3 Tips For First-Time Foster Parents

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Fostering a dog is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself (and the pup). But whether they’re puppies or adults, rescues sometimes have a little trouble adjusting to a new place. That’s why the shelter or organization chose you! They know you’re capable of providing love and a safe place until your foster pup can find a forever home.

If you’re having first-time foster jitters, don’t worry: The Dodo tapped a few pet-parent pros who’ve been around the adoption block for their tips on how to make the fostering experience a smooth one for both of you.

First-time foster parents tend to overthink and over-Google, and that’s normal. Emily Pelleymounter has fostered 15 pets but remembers her first very clearly.

She recalls reading somewhere that to prevent your foster dog from overeating or drinking water beyond their limits, you should give your pup 1 cup of water a day and a similar amount of food. Soon, Pelleymounter began to notice her foster would get scared around water, including faucets and the sound of showers.
 
“I thought it was anxiety or some emotional trigger,” she told The Dodo, “so I emailed a vet, and he said you should never deny a puppy of anything. So I immediately gave them as much water and food as they wanted and that 100 percent fixed it.”

Moral of the story: Don’t feel like you need to know everything about what your foster needs, or figure out the answers on your own, especially because all dogs are different. Sure, it’ll be tempting to search online for an answer. But that’s what veterinarians are for! So if you notice your foster pup has a change in eating habits or seems off in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out to them for help.

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Not every dog is emotionally onboard to move in with you, and some may need a little extra help getting settled in.

Katy Brink and her husband have fostered 12 dogs since 2017, but even as experienced pet parents, they’ve seen new dogs struggle to adjust. When one of their former foster pups was returned to them after a failed adoption, she no longer got along with Brink’s other dogs. “It took seven months to get her adopted [again], and during that time, we had to keep her separated from our dogs in the apartment,” Brink said. “We raised money to send her to a training program and eventually found her a great family.”

Training can help with puppy specifics like housebreaking and teaching adult dogs behavioral cues. If your pup is having trouble transitioning, there are plenty of inexpensive virtual training options available, or you can book a private lesson. The instruction won’t just make your foster experience better; it will help your dog land a forever home, too. For anyone whose pups have just started training, Brink recommends a few essentials like pee pads, toys, and favorite treats to help things run smoothly.

You don’t need the most expensive treats to impress your newest companion, Carly Goteiner, a Sean Casey Animal Rescue volunteer, told The Dodo. As a two-time kitty mom and a longtime foster, she suggests putting some TLC into preparing their treats.

For pups obsessed with their chew toys, “Put some treats in it, seal it up with some dog-friendly peanut butter (no xylitol!) and toss in the freezer overnight,” Goteiner said. “Their dog will enjoy licking away that frozen peanut butter.”

To give your rescue an extra warm welcome after getting back from a walk, get them a personal puppy fountain. It’s perfect for washing down peanut butter and keeping them entertained at the same time.

Remember, your new foster is just as nervous as you, but with plenty of love and some new accessories, you can give them the best foster home possible while getting them ready for their forever one.

Written by Sarah Michel. Sarah is an editor at The Dodo.