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Why Not Adopt a Dog?

We want people to adopt a dog when they’re ready.

If you can offer a great home for a dog for 10-15 years straight, this could be a fantastic idea for you! At Foster Dog Life, we want dogs to find the right home. So just make sure you can pull it off – this is a BIG decision.

Speaking of big decisions, I’d like to share how I started on the path of fostering dogs.

In my mid-twenties, my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I were also tempted to adopt a young dog. One we’d getting to know through walks with the BC SPCA.

 

His name was Diego.

He was squirrelly, playful and charming. Just how we like them.

Taking Diego out for day trip adventures, we’d have the best time together. Running along the beach, hiking in the woods and playing fetch in the gated-off baseball park. Okay, maybe don’t mention that last bit to the City of West Vancouver, but I trust you.

Having a string of random jobs, we knew finding steady work in the same city could be tough. This whole ‘big city’ thing was new to us and one of the reasons we were looking for guaranteed fun in our lives – aka a puppy.

But the more we got to know this fluffy 8 month old puppy, the more the A-word kept coming up. It’s easy and it can sneak up on you like a dog reaching their nose for fresh bread on the counter. Instinct?

Getting to know a shelter dog can put bold ideas in your head.

These are ones you may not have had compared to walking a friend’s dog who already has a home. A few of the crazy thoughts had by our 20-something brains, fresh and sparkly in the big city:

  • I’d do such a good job looking after him
  • I really feel a connection between us I haven’t experienced before
  • he’s special
  • we have the best dates with him
  • our landlord said we could have a dog
  • we could go for hikes EVERY day
  • I can’t picture my life without this dog
  • come on, look at his ears!
  • his tail!
  • can we??

All this excitement came to a full stop when we delivered the news to our landlord. Previously, he had been open to us caring for a dog short-term so we let him know we wanted to adopt a dog.

Nope.

The landlord of our 500 square foot apartment replied with a NO, we could not adopt a dog and still keep our place.

Not letting this no stop us, we launched an immediate search for a place that ALLOWED dogs. With a total stroke of luck, we discovered an ad for a basement suite off Main Street with access to a yard! We met the homeowners – a young and laidback couple, expecting their first baby and it was a match!

We gave our notice and moved to our new dog-friendly home.

This was one of our quickest moves, but not not quick enough for Diego. Because he was such an a handsome little rascal, our dream dog had been adopted just before we settled in. Bummer.

This was hard to news to hear until we realized it was only the beginning of great things to come. Besides, who knew where we’d be 2 years from now, let alone 12 when Diego would be a much older dog.

As luck would have it, living in a pet-friendly home is a BIG step closer to actually having a dog in your life.

And just the beginning of our story fostering dogs.

 

Foster Dog Date Night

Dolly – our Valentine’s special.

Her claim to fame was being a pocket-sized pitty. Running around 40 lbs, this dog was a lover. She now frolics in the trails in Whistler with her awesome owner Jesse but before she went to the big city she frolicked around in the back trails of Thetis with us.

Valentine’s 2016 was a pretty chill night for us. We went to Bin 4 for dinner & decided to bring her a little piece of burger. And, because we thought she might be cute we decided to film it.

Sometimes, we blow the scent of food towards a dog to see if they’d be mildly interested. Dolly was keen and here’s the video proof. She couldn’t figure out what trick to do to earn the reward, so she did them all in quick, delightful succession. Play bowing, wiggly, high-fiving and licking her chops.

SIDENOTE: if your guy or girl doesn’t do this when you make dinner, we might suggest an evening with the London Chef.

Back to you, Dolly.

One beautiful evening we decided to take her paddle boarding out in Brentwood Bay with our good friend, Kelsey. We got her a life jacket & suited her up (Dolly, not Kelsey). Thanks to the super dog-friendly folks at Pacifica we got cruising the high seas in no time!

Dolly was so good about tagging along, literally in the middle of our feet on the paddle board. As we got closer to the middle of the bay, she hopped off and swam over to Kelsey’s board to make sure everyone was close together.

We all decided to make a pit stop (pardon the pun) to regroup on a small island in the bay and that’s when Dolly went buck wild. Being back on land she shook off and took off sprinting, chasing the seagulls that call that island home. At first it was funny & we hoped there were no bigger predators, but figured Dolly could handle herself.

How’d we get her back? Find out for yourself in this how-to-be-the-most-fun video.

SIDENOTE #2: We found out later on a follow-up visit with her & her owner that she had taunted a grizzly bear on a camping trip, so she’s clearly fearless.

