As an animal lover, it probably pains you to think about the estimated 3.3 million dogs that enter shelters each year in the U.S. You wish you could scoop them all up in your arms (accepting some puppy kisses as you do so, of course) and bring them home to live with you. But you’re just one person, and it’s quite possible that you’re not ready to take on a multi-year commitment to a single pet.
So, what can you do? Help relieve shelter crowding by fostering! Here are five tips for being a great foster dog parent, whether you end up hosting a pup for days, weeks or months on its way to finding a “furever” home.
Tip #1: Make Sure You’re Ready
Your heart’s in the right place—but is your living situation? Make sure that you can legally and financially handle a furry friend before you agree to foster. As Petfinder points out, you need to make sure that any breed you’re considering is allowed under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. You’ll also want to make sure that your building allows fosters; you may have to pay a deposit or even pet rent on behalf of your new addition. If you live in an apartment, you may want to foster a pint-sized puppy as opposed to a Saint Bernard. Now is the time to square away logistics so you can proceed.
Tip #2: Establish a Routine
Just like humans, dogs operate on a daily schedule. Your time with your new buddy will be a lot smoother (and accident-free) if you can establish a workable routine. Start by planning potty breaks, as dogs need to go outside to relieve themselves every six to eight hours. This means you’ll either need to come home on your lunch break if you work outside your home, or arrange a standing appointment with a dog walker. You’ll also want to create consistency with your schedule for feeding, playtime and sleep.
Tip #3: Do PR for Your Pooch
The faster someone seeking a pet connects with your canine roommate, the faster he or she will be on their way to a lifelong bond. After all, that’s what this is all about, right? You can help advertise your four-legged friend by being a PR representative for potential adoption. For instance, say you’re taking Buddy for a walk when someone approaches you on the street, remarking how cute he is. You can thank them, let Buddy accept some petting and walk away… or you can tell them that he’s up for adoption through a certain rescue. You may even want to create business cards or flyers to hand out for extra awareness!
Another great way to attract the right kind of attention to a foster dog is to use the power of social media. Snap some pictures of your dog looking her best—it’s amazing what a spa day and the right accessories, like leather dog collars or puppy pajamas, can do—and post them on social media platforms using appropriate hashtags. Make sure you mention the area in which your pooch is adoptable and any other details you deem important. After all, many dogs have gotten adopted thanks to savvy social media campaigns by foster parents and rescues alike.
Tip #4: Help Teach “Doggie Skills”
Foster dogs often arrive in shelters with little or no training, so you can help your companion become more adoptable by teaching doggie skills like basic commands, how to walk on a leash and how to interact with humans. Any extra socialization you can offer will help your pet adjust in your home and beyond.
Tip #5: Give Lots of Love
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to fostering a dog. But don’t forget the first and foremost rule: shower your foster pup in love. They’ll love you for every extra game of fetch and pre-bedtime walk you can muster. Give them healthy treats when they engage in positive behaviors. Offer them a friendly pet on the neck whenever you walk by. Your time with them may be short, but your love can make a lasting impact.
Keeping these five tips for being a great foster dog parent in mind, you’re ready to open your home to a dog in need. Stock up on supplies, clear your decision with your building and insurance company and then reach out to a local rescue organization to get started!