What is a dog foster?
A foster is the bridge between the shelter and the forever home. It’s someone who offers crash space to a dog, to give them extra time to find an adopter, who helps the dog recover mentally and physically, and who learns something about the dog to be able to assist in placing the dog in the correct home environment.
How long does it take?
It varies from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. It is our goal to place a rescue dog in a permanent home as soon as possible so that dog can bond with its forever family. If fostering for an out of town Rescue, it may be just until Transport can be arranged.
What must I provide other than a home?
Doghousing can provide as much or as little as you like. Some fosters, if they have the additional means, enjoy buying a new collar for their foster dog, along with new toys, treats, food and/or bedding. Any of those items you purchase yourself, you are able to write off on your taxes as a donation to that Rescue. We require any of the licensed Rescues who sign up with us to cover any Veterinary or Medical costs your foster requires. If you can provide the things your foster dog needs, those resources can be redirected to saving another dog. But if you cannot provide them, we’re so grateful that you’re playing an integral role in the rescue chain, we’re here to assist you in either donating or loaning you items you may need! We’ll work with every Foster Home one on one to make sure you have the resources you need.. Please note that sometimes foster dogs can do damage. While we do have liability insurance, we will not be responsible for the things your foster dog damages while in your care, so you will have to put your shoes away from that puppy!
What do I have to do?
First, you will have to help the dog “relax” and decompress from the trauma of being at a shelter. Shelters are cold, noisy, unfriendly places, and most dogs will become depressed or experience an altered personality in response to being at the shelter. After a bit they will open up and become themselves again. You have to figure out what each dog needs. Some need space and quiet – you’ll need to tell your visitors to ignore your new houseguest if that’s the case. Some need extra love and attention. Some will need special introductions to certain people or pets if they’ve been abused or neglected.
Second, you will need to feed and care for the dog. Sometimes they are malnourished and will need a gentle diet until they feel better. All of the dogs experience intestinal distress from the long transports and are likely to have bowel problems for a day or two upon arrival. All of the dogs are treated for fleas before they leave the shelter, but it’s not surprising to find them anyway. Some of the dogs have snotty noses or a cough. Sometimes this is just a residual from the kennel cough vaccine which is given up the nose. Sometimes it is a more serious upper respiratory infection. Sometimes just a little cough syrup helps them feel better. But you’ll need to keep an eye on that to make sure it does not become more serious. Occasionally very young puppies have been exposed to parvo-virus, which is often fatal. The key symptom is lethargy. Puppies are playful by nature. If yours is suddenly tired in an abnormal way like all the time, it’s time to go the emergency vet. Older dogs are usually vaccinated against parvo-virus, so it’s less common in dogs older than one year.
Third, you may need to housebreak your dog. Very often there is an adjustment period when a foster dog comes to your home, even if it is housebroken, and you may have to clean up a few accidents. Dogs like routines, though, so begin by taking your foster dog outside first thing in the morning and as soon as you get home from work, as well as right after meals and before bed. Younger dogs will need to go out more frequently than older dogs. It’s best NOT to punish a dog for peeing/pooping in the house, but rather use generous and premium treat rewards for going outside, along with lots of praise. Most dogs can housebreak within a few days. For dogs that have abusive backgrounds, sometimes it can take a month or more. Please try to be patient. Think about how long it takes to potty train a human child – dogs are way faster! In addition to housebreaking, crate training and obedience training are helpful to both you and potential adopters. Basic commands like “touch” “sit” “down” and “off” are necessary if you want a well-mannered dog. Nice leash walking is also a great selling feature with any dog, so practice. Finally, socializing your foster dog is helpful. We love it when our rescues are good with other dogs, cats and children!
Finally, the Rescues will market your foster dog, but they’ll be more successful with your active participation. It is unlikely that we will be able to place your foster dog quickly if it never leaves the house and no one ever sees it. And after all, no one will know as much about that dog as you. You will need to be willing to take your foster dog out on the town and to adoption events. Be willing to share your foster dog’s unique and lovable personality with anyone who will listen! That is the best way to find the perfect home. It will be sad to say goodbye, but oh so wonderful to know that your apt description is what enables an adopter to ensure a good fit.
What if it doesn’t work out?
