Fostering a dog, taking a dog into your home and providing it with shelter and care for a predetermined amount of time, or until a forever home is found, is one of the most rewarding things a dog person can do. 

If you’re not familiar with how dog fostering works, you might be a little worried about the time commitment and emotional strain of caring for an unfamiliar dog and then letting it go.

Here’s how to tell if you’re ready to try fostering:

  • You want to help transform a shelter dog into a pet, and help another family find the right dog for their home.
  • You’ve been thinking about getting a dog but you’re not sure you’re ready for the lifelong emotional and financial commitment, and you want to get some practice while helping dogs in need.
  • You want to give your current dog some canine companionship.
  • You have space in your home and schedule to accommodate a temporary canine guest and give her the attention she needs.

If you nodded in understanding at more than one of the above reasons, you might be ready to foster!

Shelters typically foster out dogs who are too stressed out by the shelter environment or need more individual attention than the shelter can provide (including puppies who are too young to be adopted).

The most common reasons foster homes are needed are:

  • The shelter is overcrowded, and placing dogs in foster care frees up space to save more dogs.
  • The rescue group wants to learn more about a dog’s personality and behavior in a home setting.
  • A young, energetic dog needs to learn some basic manners before being made available for adoption.
  • A shy or timid dog needs a safe place to come out of her shell.
  • A dog is recovering from illness or injury.
  • A senior or sick dog needs loving hospice care.
  • The rescue or shelter is being affected by a natural disaster, and a foster home is safer.

Of course, there are also foster-based rescue groups that don’t work out of a facility, but instead rely on foster homes to shelter and care for dogs.

For these groups, foster homes provide the necessary caregiving, training, and assessment to help dogs find forever homes, and are a vital aspect of their lifesaving work.

The main function of a foster home is to provide a safe, loving home environment. For the most part, this entails caring for your foster as you would care for your own dog: offering food, affection, socialization, and exercise to keep the dog happy and healthy.

As a doggy foster parent, you may also be asked to:

  • Transport the dog to and from adoption events.
  • Participate in obedience training at home and/or in classes.
  • Report back to the shelter/rescue workers with information about the dog’s personality and behavior.
  • Speak with potential adopters to tell them about your foster dog and help determine if they are a good match.

Your time and commitment level can vary depending on your schedule and the rescue group’s needs, and when you start fostering, the rescue will help match you with a dog that suits your lifestyle and home. First-time fosters can get their feet wet with “easier” dogs; the more invested and experienced in fostering you become, the more willing and able you may be to take on challenges.

No matter what kind of dogs you foster, all foster homes provide the valuable service of socializing a dog and getting to know its personality. Your relationship with the dog is key information in helping find its forever home.

You may wonder, do you get paid to foster animals? Keep in mind most rescues are working within a tight budget, and fostering is one of the most helpful and rewarding volunteer positions you can provide.

Foster programs prioritize the needs of the dog and try to make sure foster homes have all the resources they need to be successful, from food to leashes and a crate to veterinary care and training.

You won’t make any money fostering dogs, but you will be hugely rewarded in playtime, snuggles, and the indescribable feeling of knowing you are helping to save a life.

The important thing to remember is that fostering saves lives, and by letting your foster dog go to a forever home, you free up space for another dog in need.

In time, the saying goodbye part gets easier, and the feeling of helping a dog find its forever home gets addictive.

Acknowledgement – www.tears.org.za. If you have any questions about fostering or would like to get more information, contact TEARS at puppies@tears.org.za

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