Wrapping up February, it will always be a favourite month because of the fun times we had with our lovable, huggable foster girl, Dolly.

Xoxo

ALSO!

Formally Cocoa, adopted Margot, is celebrating her 1 year anniversary with her awesome family in Nanaimo. Thanks so much to Margot’s people for loving her & being the best home this girl could ask for.

Where Can I Take My Foster Dog Off Leash?

Finding somewhere to take your foster dog off leash can be tricky.

The right answer always depends on the animal rescue you’re teaming up with and their specific rules. A lot of the time, the history of your foster dog can be a bit foggy so most rescues air on the side of caution. Because of this, they can seem like party poopers by saying you can’t take your foster dog off leash outside.

When it comes to letting your dog off leash, most organizations ask you to keep your dog leashed when you’re going for a walk. From personal experience this is a GOOD IDEA, avoiding real things like these:

  • running away for 40 minutes to chase bunnies in the forest at night
  • breaking up dog fights on hiking trails
  • casually strutting across the middle of a busy road
  • climbing rock walls to meet the neighbours
  • belly flopping with a grin into stinky swamps

Needless to say, it’s a lot easier on you and your dog to keep them on leash when you’re out and about.

As you get used to taking your foster dog for walks, you’ll learn what they like and dislike.

Sometimes meeting new dogs on the sidewalk is a good idea and other times it’s easier to make a detour. Either way, it will be much easier to get your dog moving by keeping your dog on a leash.

So what about when you want your dog to run and play?

Do you or a friend have a fully fenced backyard? This can be a great chance to let your foster dog off leash and let them explore the yard. Playing fetch or tug-of-war is always a good time when there’s a bit more space than your living room to run around in.

With a new foster dog off leash in the yard, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on them as you get to know their traits. More importantly their squirrelly side.

If they start digging in the grass try distracting by throwing a toy for them to chase in the other direction. Jumping up to see what’s over the fence? Sounds like time for something else! You never know what dogs are capable of until they’ve surprised you by getting into the refrigerator or baking a loaf of bread while you aren’t looking.

Whenever you have your foster dog off leash in the yard, enjoy the moment and have fun with them.

You’ll both get a lot of good out of a little play time.

What Kind of Dog Toys Do Foster Dogs Like?

The same dog toys any other dog likes!

A big thing people forget about foster dogs is that they’re a dog just like any other.

Came from an animal shelter? Still a dog.

Found on the trail in the rain without a collar? Chilly and could use a blanket, still a dog.

A ressssscue? Many people associate rescue dogs as being fragile, in-need and hard-done-by. But you guessed it, they’re still a dog.

Dogs have an amazing ability to rebound from their past and focus on the present.

And in the present, dogs love a good chomp-able toy to play with, reminding them how good life can be.

If you’re looking to get a quality toy for your foster dog, one of the best I’ve used with our foster dogs is a Kong Extreme. These things are ridiculously well made for getting your chomp on.

The best part? You can fill them with treats and a bit of peanut butter to give to your foster dog when you head out for a coffee. It’s both a treat and something fun to occupy themselves while you go about your day. Use this trick to take gradual departures to get your foster dog used to you leaving and actually coming back.

These dog toys are also great at occupying your dog’s mind.

Plus, with the biggest expenses of ‘owning’ a dog covered by the animal rescues we work with, we’re able to splurge on a couple high quality dog toys. Why replace a poorly designed dog toy every month if you don’t have to? One of our Kongs has lasted through over 8 foster dogs and counting. Now that’s a lot of chomping.

Give one a try and if you’ve got some space to play a little fetch in your home, the random shape leads to some great bounces for your dog to chase.

Just remember to wipe off the peanut butter first.

My Friend Got a Dog – Now I Want One Too

I want a dog. I have since I could say the word dawg.

And I’m a responsible working adult. I have my own place (rented with a roomie) and I have some moolah to play with.

But, I know I’m too busy. Here’s the thing – I work 8 hours a day, and this doesn’t include travel time. I like going out with my friends on weekends and playing rec sports on Wednesday nights. Some days I’m able to sneak home for lunch hour, but that’s only if work isn’t crazy. Plus, when there’s a big deadline sometimes I have to stay at the office late or work on my laptop from home.

Tinder’s lame & I’m still single, but I have this one guy on the go.

I want a dog still, so what do I do? I’m lonely and know there are so many dogs that NEED a great home. Won’t the dog be ok to sleep while I’m at work? Do I need to feed it midday?

FULL STOP.

