It’s a rare dog lover who at least hasn’t thought of grooming a dog. Woebegone dog faces in shelter and calls for rescue draw to the hearts. You could help save a life. And hey, there is sure to be room for another dog in your house, especially if it’s temporary …
The recent spread of COVID-19 has spurred animal adoption organizations to create even more foster homes for homeless animals. And maybe a lot of people happen to be stuck at home who have the time to look after them.
You might think caring for it is easy. When you sign up with an organization, they’ll let you know if they have a dog that needs a foster home. You bring the dog and take care of him until he is adopted. Then you are ready for your next care. Dead easy? Be careful, it’s much more complicated.
If you are thinking of taking the plunge – or even if you’ve already done it – there are a few things you should seriously consider:
* Serious disruptions can occur in your household. Some carers don’t bother at all; They blend in with the woodwork as if they’d always been there. More often, however, they are associated with high levels of energy and potential for behavioral disorders.
The most common reason dogs are given (or not reclaimed) to animal shelters is behavior. Make sure you are ready for the impact this can have on your lifestyle and serenity, and be ready to provide plenty of management. The dog may not be home trained. You should assume this is not the case and treat each foster dog as if it were a young puppy. (For instructions on how to train the Heilhaus, see How to Potty a Dog, WDJ, July 2018.)
The dog can also look for things to eat or chew in wastebaskets and cupboards, as well as on counters and tables. It can alert you when every leaf falls outside. You never know what you are going to get!
If your own dogs are not getting on well with new dogs in their house, don’t even do it superior about caring for dogs. If grooming is your heart, consider other species that your dogs will tolerate. If you have small pets and / or children, use extreme caution when bringing a foster dog into your home until you know they are safe.
* Environmental factors. The foster dog may need much more serious containment than your own dogs. A yard fenced in by a cute little three foot picket fence might be perfectly adequate for grooming small or older dogs, but you probably shouldn’t consider a foster dog or other large dog. Before planning on keeping the dog in a crate at night, keep in mind that not all dogs are comfortable in a crate. he couldn’t tolerate you without a serious counter-conditioning plan (or ever!).
Let the shelter or rescue group know what type of dogs your home and yard are well set up for, and do your best to refuse to accept dogs that you push beyond your own and your home’s boundaries.
* Family buy-in. Your whole family must be on board the sponsored project. Anger or resentment about a canine intruder can fester and damage human relationships, not to mention actually harming the dog. The whole family must take positive care of grooming before bringing a dog home.
* Financial considerations. Some shelters and rescue workers pay off everything Expenses for your foster dog. Others will pay some, while others expect their care providers to bear the entire financial burden of care. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the finances before signing up for funding – and make sure your own finances can survive the cost if that’s the deal.
Also, be aware that while some animal shelters or rescue groups may provide food for the animals in their foster homes, the food brand may not meet the standards for food you give your own dogs. This puts many care providers in the position of having to decide whether to give their foster dogs food that they consider to be of inferior quality or to pay the bill for higher quality food.
* Legal considerations. In today’s world of litigation, legal considerations must be taken seriously. Does your chosen group’s insurance cover if your foster dog bites someone or causes another accident or injury? (Hint: you should.) If not, does your homeowner’s insurance cover you? Do you have a breed of dog that your insurance may exclude from coverage? It is better to know the answers to these questions before an incident occurs than to find out later that you are not being treated.
* Promote failure. People often use the term “foster failure” to joke about a dog they have fostered but want to keep. But true Faults in caring include those where the dog does not adapt well to their foster home, where the new family does not have the skills or patience to deal with their behavior problems, or worse, where caring is not a good candidate is assumption.
If your home is unsuitable for that particular dog, there may be another foster home that is better for him and another foster dog that is better for yours.
An even tougher question, when the organization you are sponsoring realizes that the dog is not a good candidate for adoption, either for medical or behavioral reasons, you can handle the strong emotions that are inevitable and normal when the organization decides that Euthanasia is the appropriate outcome? Even lifelong animal welfare professionals struggle with the emotional effects of euthanasia. It’s not easy and it shouldn’t be. You should only consider funding if you are ready to face the opportunity.
