Tips for Foster Parents
For those thinking about or just beginning to foster pets for a local humane society or rescue, here are some tips I've assembled

House training.  There are a lot of different approaches to getting a new dog house trained, but whatever your approach, you're going to be doing it on a regular basis... every time you get a new foster dog.  Some dogs figure things out very quickly, especially if they were previously house trained.
Foster more than one pet at a time.  While this seems like more work, I found that the dogs mutual comfort one another.  After all, dogs are pack animals, so the majority of them are happier with another dog around.  This isn't true in 100% of the cases you'll run across, but it's more common than running across conflicts.

Lots of toys!  It always surprises me how different dogs have different preferences for different toys.  It's a good idea to have a variety of types on hand: Rubber balls, tennis balls, foam balls, squeak toys, bones, chew ropes, etc., etc., etc.  Besides, they're just going to destroy about half of these anyway.

Take a picture.  I absolutely love taking pictures of my fosters, but even before I got into photography, I always took pictures of them immediately.  It's a good idea to have a photo on hand so that if they ever get loose, you immediately have something ready to make up a flyer or to otherwise get the word out about your lost dog.

A spoonful of sugar?  A lot of the fosters that come to me are on medication.  Many of them are on antibiotics for kennel cough or other opportunistic infections.  Of course dogs will not take almosts any pill without some coaxing or subterfuge.  Although you can always go the route of wrapping pills in peanut butter or cheese, it is simply faster and easier to drop the pill to the back of the dog's throat, then hold his or her mouth closed (ideally with the head facing up).  Only clamp down hard enough that the dog cannot work the pill between his or her teeth and begin to chew it.  Usually the dog will be forced to swallow within a few seconds, and you'll this because the dog will lick his or her nose in the process.  It's very easy.  Praise him or her, so you aren't giving the impression this is a punishment.

Get dog tags.  Include your address and phone number and identify the dog as "Foster Dog."  This lets you recycle the dog tags through to other fosters.  These are immensely helpful if the foster gets out under the fence or otherwise escapes.

Introductions are in order.  Learn how to introduce new dogs to the home.  You can't just come through the front door with a new dog if there's one living there already.  The resident dog (even if (s)he's just another foster) may interpret this as an invasion and could become territorial.  Typically I keep the new dog outside, then bring the other, more-established dog out to meet him or her.  I also keep the dogs leashed so that I can quickly pull the dog(s) apart should be show any signs of aggression.

Recognize which is the alpha.  If you're new to this, you might not realize that the alpha is not determined by age, size, or gender.  I'm not playing a liberal position here; don't go accusing me of spouting unsubstantiated dogma.  These factors don't really have much value in predicting which dog will be the dominant member of a group.  Knowing which is which may determine your behavior so you can avoid potential conflicts.  In general, the alpha gets things *first*: Fed first, the attention first, etc.

Don't feed them table scraps.  Remember, these aren't your dogs.  They're in a temporary home, and you don't want to get them into a bad habit.  While the eventual adoptive family may be okay with feeding them while they have dinner, if that isn't something they do, then you've just made the transition more difficult for both the pet and the family.  You can generalize this example to other things as well, but this one stands out as something I adhere to personally.

Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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