Whether you've owned dogs since childhood or you're just learning about the need for foster owners and deciding to bring a dog into your home for the first time, helping an animal in need is a truly wonderful experience. Of course, it does require some preparation. Before you bring a dog (or any pet) into your home, it is important to do the legwork to ensure you are creating a safe environment.
Decide if Fostering Is the Right Choice for You
Fostering is a rewarding experience but also a huge responsibility. Before you put in the work to foster a dog, it is important to determine if it will fit into your lifestyle well. You'll need to consider several factors, including time constraints, finances, space, and lifestyle.
Animal-Proof Your Home
Fosters tend to be especially challenging because they often come from situations where they weren't given the care or training that they needed to thrive. This means it is more important than ever to animal-proof your home before inviting a foster into it. Start by moving any medications, chemical cleaners, laundry supplies, or other dangerous substances up high enough that a dog can't reach them. If you absolutely must store these items within a foster's reach, secure the cabinets using childproof latches that paws won't be able to operate. Search each room for exposed wires that belong to your electronics, as many foster dogs will chew on them. Chewed wires mean expensive replacements and possibly expensive vet bills. If you have one room dedicated to gaming, computers, or other expensive electronics, you might even consider blocking it off with a Primetime Petz Safety Mate Extendable Dog Gate . There are other areas to puppy-proof as well:
· Close up any small spaces where smaller dogs can easily hide
Prepare Your Resident Pets
If you already have pets living in your home, you need to prepare them for the new addition(s). Remember, your resident pets were there first and are likely to feel at least a little bit territorial. The week before your foster arrives, don't schedule anything too strenuous for the dogs (or cats, or other pets) that already live in your home. Both types of stress ("good" and "bad") have the same effect on the body, so going to the vet and going to the dog park are both out the week before the foster(s) arrive. Try new toys, long walks, or simply give some extra cuddles instead. If necessary, you might also consider calmative aids. ThunderShirts, music, massage, calming treats, and even lavender oil (for dogs, not cats) are all good choices; however, never use a calming aid without first talking to your veterinarian about it. Finally, you may need to brush up on your pets' training, reminding them how important it is to listen to commands like "sit" or "go to your crate."
Purchase Your Supplies
Before your foster comes to stay with you, it is imperative to purchase the right supplies. First, you'll need dog food and treats, not to mention some special food and water bowls for your new friend. Remember, only purchase vet-recommended food or treats, as many foster dogs have special dietary needs due to lack of medical care or other issues they endured before being rescued.
Your new foster will likely want to spend plenty of time outside, which means you'll need a sturdy collar and a non-extendable leash, such as those from Barking Basics , to ensure his or her safety. Remember, you should never allow a foster dog to run free, even in a fenced in yard, as their behavior can be unpredictable due to a lack of socialization. Unfortunately, dogs do sometimes get loose, so don't forget to purchase an identification tag with his or her name and your contact information on it.
Finally, you'll need the fun stuff. Your foster pet will want a safe crate, a comfortable dog bed, and plenty of clean blankets. Don't forget to bring him or her lots of new toys. You might even want to buy a cute new outfit for your special foster pup.
Introduce the New Dog
The final step of bringing a foster dog into your home is performing the introductions. Never rush a dog into a new situation. Instead, try to introduce your foster to other pets or family members in a neutral environment, keeping all dogs on leashes during initial introductions. Remember that you'll likely need to feed your foster dog away from other dogs, and you should never leave the new addition alone with your resident pups.
Despite the work that goes into it, fostering a dog that otherwise would be living in a shelter (or worse, be euthanized due to his or her breed, a lack of space, or a lack of funding) is a rewarding experience that allows you to bond with new animals and rehabilitate them into becoming the pets they were meant to be. Of course, be aware of the "foster fail," a term that means you end up keeping your foster for yourself instead of finding him or her a new home!
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