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Advice For a New Foster Parent

This article contains tips and advice from several Foster Dogs NYC contributors, all of whom are experienced foster parents. We hope this helps new foster owners prepare for the exciting adventure of fostering a dog!

You Can Become This Dog’s Ticket to a Forever Home

By fostering a dog, you are volunteering to train, rehabilitate,exercise, groom, and whatever that dog needs in order to be the best dog they can be. How much fun is it to bring an adoptable dog into your home, and then see it move into a “forever home”? Amazing.

There are many tips when it comes to getting the word out, some of which are: Put an “Adopt Me” vest on the dog when you go on neighborhood walks, Take nice photos of your dog outside, Post to every social media page you can think of, and see if there are local adoption events you can attend with your foster dog!

You are the dog’s ticket to a great adoptive home, so get to know your foster dog well – and share, share, share!

Have Patience.

The first day might not be perfect. There will be some hiccups! Peeing on the floor … digging through the trash … awkward dog-to-dog social behavior … whining during the night … barking at every new sound … acting wary of strangers. The list goes on. But these are things that can certainly improve greatly within a mere couple weeks, depending on your available time daily and on the dog’s personality. Give the dog at least ten days before deciding if the situation isn’t working out. If your foster dog is from a shelter, and/or had a rough life, keep that in mind when expecting certain things from him/her.

Via PrestonSpeaks.com: “Some of my foster dogs have never been in a home before.  This means they don’t know all the rules our parents have carefully taught us like no stealing food from the table, no marking the couch, no chasing the cats, etc.  Ok, I admit, I don’t always follow the rules either, but I at least know them.  The foster dogs will make messes, chew up your dog toys, your parents belongings, or in our case, a couch.  Even us pets who live in the home have to have patience as well.  For example, I can’t expect them to want to play right away.  Some of them have never had toys before or they are kind of scared being in my home.”

Check With Your Roommates!

One foster mom writes, “If you live with someone, make sure they are 100% on board before bringing the dog home. The roommate can make or break the foster process.” No matter how excited you might be about a new dog coming into your home, your spouse/partner/roommate might not be a fan. It’s much better to discuss this matter with your housemate prior to bringing a dog home, than to surprise him/her with a furry bundle of joy (which they might not find so joyous). Oh, and make sure your landlord/Super will allow for a foster dog! This might take a bit of eyelash batting and friendly negotiation, but it’s good to prevent surprises.

The Rescue Group Matters

The rescue group can provide your dog with financial support, help you find a permanent home for the dog, and be there to help you the entire process from rescue to adoption in other words, they’re important. Make sure to do your research and find a rescue group who speaks to you and who’s mission seems clear and fitting to you on a personal level.

Talk to people and find out about their experiences with the group. Are you going to feel comfortable leaving the process up to them to find a great adopter? Are they going to be responsive to you and be able to support you through the foster?

Not sure where to start? Just ask us!

Have a clear idea of your limitations and capabilities

This can very well be something you learn along the way of fostering and is something that can be helpful to write down somewhere. Rescue groups are overrun with foster needs and it can be easy for them to overlook any restrictions you may have. In the long run, it allows you to keep the dog longer if they work well in your lifestyle and saves the rescue group from having to wrestle up a new home in case you are unable to keep the dog.

Know what you can handle and have a clear idea of the amount of time you have. Be clear with the group about your time and personal limitations and if you have a time deadline you have to work with.

Your dog may not go potty or eat for more than 24 hours.

The change of environment can be traumatizing for a dog. Especially since many of them may not be from the city and/or not used to being on a leash. Don’t be alarmed if your dog does not pee, poop or eat for more than 24 hours (the record my foster dogs hold is 32 hours). Just make them feel comfortable and they will definitely go when they’re ready. Please note, there is always a chance that they may have an infection or are ill, so if you feel nervous always consult the rescue group or a vet.

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Have a Doggy Friend Ready (and a Dog-Loving Human Friend!)

You may want to find a neighbor with a friendly dog who can help you with your foster. This all depends whether your foster dog is dog-friendly. If you are unsure or received instructions not to socialize your dog with other canines, please stick to those rules! If you have a feeling that your dog is great with other dogs and need an expert opinion, ask the rescue group if they can send a trainer to your home to accompany you on a doggy playdate. Says one foster mom, “Housebreaking and obedience training of rescue dogs can be achieved a lot easier with another dog. By having a dog the foster can feel comfortable around can help ease them into this new life and help you to understand how your dog is socially.”

Foster mom Sarah says, “It’s so useful to be able to ask seemingly silly questions of someone who has experience caring for dogs. Make sure you have a resource, whether it’s the dog’s rescue group, your sibling, your friend, Foster Dogs NYC, anyone whom you feel would provide you with solid advice!”

Location Scout

Find the grassy areas, the quiet areas and the fenced in areas before you have a dog. Know when the busiest time is on your street or in the park. Talk to other dog owners. Finding the quietest and grassiest areas in your neighborhood will help your dog adjust quickly. Some dogs might not know that it’s acceptable to go potty on the sidewalks of our fine city. Let them get accustomed to it slowly by taking them to grassy patches or local parks, in case they are used to this type of bathroom experience.

Saying Goodbye is Tough. But that’s no reason to avoid fostering!

One foster mom writes, “Remember the joy of getting a dog and the joy of treating yourself. It’s tough giving these dogs that you have loved and cared for to someone else. This is another reason to make a connection with the rescue group. Faith in the rescue group means faith that they can find a suitable and loving home for your foster pup. Use the love you have for the dog as power to give the dog up. Remember that feeling and excitement of getting a dog, and remember you are giving that gift to someone else!”

When you have given your foster dog to a great family, remember to treat yourself. Take yourself out for an ice cream, do happy hour with friends, go out of town and let loose! Says foster mom Cara, “If you have your own dog, spend some extra time training him/her and making them the best dog they can be with more targeted attention. Reward yourself for giving away such a wonderful gift!”

Suggested shopping list for the first time foster home

(Note:: Some items may be provided by the dog’s rescue organization)

  • Collar (Recommended: martingale)
  • Harness (Recommended: Premier Easy Walk)
  • Leash
  • Poop Bags (Recommended: biodegradable) (Cheap alternative: Reuse that collection of old grocery bags!)
  • Food (Recommended: Natural Choice & Natural Balance are generally easy on a new dog’s stomach, Wet Food)
  • Toys (Recommended: Stuff peanut butter inside a Kong rubber toy, and put in freezer overnight. Great long-lasting treat!), Rope toy, Stuffed animal toy
  • 2 bowls (Cheap alternative: use old Tupperware or old kitchen bowls)
  • Dog Bed (Cheap alternative: old towels/sweatshirt/blanket)
  • Crate (depends on the dog)

Best of luck, and let us know any additional tips or advice you’d like to share!

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