Sunday, September 6, 2009

Part-Time Dogs: The Facts about Fostering

Part 1: So You Love Dogs, and You’re Thinking about Fostering

Fostering is a wonderfully rewarding way to help animals in need of rescue, but you must be ready for the challenges. The following bullets cover important considerations a family should address before deciding to become a foster. This is the first in a three-part series that will take you through the process of becoming a good foster parent.

1. Would your home be good for a foster?
Foster dogs have a variety of different needs, so rescue organizations need a variety of different homes. Having children, other animals, or even living in an apartment does not necessarily disqualify you from becoming a foster. If you are a renter, you need to have consent from your landlord. You usually need a fenced-in yard, and everyone in the home should be committed to caring for the foster.

2. Do you have enough time to care for a foster?
While it can sometimes be stressful, fostering should generally be an enjoyable experience. If adding a foster dog to your life is going to put such constraints on you that you become unhappy, you shouldn’t do it! Depending on the breed, you’ll need to allocate time for a long walk at least three times a day, as well as time for other dog-fun activities (don’t forget cuddle time, too!).

3. Will a foster dog be a financial burden?
Rescue organizations normally pick up the costs for foster dog medical care, but that is where the financial assistance ends. Fosters are responsible for providing food, treats, toys, bedding, and whatever else the dog might need. Don’t forget the cost of a dog walker if you work all day – it’s not healthy for the dog to be crated for long periods of time without a break. These costs aren’t immense, but you should be aware of them.

4. How will your other pets feel about foster dogs?
Some dogs and cats would love a playmate while others prefer to be left alone. Some animals will learn to tolerate the revolving door of new additions to your home, but if your current pet is truly a loner, it is important to respect that pet’s feelings.

5. Are you prepared to take them in, and then let them go?
“Foster failure,” when the foster ends up adopting their foster animal, is a relatively common occurrence, but it can’t happen with every foster because then you would have a farm. To be a good foster, you must be able to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with connecting a family and an animal for the betterment of both.

6. What is your vision of a “foster dog?”
Sometimes you’ll get lucky with the perfect dog. However, they are not all potty trained. Some bite. Others have the worst gas you have ever smelled. Almost every foster dog, even if he came from a good home, will keep you up during the first few nights as you try and figure each other out. A few nights may be all there is before the dog goes to his forever home, but it could also be months. Are you ready for it?

Foster dogs can be fun, loving, playful temporary companions, but they can also be a lot of work. Almost any organization will allow you to give them a preference for foster dogs according to your specific needs, but even with a perfect fit you’ll need to have patience as the dog adjusts to your home. Before following your heart into taking a dog into your home, please be sure to check-in with your brain to ensure that you, your family, and your other pets are truly ready (that goes for adopting “forever” dogs, too!).

The next article in this three-part series is entitled “I’ve Decided to Foster… Now How Do I Get a Dog?” It discusses the different types of organizations needing fosters and what to do with your foster dog once you get one.

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