Helping a dog transition from abandonment or abuse to a happy and healthy life is a noble act. One of the best ways to do this is to be a dog foster.
Fostering dogs takes planning but it doesn't have to be an arduous task. What are the best ways to get started? Let's take a look.
1. Determine Who You Want To Help What kind of dog do you want to foster? Big dogs? Little dogs? Something in the middle? There are rescue organizations for nearly every breed out there. Having a miniature poodle in your house might be a different experience from having a German Shorthaired Pointer, so experience is your friend here. If there is a type of dog you love and understand, then you could be a great candidate for fostering.
2. Find a reputable rescue organization. Most people in the rescue world have good hearts, but not all know how to best run an organization. Find one with a solid track record of financial stability and happy volunteers. First and foremost, they will need to pay for any initial vet visits. Health conditions of the dogs will vary at time of rescue; a nonprofit animal rescue's first obligation is to take care of the animal. If you are willing to cover vet costs yourself, then state that up front. Otherwise, get signed documents that say that the rescue will provide veterinary care for sick and/or injured dogs whom you are providing shelter for. You will probably need to go to one of the vets that they have an agreement with.
3. Know Who Your Dogs Like To Be Around Many fosters already have dogs of their own, and they can provide comfort to any foster dog who is nervous coming into a new home. Some volunteers have unicorn dogs: those rare dogs who like any other dog coming in and play well no matter what. (That must be nice.) Most dogs have some type of breaking point: if you've noticed that your dog gets aggressive in certain situations, then do your best to avoid that, whether it's resource guarding, getting play aggressive, or feeling protective of you. Common sense is your best friend here. Simply hoping for the best when you know there are triggers is not going to be enough. There will be some dogs whom you just cannot foster because of the dog already in your home. That's OK. Somebody else will come along, and it will be safest and infinitely less stressful if you take care of your own dog's needs first.
4. Be Honest About How Much Time You Have If you can only foster a dog for a week, tell that to the rescue. Many foster situations are very short, and that is OK. If you have months available, then let the rescue know as well. The volunteer foster's relationship with the rescue organization needs to be built on trust and honesty.
5. Prepare Your House Make sure that your backyard is secure. Many newly adopted dogs try to escape their homes due to stress and fear as well as curiosity. Patch up any holes in the fence - you'd be amazed at how dogs can squeeze themselves through seemingly tiny spaces. Don't leave them outside by themselves. They might hop a fence or become even more anxious. Indoors, put any delicious-looking shoes away in the closet. The rule is: the more expensive the shoe, the tastier it is to a dog. And an anxious dog might get destructive. Leaving the dog at home for long periods of time alone can create opportunities for chewing. If the rescue organization says crating the dog is perfectly fine, then go ahead and do that, but not for more than a few hours at a time. The dog will need to take breaks just like anyone.
6. Know You Are Doing A Good Deed You cannot rescue every dog who needs it, unfortunately. But helping a few dogs experience a caring home for a short time is enormous. Too many wonderful dogs get overlooked at shelters because they are scared and they do not get enough human contact. With fosters, dogs learn to live normal lives. Some dogs will be "foster fails" - the dogs who end up getting adopted by the foster, but by allowing dogs to temporarily get fostered until another forever home becomes available, you are helping rescues save more dogs.