Making Your Foster Feel Welcome

Thank you so much for choosing to join our team of foster families and welcoming your new foster dog into your family and home. It’s a tremendously fulfilling position to be in, knowing that you’ve helped an animal through a difficult period in their lives, into the adoptable category. All of us at Mountain Pet Rescue would like to do everything on our end to make sure this foster experience goes as smoothly as possible,  are a few tips to make him feel relaxed in his new foster home.

It is highly likely that your foster dog has just undergone a huge journey. Most of our dogs are rescued from out-of-state high kill shelters, some have been abandoned and found wondering the streets, and some have been abused. Whatever their circumstance, it was most likely a stressful experience, including their long journey to Colorado. He is confused, stressed, scared and disorientated.

Dogs display anxiety and nervousness by: panting, pacing, lack of eye contact, “not listening,” housebreaking accidents, excessive chewing, gastric upset (vomiting, diarrhea, loose stools), crying, whining, jumpiness and barking. Your goal as his foster home is to help him adjust as quickly as possible. This can be accomplished by  Despite your joy at welcoming in your new temporary furry addition, you should be cal gentle with your new dog. Talk to him in a calm, low voice as you travel home avoid playing the car radio and having too many people with you when you pick him up.

When you first bring your foster dog home, make sure you have him on a leash! Spend the first 15-30 minutes walking him outside around the perimeter of your yard or the area that you will be with him most on your property. Walk slowly – let him “lead” mostly – and let him sniff and pause if he wants to. He is getting used to the “lay of the land” and all the smells associated with his new surroundings. He will undoubtedly relieve himself this is his way of making himself  by adding his mark to the smells of your home, and now his new home. Obviously you want this to happen outside! If you have a place you wish this to happen, encourage him to “get busy” in that area and praise him warmly when he does. You  isolate the foster dog from your resident dogs during the first entry to your home – he will appreciate . Crate your resident dog or have someone take him for a walk while your new dog explores.

Quiet time will be important for your foster dog in the first week. Because of his nervousness and anxiety, he will get worn out quickly. His recent past may include a shelter stay which has worn him out with worry. Despite your excitement, try  resist inviting friends and relatives over to visit him Give him time to get used to your immediate family and resident pets only. If the dog does not solicit play or attention from you, leave him alone to sleep or establish himself. Believe it or not, we don’t want you to force him to play at first!

Feed your foster dog twice a day; half in the morning, half at night, unless you have a puppy who should be fed 3-4 per day Ask and encourage the dog to sit before putting the bowl down.  As a foster parent, it is your responsibility to teach him manners so he can develop into an adoptable pet. If you have other dogs, feed your foster dog away from them but at the same time. You may want to arrange having another adult in the room for the first week of feedings to monitor the “pack behavior.” each dog sticks to his own bowl. Keep vigilant over feeding time and look out for any food aggression issues. If you do notice any issues at feeding time, please let us know immediately as this will be an issue that will need to be worked on.

There is a good chance that your foster dog will show his insecurity by following you everywhere! This will include trying to hang with you in the bathroom, watching TV with you, getting the mail, and undoubtedly wanting to sleep with you. We ask our foster parents to try and not let your foster dog up on the beds to sleep with you. As tempting as this may be, not every adoptive parent will want to share their bed with their furry companion, so its best not to teach him  habit – your biggest aim is to set him up for a successful adoption. It is not unusual for him to whine or cry or bark if confined away from you at night – lights out at a new strange place is a stressful thing for him. If you put the crate or his bed in your bedroom or somewhere he can see you, the problems are usually minimized. Safe chew toys in the crate at night will give him something to do if he’s awake. Remember, during the first couple of weeks, the dog will probably get quite tired and worn out by the day’s activities, so establishing a sleep schedule is usually not a big deal.

Try to develop and use a consistent daily routine for feeding, exercising, and bathroom duties that can easily be transferred when he is placed in his forever home. For example, feeding your foster dog breakfast at 5am, dinner at 3pm and his last potty break at 1am, will probably not suit most famil routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine translates into security for them. If you do the same things in the same way and in the same order, he will settle in more quickly and learn what is expected of him and when. You will then need to explain his routine clearly to his adopters when the time comes.
Let your foster dog out to take care of business as soon as you rise in the mornings. Feed him after a morning walk. How far you walk him daily will depend on his breed and energy level but try and exercise him as much as you can. This will help alleviate any stress, make him easier to train, and can help us truly assess his energy level.

There are many things you can do around the home to set your new foster dog up for success and start to train him on household etiquette. By removing common problem items out of temptation, you can minimize problem behaviors such as eliminating in the house, stealing from counters, raiding the trash can, and getting into trouble with new family members. High piled rugs or carpet are common places for indoor potty mistakes to happen, so remove these if you can or close off these rooms for the first few weeks. Put trash cans either up high or behind closed doors. Do not leave food lying around or on kitchen counters, as this could be way too tempting for your new furry friend. Do not leave your foster dog alone with other pets or young children (under 12 years old) until a good relationship is established (at least 30 days). Even then, you should never leave your young child alone with your foster dog. An adult should always be around to supervise interaction. Remember, it is your responsibility as the foster parent to teach him good manners around the home. This will include teaching the dog to relieve himself outside, to stay off the furniture, to meet and greet at the door politely, to play nicely with other pets, to be gentle around children, and to be calm indoors.

Rescue dogs come from a variety of backgrounds, but all dogs can do with more socialization. It is important to find out as much as we can about your dog’s behavior while in your care so we can make an accurate assessment and match him to his forever family. After a couple of days, start inviting your friends and relatives over. We advise our adoption families to wait a couple of weeks, but we need to assess your foster dogs as quickly as possible. Do introductions to new people gradually. Introductions can take the form of petting, playing fetch, even going for a walk and note how he reacts. Do not force the dog to accept new people – do it positively, with lots of praise, allowing the dog to approach people rather than new people approaching your dog!!! Be sure to tell your visitors that your dog is from a rescue so they need to be more sensitive. Don’t reach for the dog right away – let him come to them. If he does not go to the new person, that visitor should completely ignore the dog. Suggest after the dog has met/sniffed the new person that they pat the side of the dog’s neck or side of the shoulder. Patting a dog on the top of the head is interpreted by dogs as a powerful dominance attempt and can be a challenge to some dogs, and frightening thing to others.
Start taking your foster dog to new places and note how he reacts. The opportunity will allow you to determine how your dog responds to strange people, dogs, and places which is all pertinent information to pass on to his forever family.

You do not need to frighten your new dog into complying with household obedience commands, or prove to him that you are the toughest creature around by using brute force. You DO need to show your dog that you are the leader in the household, a leader he should put his trust in following. You can do this by “telling” your dog this in a language he understands – body language and daily habits. Respect is not something that you can force a creature into giving you.

Above all, be patient,  and consistent with your foster dog. Use positive reinforcement and lots of praise when he’s good. When mistakes are made, n he modifies him behavior. Read and research as much as you can to prepare yourself. Understand that sometimes you may need to try more than one approach to a problem because every dog is different. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, bring up new situations, and feelings of frustration that you may have – the sooner the better before they become big problems that threaten hi chances of adoption! Our goal is to make sure our foster dogs and foster families are having a rewarding experience.