What does it take it be a great foster parent? Whether you're a seasoned foster family, or have just signed up to take on your first foster, please take a look through the helpful foster tips below to make your foster experience the best it can be.
As a shelter dog rescue, we often do not have a detailed history of the dogs we take into our program. Most of the time, the information we receive is based off of a fairly general shelter temperament test. Because of this, it's best not to rush your foster dog into new situations. In particular: meeting other dogs. We recommend that you do not introduce your foster dog to your "pack" of resident dogs or any other dogs until they have had time to "settle in" and adjust to life outside of the shelter environment. When you do start working on "introductions", please remember that this is best done in very slow intervals. Start with daily parallel walks and gradually work your way up.
When used and introduced properly, a crate can be one of the most useful tools at your disposal when working with your foster dog. Crate training allows your foster dog to have a safe place to call their own and can actually help relieve stress. If your foster dog appears to have never been in a crate, you will need to help them learn by using positive association techniques. Start very slowly by letting your foster dog explore the crate on their own and giving them lots of treats and praise while doing so. When you begin leading your dog inside the crate, start with 5 minute increments and stay close by so you can give them lots of treats and praise. Make the crate soft and comfy, feed meals in the crate, or have an extra special toy or treat (stuffed Kongs are great for this!), that is reserved for crate time. Please remember that the crate should NEVER be used as a punishment. It should be your dog's "happy place" where they are safe and secure.
Whether you're teaching your foster dog to go potty outside, or not to chew,on household items, giving exciting encouragement is a must. Set your foster dog up to succeed by making them feel loved and letting them know that they're doing a great job. Rather than focusing on punishing bad behavior, focus on rewarding good behavior. Instead of scolding them for having an accident inside, praise them like crazy when they use the bathroom outside. You'll be amazed by how fast those "negative" behaviors diminish when your dog realizes there's "something in it for them" to do the right thing.
Once you've gotten to know your foster dog better, start doing some exploring together. Equip yourself with a pouch of treats, and start with a calm place that isn't too crowded. Ask people if they'd like to say hello to your foster dog, and give them a treat. This is a way to build confidence and trust between you and your foster dog as well as help them become better socialized. See the resources page for what a DINO is and the right way to greet.
Do not expect your foster dog to be able to handle hours of daily training sessions with you. Learn to recognize when they've enough, and wrap things up on a good note.
This is the good stuff! Make sure you are equipped with treats that are EXTRA special. The more difficult the command, the more valuable the reward should be.
One of these easiest commands to teach is "look". Holding the treat near your nose and eyes say your dog's name and "look" or "watch me". As soon as your dog makes eye contact with you, reward them instantly. Gradually work up to having your dog hold eye contact with your for longer and longer periods of time. If your dog is uncomfortable with eye contact, reward any attention they give you at first.
Give the command, then raise the treat over the dogs head and back towards their butt. Their head will naturally start to move up and back, making their butt hit the ground! Then say GOOD SIT! Reward instantly and move back to see if you can repeat.
This one is a bit tougher. Make sure your dog is very confident with the "sit" command before moving on to "down". From the sit position, say "down" while holding the treat a bit in front of the dog, and lowering the treat slowly down to the ground and slightly backwards towards their paws. If this isn't enough, help them by gently pulling the leash toward the floor.