The Facts About Fostering

A foster home, in the simplest of terms, is a temporary safe haven for a rescued dog that is not yet ready to be adopted. However, there is a lot more to fostering a dog than simply providing a roof over its head. The following provides a bit about fostering, what to expect, and how to get involved in area programs.

A foster home is a great alternative for shelter dogs awaiting a fur-ever home. Often area shelters will give long-term residents a “shelter break,” allowing them the weekend in foster care or simply an overnight to help ease shelter stress. For a shelter dog, sneaking a nap on the family sofa is a luxury, spending a cold night in front of a roaring fire and indulging in the joys of a new bone is just what the doctor (vet) ordered!

For dogs that need better social skills, a foster home can be an ideal situation. In a home, as opposed to a shelter, a dog can familiarize themselves with other dogs and humans in a safe, non-threatening environment which helps promote social growth. In foster homes, more individualized attention can be provided for the dog than might be available in a shelter. All of these positive aspects of foster care ultimately give the dog a better chance for successful adoption and a real fur-ever home. Even a short stay in the home will provide the shelter with valuable information about the dog’s true personality, preferences, and needs. It’s important for shelter managers to know if a dog is good with children, likes cats, or is truly house-broke, and it is much more difficult to determine these traits at the shelter. Often dogs dealing with the stress of shelter confinement will exhibit fear and uncertainty, and their true personality remains hidden.

How do you get involved in a foster program? 

Almost all local shelters and rescues have some sort of canine foster program. It’s a good idea to visit a variety of groups to learn about their programs. You will want to get a better understanding of how they operate and what expectations they have of their foster parents. Once you find a place you feel comfortable with, the next step is to complete a foster application.  They will need to know physical things about your home. For example, if you have a fenced-in yard or stairs. About your daily schedule and the amount of time, you will be available to interact with the foster pup. Will it be left alone for long periods of time and other questions about the day-to-day activities in the home?  Remember, this is not a personal inquisition; the rescue is seeking an environment where the dog will thrive, and each placement is unique based on things they already know about the dog’s background, if any.

When your foster dog arrives at your home, remember everything is new. Make introductions to all family members on neutral ground.  While each case is independent, you may have a dog that fears kids or the family cat. Remember, you are not only caring for this dog but collecting valuable information about its likes and dislikes that will ultimately help him or her find an ideal fur-ever home. The best advice is to treat your foster dog with the same love and attention that you would your own personal dog, all with a bit of caution and a great deal of support.

On the other hand, there are some advantages to adopting a dog that has been fostered. Has the dog been fostered, is a great question to ask a shelter or rescue where you are considering a dog. Often you will be allowed to speak with the foster parents and can learn a great deal about the dog depending on how long he was fostered. Foster parents can often answer questions about child interaction, other household pets, food preferences, and the current status of any health concerns if they are present. Even little pieces of information can be valuable as you transition a shelter dog into your family.

For more on fostering in your area, contact your local shelter or rescue.

Author: Delmarva Unleashed, a Mid-Atlantic canine magazine, has three field research teams tracking the performance of various products for their readers. All teams have scientific backgrounds, and the publisher also has a certification in canine foods.

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