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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!




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.



What kind of dog parent are you?

what kind of dog parent are you

Your lifestyle and default way of running your life has a big time influence on the type of dog parent you’ll be.

Which sounds more like your style of living? Homebody or Man on the Town? Family guy or adventure vixen?

Are you going to have a better time marrying a dog or dating them? That’s really what fostering is, you get to try out looking after a dog who could use a place to stay for a bit. And have fun while you’re at it!

Especially for people in their early twenties, and even moreso for people who live alone. They crave a companion, someone who will love them and remain stable – so they go and buy a dog. Should their delicate crafted lifestyle shift, maybe a new relationship or job opportunity – how does this impact a dog? It’s unfair to expect your formative years will be laid out step by step in a way that’s ideal for full-time dog care.

What if there was a better option?