Providing foster care for a dog can be a very rewarding experience, but it has its share of responsibilities as well. Between rescue organizations, service dog providers and animal shelters there is no lack of opportunity to take a dog in to your home on a temporary basis. Fostering can be an excellent way to determine if you are cut out for pet ownership, or if it is feasible to add another pet to your household.
What to Expect: Fostering a Dog
Why Does a Dog Need Foster Care?
There are many reasons that a dog may require temporary care in someone’s home. Animal shelters and rescue societies may lack sufficient facilities to house all the animals that come in to their care. So, there may be adult dogs who need fostering until they can be adopted out – this gives the organization an excellent opportunity to evaluate the dog’s temperament and activity level and to find the best forever home for him. Breed clubs also occasionally have the need for foster homes to accommodate dogs that have come in to their care. And, of course, there are service dog groups who rely on foster families to get their dogs off to the right start in their life of serving humans.
Humane societies sometimes get inundated with nursing mothers with litters of puppies. Shelters are not ideal situations for these canine families, putting the pups at risk of infection because of the number of animals moving in and out of the shelter on a daily basis. So, the joy of helping raise a litter of puppies is occasionally offered to foster homes. If the shelter has young puppies that are already weaned but not fully vaccinated there may be a call for foster homes for individual puppies.
How Long Does a Foster Assignment Last?
Time frames will vary from situation to situation. Some pets may only require fostering for a couple of weeks, while others may run on for several months. Much depends on the dog in question and his needs. You may be asked to sign a contract with the organization that you are dealing with, and that contract may have a time frame on it. But be aware that nothing is written in stone – like humans, our canine friends have varying personalities and needs that will ultimately dictate the length of the fostering commitment.
What Considerations Do I Need to Think About?
There are many things to consider prior to making the commitment to foster a dog:
- Do you have sufficient time to take a dog (or another dog) in to your home and life?
- Do you have a good physical set-up in your home for a dog? If you are asked to foster an older or ill dog is there a quiet, easily-accessed space where he can reside in your home?
- If you already have pets, how will they respond to a new member of the household?
- Are you prepared to accommodate the activity level and possible damage to property if you foster a puppy or younger dog?
What Expense is Involved in Fostering?
Usually your biggest commitment in fostering will be your time. Many animal shelters, service dog programs and rescues will provide food and veterinary care at no cost to you. If you want to provide a special bed and/or toys, that expense may fall to you. Be sure to ask what your financial responsibilities will be prior to taking on an assignment.
How Do I Choose What Kind/Age of Dog to Foster?
One wise, experienced foster Mom makes a point of taking on dogs that don’t necessarily fit in with her lifestyle or temperament. That way, she says, it is easier to let them go to their forever homes when the time comes. So, if you hate a messy house, foster a dog that is hairy and sheds a lot. Are you a couch potato? Take on a dog that needs a lot of exercise – and make the commitment to ensure he gets that exercise while he is in your care.
Although the above-mentioned tactic may make it less likely for you to fall in love with your temporary charge, thus making it easier when the time comes to let him go you might also find a dog not suited to you makes for a difficult relationship that, in the end, may not work. It’s wise to approach this question with caution and a lot of thought so that the folks you are working with can arrange the best possible match.
While fostering a dog isn’t for everyone – letting go can lead to heartache for some foster parents – it is nonetheless a great service that can provide a better life for the dog that ends up in your care. The knowledge that you have helped a dog to a happy existence will give you an ongoing case of the warm fuzzies.
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