willing to adopt? A decision about this should be made prior to fostering a dog.
If you understand dogs and have the time, energy and space, it's a great service to become a dog foster home. Keep in mind that shelter dogs have special needs and you can't always guess how they'll behave.
If you decide not to become a foster provider, sponsoring a dog at a shelter can be a great alternative. Most organizations are really helped by as little as twenty dollars a month and you usually get to follow your dog's progress. But be prepared to sponsor a dog for life - some of the best pooches somehow get passed by.
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
How to Get Your Dogs to Accept a Foster Dog
I only foster small dogs, but I have four of my own, so my new fosters are coming into an established pack. Here are some things that have helped me. I spray all my dogs with the same scent before I introduce them. If possible, I start the introduction in as neutral and area as possible, one dog at a time. I try to take them for a walk early on in the intro.
Start your foster out in a cage (wire if possible so she can see what is going on around her). As to how you treat her, that depends on the personality of the dog. Try to remember that depending on what her past is, she may have certain illogical fears. It seems to take an average of two weeks before a dogs true personality begins to show through, so don't judge her by her initial behaviors.
Be patient and loving. I agree, have plenty of treats, but also be aware that depending on her background, she may not take them from you or even know what they are.
posted by a guest
How to Become a Foster Parent
First you need to find an organization to foster for. There may be a rescue group in your area desperate for fosters, or a shelter that is overflowing and needs fosters.
When you look at the various organizations in your area, find out what the support is like for foster parents. Are dogs placed with foster parents and then forgotten about? Do they have numerous adoption events and a good website to help with placing your foster? Will you have any say in the adoption process? Will the organization foot medical bills? Will you get any supplies such as a crate or food? Will you get any help with behavioral issues that come up or will it be up to you to find a behaviorist?
All of the above can influence which group you would like to foster for. If you can, talk to foster parents to find out the pros and cons of fostering for that group.
I do find fostering enjoyable. So do my dogs. Though it is rewarding, you have to WORK for those rewards. You might get a dog that has no "issues" at all, but inevitably you will. Your job as a foster parent is to make the dog as highly adoptable as possible. For example, my own dog jumps up. If he were a foster I'd be much more strict about allowing absolutely NO jumping, because it could cost him a home. But he's already home so he gets to be spoiled a bit! Other dogs might be on the timid side. They might need help being housebroken or crate trained. They might pull a lot on leash and need training. They might need to be socialized in every way possible.
~Cathy H., owner of Saluki mix