At the brink where expectation meets reality, new foster parents are often disillusioned when they find out what it means to have a dog at home who has never been taught normal behavior. Or worse, some come from a high-kill kennel and have only seen abuse. Yet, they should never be disheartened because the experience of fostering a puppy will be amazing and rewarding.
Turning a blank canvas into the loving and loyal quadruped we all want to be around takes intense effort, dedication, and doggedness. But nothing is impossible if you follow our eight tips on how to foster a puppy.
1. Fostering Is a Job
The task of a foster pet parent is crystal clear: prepare a shelter animal for adoption and their new forever home. Even if it’s a volunteer job, this is an important ‘respawsibility.’ At the end of the day, we’re saving lives. So, it’s paramount that the foster-to-adoption process happens smoothly and efficiently.
A typical foster period lasts for ‘ruffly’ a month, which gives the caretaker time to work on all the necessary life skills:
- Correct greeting behavior toward humans
- Socializing with other animals
- Emotional control
- Leash training
- Housetraining and housebreaking
- Nourishment and muscle toning
Another important thing to understand is that a foster animal is different from a regular pet. You must sharpen the house rules since you are preparing them for a life with another family. For example, while you may let your own pets sleep in your bed or run up and down the stairs, you should adjust these rules until the foster pup transitions into its new home.
Also, if you are fostering a dog for the first time, it’s an excellent opportunity to find out if you can and want to become a dog owner ‘fur’ real.
2. Are You Fit?
There is no dog in the world that fits the mold. The perfect pet is an illusion, so we have to work with what we’ve got. Shelter pups are usually in a distressed state, especially if rescued from an abusive situation, which can make fostering a puppy a taxing task.
Despite the intensity, it is a highly rewarding and overall ‘terruffic’ period. After all, you get to experience a sliver of the animal’s formative period, in which they create the emotional bonds that last a lifetime.
The main prerequisite is that you can cough up the rigor to be available around the clock. Let’s not beat around the bush – foster parents will likely have a few sleepless nights as the pup cries and whines while getting accustomed to the new place.
For the first few weeks, puppies cannot be alone for much longer than an hour. As the animal enters their routine, you’ll be able to leave them alone for longer periods. It helps if you can rely on the assistance of family members, friends, or a dog walker to check up on the pup regularly.
Before letting a foster pup steal your heart, it’s a good idea to do a ‘cat scan.’ In other words, introduce the puppy to any other animals you have before committing. If the pup shows zero tolerance toward these animals, it is best to look for another candidate.
A house for people and a house for pet owners are two different things. Therefore, it’s extremely ‘impawrtant’ to puppy-proof the home in the following ways:
- Thoroughly clean the floor and remove anything the pup might set its teeth or claws into.
- Pretend to be a dog and crawl around the house to look for potential dangers, such as holes, sharp edges, glass, loose items, and things that can topple over.
- Keep delicate items like stuffed animals, pillows, plants, and curtains out of reach.
- Use dog gates to shield the pup from areas you do not want them to enter. For example, you can gate off the basement, front yard, backyard, front door, and staircases. Many pet shelters forbid yard access because flight risk is exceptionally high for foster pets.
- Always close the toilet seat, optionally adding a safety latch. Ditto for garbage bins.
- Secure kitchen cabinets plus all other ways to access food.
- Consider replacing valuable interior pieces such as furniture and rugs. They will be scratched and stained.
- Use cable trays to sheathe electrical cabling.
4. Create ‘Pawsitive’ Associations
Your junior canine is a feeble creature and has likely been rescued from harsh circumstances. That’s why the guardian’s task is to set the world in a positive light again.
It’s good to be a dominant leader and consistently show animals when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have. This increases the pup's awareness, slowly teaching them not to engage in that bad behavior again.
Praising and rewarding the puppy whenever they do something well is an even more important role. Show enthusiasm every time the puppy goes to the bathroom in the correct area, displays positive interactions, and is being introduced to new objects or spaces around the house. If they left your furniture intact for an entire day, feel free to scream it from the ‘wooftops.’
5. Create a Loop
Like people, dogs have surprisingly complex minds. They love being put inside a predictable routine. But since all dogs are created differently, what works for one may completely fail for another.
One will like to go to the dog park to play with others, while another will prefer sticking to the boss for a private walk around the block. One will like to be approached, while another appreciates their personal space.
To find out what works and create that flawless domestic rhythm, be perceptive to what the dog wants and carefully read its body language. Simply try out a variety of activities and approaches, and observe what happens.
Also, let the pet set the pace for learning new things. They should not just do what you want or what their future family would want; there has to be a win-win situation.
6. Make a Safe Haven
Love and safety are key ingredients to make a happy canine camper. Providing the pup with their own private space can help them feel safe. If you feel hesitant to cage the pup, they may actually love to have a crate where it can retreat for some alone time.
It’s a good idea to create this personal retreat center in a separate area of the house so the pup feels completely protected. Equip them with a soft pillow or dog bed, a blanket, old towels, access to water, and toys.
The shelter can even serve as a ‘transition area’ where the pup lives full-time for the first one or two weeks to get acclimatized to the new surroundings.
As this spot becomes the animal’s most-valued little palace, you can use it as an opportunity to give rewards, collagen chews, treats, and new toys. You could also use this spot to teach the pup to use pee pads.
7. Promote Your Pup
Once your pup is ready to be integrated into a new family, it has to happen as soon as possible. It’s best when you have a family ready for the final adoption. If you don’t, you need to start a little advertising campaign.
Outfit your dog with a well-groomed fur coat and shoot some snazzy pictures to launch onto various social media groups and sites, such as Petfinder and Adoptapet. Stick notes to public bulletin boards and submit ads to the local newspaper to be included in the pet adoption section.
Aim to attend an adoption event at least once a month to talk to interested families. You can also report back to the original rescue shelter. Not only can they give much-needed advice, but they can also help in recruiting adopters.
Did you know it’s possible to change the pup’s name? This can be a transformative bonding experience and make the puppy appear more appealing to prospective owners. Who can say no to an inquisitive dog named Googly, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Tiger, or a rescue animal named Jodie (Foster)?
So you see, if you have done your job well, it will be a woofer they can’t refuse.
8. Letting Go
The final moment is always the one you must see coming right from the start. Even if you have made a substantial investment in emotions, finances, and time, it’s time for the hard cut at some point.
So when the puppy has reliably settled into an acceptable behavioral pattern, it’s time to meet the new owners and introduce a new puppy to the family.
To make saying goodbye to your darlings a little easier on the soul, it’s good to consciously create a no-match with yourself. Go for a foster pup with a different personality or energy level than you. This may help you let go and start the process over with the next pup in line.