 

I feel stressed out writing this. It’s so much pressure on one person to be responsible for another living creature above and beyond herself. Let’s say these thoughts are happening in Jaunary post-Christmas maximum social time?

You want a dog but the weather is poop – it’s cold and snowy, or rainy if you’re living in the Pacific Northwest. Plus, there’s the arduous task of leashing up a dog to go out in the pouring rain & if they’re a pitty-mix they’re dodging you because they don’t like getting water in their ears.

 

Heading down the road of worst-case scenarios, what if the dog goes destructo-mode when it’s left alone?

Many dogs in the rescue system have had lame experiences with people in the past. The possibilities are endless and since we can’t reason with them verbally. It’s a time-intensive process of gaining trust through proof of concept for dogs to be ok with a daily routine. We don’t make it any easier when the main source of food, companionship and safety leaves for 8 hours a day.

This means testing a few methods until you find a couple that work for you:

  • gradual departures
  • mental stimulation
  • small breaks
  • checking in throughout the day to make sure the dog hasn’t eaten (or humped!!) the couch and hasn’t left you a Hershey’s Kiss as a token for leaving them alone for a half a day

The rationale people use when adopting a puppy is that they can structure the dogs’s behaviour from the get-go.

Yes, this is true to a point.
Except when you realize you cannot influence natural behaviours. You cannot expect a puppy to behave 100% of the time and you cannot expect things to be perfect all of the time. Real life is messy & so is learning how to care for a dog to the best of your ability.
Options for satisfying your desire for companionship without throwing your life as you know it down the toilet:
  1. Make plans to hike with a friend and her dog. Offer to towel off the dog after it runs through mud.
  2. Visit your local animal shelter and sign up to volunteer.
  3. Volunteer in fundraising efforts along with a rescue you like. We offered to volunteer at an event we would have otherwise bought tickets to, and guess what? We got to run the poopy – sorry – puppy pit. Obsessive folks swept in and would hang on to these 10 week old puppies for as long as they could. I’m pretty sure some would have snuck them out in their purse if we hadn’t been watching like hawks.
  4. Foster FIRST. Read more about this here.
  5. Offer your home as an overnight or temporary place for regular fosters to have their dogs go when they head out on short vacations or get away for a weekend.
What we’ve seen first-hand is people who want a dog dive into pet ownership with the best intentions, thinking of the animal first.

Then life takes over and the well-being of the dog suffers. Not fair & super stressful for both of you.

Let’s encourage helping with intention, trial & error before committing to a dog for keeps. That way, when you do find the dog you want to be your co-pilot you know it’s when you’re good & ready.
Making life better for you and your furry bud.

How Do I Learn How To Foster a Dog?

The key to fostering a dog for the first time is comfortably going out of your comfort zone.

Sure, you can read up on the basics. Maybe kick back and watch a steady stream of YouTube tutorials on the couch. But eventually, you need to gather up your courage to do something brand new.

When we got our first foster dog, it had been after a few solid years of dog walking at our local animal shelters. This helped big time in getting used to all kinds of different dogs:

  • big and happy
  • small and not
  • fluffy as a sheep
  • sleek like a seal
  • friendly waggers
  • scaredy cats
  • olympic athletes
  • couch potatoes

By getting a sense of how different dogs will act in many situations, you can better prepare yourself for looking after one at home.

Next stop on our route to learn how to foster a dog: house sitting.

Best place to start? Ask friends, family and that cute neighbour if they ever need someone to look after their dog when they’re out of town. Try this first with a dog who’s already familiar with you so it’s not a big culture shock for them. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect from the dog if you know them.

Once you have a few house sitting gigs under your belt, picture looking after that dog at your own place.

As you learn how to foster a dog, think about the world from their eyes. Their height, ingenuity and impressive ability to find chomp-able things to play with. What would you need to tidy up?

Where could the dog mess up and eat something that was left out? Is that the chocolate bar I was looking for under the couch? By seeing your place from their perspective it can be a fun way to tidy up.

Plus, it never hurts to be ready for company – especially if you hit it off with that cute neighbour.

 

3 Real Ways to Help a Dog in the Pound

Being a dog in the local pound Bites.

As a dog with no friends, no family and not a lot to look forward to on the daily, it can wear on you pretty fast. But aside from adopting an animal at the shelter for keeps, what else can you do?

Here are 3 of the best ways to help out a dog at your local pound:

 1. Engage with them on social media

Make a point to check-in regularly to share the latest about dogs in need with your network.

If you think their posts are worth sharing, do the simple act of clicking share. One of your friends could be looking to adopt a dog just like the one you just shared and BINGO!

