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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.


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.


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.

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.



Top 5 Tips for Introducing a New Foster Dog Home

The biggest thing about introducing a new foster dog to your home is to try and act casual. Keeping with your regular routine helps you to not overwhelm the dog in such a new place to them. This helps your dog learn the ropes and set them up for success.

You’ll discover the dog will display different personality traits over the next couple days. Likely, they will become more lively. If you’re lucky, even cheeky!

Here are a few techniques we’ve used to enhance the experience of bringing a new foster dog into your home.

  1. Make sure your place is tidy ahead of time so you’re setting your dog up for success when they arrive from the shelter. For example, leaving a pound of butter on the counter to be snatched (whoops!).
  2. Close any doors to rooms you don’t want the dog scouting out just yet, so they learn boundaries. As you grow more comfortable with the way they’re acting, try opening the door to a new room like you normally would. As long as you don’t make a big deal about it, they likely won’t either as they follow you to check it out.
  3. Keep the dog’s leash on, but release it so they can wander about their new place. This way you can be ready if you notice them starting do something naughty or go where you don’t want them to. Simply grab the leash (rather than raise your voice or grab them by the collar) guiding them to something more positive. Positive activities could include heading out for a pee, lying down on a bed you’ve set up for them or walking around like a little shadow behind you.
  4. Offer water in an accessible spot, but not too much water. As you’re introducing a new foster dog home, remember they may have had a long car ride to get to you with few chances for a pee break. This is also very new to them so they may over-slurp to calm themselves and if they have too much available to drink, it could lead to you scrubbing the floor.
  5. Go about your business like you normally would while they settle in, just keep an ear out to hear if anything out of the ordinary happens

Tail wags, eye contact, being receptive to touch, responding to your voice – these are all signs of respect, and happiness. When dogs discover they no longer have to be fearful, they transform. Every movement towards comfort is a little victory worth celebrating. Certain dogs will be sensitive to sound, other dogs walking by on the street and random objects in your home.

Do your best to praise behaviour you’d like to see and ignore the things you don’t like.

We recently got a short-term foster who had clearly never lived in a condo and barked at every odd sound. We used distracting techniques to re-direct her barking to sniffing and searching out pieces of kibble. We also occasionally threw a towel on her head to occupy her brain, but that’s not a proven tactic, by any means. Anything that turns their senses to focusing on something reward-based is great for encouraging good behaviour once they’ve calmed down.

It’s ideal if you’re able to be home with the dog for the next 24 hours so you can keep a close eye on them. We’ve had dogs pee on a TV box, hump couches and throw up a sock in the first few days they’ve been with us so be prepared for some adjustment behaviour.

If you offer enough patience while introducing a new foster dog to your home, the little weirdos are worth it.