Everything You Need To Know About Fostering A Pet, Before You Bring One Home

Adopting an animal is always a big decision. A new pet comes with a long list of responsibilities, and handling those tasks is certainly not for everyone.

Feeding and regular walks are part and parcel of the arrangement, but there’s also potty training, behavioral discipline, and myriad other issues to handle, sometimes at all hours of the night. Potential pet owners may waver at the thought of making this lifetime commitment, but there’s another option that lowers the barriers to pet parenting.

Fostering a rescue dog gives the animal a second chance at life in a loving home before a permanent residence can be established, Foster parents benefit from the rewarding experience of caring for an animal that may have been bound for euthanasia. There are still plenty of walks to be taken and late night calls of nature to answer, but because the arrangement is not permanent, many people feel fostering is an easier job to take on.

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That said, the finite nature of this relationship can also be hard on the parent and pet. It’s a joyous occasion when an animal finally finds a loving forever home, but don’t be surprised if the tears begin to all up when it’s time to say good bye.

If you think fostering a pet is something you’d like to try, here’s what you need to do:

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5. Ask yourself if you’re truly ready

Don’t rush into things. Fostering an animal is a big decision, not that far removed from adopting them for life. There may be no telling how long this arrangement will last, and you will likely have a few extra costs to pay for up front.

If this is your first time fostering or caring for a pet, you may want to avoid bringing home an animal that has health or behavioral problems that you aren’t prepared to handle. The Nic thing about taking in senior animals is that a vast majority are already housetrained.

But there are always other costs to consider.

According to Lifehacker, foster parents may have to cover the costs of:

  • Food
  • Bedding
  • Toys
  • Veterinarian visits
  • and more

“You also have to consider the time commitment,” writes Elisabeth Geier at Dog People. “A shelter may expect you to foster for days or months with no foreseeable end date. If you work a traditional 9-5, you also have to consider whether the animal can be left home alone for most of the day.”

Geier says dog foster parents are often called to:

  • Transport the dog to and from adoption events.
  • Participate in obedience training at home and/or in classes.
  • Report back to the shelter/rescue workers with information about the dog’s personality and behavior.
  • Speak with potential adopters to tell them about your foster dog and help determine if they are a good match.
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    4. Find a reputable shelter to help you find the right foster pet

    Once you’ve made the decision to foster, the easiest way to begin your search for a potential pet is online.

    Not only do many shelters list animal residents on their website or an online-accessible database, they may also provide information on their foster pet policies. Petfinder.com offers valuable help in finding a foster pet, too.

    If you have a favorite breed and are willing to branch out geographically, the site will be able to refer you to a number of breed-specific rescues (which may or may not allow mixed breeds),” the Petfinder site maintains. “You can also find toy breed rescues, giant breed rescues, and organizations which focus specifically on senior, special needs, or puppy adoption and fostering.”

    When you eventually fall in love with an animal you find online, it’s always important to vet the organization or shelter where it’s housed. Animals kept in unsanitary conditions, or those not given enoughh care, may bring more health or behavioral problems into your home than you are prepared to deal with.

    “Animal shelters are funded by a variety of sources, both private and public,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund writes on its website. “Less-than-desirable conditions at a shelter may very well be due to the lack of appropriate funding, rather than the lack of compassion.”

    Your best bet is to see what others are saying about the facility on Facebook or Yelp. It never hurts to talk to other people who have adopted or fostered animals from the same place.

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    3. Prepare your home and lifestyle for a new pet

    Just like us humans, animals need their space. They tend to help their caregivers understand what’s most important in terms of material possessions, too. An animal left alone in a pristine museum of delicate knickknacks can easily help their human “declutter,” whether the help is requested or not.

    Lifehacker lists a few more consideration for those who have made the decision to foster

    • If you live with others, ask them if they are OK with you bringing a new pet into the home. It’s decision that affects the whole household, after all.
    • If you have young children or pets, make sure you inform the shelter where your foster pet is coming from. They may be able to steer you toward the right animal for your situation.
    • Make sure you have enough space to take care of your foster pet. A studio apartment often times won’t do for a large animal. Pets need a yard to play around in. They can’t be kept cooped up all day.

    Dogster recommends foster parents set up some critical management tools.

    “You may need to use baby gates, crates, ‘safe rooms,’ tethers, and drag leashes to create an environment where all resident dogs have space to feel safe while they get to know one another,” the site reports. “Even if your current dog is not a countersurfer, your foster pup may be, so putting these items in place well in advance will prevent rehearsal of unwanted behaviors. It also gives your resident dogs a chance to adjust to the new layout before the foster arrives.”

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    2. Understand you’re bringing home a pet, not a breed

    Even if you have a specific breed in mind to foster, there’s no guarantee your local shelter will have that sort of dog available. Moreover, it’s not the breed that makes a foster pet right for your home and lifestyle, but the right mix of personality and behavior.

    Most shelters and rescues know enough about their residents to help you find the one that fits.

    “A rescue may choose a pet for you to foster based on time-sensitivity, not necessarily considering your preferences,” Lifehacker reports. “A responsible shelter should, however, factor in your lifestyle and whether the pet might be a good fit.”

    A good way to see if a pet has the right personality for you is to spend time with them at the rescue.

    “A lot of animals might seem shy at first but quickly warm up to people,” Found Animals reports. “Speak to the team at the shelter and ask them about the pet. Are they independent or do they stick to people like glue? Are they playful or do they just want to nap and cuddle?”

    If you don’t “click” right away, it may be a sign of hesitance on the pet’s part, or it may signal that the animal just isn’t right for you.

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    1. Be prepared to devote your time and energy to your foster pet

    It can’t be said enough, bringing a new pet home will change your life, and that of anyone else you live with. Pets bring joy, happiness, and comfort into our lives, but they also take a lot of work.

    A foster program can help you out by shouldering the costs of medical bills, but for the rest, you may be on your own. Every animal is different, and as a foster parent, it’s your job to provide your animal with exercise, food, shelter and basic obedience training.

    The Spruce Pets offers this list of caveats for those considering fostering an animal:

    • If you work long days, fostering a puppy might not be the best thing for you or the puppy.
    • If you cannot provide a lot of exercise (due to time or physical constraints) don’t foster a high-energy dog or puppy. A senior dog might be the better choice.
    • If you don’t enjoy training, don’t foster a dog who needs a lot of one-on-one training and/or socialization.
    • A large or rambunctious dog might not be best if you have a small home with no yard. This also may be problematic if your own dog is older or intolerant of high-energy dogs.
    • If you don’t have reliable transportation, you might not be able to foster a dog who needs to be transported to many places (such as adoption events or the vet). A dog that has health issues and needs to see the vet frequently may not be the best choice for you (although some organizations have people to help with transportation).

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    If that doesn’t deter you from becoming a foster pet parent, all the best to you. This is an exciting decision to make, and one that will change your life forever.

    As long as you have a home and can give an animal love, that’s really all you need,” Brittany Feldman, president and cofounder of Shelter Chic, a nonprofit foster-based dog and cat rescue group in New York City told the Dodo. “A lot of people say they can’t foster because they have a small apartment, but, of course, an apartment is much better than living in a cage.”

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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