By spreading the word it not only gives more options for people looking to adopt, it could lead to one happy dog!

2. Volunteer at the shelter

Ask the staff at the animal shelter about becoming a volunteer. With each animal needing to be walked, exercised and be socialized every day – there are always opportunities to help out.

Each shelter has different processes for becoming a volunteer. Chek their rules on dog walking and ask if you can learn the ropes from a more experienced volunteer.

By simply offering your time and a bit of kindness, you can make a measurable impact on these dogs’ quality of life.

3. Invite a Shelter Dog for a SleepOver

How fun could it be to take home a dog from the pound for a sleepover at your place? Over-nighters can be a squirrely way to break up your routine, giving you both a reset.

Because they have lots of un-used energy, most dogs really could use a breather from being cooped up. While they’re waiting in a shelter to get adopted, try giving them a taste of freedom. If you’re able to look after a dog for a night or two it helps remind them of home.

And more importantly, what it’s like to feel loved.

Get Ready for Foster Show and Tell

Remember Show and Tell days from back in grade school?

The nerves, the excitement, the thrill of sharing something new only you could add?

Getting a new foster dog is pretty much the same idea as show and tell when you start walking around your neighbourhood. Since it feels good to be sure, prepare to answer these 5 questions as if you’re showing off your new lunchbox:

  1. Name
  2. Kind of dog
  3. Age
  4. Friendly?
  5. Where’d you get her/him?

Feel prepared by having answers to these commonly asked questions in your back pocket – right beside the dog treats.

Here’s a real-world example of show and tell tips for one of our successful foster dogs:

  1. Name: Mac
  2. Breed: He’s a mix of different breeds – mostly retriever and staffy – so basically a fluffy pitbull (aka a happy unicorn)
  3. Age: Mac is about 1 year old so he has lots of energy
  4. Temperament: He’s very friendly with most dogs, he just isn’t a fan of intact males – can’t blame the guy for being jealous since Mac’s a neutered dude.
  5. Where did you get him?: We picked up Mac from the CRD Animal Shelter (the local pound) for an over night stay… 2 weeks ago. We liked him so much we decided to look after him until he gets adopted for keeps!

If you take a deeper look at these answers we used, we like to bring a positive light to dog fostering when it makes sense. If people are open to learning more and are asking lots of questions it’s usually a good sign they think fostering a dog is kinda neat. Why not share with them some of the best parts of the job?

Use these show and tell basics as a spring board for conversation and you’ll be ready for a chat anytime.

Who knows, you may even make a new friend in the process.

 

Ask the Right Questions about Your New Foster Dog

The VACANCY sign is flashing & you’ve answered the call

A foster dog is coming into your home – yippee! But also, wow, you just took a look around and you’ve got a few things to organize before throwing a dog in the mix. Alright, how do you ask the right questions before your new foster dog arrives for check-in?

Ask ALLLL the questions

Age, name, size and suspected breed are a start even if you’ve seen a photo. Think of the questions curious folks will ask if they were to cross you in the street. Here are 7 to get you going:

  1. When will the dog arrive and do I need to pick him up?
  2. Are there any vet appointments they need to get to in the next few days?
  3. Any current medications?
  4. Do they have issues with food, people or other dogs?
  5. Crate-trained?
  6. Walking on a collar, harness or gentle leader?
  7. Anxious or nervous of people/noises?

Dogs develop all sorts of quirks especially if they’ve experienced any level of neglect, cruelty or trauma. So, by assuming nothing and asking questions directly of the last caregiver/rescue contact you’ll be the best position to help this dog. Treat this animal with kindness and give it tons of space to start (no hugging, kisses or forced-cuddling).

Don’t just ask the right questions, ask all the easy ones too

If the person you’re working with has the time definitely ask the dumb questions too. You never know what you might learn just by asking nicely and not acting like a know-it-all.

Try spending the first 12-24 hours just observing your new dog to see how they adapt. This is when you might discover the perks of keeping your place tidy. Thanks past self. We’ve had dogs grab socks, shoes, yoga mats and swipe a scrambled egg breakfast off the bar top when we weren’t looking.

Moral of this story?

Keep a watchful eye and allow your new foster dog time to settle in. Naturally den animals, they enjoy having somewhere safe to burrow into. If a crate has never been explored before, try setting up a bed or some blankets under a table or near some furniture that’s juuuuust out of the way.

As your foster dog becomes increasingly comfortable, this is where you will spot the fun personality traits. Enjoy your first meeting with your foster dog and feel good about letting things happen naturally.

You might be surprised what you find out!