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How To Foster a Dog: Advice From a Foster Family

Becoming a foster family for a homeless dog is a rewarding and sometimes difficult task. It’s the foster family that takes the dog from a shelter and teaches them in basic house manners. The dog you foster most likely comes with a history of abuse or neglect and will need a lot of patience to assimilate to a home again.

The first step is to find a good dog rescue organization to team up with. Every area of the country has animal rescue groups. Look online or in your local paper and call a few in your area. This is your chance to interview them to see if they are a responsible group. Ask questions such as: “Will the group pay to have the dog spayed or neutered? What if the dog doesn’t get along with my dog? What if he has a medical problem? Who will take the dog if I go on vacation?” Getting answers to these kinds of questions will give you a good insight into the type of people you will be working with and how much support you will get if a problem arises.

When you get your first foster you should be prepared for a variety of behaviors. Most dogs are good and want to please, but shelter dogs need a little time to come out of their shell. The dog may cower and hide when he first arrives in your home. This usually isn’t a problem. Give him space and let him come to you. The little fellow has probably had a rough few days of arriving at the shelter, being transported to the rescue organization and finally to your house. He doesn’t understand why he lost his home or why he keeps being moved around. Show him where the acceptable bathroom place is, give him food and water and soon you’ll see a wonderful personality emerge.

A few accidents are normal any time a dog moves to a new home. If your foster dog has an accident gently correct him with a firm, “no”, and show him the proper place to potty. When he does potty outside praise him so he knows he did it right.

One of the best tools to get a dog adopted is photos. All good rescue groups have accounts at places like and When the dog is in your house take some cute pictures of your foster and have your rescue group put them up on the website. You could even take a short video of your little guy so everyone searching for a new pet can see how precious he is. You should also let your rescue know if there are any behavioral quirks such as chasing cats, resource guarding or marking.

The hardest part of fostering a dog is saying goodbye. You’ve given him love and affection and watched him go from a frightened little pup to a wonderful family dog and now it’s time to give him up. You’ve read the adoptive family’s application, checked references and decided they would be a good forever home for your foster dog. When you hand the dog over to the new family it may be very difficult, but remember there’s another dog out there that needs a loving foster family so he can find his way to a good life.

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