Providing foster care for homeless dogs can help them become healthy and better behaved, increasing their chances of finding a forever home – but you should know what you’re getting into.

It’s a rare dog lover who hasn’t at least considered fostering a dog. Woebegone canine faces in shelter and rescue appeals tug at the heartstrings. You could help save a life. And hey, surely there’s room in your house for one more dog, especially if it’s just temporary…

The recent spread of COVID-19 has animal adoption organizations pleading for even more foster homes for homeless animals. And, fortuitously perhaps, there are a lot of people stuck at home who have the time to foster.

You might think fostering would be easy. You sign up with an organization, they let you know when they have a dog who needs a foster home, you get the dog and take care of her until she’s adopted, and then you’re ready for your next foster. Easy peasy? Beware, it’s way more complicated than that.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge – or even if you already have taken it – here are some things you will want to give serious thought to:

* Your household may experience serious disruption. Some fosters are no bother at all;  they blend into the woodwork like they’ve always been there. More frequently, however, they come with lots of energy and potential for behavior challenges.

The most common reason dogs are given up to shelters (or not reclaimed) is behavior. Make sure you are ready for the impact this may have on your lifestyle and serenity and be prepared to provide a lot of management. The dog may not be house-trained – in fact, you should assume she’s not, and start treating any foster dog as if she were a young puppy. (For instructions on remedial house training, see “How to Potty Train a Dog,” WDJ July 2018.)

The dog also may search for things to eat or chew in wastepaper baskets and closets and on counters and tables. She may alarm-bark at the dropping of every leaf outside. You never know what you’re going to get!

If your own dogs don’t do well with new dogs in their home, don’t even think about fostering dogs. If you have your heart set on fostering, consider other species that your dogs will tolerate. If you have small companion animals and/or children, use extreme caution when bringing a foster dog into your home, until you know they will be safe.

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