You may have heard about people fostering rescue dogs and how appreciated this can be by the many animal shelters and centres around the country. Sadly, more and more dogs are ending up in centres and space is always at a premium so when dogs can be fostered out to carers, it takes a lot of pressure and the burden off the people who run the centres plus it gives a dog that cannot cope with being in kennels a much better chance of finding a new owner and loving home.
Being a foster carer is a huge commitment and it takes a special kind of dog lover to be able to become one because it involves much more than simply offering a rescue dog a temporary home. You need to be quite knowledgeable and be able to show a lot of patience and compassion when looking after one of these gorgeous rescued canines, some of which have very special needs. It takes the kind of person who is totally selfless when it comes to looking after a dog in their time of need.
It takes a tremendous amount of strength to become a foster carer, because it is all too easy to fall in love and bond with the dogs that are put into your care. This is where commitment to helping other needy dogs has to take precedence, after all if a carer kept all the dogs they looked after, they would not be able to look after any more dogs further down the line.
Most dog rescue centres around the country hope to find foster carers because space is always at a premium in their centres, and with more and more dogs having to be rescued and then re-homed to people who will look after them for the rest of their lives, it can get pretty tight in the centres. The first thing you'll be asked to do once you have contacted a rescue centre is to fill out an application form. After this, a person from the shelter will usually come along to your home to interview you which lasts around an hour or so.
This also allows the shelter to inspect your home and garden to make sure it is a safe and suitable place for a dog to be sent to – everyone has to go through this, so that all dogs stay safe when they are in foster care. Other attributes that most animal rescue centres look for in foster carers include the following:
The majority of dogs needing to be fostered out are the ones that find it very hard to settle down in a kennel environment. Through no fault of their own, they just find being in a kennel far too stressful. This can lead to them developing all sorts of behavioural problems simply because of the anxiety and stress they feel at finding themselves in a strange and often noisy environment. Some dogs become very timid whereas others may become destructive and some dogs even get aggressive. However, all these behavioural problems are not the fault of the dog concerned, it is just that they cannot cope with living in kennels and hence need to be placed with a foster carer.
Other dogs that are better suited to being in a home environment are those who are on constant medication and as such do much better than if they had to remain in kennels until they find a new and loving home. A person taking care of one dog can give them all the attention they need, making sure they get their medication on time and anything else they might need.
If your application is accepted and you have had an interview in your home with one of the people from the rescue centre, you would have one more interview before being allowed to foster a dog. This is to make sure you are totally aware of the commitment and still willing to give up the time needed to look after a foster dog correctly. If all goes well, the centre will supply everything you need which includes dog bedding, collars and leads, food and toys together will all the information they have on the dogs' history. Sometimes this information can be a little vague because in many cases nobody really knows what kind of trauma a rescued dog might have experienced.
Many dogs that end up in rescue centres have been traumatised in one way or another and therefore can often be terribly insecure. This is why patience and compassion are so important when fostering a dog, some of which may bear physical scars of their past but others have been mentally scarred and therefore it is much harder to deal with although rarely impossible. Many foster dogs have not been socialised or trained either – and this is where a knowledge of dog behaviour is a plus.
It goes without saying that the first week is the most difficult for both dog and foster carer simply because everything is so new. However, it takes around three weeks for a dog to settle down and accept their new albeit temporary home. Some may settle faster and others a little slower but when they do, they will relax and be a lot less alert - which is a wonderful thing to witness for any foster carer. The thing to remember is that nothing should be rushed because the dog needs to be given all the time they need to settle down and relax, but most importantly to learn to trust their carers.
All foster carers know the importance of setting boundaries for the dogs they take into their care because if a dog has not been taught these, it will be that much harder to find them new and loving homes. This is why as a carer, it is crucial to build up a bond with dogs in their care so the dogs can be taught the rules, that they can trust people again or for some dogs, it could be the first time in their lives!
If you think you have what it takes to become a foster carer, the next step would be to contact a few local dog and animal rescue centres and fill out an application form. However, it's really important to do this for all the right reasons and to be really strong as well as extremely compassionate and patient. A good knowledge of dog behaviour will stand you in good stead especially as many of the dogs that need foster homes have very special needs.