Foster Tips

How To Make Fostering A Success


● Make your home pet-friendly. Before you bring your foster dog home, make sure you “pet proof” your home. For example, remove poisonous plants and protect furnishings.

● Recognize your limits. Fostering requires time and energy — both emotional and physical. Don’t overextend yourself by fostering animals too frequently; you may burn yourself out.

● Enjoy being a foster parent. Although fostering takes time and commitment, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You are temporarily providing a needy animal with a loving home environment and helping that animal become more suitable for adoption into a responsible, lifelong home.

If you have your own resident dog(s), take him/them to your veterinarian for a thorough check-up and update his/their vaccinations, particularly bordatella (for kennel cough) prior to introducing your foster dog. If you have foster dogs on a continous basis, routine deworming of resident dogs is recommended (every 6 to 12 months).

● Invest in a dog crate or ask the rescue if it can provide you with one. Crates are invaluable tools for potty-training, and keeping the foster dog and your valuables safe when you're not around to supervise. If you've never used a crate, you might review the information provided here. 

● Decide, as a family, what the foster dog will/won't be allowed to do and enforce the rules from the beginning. Does the foster dog have access to the entire house? Is the foster dog allowed on the couch? On the bed? Where will the foster dog sleep?

● Feed the best quality dog food you can afford. Rescue dogs have experienced a lot of stress and many enter rescue showing signs of poor nutrition and food allergies. A quality kibble can reduce food allergies, bring back coat lustre and feeds the mind as well as the body. 

● Keep dogs separated at meal times and avoid free-feeding. This eliminates the possibility of fighting over food and helps you monitor if and how much the foster dog is eating.

● Pick up and prevent access to all toys, bones, balls and chewies, initially. This eliminates the possibility of fighting over possessions. In a few days, once the dogs have adjusted to each other, you can slowly introduce toys. It is recommended that bones and other high-value items NOT be introduced.

● Pick up and dispose of dog waste daily. This reduces the spread of disease and parasites. 

● Learn as much as you can about pet care. Before you bring your foster Lab home, learn as much as you can about caring for that dog. Read about feeding, grooming, and training. Study the warning signs that may indicate the animal needs veterinary attention. 

Manage Your Foster Dog

Management prevents unwanted behavior from becoming a habit by removing or reducing opportunities for your foster dog to rehearse the unwanted behavior, thereby setting up an environment where your foster dog is always "right" by default. Management includes things such as puppy proofing, crate training, using a leash, using a no-pull device, etc. Management can be combined with rewards (see below) to set your foster dog up to succeed, then reward him for being correct. For example, you can use a no-pull device which causes your foster dog to walk nicely on the leash, then reward him for walking at your side. Gradually fade the tool; gradually fade the rewards.

Reward Your Foster Dog

Most of us are familiar with this aspect of training, but it's important not to limit our concept of what constitutes a reward. A reward can be anything that your foster dog wants and will work to earn. Food treats are the most obvious choice, but toys, play, praise, and petting are more desirable rewards for some dogs. A reward can also be the opportunity to do something your foster dog enjoys, such as going through an open door, playing with another dog, chasing a ball, or being allowed to join you on the couch.

These type of rewards can be very powerful and are often underutilized. By integrating real life rewards into your everyday interactions with your foster dog, you reduce the need to rely on food or other external rewards, and gain the ability to train your dog frequently, for real life situations, without a lot of extra effort or lots of gear to carry around.

If you give rewards randomly without expecting your foster dog to earn them, the rewards will become meaningless and he will no longer work for them. Why would he work if he can get rewards and privileges for free? Most of us quickly grasp this concept as it applies to food, but the same logic applies to other types of rewards. If you allow your foster dog to dash through doors at will, not only is it unsafe, but you have also just lost a potentially great opportunity to reward him for appropriate behavior. Instead, have your foster dog sit, down, or "watch me" while you open the door. Then release your dog (we use "okay!") to go through the door after he has complied with your command. How many timesdo you take your foster dog outside in a day? You've just given yourself that many opportunities to train and reward him, using just seconds of your time.