Fostering Tips from a Freshpet Parent
Thinking about fostering? Allowing a rescued dog or cat into your home can be the first step in prepping them for adoption, but it also helps to make more space in shelters so that more pets can be saved.
Recently our Freshpet employee Ivan brought home Bailey, a handsome young Pitbull mix rescued from 911 Dog & Cat Rescue in Morristown, NJ. And now that he’s had more time being a foster dog parent, he’s decided to share some tips about the whole process.
Where to Start
If you’ve decided that fostering is for you, reach out to a local animal shelter or rescue group in your community and let them know you’re interested. Be prepared to fill out an application and give references. Some programs will require a home visit. Also some rescues or shelters might even require some form of training before you can foster.
Once you’ve passed all the tests and checked off all the requirements, you’ll be matched with a dog to bring home.
Get Your Home Ready
The most important thing is to prep your home. Gates to block off areas are a great way to start house training. Keep in mind your foster dog may have never lived in a house, or at the very least he is adjusting to a new environment. So keeping them in a designated area to start will keep you both at ease.
Have all the basics ready: a crate, bed, a few toys, a leash, and a harness if necessary. Sometimes a shelter or rescue will provide these “starter” items for you, so be sure to ask.
Lastly keep items you’d rather not be chewed out of reach. Until you know the dog’s personality and tendencies, it’s best to keep valuable items away.
If You Have Another Dog at Home…
Make sure your dog is friendly and comfortable around other dogs, and that goes for your foster too.
Introduce them on neutral ground so that no dog feels threatened or territorial. A great way to break the ice is a pack walk. Dogs that walk together tend to bond easier. Training sessions with the dogs side by side also encourages bonding. But hold off on play-time until you see they are getting along.
Keep An Eye on Your Foster
While the foster dog is still getting comfortable in a new place, try not to leave them unattended. The dog comes with us when we leave a room, go upstairs, etc. Another great tip is to always leave a leash attached to the foster for the first couple weeks, this way if you have to stop him quickly, you can just step on the leash.
Another great tool is “tie downs.” If you’re settling in for an evening of TV watching, tie a leash to a sturdy structure (couch leg, table leg). Give the foster enough slack to walk a few feet in either direction. This gives the foster a station where he feels comfortable and you can keep an eye on him. Make sure to give the dog some love and attention while it is tied down. Make them feel like they are part of your pack.
“A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog”
Exercise is crucial for most dogs, but especially young dogs with lots of energy. Make sure you are committed to 2-3 walks a day, as well as short training sessions and play time. Keep your foster busy while in or out of his crate with something to chew on. We like stuffing chew toys with Freshpet Dog Joy Beef or Chicken treats. They fit perfectly into stuffable toys and dogs have a great time trying to get them out.
Advertise Your Foster
To get your foster adopted you need to be its biggest fan. Create a Facebook or Instagram page devoted to your foster and update it often with pictures and status updates. We find writing from the dog’s point of view to be a fun way to get people interested. Pictures of your foster playing, cuddling, and sleeping will do great on social media. Including your own dog or a family member in the picture makes the foster even more relatable.
Record a video of your foster running after a ball or doing a fun trick like giving paw. This will give possible adopters a glance into the foster personality. The more exposure you can get the dog the more likely he or she is to be adopted. Reach out to those in your community who have a large following, a mayor, a school board member, or a blogger. Ask them to share your foster on their social media pages, or a flyer about them in the community.
Stick With It
Once you’ve committed and are comfortable with the foster in your home and around your family members (canine and human) don’t give up on them. The foster may not have perfect manners yet, but it’s up to you to work on training. Getting in-home experience is invaluable for a shelter dog. Fostering saves lives and connects so many dogs with their forever families. Enjoy it!