While we try to screen the rescue dogs to make a good match for your foster home before we send one your way, there is a possibility that a foster dog’s personality or behavior is not a good fit with your home. That is ok! That is why we are here as your one on one point of contact. Get with us and we’ll first see if there’s something we can recommend or suggest to help the dog acclimate to your home, and if that still does not work we’ll work on getting the foster to another location.
What if I fall in love with my foster dog?
That’s called foster failure. When I ask you to love your foster dog as if it were your own, it happens (a lot!) It is especially hard with the first couple of fosters, and with those that have special needs. But remember that there are many people willing to adopt dogs, but not so many willing to foster, and the fosters are the ones who are the real heroes. Without them, there’s no landing zone for incoming rescues…no one to ease the pain of transition from the loss of a previous family or from the ravages of being stray or even just from the horrors of being in a kill shelter and the rigors of a 13-hour transport. It takes an exceptional person to open your home and your heart to a strange dog, to love it until it is no longer a stranger, and then to lovingly send it off to be with someone else. Here is my criteria to ensure that my foster dogs are OK to leave: the adopter must offer up a situation that is as good or better than what I can give the dog. As the foster, you are ultimately the one to decide if your foster dog and an adopter are a good fit. If you do decide that you want to officially adopt your foster dog, then, you will have to put in an application with that dogs Rescue to go through their adoption process.
Reasons You Can Foster a Pet — Even If You Think You Can’t
Not only does fostering provide an invaluable service to rescue groups and the shelters who depend on them (not to mention the pets themselves), it’s a great way to learn about your own needs as a pet owner. (You can’t know if you’ve got what it takes to walk a young puppy at 1, 3 and 6 a.m. until you’ve done it!)
But We’ve heard a lot of excuses — er, reasons — why people can’t or don’t want to foster.
With shelters overflowing and many people needing temporary care for their pets while they find new housing or weather a crisis, fostering is even more important these days. So print out this list and give it to everyone you know who thinks they just “can’t” foster.
“I DON’T HAVE THE SPACE” — All it takes is a small spare bedroom or office, a bathroom, or even a corner where you can set up a crate, which you can borrow from us! While we do need foster dogs to have their own space, like a crate, it doesn’t take much space to do that. And remember, whatever space you have at home is probably more than the dog has at the shelter now!
“I MIGHT GET ATTACHED” — OK, yes, you might. But no matter how difficult it is to give the dog to its adopters or send on transport, just knowing that you’re helping to save a life should ease any short-term pain. When you take in a foster dog, it gives us room to help other dogs that might otherwise be brought to shelters that euthanize for time and space. It also lets us learn more about a dog’s personality than we ever could in a shelter environment, which, in turn, makes the dog much easier to adopt out. Yes, some dogs are harder to give up than others, but be strong! You can do it! (And yes, there will be and have been “Foster Failures” out there. That’s ok too!)
“MY OWN DOGS WON’T TOLERATE A FOSTER DOG” — If you have a separate room and crate, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. Yes, your dog(s) will know there is another dog in the house, and they may be a little upset about it at first. But chances are they’ll get over it pretty quickly. We’ll be there to help you through as many introductions as you like. With a proper introduction, the potential for acceptance is much higher. If their personalities end up just not being able to work together, then we’ll help you through that, whether by means of training or putting the dog in a different foster home and getting you one that will be more suitable. Part of this process will be finding out what dog types, temperaments, ages, etc work best for your home and family. We want this to be fun for you and your family!
“I CAN’T AFFORD TO TAKE ANOTHER DOG” — This one is easy! We’ll work with you to help you get the supplies you need. The Licensed Rescues will cover all medical expenses associated with their foster. If you buy your own supplies for fosters, save the receipts so you can take a tax deduction! Mostly, we’re just asking for your time and patience when opening up your home to a foster.
“A SHELTER DOG MIGHT GET MY OWN DOGS SICK” — If you follow basic health protocols, such as making sure your animal stays up to date on all their shots and medical needs, you shouldn’t have any problems. A sick dog should be kept in a separate room, and bedding/clothing should be washed with bleach after use. We are also happy to provide you with a bottle of heavy-duty kennel disinfectant for cleaning if you like!
“SOMEONE ELSE WILL SAY YES. THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER FOSTER HOMES” — They won’t and there aren’t. It’s that simple. We have lots of folks who will take puppies, but very few who will take adults, and even fewer who will take sick or elderly dogs. Please help us! Puppies are easy for us to place. But our poor adults need help too.