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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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

How To Make Your Foster Dog Happy

Making your foster dog happy can be easier than it sounds. Our best advice? Follow your gut and treat your new buddy with the respect you’d want for yourself.

At our most basic level, we require shelter, food & water to survive. And as we work on growing friendships, learning and expanding our living circumstances, happiness fills the space between. Dogs are very much the same in that we can enhance their lives by providing companionship, medical care and emotional stimulation.

Rescue dogs have often come from less-than-ideal circumstances. Hoarding, heavy-handed or under-stimulating environments can cause a dog to shut down personality-wise. As a foster home, our goal is to make the dog happy. This can take a few days, to weeks to months of consistent effort and patience.

So how does someone make a foster dog happy?

  1. Offering comfort. For some dogs, this means a cozy bed and lots of space. For others this means being able to hear you as they snooze in the other room. Some dogs will act as a shadow, following you around to make sure you’re not going to leave them.
  2. Talk to your dog in a soothing manner. Little things like asking them if they’d like to go for a walk or if they’re ready for dinner in a happy, calm and light tone will alert them to your voice as being someone to pay attention to because good things happens when they do.
  3. Have some high-value treats and toys on hand to make reinforcing good behaviour fun!
  4. Encourage them to use their nose. One of the ways to reduce anxiety in an animal is to transition it from using  eyes to gather information about the surrounding environment to their nose. Check out this post where we talk about dog stress signals and what you can do about it.
  5. Take them outside and allow them time around other dogs (so long as it doesn’t create more stress for them by doing so). Being out in nature feels so good – it helps us to think clearly and lets us relax. Dogs are stoked on walks, being stimulated by all of the smells and sights. Going for walks outside also helps them to get their energy out, which = a happy mellow dog.

Using tips like these can set you in the right direction and when in doubt, go with what feels right to you at the time when picturing what could make your foster dog happy.