* Know your limits. We still live in a world where there are far more dogs than houses. You could care for every single dog at your local animal shelter today, and there would be more tomorrow. And the day after. And the next. In the weekly news, there are more and more horrific cases of hoarders, often involving well-intentioned shelters, rescue groups and care providers who could not stop the impulse to take on “just one more” despite the lack of resources to take care of them the animals that they already had. Don’t let them make you one of them.
PARTNER WITH AN ORGANIZATION
To avoid frustration, heartache, and / or financial trouble, Make sure you carefully choose the organization you will work with. Different groups have different policies, procedures, and philosophies. Make sure your philosophies and ethics are in line with those of the group you choose.
There should be an interview process – where you interview them the same way they interview you. Here are some suggested interview questions to ask your potential care organization:
* How is your organizational structure? Is the Organization of an urban animal shelter, a humane society, a race rescue or an all-race rescue? This will guide its policies and procedures to some extent. Is it a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization (in which case your maintenance costs, including travel expenses, are tax deductible)? If they say it does, have a look here to make sure it’s legitimate: apps.irs.gov/app/eos/. If it’s a non-profit organization, who is on the board of directors? If it’s municipal, what government agency oversees it?
* What is your organizational mission / philosophy? You should be able to articulate this – and you need to decide if it is in line with your own beliefs. There is no right answer here. Dogs in all types of animal shelters and emergency services benefit from grooming programs.
* How many animals do you take in each year and how many are euthanized? No welfare group likes to be asked about euthanasia, but you want to work with a group that is honest, ethical and humane, and you want to know the circumstances under which they choose to euthanize. You can then determine your own level of comfort. Some fantastic foster homes are able to handle the dissonance of loving dogs and encourage groups with higher euthanasia rates. others don’t. In fact, some choose to work with animal shelters as these dogs may be at higher risk for euthanasia.
I would suggest that you ask: how many animals do you take in and how many are euthanized? What conditions or behaviors can lead to euthanasia? When you are told that none of your animals are ever euthanized, they lie or keep dogs alive, regardless of the quality of life. Even if they are a limited group and are not euthanizing themselves (because they are taking dogs to another group or a veterinarian for the procedure), they should acknowledge that some of their dogs have been euthanized. All legitimate groups sometimes euthanize even the “no kill” groups for health or behavioral reasons.
That sounds morbid, but I would also suggest asking how the group euthanizes the animals that they think are unacceptable. You don’t need all the details, but make sure they are put to sleep by intravenous injection (into a vein, not directly into the heart), not carbon monoxide or decompression chamber, shooting, or worse. These latter methods are not humane and would indicate that the organization is seriously behind the times.
* How much illness do you encounter? This is more of a problem for shelters that house large numbers of animals in a single location than for rescue workers who care for their dogs, but rescue dogs can also get sick. Does the group vaccinate dogs upon admission? This is standard industry practice and the best approach to minimizing disease transmission. Upper respiratory tract infections are the most common, but more serious, potentially fatal diseases such as parvovirus and distemper also occur.
Bringing foster dogs home may expose your own dogs to these germs and risk them getting sick – maybe seriously. The more diseases there are in the shelter, the greater the risk for your dog. Are you ready to take that risk? Who pays for treatment when the nurse is sick? Who Pays When Your Dogs Get Sick?
Will the foster dog be treated for parasites before being sent to your home? This is highly recommended. When your home is flea free, the last thing you need to treat all of your animals is as a foster dog has arrived covered in fleas.
* Do you conduct behavioral assessments? Despite recent studies that question whether behavioral assessments are really predictable or whether their results are reproducible, good shelters and rescue measures are used something Type of assessment process. This is to identify behaviors that may need to be changed (or that identify the dog as too risky to adopt) and to improve the adoption process by helping to reconcile dogs with suitable homes (and suitable foster homes) .
