Love puppies? Want to help out your community? Animal shelters and rescue groups often need animal lovers who are willing to foster a puppy for a few weeks or months until a permanent home can be found. We can give you some tips. In this article we’ll tell you:
- How fostering a puppy works.
- Tips to foster a puppy if you already have a dog.
- The products you’ll need before you bring home your foster puppy.
- And, our guide to fostering a puppy.
Have you ever thought about fostering a puppy? Most people will tell you that it’s a rewarding experience. If you don’t have a dog of your own, fostering a puppy can give you a wonderful “puppy fix” and let you experience the joy of having a dog for a short time. Even if you do have a dog (or dogs) of your own, fostering a puppy can be a fun way to bring a playful pup into your home to play and interact with your own dog for a short time. Of course, it’s not all fun and games. Plus, it’s a big responsibility to take care of a puppy for a shelter or rescue. Here are some things you need to know.
How Does Fostering a Puppy Work
If you’ve never fostered a puppy before, there are a few things you need to know about the process.
- Animal shelters sometimes look for people to foster animals because they are running out of space. Without people to foster animals, they might have to euthanize some of their dogs. Rescue groups, on the other hand, usually seek people to foster because they don’t have physical facilities. All of the people that help them are volunteers. When they have rescue dogs, they almost always have to go to foster homes until they can find a permanent home.
- If you are interested in fostering a puppy, you can contact one of your local animal shelters or rescue groups to see if they need someone to foster. If they don’t need anyone right now, they will almost certainly take your contact information so they can call on you later.
- You can also check out a site such as Petfinder.com. Petfinder lists literally thousands of shelters and rescue organizations in the United States. You can often find a group in a nearby area that might need someone to foster a pet.
- Different shelters and rescues have different requirements for people who foster animals. However, you should expect to fill out a lot of paperwork. Many groups will also require some kind of background check. After all, they will be sending you home with one of their animals and trusting you.
- Most groups will interview and require a home visit to make sure your home is a good place for a puppy to live.
- Depending on where you live, the puppy, and the organization, they may expect you to have a fenced yard. If you live in an urban area, fostering a puppy in an apartment may be acceptable.
- For many groups, fostering a puppy when you already have a dog shouldn’t present a problem. Some shelters and rescues require that a foster puppy be kept separated from your own pets. Others don’t. This is something you need to discuss with the group ahead of time and be prepared to adhere to their requirements.
5 Tips to Fostering a Puppy If You Already Have a Dog
If you’re going to be fostering a puppy and you already have a dog, there are a few things you can do to help things go smoothly.
- Make sure your dog and the foster puppy are both up-to-date on their vaccinations. Your foster puppy will certainly be adorable but you may not know much about his background. You don’t want him to bring an illness into your home that could affect your best friend. And you don’t want your own dog to pass on something to the puppy.
- If the group you are working with requires you to keep your foster puppy separated from your own dog, have the logistics worked out before you bring the puppy home. This may include baby or pet gates, keeping the puppy in a different part of your house, and taking the puppy outside when your own dog is not out there. You will need to feed the puppy and dog separately. And they should have different sleeping quarters.
- If the group is okay with the foster puppy interacting with your dog, it’s a good idea to keep the puppy separated from your dog for several days, as a health precaution. Puppies from shelters and rescues can carry kennel cough and other illnesses which you don’t want to pass along to your own dog.
- You can begin introducing the foster puppy to your dog in a neutral place such as a park. Keep the puppy and your dog on leashes while they get to know each other. You can ask a friend to hold the leash for one of the dogs. Let them sniff and get to know each other. Go slowly. You can repeat this introduction when you bring the dogs home.
- While it’s important to be affectionate with the foster puppy and nurture him in your home, you should try not to make your own dog jealous. Don’t give your dog’s toys, blankets, or other things to the puppy. Pay attention to your dog and don’t forget about him just because there’s a cute puppy in the house. Remember that your dog will still be there when the puppy has gone to his new home so don’t mess up your relationship with your best friend.
Some dogs are very comfortable about having a “guest” dog in the home. But other dogs are not. Don’t rush your dog. Allow him to become comfortable with the puppy at his own pace.
Oh, and whether you have a dog or not, don’t forget to puppy-proof your house! Put away plants, household cleaners, and anything your puppy can put in his mouth. Hide or tape down cords. And, if you have any breakables or anything valuable sitting out, put it away until the puppy is gone.
