So You Want to Foster a Dog

Can you help me get to my perfect forever home?by Tammy Souch

There are hundreds of thousands of dogs out there who could use a good home, and rescue organizations are always on the hunt for good foster parents to house and care for the dogs they’ve rescued so that they can rescue even more. But providing for a dog’s physical needs is just one part of fostering.  Dogs, just like humans, need more than just food, water, and shelter. They need socialization, training, love, and a sense of security.

Many dogs that end up in local shelters have been neglected or abused – or both. Some adapt very quickly to new people and places, and greet everyone they meet with a wag and a smile. They honestly seem to have forgotten that something bad happened to them. Others are fearful and act out in aggression, because they don’t know what else to do. Some “shut down” and don’t appear to react to what’s going on around them at all. Most of them need at least a little help in learning what living the doggy life really means!

We can’t always know exactly what abuse an animal has suffered, but we can arm ourselves with tools to help them get into a good place mentally and be the best dog they can be. Here are some things to consider before you take the leap into the dog fostering world.

Patience. To truly help each dog that comes to you, patience is a must. If you have a fantasy of your new foster pup snuggling up with you and staring at you with adoring eyes, I strongly encourage you to talk to some people who have fostered dogs previously. Are you ready to go without sleep for a night – or three – until your foster dog is feeling more secure and used to the routine of your home? Do you think you’ll be able to cope with multiple accidents on your rugs? You don’t have to like any of these things, but you do need to be able to keep from allowing any frustration to boil over, which can be pretty difficult if you’re operating on little, or no, sleep.

Training Techniques. That new fellow in your house needs to learn their manners, and the more you can work with them in your foster home, the more likely they are to find their forever home quickly. A well-behaved dog makes a huge difference! Do some research on the various training techniques out there, and talk with the rescue organization(s) you’re thinking about working with. They’ll be able to lead you in the right direction and offer you valuable advice and tips.

Determination. Some dogs need more help than others. Some learn how to “sit” and “stay” and look at you as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?”, while others struggle for weeks with the simplest of commands. Don’t give up! If you keep at it, you will see results. Keep in mind that you don’t know what that dog has been through. It’s entirely possible that their previous owner would tell them to “sit” and then do something harmful to the dog. The moment you both connect, and they finally put their behind on the floor without any physical assistance from you, you have created a foundation of positive reinforcement and trust to build upon.

Adaptability. Every dog comes from a different background, and you will find that what works for one dog may not work for another. For instance, some dogs aren’t motivated by a standard doggy treat when it comes to training. Some don’t like to be pet or snuggled – maybe just for now, but it’s possible they’ll never really “get into it.” Some are afraid of hoses, and some may want to eat your hoses! Learning how to “go with the flow” of any foster dog will keep you from getting frustrated when they aren’t behaving like “every other dog.”

The bottom line is that foster dogs need the help of an understanding person or family to get them through this rough spot in their lives – quite possibly they need you. If this list of things to consider hasn’t scared you off yet, then you may just be ready to foster!

What about you? Have you fostered a dog before? If so, we’d love to hear about your number one “tool” – whatever it is that you have found to be the most helpful when fostering. If you haven’t fostered a dog before, and you think you might be interested, let us know and we’ll help get you in touch with a rescue agency who can assist you further.

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