This post is filled with everything you need to know about how, and why, you should foster a dog.
We’re all familiar with the concept of fostering children, but fostering a dog? Not so much! Below you will find details explaining what fostering is, and why you should do it!
The importance of fostering
You will offer the warmth, love, comfort and attention they wouldn’t get in kennels, and may never have known before. You may also be the difference between life and death for that dog, and that is a feeling you can’t describe.
Fostering from a shelter
Even though the animals have a place to live, there are many reasons why fosters are need.
Some dogs have a much harder time then others adapting to life in a cage, and can suffer psychologically. If the problem becomes too severe, they will be killed. These dogs stand a better chance if awaiting adoption in a home.
Dogs with behavioural issues will benefit from one on one training, something they won’t get in a shelter.
Senior dogs who have spent their entire lives with a family, may have a particularly difficult time adapting to being abandoned in a strange, and noisy environment.
Illness, post surgery or those needing medication require more time, attention and one on one care, than shelter staff can usually give.
Some dogs have never had the opportunity to live in a home before, and sadly it’s hard to find people willing to take that on. A foster parent can teach him, socialise him, and make him a more attractive candidate for adoption.
Senior, or special needs dogs that have very little chance of ever finding a home, don’t deserve to spend their final days alone. Offering to foster means they will have a chance at happiness.
When a dog enters a shelter very little, if anything, is ever known about them. They’re put in a kennel and that’s often it. While this isn’t true for every shelter, it is true for most. This leaves little or no chance to get to know the personality of the dog, their temperament, how they are with other dogs, cats, kids… Being in foster care will give staff that crucial information, increasing the chances of a successful match.
When shelters start running out of room, the kill facilities just start killing. Having said that, the truth is most never stop, and kill even when cages are empty. Fostering may reduce the number of dogs losing their lives for no reason.
Fostering from a rescue group
- Most rescue groups do not have brick and mortar buildings, so rely on foster homes to help them save lives.
- There are plenty of groups that specialise in rescuing seniors from shelters and abusive home lives, and commit to helping them find loving homes.
- These groups can only rescue as many dogs as they have homes to put them in. Sadly, with foster homes in short supply, they are often so desperate, they end up having to pay a fortune to board them. It’s a shame because that money could be put to better use – veterinary care, food…
Consider fostering rather than adopting
Perhaps this is your first experience with a dog, and although you know you really want one, you’re not sure how he will fit into your life. Fostering is a great way to try it, see how you handle the added responsibility, and if you really have room in your life. Having said that, a dog is not like a sweater you try on and then return. You have to be quite sure, but discuss that with the organisation, and perhaps foster a dog that only needs short term care.
You’ve had dogs your whole life, but now feel you’re getting too old for a commitment that may last many years. Another ideal situation for a foster parent to help an older, less active dog. It will give him a warm place to lay his head, and will do both of you a world of good.
Finances are not what they should be, and we all know how expensive it is to care for a dog, never mind a senior who may have health issues. Outrageous vet bills are one example!! You really miss the companionship though. Most groups and shelters pay for everything. Of course if you have a little money to buy his food or contribute something towards medical care, that would be a great help.
You love taking vacations, but don’t like to leave your dog, so you haven’t been away in quite some time. Calculate how many weeks, or months you have until you’re off on your next adventure, and foster within that time frame.
What fostering entails
Fostering means you agree to take in a homeless dog, care for him, love him, train him, give him attention – do everything you would do for one you adopted.
The main differences are: expenses are usually covered; he isn’t technically yours so you need approval before you can take him away with you, or treat him and expect to be reimbursed.
Where do the dogs come from?
Shelters get them from owner surrenders, abuse cases, strays people bring in…
Rescue groups usually pull them from high kill shelters and animal control facilities, but they also bring in strays and dogs dumped by their owners.
Finding a dog to foster
- Contact shelters, animal control facilities and rescue groups in your area.
- If you can’t find one in your area that has a foster program, or you weren’t happy with the reception you got, widen your search.
- Distance isn’t necessarily an issue. Some groups have volunteer drivers who may be able to deliver the dog to you, or at least meet you half way.
Trust me when I tell you, there are amazing people out there who will welcome you with open arms. So if your first experience is less than positive, don’t be discouraged, keep looking.
What to expect from the fostering process
- Typically the first step involves completing an application form. Once that’s done they may call you, or have you come in for a chat. They will also want to see the home environment their dog will be going to.
- Some people get annoyed by home visits, but you should be happy about it. It proves just how much they care about doing what’s best for the dog. They don’t know you, and there are too many horror stories for them to take risks with the lives in their care.
