Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fostering. First, the basics.

One of the most important ingredients to a successful foster experience is your partnership with the group that you work with. These are the people who will - ideally - support you during the weeks and months that you have your dog. You should never feel alone with this big project, so make sure the group you hope to help has a good track record with solid adoptions and that they take matching foster dogs to foster homes as seriously as they take creating those final adoptions. Using drama and desperation to find homes shows up in some rescue circles, but it's not a sustainable way to do business. Avoid drama junkies.

It's a good idea to look over a group's foster home contract in advance to make sure you like what you see. Will they help you with obedience training? Vet care? Your family vacations? How will they problem solve and promote?

In return for being a good support system for you, your group will want to know that you're willing to follow their guidelines and instructions and that you'll be good about communicating questions and concerns that will undoubtedly come up along the way. No question is stupid - really. Ask, ask, ask.

An experienced group will want to get to know you, your lifestyle and your skill level before giving you a dog to foster. They'll want to see if your personal dog has good manners and if he's comfortable with sharing his home. (Your dog doesn't have to be friends with your foster dog - but he should tolerate its presence. More on that later.) They'll also want to make sure that everyone in your household is okay with the project and willing to participate in some way, especially, with double-checking those doors and gates, and reinforcing the new house manners you'll be teaching the dog.

These are some beginning need-to-knows offered to us by BR trainer Linda Chwistek. Linda is usually repping 1-3 dogs for BR. That means she's over-seeing the details of 'her' dogs' progress and making herself available to the foster homes as questions come up. Anyone who fosters with Linda learns a ton about dog training - lucky them.

  • The dogs coming from shelters often smell bad and have fleas. You aren't getting a shiny coated, well mannered, clean house pet. You will be proud when you make him one.·
  • Fostering can be long term so be ready to make a commitment. It's fun, it’s rewarding, but it can take time to find the right match for your foster.
  • Know you own pets and their needs. If your personal dog is 15 and wobbly, let us know so we can match up a dog that will be suited to yours.
  • Just because your dog doesn't chase cats doesn't mean a foster won't initially think that’s a fun game. Let us know if you have a cat, make sure your foster has been cat tested, and follow introduction instructions (We'll get back to those -- promise)
  • The dogs coming from shelters often have kennel cough. And sometimes they get sicker before they get better. It'll go away, but come up with a plan to keep the KC germs away from your personal dogs until your foster is well.
  • Fosters might develop a behavior you find odd or interesting. You may find tail chasing cute, but it can be an obsessive behavior that has to be handled. Always bring up any new or odd behaviors. They could signal health issues or a behavior that needs to be addressed with training.
  • Let you neighbors know you have a foster and if possible, have them see/meet him. If he inadvertently gets out, they may recognize him.

    More later!
    Above: Christine Allen and her son Sam. This family fostered Vick dog 'Teddles' until he found his home. Photos: Carol Guzy, Washington Post.

    Anonymous said...

    This is really great info. Thanks so much! I hope someday soon that I will be in a position to foster.

    pitbull friend said...

    Good points, all. I would add that letting your neighbors know that you foster brings added good will (in case, for instance, there's a little bit of barking) and possible adoptions. My next-door neighbor adopted a foster from me a couple of years ago - I love seeing her in their yard!

    mteacup said...

    Thank you so much for doing this. Many rescue groups are under staffed, over worked and just don't have time for documenting and training. Hoping this helps!

    leigha said...

    wonderful info. thanks so much for being so informative. when i am able to foster i will make sure i do all my research.

    Boris said...

    Hey Sam,

    I'm surprised Ted-baabbyy hasn't chimed in on the comments. Your family is the best of fosters. He and I owe yours so much for helping us adjust and prepare for our forever world.

    Your mom's lessons list should include that foster dogs manners might need honing. Like they MIGHT chew-up something of value. O.K. I don't know what Teddles got into, but I know I owe you a baseball bat. Let my folks know when you sign-up for T-ball.

    Hope your mom has a case or you'd consider a trip near our Lone Star, as I'd would so like to visit with you again to show you how good I'm doing.

    I'll check-back soon,
    always your

    Anonymous said...

    Hello ... from a fellow foster family. We are fostering a troubled pittie through a rescue group in S.F. They have been there for us every step of the way.. but please let me say.. phew!! what hard work. What all of you do is amazing & thank god we have an old school BADRAP dog in house to show this little beast what is up! Having a second, very well behaved, older dog to show the new little trouble-doggie what is up is Key. This has been an adventure & thank you to badrap for the perfect example you have set to us all.

    Nancy said...

    This is great info! I have fostered three times and wound up keeping two out of my three fosters, and then stopped fostering because I was up to owning 5 dogs! Any advice on how to keep from getting attached to fosters?? Fostering is such an incredibly valuable gift to give, I just wish I were stronger to let them go!

    Anonymous said...

    ha, wish i could give advice to nancy above, but i've kept 5 fosters! i just don't want to give them up once they've acclimated and everyone gets along. so unfortunately i can no longer foster as i'm at my mental and legal limit. all my fosters are from different groups and i have to honestly say i was pretty much left to my own devices from the first second i took the animal, so be careful who you foster for.