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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.


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.