Let’s face it, we don’t all have the option of looking after a pet on a permanent basis. Some of us travel too often to make it viable. For others, the lifelong commitment is just too much to take on. Valid reasons both, but neither mean you have to give up on the joys of a pet altogether. Pet fostering is a growing trend, with more and more pet lovers opting to give a needy animal a loving home, even if only temporarily. Not only does fostering offer the chance to experience that rare joy a pet can bring, it also provides a vital function. Animal shelters may do their best to give a welcoming home to all animals, but the volume of pets in need of temporary shelter can sometimes be too overwhelming for them to cope with. Add to that the abundance of pets with specific medical or behavioral issues (many of which demand more attention than shelters are geared up to provide), and you’re looking at a huge number of cats and dogs all crying out for a foster family to come to their aid. If you’ve decided you’re able to offer a temporary pit stop to one of the many needy canines looking for a home, there are a few tips to bear in mind that will make the process that much easier.
Start in the Right Place
Deciding to become a dog fosterer is all well and good, but how exactly do you find a dog to foster? The first step is to contact your local American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any other animal shelters that operate in your district. Tell them you’re interested in fostering a dog and ask whether they’re in need of foster parents. Be sure to be upfront about any concerns or restrictions you have about the kind of animal you’re prepared to accept: many dogs looking for a temporary home tend to either be large breeds or have specific medical or behavioral issues. If you don’t have the experience or time to cope with a high-demand pet, say so- the shelter can then advise whether they have any small breed or low-maintenance pets available. Most organizations will require you go through an application process before they accept you onto their books – while the process can vary depending on the organization in question, expect a home visit and a fairly intensive list of questions about your preferences, requirements, home situation, and level of experience with dogs.
Doggy Proof Your Home
In the same way that new families need to baby-proof their homes, you’ll need to make sure your home is properly “doggy-proofed” before inviting a new pet inside. Don’t underestimate the damage a dog can wreck: drapes, soft furnishings, carpeting, and shoes can all be ruined in less than five minutes if you’re not careful. Hideaway anything you don’t want to be chewed to pieces, and if possible, cover your sofas and chairs with a throw to stop any unwanted scrapes or soil marks. As New York City Rescue advises, treat your foster dog as though they were a newborn puppy (regardless of how old they may be in reality). It’s unlikely they’ve received the kind of socialization and training needed for them to know to how to treat a home respectively, so supervise them whenever they’re loose, and keep them in a crate when you’re not at home to stop any harm coming to either them or your house.
As we’ve already briefly touched upon, foster dogs need homes for a variety of different reasons. Some may need a quiet place to recover from medical treatment. Some may have the kind of behavioral issues that makes living with other animals a stressful experience for all involved. As Foster Dogs explains, animal shelters will often temporarily rehome dogs after they’ve already spent some time at the kennels. This will give the animal some much-needed respite from the inevitable strains and stress that come with living at a shelter, and also give them the opportunity for some one-on-one training to help address any specific needs they may have- the hope being that they will then find transitioning into a permanent home that much easier.
Be as honest as possible during your application to make sure the shelter can ensure a good fit between you and your future foster pet. If you have small children and are worried about taking on a dog with behavioral problems (or even at homing specific breeds such as Pitbull’s that can have a reputation for aggression), make sure to be clear with the shelter. Equally, if you’re nervous about taking on a dog that requires medication, just say so.
Some animal shelters may require you help train a dog that has specific issues. The shelter should explain the kind of training required and provide you with the instructions and equipment needed. The idea behind the training is to help get the dog ready for its “forever-home”: while training can be hugely rewarding, it’s also a big commitment. Be prepared for everything fostering involves: while there’s lots of play and cuddles, there’s also an awful lot of hard work involved.
Don’t Become Too Attached
While it’s easy to become attached to your foster dog, remember you’re simply offering a temporary shelter, a mid-way point on their journey to finding a permanent home. Of course, permanent adoption is always a possibility, but we all have a finite amount of space and money: if you adopt, the chances of you being able to continue to offer other needy dogs a temporary home is going to be reduced. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shower your foster dog with affection, always keep in the back of your mind that at some point, you will have to say goodbye.