5 Products to get Prior to Fostering a Puppy
One of the nice things about fostering a puppy is that many items are usually donated to help the person fostering the puppy. You should not expect to get paid for your volunteer work. But it’s not unusual for the shelter or rescue group to provide medication the puppy might need, pay for vet visits, and donate some dog food. (Some groups will ask you to pay for things out of your own pocket, if you can.)
There are some things that you will need to pick up for the puppy, even if you have a dog of your own and dog “stuff” in your house.
- Toys. Don’t take toys from your dog and give them to the puppy. This is one of the surest ways to make your dog resent the foster puppy. It can lead to your dog attacking the puppy over a toy.
- Dog bowls. Unless you just happen to have lots of spare dog bowls at home, you should buy a feeding dish and a water dish for the puppy. Even if your dog is comfortable with the puppy, it’s usually a good idea to put down a separate water bowl so the puppy has an option.
- Blankets or a bed. The puppy will need somewhere to sleep. If you put that puppy on your bed, your dog will probably be jealous. Some blankets or an inexpensive dog bed are recommended for the puppy. If you are also trying to house train the puppy, consider getting a dog crate for the puppy to sleep in at night.
- Treats. LOTS of treats. Your dog and the puppy will both like treats. Treats are a good way to reward good behavior. You can also teach the puppy some basic commands and use the treats as a reward.
- Collar with ID, leash. Your puppy will almost certainly have a microchip but it’s a good idea to have a collar with ID, too. A collar and leash will also help you start teaching the puppy some basic obedience lessons. Puppies that know some basic obedience find homes more quickly.
Our Guide to Fostering a Puppy
Along with the basics we have already discussed, fostering a puppy comes with some special responsibilities that don’t necessarily apply to adult dogs or to cats. Young puppies are growing at a rapid rate, both mentally and physically, especially before they are 3-4 months old. There are many things you can do during this time that will help them for the rest of their lives.
- Socialization – During these early weeks, puppies are forming bonds with people, dogs, and other animals that will form the basis of their outlook on life. Good and bad experiences make a huge difference at this time. A puppy that has bad experiences can become fearful or aggressive. While you should always keep the safety of the puppy in mind, it helps if you can introduce the puppy to children, men, people wearing hats, and make sure he has positive experiences. Let the puppy play, be petted, and get treats from a variety of people. Let the puppy meet a friendly cat so he has a good chance of growing up to like cats.
- Explore – Puppies are taking in everything they see and hear during this time – and not just humans and animals. It’s up to you to introduce the puppy to common household things like vacuum cleaners, televisions, and other noisy things in the home so he won’t be scared of them later. You should praise and reward the puppy when he encounters something new so these are positive experiences. When you’re outdoors with the puppy, you should do the same thing when he finds something new. Encourage the puppy to be bold and curious.
- House training – If you’re fostering a puppy, you will likely have the joy of teaching him house training. Many people today start puppies on pee pads, putting the puppy on the pee pad as soon as he wakes up in the morning and after he eats. You should praise and reward him each time he uses the pad. Change the pad often and encourage him to use it. If you have a larger puppy, you may prefer to train him to go outdoors but you can still use the pee pads as a backup.
- Crate training – Crate training is helpful for every puppy. Crates are a good place for puppies to take naps. They are a good place for puppies to sleep at night, especially while you are house training a puppy. And they are the safest way for a puppy to travel in your vehicle. If you spend a little time crate training your puppy by putting some treats and toys in the crate while he spends time in it, it can pay off later.
- Handle your puppy – Another way you can help your puppy at this early age is by handling him as much as possible. Touch him all over, touch his paws and toes, groom him, and give him hugs. Give him treats while you are handling him. Yes, all of this handling and touching is good for him and it makes it much easier to handle him when he goes to the vet or to the groomer later. Evidence from breeders also shows that the more puppies are handled and touched, the greater their capacity for learning.
- Start your puppy’s training – It’s really never too early to start your puppy’s training. Puppies that are 6-8 weeks old can learn basic obedience commands. If you use a clicker or lure your foster puppy into the position you want with a little piece of chicken or a treat, you will be amazed by how much he can learn. Keep your training sessions short and try to make them feel like a game.
Fostering a puppy can be a wonderful experience for both you and for the puppy but it’s not without some heartache. Fostering a puppy is intended to be a short-term situation so there will come a day when your puppy goes to his new home. This can be heartwrenching for many people who foster. Before you make the decision to foster a puppy, you should consider how this will affect you and if this is something you can deal with. Lots of people cope with letting their foster puppy go by volunteering to foster another dog. You do need to think about the emotions involved before you agree to foster a puppy. For many people, knowing that their foster puppy is happy in a new home outweighs the temporary sadness of saying goodbye.