“What to expect when fostering:
Excitement with reservations, especially if it’s your first time fostering.
Laughter and happiness. Sometimes tears and sadness.
Fulfilment and satisfaction. Frustration and bewilderment.
The joy of helping a needy animal. The heart wrench when they leave.
What NOT to expect when fostering:
A 100% well behaved, fully trained animal
Most come with a few issues, but not all of them. This is due to their background and desertion by former owners. Some animals have been strays, some have come from a home where an owner has died. Some are, to put it bluntly, throw aways from our disposable society.
Don’t expect immediate rewards, rehabilitation can take a long time. However, the joy of an animal responding to you, coming out of it’s shell, and growing fitter and stronger, certainly, in my opinion, outweighs the sadness that can sometimes occur.”
“Our first and second fosters were very young puppies. It was great to have pups in the house again, and it gave our 2 older resident dogs a second childhood again! Our third foster was a young, troubled dog.
She had been abandoned as a young pup and then treated badly in her first home. We took our 2 dogs to meet her at the rescue centre a couple of times to get to know each other which went well, so the next day I brought her home. As opposed to the puppies we’d brought home, this one was clearly unsettled and not sure about anything.
Being nervous, untrusting and defensive, I brought her into the house on lead, removed it when the front door was shut with no talking, no fussing, just quietness. Our two dogs sniffed Holly and invited her to play, but Holly just sat by the front door, quiet and carefully checking out her surroundings. I let her be and carried on with normal duties, like making a cup of tea.
After 10 minutes or so, Holly began sniffing the hallway, gradually venturing deeper into the home and eventually out into the garden where the 2 resident dogs awaited their new friend. It took a while, but she was soon licking them and following them around the house.
Fostering rescues without a history, also comes with ups and downs. The downs are that you never quite know what their worries and concerns are, many dogs arrive with you with the weight of the world on their shoulders and you have to show them they can trust humans again.
Despite this, the rewards are huge. I often look back at video footage I took of Holly when she’d been with us for just a few weeks, her tail was still firmly under her belly, her head down, eyes wide and ears back. Then, fast forward to footage of a couple months later, and the transformation was almost unbelievable! To know you have made a dogs life happier and allowed them to be found a forever-home is just wonderful.”
“I have been fostering on and off or a few years now. I have my own dogs so they have to be able to get on with my dogs. Mine are greyhounds / lurchers so quite laid back. That means that lots of foster dogs are too high energy for a long term stay but short term is fine.
We have had a greyhound, lurcher, rottie, staffies, staffie x’s. They have stayed anything from a few days to through a month to forever. Some couldn’t mix much with mine but most live as part of the family.
It is easy to become attached but also lovely to see them in their new home. I always cry when they go but it is happy tears too. Fostering is a privilege and I am happy that I am in a position to foster still. Of course some days especially early on you wonder what you have done but support is usually available from the rescue and many online sites too.
But you make it through and even if it doesn’t work out with that particular dog then you have tried. I have 3 of my own dogs so if there is a personality clash or the foster doesn’t get on with them then they have to find another placement or go back to kennels. But even when it goes wrong you still form a bond with that dog and are especially keen to see their progress and new home.
Most of the dogs I walk I would bring home if circumstances were right but many need an only dog household or just a dog of the opposite sex.
One thing I would say is don’t be disheartened if a rescue doesn’t seem enthusiastic about your offer. Many need you to fill in a form first and are often so busy helping the dogs that they forget some of the niceties. Follow the procedures and they will find you a good match if they can. But remember the dog you like the look of to foster may not be the one best suited to your circumstances. Also long term foster can mean long term, even a year in some cases or it may be a few days and suddenly their home arrives.
Expect the unexpected with foster dogs – keep an open heart and an open mind, follow the advice you are given and you won’t go far wrong.
Obviously it is best if a dog never sees a rescue kennel and goes straight into foster but often this is not possible. I also see the other side with kennelled dogs. I walk kennelled dogs for rescues and see so many dogs who would blossom given the chance of a foster home. But in kennels they don’t progress so much and are much less homeable.
Even a short foster placement of a few weeks can show how a dog lives in a home environment and often it can be so different to their kennel personality. Most people with dogs can imagine how distressed and frustrated their own dog would be without proper walks and company but a foster home can offer a respite and a chance to shine to a dog who must live like this for months on end.”
“Ceire – Failed Foster, dog no.1
Our first foster dog was an akita, and we failed. Looking back I don’t know what possessed us, but there was just something about her that touched us and we felt she deserved a home and couldn’t possibly have said goodbye to her. Over the first week she snuck upstairs and ate chocolate buttons from my handbag, repeatedly wriggled through the dog guard in the car and ate my lunch on the front seat, twice chewed holes in my car seats and seatbelts, slipped her collar at a petrol station and took an increasing dislike to other dogs. She ate her way through books and post and any plastic she could get her teeth into.
