Fostering 101: Best Tips on How to Foster a Dog ~ Houston TX, Robyn Arouty Photography

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I love having dog/cat rescue & animal advocate friends from around the world on my facebook page. Recently, I posted a request for foster information to help a friend out. I’m not aware of any manuals on the subject & most of us stumble on rescue/fostering & just throw all caution to the wind. Below you will see the results of our very informative discussion!

I used to be very cautious with new fosters..I would slowly introduce them, crate them, keep them apart for the first few days for bathroom breaks etc….then I figured out I was just making it worse..I started walking the new dog in, straight through the house, not even looking at the dogs (as if I were simply bringing in new groceries) right to the backyard, leaving the leash on in case of emergency, but letting them sniff and discuss on their own…found it works in about 2.5 minutes instead of days…this was, of course, after I finally figured out how to be the alpha. They trust me to make the right decisions on who I bring in. I won’t bring in an alpha female…I know my pack wouldn’t take well…anyone else is pretty cool.”

Absolutely one day at a time. I can attest to moments of personal weakness where I felt I was being challenged beyond my capability. Have to remember there are vulnerable and frightened lives in our hands. Foster moms are human too. But we should reach out to our support system when it feels difficult. Robyn once told me, it takes a village.”

I also always leave the leash on my new fosters for 3-4 days so i can pull them off safely if a fight starts.”

Puppy proof your home even if the foster is not a puppy…expect accidents and destructive behaviour even if you have been told the dog is an angel in the house.”

 “This is interesting. The first time I fostered I was given two puppy labs with worms, I was sooo overwhelmed I’ve never fostered dogs again, just guinea pigs. I’d never had a dog with worms so I was a little freaked out, plus I have my own dog that I had to worry about. So my advice would be only take one at a time, unless you have previous experience.”

However…unless you are fostering orphans and very small pups…then more than one is easier and they will sleep through the night comforting each other! If a pup is under ten weeks old, I would rather take two! :)”

Although my housemate does it a little different. Foster usually in front garden one by one brings a dog out lets them sniff/growl/whatever, then just brings the dog in. Keeping her Hounds muzzled. But thats because of them personally, not their breeds!!”

Aside from that they live with the gang as normal. The one exception was the ancient (17yrs) terrier who lived in a cupboard for 90% of her life, she was crated overnight/intervals during the day - but that’s because she needed to gradually come around to the idea of living in a whole house, again. She loved her confined spaces though (big crate).”

Worms are transferred by poop laying in the yard and absorbed thru the pads of other dogs. Also, some dogs eat others’ poop, so you must be quick about picking it up before it becomes another’s lunch.”

Even if they are chipped, make sure they are wearing a collar & tags…a new dog especially would have no idea where they are if they got out & people are more likely to help a dog with a collar & tags.”

Set up a routine for the new dog :) It will help them feel more comfortable in the new environment plus it will help in the future with learning manners.”

I can ramble off all kinds of things. I disagree with several things that have already been said but I’m used to dealing with either the power mastiff breeds or the little territorial terrier breeds so intros are of the upmost importance. The first rule is no matter where the new incoming dog is coming from… it immediately gets a medicated bath and scrub down to kill any parasites, fungus, bacteria etc that might be contagious and then the dog is quarantined for a minimum of a week to make sure no uris (upper respitory infections). During this time I interact with the dog and access its temperament. If I feel the rest of my dogs and fosters aren’t at risk health wise then I will consider intros.

Neutral territory is best and advised and this is how I’d intro mastiffs to mastiffs. However, with the minpins they’re smaller and easier to control so I choose the next best thing. It’s always outside in the backyard, NEVER inside, never crate my dogs and let the others sniff. That’s as bad as doing intros on lead and promotes aggression. Terriers crate fighting? Not pretty. The new dog is brought outside and let to get comfortable then I’ll slowly intro the others and see how everyone reacts starting with the best tempered ones and leaving the buttheads for last. It’s a process that can take a few days depending on the dog in question.

Regarding letting the dogs fight it out and not breaking it up? That’s insane. At least with the breeds I deal with, you’d have a dead dog. Minpins with their large teeth, thin fur and skin, feisty attitude and bred instinct to kill vermin? I’m good at reading behavior and it rarely gets to that point and if it does I intervene in a heartbeat. Any more alpha or dominant ones are always crated in my absence.

Worms are no big deal and don’t bother me at all. They are all incredibly simple to treat. ALL puppies will pretty much have worms, which is why you deworm them every two weeks until they mature. As long as stools are firm then who cares? Mine automatically get broad spectrum wormer monthly including praziquantel for tapeworms, which don’t show up on fecal float exams, but they don’t have fleas anyway so its a moot point…but yet I still do it just in case. You only need to worry if the new dog has diarrhea… another reason I keep them quarantined… to make sure there is no coccidia/guardia/bacterial infection etc.

