Did you always think you wanted to do something to help homeless animals, but weren’t sure what? If adoption is out of the question, you might consider fostering. Although being a foster family for a homeless dog can be very rewarding, you might have some concerns. Stay calm. It’s easier than you think.
The foster family opens their heart and home to a dog from a shelter and agrees to work with the pup on basic house manners. The dog you foster might come with a history of abuse or neglect and will need a lot of patience to assimilate to a home again. Other dogs might be very easy and quickly become acclimated to your family. Each dog is different, but don’t worry. Here are a few tips that will improve your fostering experience.
- Find a good dog rescue organization to team up with. Every area of the country has animal rescue groups. Look online or in your local paper and call a few in your area. This is your chance to interview them to see if they are a responsible group. Ask questions such as: “Will the group pay to have the dog spayed or neutered? What if the dog doesn’t get along with my dog? What if he has a medical problem? Who will take the dog if I go on vacation?” Getting answers to these kinds of questions will give you a good insight into the type of people you will be working with and how much support you will get if a problem arises.
- Be prepared for a variety of behaviors. Most dogs are good and want to please, but shelter dogs need a little time to come out of their shell. The dog may cower and hide when he first arrives in your home. This usually isn’t a problem. Give him space and let him come to you. The little fellow has probably had a rough few days of arriving at the shelter, being transported to the rescue organization, and finally to your house. He doesn’t understand why he lost his home or why he keeps being moved around. Show him where the acceptable bathroom place is, give him food and water and soon you’ll see a wonderful personality emerge.
- Know a few accidents are normal any time a dog moves to a new home. If your foster dog has an accident gently correct him with a firm, “no”, and show him the proper place to potty. When he does potty outside praise him so he knows he did it right.
- One of the best tools to get a dog adopted is photos. All good rescue groups have accounts at places like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-pet.com. When the dog is in your house take some cute pictures of your foster. Send them your rescue group as soon as possible so they can put the photos up on the website. You could even take a short video of your little guy so everyone searching for a new pet can see how precious he is. You should also let your rescue know if there are any behavioral quirks such as chasing cats, resource guarding or marking.
- The hardest part is saying goodbye. You’ve given him love and affection and watched him go from a frightened little pup to a wonderful family dog and now it’s time to give him up. You’ve read the adoptive family’s application, checked references and decided they would be a good forever home for your foster dog. When you hand the dog over to the new family your heart may break. You’ve fallen in love with the little guy and now he’s leaving. It can be a very emotional time for the whole family, but remember there’s another dog out there that needs a loving foster family so he can find his way to a good life.
With so many animals being dumped in shelters every day, fostering one dog might not seem like much, but remember you’ve saved a life. Now that your first foster is adopted into a good family, you’re ready to save another homeless dog. You are the bridge between a scary shelter and a loving home. Be the bridge that gives these dogs a happily ever after and discover the magic of unconditional love.