Getting a Foster Dog through the First Couple Days in Foster Care

A new foster dog may be quite stressed the first few days (panting and pacing). To reduce stress, establishing a good, reliable routine is essential. We also find that a tired dog sleeps rather than worries—but we caution that exercise at first should be pretty close to home.

We recommend that foster dogs be fed separately from your own dog. Keeping a good distance (10 feet or more) between two dogs eating at the same time just seems wise—your dog may be stressed by the new visitor and feeling a little vulnerable. DO NOT LEAVE FOOD IN BOWLS AFTER MEAL TIME. Dogs do much, much better on scheduled meals, and it eliminates a possible source of friction. Most multiple-dog homes also already understand that you can’t figure out who has eaten what if you “free feed.”

We recommend that a young foster dog sleep in a crate for the first few nights somewhere near you. After that, attempt to have the dog sleep on a dog bed—again near you—as see how it goes. Don’t give access to the rest of the house with a young dog. Older dogs might be able to immediately sleep in your room on a dog bed or blanket.

House-training and Alone Time

We often don’t know whether a dog is house-trained, and we rely on foster homes to cement this skill. Thankfully, it is really easy to house-train an adult Labrador. All of our steady volunteers have fostering (and house-training) experience and will help in any way. Even if we know that a dog is house-trained, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pretend he or she isn’t at first—again, stress creates many an accident.

Most dogs will have crate experience. We recommend that you start off using a crate indoors for any alone time. After the first few days, you might try a dog-proofed area for a short time. Don’t rush it! And the more tired a dog is when left alone the more likely it is to sleep.

Your Dog’s Role in Fostering

If you have a dog, please understand that he or she will play a vital role in fostering. It is perfectly normal for both dogs to take a day or two (or three) to get truly comfortable with each other, so love at first sight is not required. Often everyone gets along great, and the more your dog fosters, the better he or she will become at welcoming a new guest. A couple “growlies” or loud “encounters” (with no actual injury) might happen. Just contact us immediately and we can work you through it. Your dog’s routine should be disrupted as little as possible. We recommend introducing dogs OFF LEASH, in a relaxed atmosphere with humans nearby in case a squabble occurs.