Guidelines for First-Time Foster Homes:
1. Thank you! For offering your time and home to foster a dog in need. We appreciate it and without you, we could not help these dogs!
2. You’re not on your own! We know you’ve had previous experience with dogs and are willing to roll with what comes, but a foster dog can bring challenges and surprises, and we’re here to help you along the way. Let us know if you have questions/problems.
3. We value your input! We do as much as possible to find out about the dog before accepting it into the program, from surrendering owners, shelter workers, and principally our own temperament assessment. But that’s not always a complete picture and you, living with the dog, are an invaluable resource we rely on too. Your observations about the dog - everything from its general behaviour, training level, likes/dislikes, energy patterns, interactions with people and other animals, how well he walks on leash, how well he travels in car, eating habits, etc. – all help us to choose the best adoption match and give us information to pass on to the adopting family. So keep us informed even if you’re not having problems (if you can, make us some notes!).
4. Adjustment Problems: Fostering requires patience and tolerance. Even a well-behaved and well-trained dog can have problems adjusting to a stranger in a strange house, especially in the first few days, such as accidents from stress or simply not being sure where and how to exit the house to do his business. He may not be willing to go in front of you (if dogs have been scolded for going), or may be afraid to go without you. He may not want to go out on his own for fear of abandonment outside, so you might have to go out with him for awhile until he’s ready to do so on his own. Either way, praise him for going for the first few days to reinforce house training from the start. He may also have changed food and have diarrhea or vomiting from this, or from stress, loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, or anxiety. He may have destructive behaviour or separation anxiety. Don’t expect too much too fast, you have to take some cues from the dog and take it in stride. If problems are severe or last longer than 2 days, call us to discuss.
5. Be cautious at all times and in all circumstances until the dog has been adopted. No matter how well-behaved or trustworthy the dog appears to be, every dog is unknown to some extent & always err on side of assuming there’s a risk in introducing the dog to people, especially children and other animals. Apart from concern for safety and welfare of all concerned, we are non-profit and don’t have money to spare, we can’t afford avoidable medical, property damage, or other costs. Specifically, don’t let the dog go off-leash except in your own fenced yard (including a friend’s yard if there’s a dog off leash). Don’t take him into a leash-free park - if he is injured by, or injures another dog or person, we may be held responsible. Don’t leave the dog unattended with people, especially children. It is usually best not to take the dog to other houses until you have established a reasonable continuity with the dog yourself (varies with age and training of dog).
6. We value your help in training the dog if needed! Even if the dog is only with you a short time, you can make a difference - just teaching a puppy to sit and give paw helps adopters see the potential in the dog. If you observe behaviour problems, give us a call. If the dog is crated at night, while you’re out, or for rest periods, don’t use the crate as punishment. Instead, give him a time-out in a room or outside. Don’t crate or isolate the dog for excessive periods (dependent on age of
dog, call us for guidelines), and be sure to let us know if you are needing to do so. Some dogs have come to us from situations where they were over crated or isolated, with resulting behaviour problems that may increase in severity.
7. The “4-day & 21-day rules”: Day 4 is generally when you will start to see the “real” dog’s personality begin to emerge as his confidence in his new environment grows and he’s had a chance to recharge. This may be longer for dog who is elderly or has known health or behavioural issues. Don’t assume you “know” the dog or have seen it all and relax your authority or routines too quickly. For longer-term fosters, the 21-day “rule” is another milestone. It applies to both behaviour & health issues, for example an 11-year-old foster in poor health from neglect can take a few weeks to be able to go 8 hours at night without an accident, but by 8 weeks, could go over 10 hours.
8. Leaving Him Home Alone: Protect the dog from accidents (like stairs) and protect your property from damage by the dog. If the dog is used to being crated, then do so for reasonable periods. If crating is not an option, leave him in a closed room or area of your house such as an interior hall where he can move around but not access other areas of house. (Use a different area than for time-outs so the dog doesn’t associate you going out with him being disciplined.) The dog should be able to see you’ve gone out but don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home (which can increase separation anxiety). If you have other animals, separate them while out no matter how well they seem to get along while you’re there. You can’t be sure how they’ll be when you’re out.
9. Car Travel: Crating the dog is the safest for all concerned but if it's not possible, restraining in place with leash may be an option. However the bottom line is, until you know how they are in the car, don’t risk an accident from a dog climbing all over you or distracting you. Experiment in the driveway or with a short trip around the block. Even if well-behaved in the car, some turn into escape artists the minute you open a door, so it is advisable to keep the leash on the dog in car so you have something to grab. If you have a garage, a good precaution is to only allow the dog in and out of car within closed garage. Do not leave the dog unattended in the car or with children.
10. Veterinary Care: Our dogs have either seen a vet within reasonable time before surrender and we have their records, and /or we arrange to take them upon surrender. If the dog appears to have an additional medical issue that you feel we should address please advise. Do not take the dog to a vet on your own; all veterinary care must be pre-approved as to the vet and anticipated expense. If you have a veterinary emergency, make your best efforts to reach the contact that you
have been provided immediately. Secondly, if in your judgment the dog is in imminent distress, don’t wait, get him in and try to reach us before anything beyond first aid emergency treatment is carried out.
11. Getting Too Attached and/or Wanting to Adopt: It happens! You wouldn’t be fostering if you didn’t love dogs! It’s understandable, but we do need you and so do the dogs, so try to resist because it happens too often that fosters want to adopt the first dog they foster and then stop fostering. Occasionally it happens that a foster doesn’t want to adopt but can’t quite
“let go” when decisions have to be made about placements. So, if you have been thinking about adopting “if the right dog comes along”, then it’s a good idea to write down your idea of the “right dog” now and look at it again if you find yourself wavering. It also helps to focus your thinking on what you are doing for the dog’s life and not what the dog is doing for your life. There is no shortage of dogs; there is always another one waiting for a foster home, wait for the right one to adopt. If you can make it past the first dog, you’ve won a big victory in the attachment battle, and it gets easier as you begin to experience a variety of dogs coming and going. If that perfect fit does come along please do let us know!
12. Finding An Adopter: Spread the word but please remember that’s our job. Please feel free to spread the word you are fostering an amazing foster dog and it may be available for adoption. You can encourage anyone interested to apply via the
on-line application but remain non-committal. As you know, we place dogs on a match basis and there may be reasons related to the dog’s history why a home that seems right to you might not be.