- Once everything has been approved, they will find you the dog they feel will be the best match.
- Details of what’s to be expected from you should be given, and all instructions clear. Make sure you always have support available should you need it.
That depends on your availability, and the needs of the organisation you got your dog from.
You can apply to be an emergency foster – that means they may call you at the last minute because they have an emergency situation.
Offer to be vacation cover for a foster parent. You would only need to care for the dog while the foster parent is away.
There are also opportunities to foster for a few weeks, months, or the dog’s entire life.
In my experience, whatever time you can offer, there is a dog in need you can help.
You decide how much time you’re willing (able) to give, and they’ll find you the right dog. Please be realistic, and don’t feel obligated to commit to longer than you would like. You’ll be doing more harm than good by not being honest.
Most places pay for everything (food, medication, veterinary care…), so it won’t cost you a penny.
However, since these shelters and groups rely on the generosity of the public for donations, it’s always appreciated if you cover some of the costs – look at it as a donation. Maybe you can even get a tax receipt for your outlay.
Many people worry they may not be suitable because: they have kids; live in an apartment; are older; don’t have a lot of time…
Don’t let what you think are deterrents, prevent you from looking into fostering.
Wanting out of your commitment
Everyone understands life happens, and it may happen that you are unable to fulfil the entire commitment you made.
Make sure you know, in advance, what the policy is in these circumstances. Another foster home will need to be found, but please understand it may take some time.
If at all possible, don’t notify them 10 minutes before you have to bring the dog back. It’s hard enough finding one foster home, so give them as much advance notice as you can.
You have fallen in love with your foster dog, now what!
I understand, because I am what is known as a “foster failure.” Any cat or dog I have fostered, has never left my house. I fall in love with them, worry their next home may not be as good as mine, so I just keep them.
As long as everything went well, and you meet their adoption requirements, there’s no reason why you can’t adopt him.
The thing is though, foster homes are in such short supply, the group you’re helping may need fosters, more than adopters. Speak to them, and see what they say. I can’t imagine they’ll pass up the opportunity of getting another dog a home.
Health risks to pets already living in the house
You should, of course, get as much of the dog’s medical history as you can before bringing him home. Your own dog should be current on all vaccinations. If the foster dog has health issues you’re concerned about, bring them up with your own vet and get his opinion.
What happens in the event your foster dog requires medical care or urgent care
That depends on the policy of the rescue group or shelter you’re fostering from, so make sure you understand theirs. You don’t want to rush the dog to the emergency hospital, only to find out that exorbitant bill won’t be covered.
If you need to take the dog to the vet, you are usually required to notify them first, so they can approve it, then consult with them about treatment and costs.
The same may hold true in cases of emergency, but be clear.
Are you expected to call someone in the middle of the night? What happens in the event you can’t reach anyone? Do they give you permission to take him to a 24 hour emergency hospital, and pre-authorise a set amount of money, if they can’t be reached?
Re-naming your foster pet
It’s best to keep the name given. Imagine he comes to you with one name, you change it, then it gets changed again when he’s adopted. Again, it’s up to the rescue to determine what’s best.
A few other considerations
Find out if the dog is fixed. It matters if yours isn’t, or you take him to the dog park where not every dog has a responsible owner.
Don’t bring a dog into your house that isn’t up to date on flea and heartworm treatment. A heartworm positive dog can be very difficult to treat, and a flea ridden one will quickly infest your entire home. While de-fleaing your house can be done, it is a nightmare.
Do they know how he is with other dogs, cats, kids, men, women?
If the thought of a dog peeing on your floor is more than you can take, re-consider, because even the most housebroken dog may have an accident or three in a new home. If he isn’t housebroken, can you cope? Maybe he’s paper trained. If you’re not okay that’s fine, just be honest. It isn’t fair for you to take him on, than return him for doing exactly what you knew he would do, and weren’t happy with from the beginning.
Is he okay being left alone, or does he suffer from separation anxiety?
How much support is there from members of the group, or shelter staff? Can you always reach someone in the event of an emergency?
Why you should foster an old dog – conclusion
Fostering any pet is an incredibly rewarding experience, but especially a senior. I know this first hand because I do it all the time, and I love it. You can’t match the feeling of knowing you’re changing, and saving, the life of that animal.
The most important key to fostering success, is communication between you and the group or organisation. Be clear about their expectations and your responsibilities, and honest about what you are willing, and not willing, to take on.
I hope this article on why you should consider fostering an old dog, has opened up the possibility of bringing a foster into your life!
Although this article has focused on dogs – cats, rabbits and other animals are also available for fostering.
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