I’ve had all the above though and it’s easy to control as well. You just don’t want to spread it to your noninfected dogs. But if the worms are the only thing that freaked you out, then try fostering again. It’s all normal and can be kinda gross when they expel them but its a good thing cause you know the puppy is getting healthier. Now, im assuming they were expelling roundworms after being medicated. If they werent medicated and they had worms in their fecal matter then it was probably tapeworms, in which case they need praziquantel. but since the tapeworms come from fleas you’ll want to take care of the flea issue first. There are several reputable rescues that would love to have a foster and if they don’t work with you and educate you on what to expect and make you feel confident about your fostering abilities, then find a different group :)

Training… I train them not to chew the woodwork and destroy the phone charger or shred the duvet. I heartworm treat them, spay/neuter, fix broken legs and burnt bodies. The last thing I care about is if the dog can sit or walk well on a leash. That’s the adopter’s responsibility, as well as house training. I crate train and they’re typically house trained at my house, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pee at your house. Most dogs go back to square one as they adjust into a new environment and routine and I never tell adopters that they’re house trained even if they are, because i know they won’t have the same sleep/wake/ feed/ potty schedule that I have.

Regarding dogs bolting out the front door… Minpins are escape artists and I think fosters should take all precautions to keep this from happening. My known bolters get crated prior to my going anywhere near the front door… and the foremost thing that I teach is the recall. If I call you, you better come running! Even if I’m totally pissed, I’m going to sound all happy and give them kissies and cookies cause that’s their reward for coming when I call. No chasing, it’s not a game. I call, you come. It’s typically for their own safety. OK, I’m going to stop rambling now. I’m supposed to go look at a couple dogs at BARC.”

Worms are pretty standard with most any dog…untreated some can cause anemia & other problems, but they are SO easy to treat. I have had dogs packed full of worms that transform in no time. Robyn, remember little Joey?? He was so full of worms, had sarcoptic mange and didn’t have any hair ~~ in no time he was a beautiful blue gray boy with a big white flash on his chest…now livin’ large in Baton Rouge.”

About worms: If you can see the worms, they are tape worms - from fleas - pretty harmless but icky. Two pills and they are gone.”

Everyone has to learn fostering themselves. There really isn’t a book that says

here’s how you do it.” Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) each dog is different. You just have to figure out how to deal with the situation. Unless a dog is dominant aggressive and a danger to your life, most things can be dealt with by being the “calm assertive” leader. And, honestly, what works for one person may not work for another. A key concept to understand is that dogs also pick up on YOUR emotions in a huge way. If you are a nervous, anxious person, the dog will likely be nervous and anxious.”

I don’t foster, but I rescued two dogs several months apart. Dog One decided to put Dog Two in his place by telling him he was not welcome on the bed even though Dog Two was 4 times his size. As the pack leader, I decided to back him up on that one - after all he was here first. It helped established a social heirarchy very quickly. Dog One felt secure and unthreatened. Dog Two was glad to know his place. That created a peaceful space with rules that everyone understood. Now they are best friends and they both sleep on the bed with me.”

Socialize! Take the foster everywhere you can so that they’re exposed to many things. This gives you an idea about whether they’re good with kids, other dogs/cats, and what could potentially cause an issue. My ultimate goal is that all my fosters are placed in forever homes and I’ve found that I can match potential adopters to a dog if I know as much as I can about it’s behavior.”

Think of a foster (or any pet new to you) as a visitor from another country. He doesn’t understand your spoken language and quite often, your body language. Take it slow and expect mistakes to happen. Give them time to learn all these new words and routines. They want to fit in…the pack is how they survive, and their success at that now depends on you and they know it. It’s scary…imagine knowing that your life is in a total stranger’s hands and they don’t speak your language.”

When they get adopted, make sure the new family knows some of the words and other things you have taught your foster :) ”

Don’t expect the dog/cat to be perfect. Fostering is not easy and sometimes you have to put in a lot of work to help make the dog adoptable. Take it one baby step at a time. Make sure you know your limits before you commit to fostering an animal because the rescue will be put in a tough spot if something goes wrong.”

Keep high value treats out of the equation for a couple of weeks. Let the new dog and existing dogs negotiate the relationship before introducing any high value treats (food treats) into a group setting. Giving them when training is fine, but just as a family sitting around, introducing chewables is dangerous.”

I think people can learn a lot from the two week shutdown method and/or tweak it to suit their own foster dog:

                            http://www.nhpbr.org/two_weeks.html

I’ve had all types of foster dogs but what I do with each one is not feel sorry for them or humanize them. That is the number 1 mistake you can make. Dogs live in the moment, they arent thinking about the person who abused or neglected them. I can be sad about their history, yes who wouldn’t, but we start over with day 1 of their new life and the nothing in life is free method is implemented immediately. Tough love and structure = happier and more stable dogs because all the pressure is off of them to be alpha and make decisions for you.”

There are some that don’t believe in giving Bordatela every 6 months..they say it’s over doing the vaccines especially since there are so many different strains that are not covered in the vaccine.”

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