Two years on she is unrecognisable and the chewing has completely stopped – my books and the car are now safe, and I can leave my chocolate buttons where I like without worry. She knows all her basic commands and more and is a pleasure to live with. She still has issues around unfamiliar dogs but we saw a behaviourist who gave us the tools to manage this. Turns out she just needed some continuity and firm boundaries in her life and has now settled completely. Our hard work and dedication to her has been rewarded a million times over by being able to see the changes in her week by week. When relatives notice it too, or when people comment on her good behaviour in the street we are glowing with pride.
Marley – Failed Foster, dog no.2
I started visiting kennels to walk our second foster after an appeal was made for someone to come forward and get him out of kennels, where he was very stressed and losing a lot of weight. He was instantly a pleasure to be around and extremely obedient. We became fond of each other very quickly and I asked the rescue if we could take him on foster with us for the Summer. If it worked out well and our female dog and he continued to get along, we’d consider adopting him properly.
We were extremely fortunate and encountered no real problems at all – he was very good at recall and with other dogs and would do exactly what we told him. So he spent his days with us at the outdoor business we were running being fussed by our customers and enjoying long walks both during and after work. He lost a lot of his wariness over that time and only very loud noises or very sudden movements scared him.
At home, he hated being lifted and bathed but each time he grew more comfortable with the whole process. He started to relax around us and to sleep upside down in his bed with one paw in the air, and getting him to eat became less of a struggle and he put on much-needed weight. He really loved his toys but we had to be careful around our other dog as she sometimes got jealous and tried to take the toy – so seperate playtimes were introduced and he always took a ball when we went for a walk. He learnt to ‘find it’ on command when we or a customer hid a toy somewhere and loved having his tummy rubbed by whoever he could find to do it!
We adopted him a year and a half ago and can’t imagine life without him. He is still gaining weight slowly but surely, but his coat is now tangle free (most of the time!) and glossy. He and our other dog now play chase together and only very rarely have disagreements. He has bonded well with all of our family and our niece regularly walks him to school (under close supervision) although he remains firmly ‘Mummy’s boy’ at heart!
Tom – Successful Foster, dog no.3!
Our oldie foster – this time we didn’t fail although we’d have loved to! We visited the kennels and met this old gent, around 9 or 10 years old and very shabby looking, stinking to high heaven. Instantly we knew he’d fit in with our two dogs and after introductions he came home with us and settled in. After a trip to the groomers he seemed to puff out his chest and walk with pride (sounds silly since he’s a dog but he really did!) He seemed not to know many basic commands but as he got to know us he showed us his very special ‘sit’ which was done complete with one paw held high in the air.
He’d get very excited when it was time for a walk and try to charge out the door as soon as you opened it – and succeeded one morning too. Having recaptured him after a brisk jog down the road we decided to do some door training with him and this really paid off as we were able to open the door un-accosted by akita! Everyone stopped to pet him when we were out and he enjoyed the fuss but really just wanted to walk forever!
He also liked to go through the bin, so we started teaching him ‘leave’ which worked sometimes. After Christmas and 4 months with us he was very much part of the family and enjoyed doing the school every morning, especially in the snow –he looked so at home! By the time his forever family came forward we were pretty exhausted – having three dogs (one of which needed one to one on walks – our female – so couldn’t be taken out with the others) was taking its toll. As much as we loved him we were happy to let him go somewhere he’d get long walks most days and get much more attention in the house too.
Giving him the chance to adjust to family life from being in kennels made all the difference as we were able to tell his forever home what he was like to live with day to day – he was more of a known quantity. Had he been in kennels they may not have felt sure enough of him to give him a chance in their home. We get lovely pictures and updates from time to time and he is radiating happiness, as are his forever family in all of them.”
“I foster when I can and I do so to make space for another dog to come into rescue therefore possibly saving its life and to improve that dogs chances of finding the best home. Some have been easy, some difficult but all so worthwhile and I am lucky to have experienced many different dogs through fostering. It has helped me understand and read dogs more accurately, enjoy them even more.
I have not stuck to fostering for just one rescue, some rescues do not like this for practical reasons and others go with the flow. I have fostered for different rescues as it is ad hoc when I can take in a dog and it has to be one I think will fit in with my canine crew with the least upset to them. If they had a bad experience it may mean I would not be able to foster again.
Another reason I have fostered for different rescues is because I am frequently approached by rescues who have a dog they feel would benefit from being with me due to behavioural issues I can deal with or if the dog is deaf. There are not many foster carers out there who can/will take a deaf foster although there are a number of trainer/behviourists who foster aswell as capable doggy minded people.
It is always good to be sure of the support a rescue offers to its foster carers, it can vary from one to another but in the main all necessary costs are that of the rescue not you, so dont let lack of personal finance deter you as it is not an issue. Generally I will pay for the food, treats, collar & lead if required for whoever I foster, that is my choice not an expectation for nearly all the rescues I have fostered for.
I love when the prospective owners come to meet and take away their new companion, thats a job well done by all involved and I feel proud to be part of it. I miss it when I do not have a foster dog in.”
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