What to Consider When Fostering a Dog
by Jackie Kelly
Supporting Pet Rescues
Fostering a dog is a great way to practice your pup parenting skills before actually getting a dog. When fostering a dog through a animal shelter program, you will most likely have some sort of foster parent training. This will prepare you for the types of dogs that most frequently need foster care. These often include law enforcement cases, ill or injured dogs, dogs that are stressed or behaviorally challenged in a shelter environment, and puppies that are too young to be in the shelter.
Fostering Law Enforcement Cases
Law enforcement cases are often some of the toughest cases to foster. The main reason for this is because of the uncertainty regarding the duration of the dog fostering. A law enforcement case could take anywhere from a few weeks to a little over a year to resolve. Additionally, sometimes these dogs are in rough shape medically or behaviorally and may require extra care. The animal shelter will have gone through a thorough medical screening with these types of fosters to ensure that all medical evidence is properly recorded, but not all animal shelters have a veterinary behaviorist on staff to evaluate the dog’s behavior. A lot of times shelters rely on the foster parents to make observations on the dogs’ behavior and report back to them. As a result, this type of dog fostering is definitely not for the inexperienced.
Fostering Ill or Injured Dogs
Ill or injured dogs that find their way to animal shelters will also need fostering. Again, the shelter veterinarian should do a thorough medical exam on the dog and provide you, the foster parent, with instructions. The level of experience needed to foster an ill or injured dog will depend greatly on the severity of the illness or injury; for instance if it’s a broken leg versus heartworm treatment. A broken leg will be self-limiting, whereas a dog receiving heartworm treatment needs to be kept calm and have limited play, etc.
Fostering Dogs with Behavioral Issues
Dogs that are stressed or depressed in the shelter will also be a priority for foster care. These dogs are usually the more active, larger breeds that don’t do well without enough space or exercise. As a foster parent, you should be prepared to provide those needs and continue to monitor the dog’s behavior for signs of depression or anxiety. Excessive chewing, incessant crying, howling, panting, and pacing in circles are symptoms of anxiety and should be reported and monitored. These dogs will also need to be worked with to modify the behavior and ensure that it’s manageable for a potential adopter.
On rare occasions animal shelters will see puppies that are still nursing or too young to sustain themselves in the shelter environment. Since fostering a bottle feeder is incredibly time consuming due to their need for constant care, these types of fosters will often go to a shelter staff member. However, if the puppies are still nursing from the mother, then both she and the puppies will be looking for foster care. If you have the space, the patience, and the ability to take care of a mama and her pups, then go for it. It’s definitely a unique experience.
Additional Tips for Dog Fostering
It’s important to note that these foster care scenarios are based on an actual shelter experience, but not all animal rescues looking for foster parents have a physical location. In fact, there are plenty of rescues that operate via a foster care network.
Just as if you were adopting a dog from these rescues, you want to make sure that you do your homework before signing up to foster a dog. Where are they getting the dogs from? Have these dogs been rejected by previous shelters due to extreme behavior needs? Can they give you an estimate as to how long you will have the dog for? Additionally, will potential adopters be coming to your home to view the dog? Will you be responsible for conducting the dog adoption interview and is that something you are able to handle?
Sometimes after fostering a dog for a few weeks or months, foster parents become attached. Suddenly, it seems, no one is good enough to adopt their foster pup. As a result we see what is affectionately referred to as a “foster fail.” A foster fail is when a foster parent ends up actually adopting the dog. It can be great for the dog, which has gotten comfortable with its foster parent. If you find yourself wanting to adopt your foster dog permanently, just make sure you consider all the potential issues and ability to commit to the dog for the long haul.
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