Ask if you can observe the assessments made and if you are satisfied with them. If they don’t give a rating, carefully consider whether this is a group you want to be a part of and whether you want to take on the added risks of caring for a dog that hasn’t been rated. Even with reviews, you will inevitably discover additional behaviors when you bring the dog into your home – both desirable and undesirable.
* Who pays the costs? Does the organization you are interviewing offer food and veterinary care? Will they reimburse you for this? Or do they expect you to pay for the care of your foster dog out of pocket? If the foster dog – dog forbid – attacks one of your animals, will the organization pay for necessary veterinary care for your dog or cat?
If they set a cap on veterinary costs and the dog you are caring for needs more veterinary care, can you pay the cost over the cap?
If the dog has to work with a training / behavioral professional, will they pay for it? When you go on vacation, do they pay for boarding or a pet sitter?
* Are you insured? Perhaps more in a nutshell: does the organization’s insurance cover you? You may think that until your foster dog bites someone and you get sued, you don’t worry about that. If you lose your home in a lawsuit, you cannot help future foster dogs. Legitimate organizations have insurance to insure their volunteers. Get it in writing.
* What are the rules and restrictions for the foster dogs? Can you take your foster dogs out in public? To travel? Hike? Camping? Can you go to dog parks? Should they go to dog parks? Are there things the dogs can or cannot do in your home? What if your foster dog bites someone?
* How does the adoption process work? As foster parents, are you allowed to be part of this process? (The answer to this question should be “yes”.) Are potential users carefully screened? Do you have a veto right if you think the potential family is not suitable for you to care for? Will the dogs be adopted directly from home or do they have to go back to a shelter or kennel?
There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions – just answers that will help you decide if this is an organization to work with.
Bring your FOSTER DOG home
When you are ready to bring your foster dog home, take all the precautions you would take in adopting a new dog and introducing it to your family. Ideally, it would be introduced before you agreed to take care of it. If not, neutral area is best for introductions. Take it slowly and have at least one other experienced dog person help out if something goes wrong. (See “Great Introductions,” WDJ, January 2008.)
It will take time for your caregiver to settle in. Be prepared for house training accidents – even a well-trained dog can take some time to adjust to a new schedule and environment. Again, it is best to treat your caregiver as if they were an 8 week old puppy, under constant supervision until you know it is safe to relax.
Some rescue workers speak of a 30-day training period for all carers, during which you should mostly leave the dog alone. I shudder. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 40+ years working professionally with dogs, it’s that everyone is an individual and there is no cookie cutter for any of them. Take every dog as it comes. If she wants attention and interaction, give it to her. If she wants to be left alone, honor that. If she needs a lot of management, supervision, and training, do it.
Even something as simple as mat training (with your own mat to accompany you to your new home) can make a significant contribution to adoption success (see “Mat Training Tips,” January 2020). If you and your organization agree that it needs more formal training or behavioral work, make sure you are working with a qualified, non-forceful training / behavioral professional. The last thing a stressed foster dog needs is coercion and punishment.
Make sure you document everything you do with your foster dog and everything she does with you. You can find out if she loves children or if she is better off in a house without young children. You can tell potential adopters whether or not she is good with cats! It’s helpful when you can share certain information, such as: For example, that the dog is wary of men but warms up if they don’t bump him, or that he tends to counter-surf if you leave food on coffee tables but in the kitchen counters are safe.
Finally be ready for that happy day your caregiver will find you to be human forever. Hopefully, now that you know your foster dog better than anyone, you have a significant influence (even a veto power) on the adoption game.
It would be wonderful if every caregiver could go into their new home and lay down in front of the fireplace like they’d lived there their entire life, but that’s not the reality. You’re in the perfect position to ensure that your caregiver’s transition to their new home is as smooth as possible, which can vastly increase the potential for a true home forever.
And when this coronavirus craze is over, thousands of dogs will still need foster homes to give them a second chance at a high-quality life, just as it was before the pandemic.