Fostering a dog is a rewarding experience – as long as you’re cut out for it. Bringing an animal into your home can save a life. Far too many shelter animals don’t ever find their forever home. Fostering gives them a chance!
But if you’re thinking about fostering one of the many homeless pets in your community, you need to make sure you’re ready for the commitment.
Why Consider Fostering a Dog?
You may know someone who’s adopted a shelter dog. Maybe it was a friend or a family member. You might have even gone to adoption events in the past and wondered if you should adopt a new four-legged friend. But what about fostering? What does it entail?
Fostering is basically taking in a pet until someone adopts the animal.
Fosters are critically important to shelters and other rescue organizations. They need fosters because they only have so much space in their facility.
But people who foster animals see benefits as well. For example, they come in contact with a lot of different rescue dogs. Doing so gives them a good idea of what type of dog might make a great pet for them in the future. It also lets them know what kinds of dogs might not work out.
Is Fostering a Good Idea for You?
It’s important that you’re ready to make the commitment fostering a dog requires. You’ll probably need to do some training and also work on socialization skills for your foster dog. You want to make sure your foster pup is well socialized and behaved, so they’ll have a good chance of being adopted.
The hardest thing some foster care volunteers encounter is giving up the animal. When the time comes, many fosters are simply unable to say goodbye. This is known as being a “failed foster.”1
While this sounds harsh, it’s not! It just means that the foster and the dog formed such a strong bond the person opted for adoption. Maybe someone who chose to foster puppies didn’t want to see them separated, so they adopted a pair.
When a foster decides that adopting a dog is best for them, that’s fine – as long as it doesn’t happen too often. You have to make sure you don’t have so many pets you can’t care for them properly.
Choosing the Right Type of Rescue Dog to Foster
If you decide you want to look further into fostering a dog, talk to a local rescue group or animal shelter. They will work to help you find the right dog for your particular lifestyle.
For example, if you work away from home most of the day, fostering a puppy might not be the best idea. Foster puppies, just like all puppies, need a lot of attention. Also, if you can’t walk the dog regularly, you won’t want a high-energy animal. You might want to consider a senior dog instead.2
If you don’t have time to work on basic obedience training or socialization, you’ll need a dog that is already trained. You also won’t want to foster a large or active dog if you don’t have a fenced yard.
Now, there are a few other things you’ll need to keep in mind when it comes to fostering a dog that go beyond just choosing the right dog for your lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of those things:
Introducing the New Foster Pet
You might have a pet of your own at home — and whether it’s a dog or cat, you want to make sure your resident pet gets along with your new guest.
If you have a cat, for example, see if the shelter or rescue organization has a way to test how the foster dog reacts to cats.
If the dog is aggressive to cats, don’t bring the animal home. But even if the test goes okay, you’ll still want to keep the dog and cat in separate rooms until you feel the dog is comfortable in his or her new surroundings. Keep the dog on a leash when you introduce them.
If you already have a dog, bring them to the shelter to meet the potential foster dog. This will be a good neutral environment. It will also let them build a rapport with each other.
When you bring the foster home, keep both dogs on a leash and under your direct supervision until you’re sure they’ll be comfortable with each other.3
Transporting Your Foster Pet
Rescue groups will sometimes ask you to take the pet you’re fostering to adoption events. In some cases, you might need to take the animal for veterinary care. You’ll need reliable transportation and time for these trips.
Gathering Info About Your Foster
You may also be asked to provide information about your foster animal’s personality and behavior to the shelter or rescue group. Make sure you keep track of their activity levels, habits, and disposition. This will help them match your foster to a forever family.
While the animal shelter or rescue group may pay for vet visits, you may still have some out-of-pocket expenses. You might have to foot the bill for the food. If you travel for work, you’ll want to make sure you have arrangements for your foster animal for while you’re gone.
This will especially be important for foster puppies, who need more supervision and care than adult dogs.
Now, there are probably many pet adoption agencies in your area looking for foster care volunteers. If you want extra guidance, feel free to talk to your veterinarian about which agencies are the best to work with.
Once you decide on a pet adoption organization, check its website for information on its fostering program. If you want to learn more, reach out to them to find out the next steps.
Important Questions to Ask Before Fostering a Dog
You will no doubt have a lot of questions about fostering a pup while they await adoption. Has the dog been abused or suffered any major injuries? Has the animal been spayed or neutered? Do they have any special dietary needs?
You’ll also want to ask if the foster dog has had any basic obedience training. Does the dog need medications? Is the dog up-to-date on their vaccinations?
Also, find out if the dog has any history of behavioral problems. The organization will more than likely have information.
Other Important Considerations
Taking in a foster pet is a major commitment. You’ll want to make sure you and the organization have a complete understanding before you make that commitment. Make a list of the important questions you have, and ask them before you agree to foster.
How long will you be expected to foster the dog? Will you be responsible for pet supplies, such as a leash, toys, veterinary care, and dog food? Will the organization pay for all that?
What about potential adopters? Who will be responsible for arranging visits? Will you be expected to take the dog to adoption events?
Will adopters come to your home? Will the organization screen them? Is adopting the dog into your home an option?
Acclimating the Dog to Your Home
Whether you’re fostering a puppy or an adult dog, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind when you bring the dog into your home. It’s not a lot different from adopting a dog.
The trick will be to help the dog adapt to your home without getting too close. After all, the goal is to get the dog ready for a new family.
The most important thing will be to keep the animal as comfortable as possible. Set up an area with a dog bed and a blanket, and maybe a toy or two. Some homeless pets will be outgoing and want to be with the family. Others might prefer to be by themselves for a while.4
Setting a Routine
Whether the dog is the life of the party or a loner, you’ll want to establish some house rules. If you don’t want the dog on your furniture or bed, make that clear in a firm, yet gentle way.
The rescue group or other organization you’re working with should be able to give you some training pointers. These pointers will help ensure your guest behaves.
Try Not to Get Frustrated
Now, there’s every chance that the foster animal who comes into your home will be friendly and love attention. But there’s also a chance the dog could be a little difficult and may need some training.
You might get a little frustrated with how the dog acts, but try to keep that in check. The dog might have come from a bad environment. Many homeless pets aren’t used to being treated well. There might be some socialization problems, anxiety, or even fear.
The dog might even be a little hyperactive at first. After all, he’s been cooped up in a shelter. Be as patient as possible, and stick by your rules. The dog should settle down after being in your home for a few days.
When Your Foster Dog Finds a Forever Home
When someone decides to adopt the dog, congratulations! You’ve put in the work and found success. Your guest will have moved from a shelter to an environment filled with love!
If you can, get the contact information of the adopter, so you can check in on the dog from time to time. Whether you’ve been fostering a puppy or a dog of any other age, you may want to know how they’re doing.
But if you just can’t say goodbye and you want to make your guest your new pet, that’s awesome, too. Congratulations will still be in order because you’ve made it official. You’ve had the rewarding experience of welcoming a new member to your family.
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