Tips for Being a Good Doggie Foster Parent
Fostering a dog is one of many ways you can help improve the lives of homeless pets. Most Dogster members are well aware of the pet overpopulation problem both nationally and internationally - there are millions of dogs that wait and sadly die in shelters and rescues annually, awaiting the forever homes they truly deserve.
While shelters and rescue facilities would like to house every homeless pet, this is often impractical and impossible due to a lack of resources or space. Dogs that would otherwise be euthanized due to lack of space can be saved through caring people who are willing to open their home and hearts to a shelter pet in need.
Many homeless pets grew up in homes where they were well-loved family members. For whatever reason, these dogs find themselves homeless and alone. It is scary and stressful to go from a place where you are well loved and surrounded by your family to a place where you are surrounded by strange dogs, people, sights, and sounds. In many of these dogs, the stress is manifested in the form of unwanted or self-destructive behaviors.
Foster homes are a great solution for dogs with kennel stress or other special needs. Whelping mothers, young puppies, and senior dogs are especially vulnerable to the shelter environment and need a quiet place to raise young, grow, and age peacefully until the right forever home can be found. If you choose to become a foster provider, you give these dogs a chance at life, and save them from the fate so many others suffer - euthanization while awaiting a forever home.
How Do I Become A Foster Care Provider?
So you've decided you want to become a pet foster parent. Great! Providing foster care for dogs will certainly be a rewarding experience, but will just as likely be emotionally challenging. Sending a successful foster to his forever home is bittersweet - you are saying goodbye to a friend, which hurts, but are also sending him on to the greatest adventure of his life - a place where he will be cherished and loved until he goes to the rainbow bridge - a forever home.
The first step will be visiting Dogster Local to find rescue organizations near you. If you have a favorite breed and are willing to branch out geographically, we will be able to refer you to a number of breed-specific rescues (which may or may not allow mixed breeds). You can also find toy breed rescues, giant breed rescues, and organizations which focus specifically on senior, special needs, or puppy adoption and fostering.
When you've found a few that interest you, contact them requesting an application for fostering. Review the application carefully. If you have questions, ask! Who pays for the vet bills? Who is financially responsible for the dog's food, microchip, leashes, crate, etc.? Are there organization-wide meetings? If so, when and how often do they occur? Where will the dog be introduced to prospective adopters and how much liberty do you have in scheduling these meetings? Are you responsible for training the dog and if so, to what level?
Some rescues require foster parents with fenced-in yards. For certain dogs, a foster parent who is home all day may be required, or a home without cats or children.
The rescue organization will likely require personal and veterinary references along with a printed application and one or more telephone or in-person interviews.
If You Already Have A Pet
Communicable diseases from the shelter environment could be carried into your own home where your pets may be infected. Talk to your vet about recommended quarantine periods for new foster pets, to keep your own pets safe!
Know Your Limits
Does your homeowners insurance or city have any breed restrictions? Do you have time to devote to a foster pet while giving your own pets the attention and care they need?
What kind of behavior problems are you comfortable dealing with - counter surfing, pulling on leash, jumping when greeting, inappropriate elimination, separation anxiety, barking, reactivity? Don't accept a foster with behavior problems beyond your experience and knowledge, unless you are willing to consult with a qualified trainer (find one on www.greatdogtrainers.com).
What kind of health problems are you willing to deal with? Medicating the dog frequently? Incontinence? Digestive disorders? Special dietary needs? What about a dog with a wheelchair?
Are you willing to provide the husbandry needed to keep this dog well-groomed and sanitary? Do you require a foster dog that is safe around small children or animals?
Again, congratulations on your decision to start fostering. Let's review the steps:
- Check Dogster Local to find rescues near you.
- Contact rescues and shelters for fostering applications
- Evaluate applications carefully
- Complete application process
- Set limits
- Bring home your foster dog
- Smile and cry at the same time when he finds his forever home
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 as often as possible!
Good luck, and happy fostering!
Photo: Liza Daly
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