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Fostering a dog: What you need to know

One of the most amazing things I have ever done is foster a dog. Not only are you helping to save a life, you are helping prepare a dog to live in a home and giving it the best possible chance once it’s out in the community. It’s a great way to dip your toe into the responsibilities of dog ownership, and even a great way to have a trial run with a dog that could potentially become your own.

Here is what you need to know:

  • You will want to find a really great and reputable rescue in your area to work with. Many times small rescues need the most help, but almost every rescue or shelter has room for fosters. Find an organization that is right for you, and do as much research as possible. Make sure you agree with their return policies, what they look for when adding new dogs to their organization, etc.
  • Make sure you are able to have a foster dog in your home or area. There can be rules and restrictions even if you own your property. Make sure you know your cities regulations before bringing in a foster into your home.
  • Get yourself set up as if you are bringing in a new dog into your home. Often times the rescue will provide you with the necessary items, like a crate, food, toys, etc. However, they will give you whatever they have on hand, so if you have an eye on a crate because it matches your décor or you prefer a leather leash to a nylon one, get it yourself and have it ready for your dog when she gets there.
  • Once the dog arrives, be patient and let her come to you. Usually these dogs have been in a cage for a long time or maybe out on the street, so our inclination is to want to give them love and affection however we can. By opening your home to them, you have done more than most people can. Your new foster might not want to cuddle or get on the couch with you right away. She will likely want to check out her surroundings and give you some space so she can assess what’s happening. Giving a new dog time and space in your home is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
  • If the rescue or shelter you are working with has a trainer on staff, ask about setting up a lesson. Every behavior you teach your foster helps get her into a new home. Don’t just wait for something to go wrong. Learn to teach your foster dog all the basic commands, how to walk on leash, and relaxing techniques in a home.
  • Remember that you are incredibly awesome for doing this in the first place. If for any reason you ever doubt yourself, remember that you saved this dog’s life and are helping make a huge impact in the rescue community.

Your first foster will likely be one of the most rewarding and amazing things you do. You might bond with this dog as if it’s your own. You might even cry when it goes off to its new adoptive home. That all means you are doing everything correctly and provided one of the best homes possible. 

Of course, you can also have the opposite experience. Sometimes you can’t bond with the dog for whatever reason, or they are incredibly hard to manage. There is no shame in having trouble with your foster dog either. Use your rescue organization as a resource and find a reputable trainer in your area, if necessary. And remember, no matter what, giving your home to another living being is a hugely impactful experience, even if it is only temporary.

Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA, is the founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent recruitment and services organization dedicated to the pet industry.

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