Should we foster a dog?
May 31, 2011 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Should we foster a dog?

I love dogs, and would love to have one of my own. SO and I are finally in a situation where there's not much that'd prevent us from having one. We have our own house with a small yard that could easily be fenced off, a great neighborhood for walks, etc. We have no kids, and finances aren't an issue.

My SO isn't a huge fan of dogs, but has said she would be okay with one if it was nice, wouldn't crap everywhere, wouldn't jump up on her, etc. I think these are all things that can be solved with the right dog and/or some training. We both grew up with dogs in our families and thus have some experience with them in the past. Our problem is we don't know many dog-owners, so we can't really dog-sit or whatnot and find out if it'd work for us and our lives.

I've read on prior AskMes that people recommend fostering a dog. This thread has a good amount of info on fostering, but was posted by a current dog-owner.

Has anyone ever fostered a dog prior to owning one of their own? Would this be a good way to find out whether a dog would fit into our lives?

I understand it's a huge responsibility and it can be like having a child. I take the idea of owning a dog very seriously and would not want to jump into it unless I'm sure it would work.

I'm aware of Petfinder and will likely use that to search for and approach nearby shelters/rescues if we decide to go down this path.

Any other thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

posted by Tu13es to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's great that you're considering this-- fostering is a really fantastic thing to do for dogs in a tough situation. That said, a few things jumped out at me.

Fostering can sometimes be a lot harder than owning a dog, depending on the foster dog of course. It's possible that you'll get a difficult dog who, for example, needs to be housetrained before being adopted permanently, or is really fearful and needs to get used to being around people. Those would make a foster a tough "first dog". On the other hand, you might just have a dog that's not doing well living in the adoption center for whatever reason.

I also wonder about your SO only being "okay" with the idea of a well-behaved dog (especially considering the above). That would be pretty standard for someone who has no experience owning a dog... but your SO grew up around dogs. It sounds like she has some very specific concerns; you should find out if they stem from bad experiences in the past, and be very careful that a foster situation wouldn't make her opinion of dog-owning even worse.

I guess I would be hesitant to recommend fostering in your situation. Waiting for the right dog to be available for permanent adoption might be the way to go, assuming that the humane society has a mechanism where you can surrender the dog if it isn't working out. In the meantime, you can always just go meet the dogs they have available, or better yet, volunteer with them to get a better sense of the dogs and do something good while you're at it.
posted by supercres at 8:08 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I thought a large part of dog-fostering was taking care of difficult dogs and training them so they were appropriate for adoption. This sounds like the opposite of what you guys want.
posted by Anonymous at 8:16 AM on May 31, 2011

All I can say is that I'm a huge supporter of fostering, as fostering (albeit a cat) changed my life for the better; my three adopted fuzzballs are now my family, and I couldn't ever imagine life without them. One thing I learned from my experience however is to make sure you work with a legit, established rescue organization who will follow through on their commitment of food, supplies, vet bills, etc. Check out the specific rescue organization's web pages, talk to them, work with them to determine what sort of dog and situation would work for both you and the dog. Fill out the application and don't be offended if/when they want to do an interview and home check. Their primary concern is for the dog's well being, and as much as foster homes are needed and valued, they can't just give up their animals to everyone who asks without doing their due diligence and making sure you will provide the right environment for the dog. On the other hand, if they don't do this, and are willing to just hand over animals without much if a second thought, run far, far away.

Fostering will help you learn two things - whether or not you are ready to be a dog owner, and whether or not you are ready to be the owner of that particular dog. Those two things are not necessarily equivalent. Every dog is different, and some are better fits with certain people/environments than others.

That all being said... if you (or your SO) is only ever going to be ok with the "perfect dog", then you might want to think twice, or you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Dogs that require fostering are in the system for a reason - they either can't handle being in the kennel for some reason, are recovering from illness or injury, or need training and/or work to be considered adoptable. Others just belong to rescues that don't have a physical shelter and simply foster all their animals; it will depend on the rescue organization, obviously. Thats not to say that any dog you foster won't make an excellent pet, but you need to be 100% aware of what the situation is before going forward.

But by all means, talk to the rescue groups, learn about the dogs they need help with, and of you do go down that road feel good knowing that not only are you making your lives better by sharing it with a dog, but you're providing a great service and helping out a dog in need, as well.
posted by cgg at 8:19 AM on May 31, 2011

Tu13es: "Should we foster a dog?"


One caution - foster dogs often become permanent residents. It takes a far, far more practical and steely heart than mine to let fosters go. That is why I now have 4 dogs, 3 of which were "temporary" fosters.

On preview, supercres brings up a good point. It's the responsibility of the foster home to socialize and train. You might be an experienced dog owner, but how are you at training the basics - proper potty procedures, walking, not jumping, etc. A basic obedience class might be a good thing, but you probably won't be able to get the rescue group to pay for it, unless they are pretty well off.

Some jurisdictions (or rescue groups) might require you to get a license as a foster home. Check with the Department of Agriculture in your state/province/location for more details.

Not all foster situations are because of difficult dogs. Some rescue groups don't have permanent facilities, and just rely on a network of foster homes to shelter their animals until adoption.

Another thought - depending on the rescue group, it may fall to you to be proactive about finding a home for your foster dog. This might mean taking it to adoption events on weekends, or making it available for potential adopters to visit.

That all said, I think you should still do it. Foster homes are hard to come by.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:21 AM on May 31, 2011

When fostering a dog you may get a perfect dog, or you may get a devil dog from the infernal pit. Keep in mind that no dog is really a bad dog, they've just be put in bad situations, and barring physiological issues, any dog can become well adjusted with patience and training.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2011

The shelter I volunteered at had three kinds of animals that needed fostering:

1. pregnant animals, or ones who had just given birth;
2. animals that needed socialising;
3. animals that needed medical care.

(For cats there was occasionally a fourth, when there wasn't enough room for all the cats, so healthy socialised cats would go to foster to wait for space to open up. This never happened with dogs there, but might happen elsewhere. There are places which do only fostering and do not have shelters at all.)

I don't think it's crazy to consider fostering now. You just need to speak to a number of shelters about why you are doing this, what your concerns are, etc.
posted by jeather at 8:46 AM on May 31, 2011

Why not just go for it and start the process of adopting a dog? You could probably work with a rescue group to find a dog with the right personality for you -- that's an advantage of working with a group that fosters, they'll know the dogs' personalities. Also, most (I think) have a policy of not just encouraging, but requiring you to return the dog if it doesn't work out.
posted by amtho at 8:47 AM on May 31, 2011

You could raise a guide dog puppy. I did this, and it was great. There is a built-in support system with the other raisers when you need a dog sit, and they help you train up the dog so it is very well behaved. As the dog gets older, it can go most everywhere with you as well. I took my dogs to work, and on the train and in the passenger cabin of airplanes. The slight downside is that the dog goes away at about age 2, which is just when you all are getting used to each other. It is sad, but when you meet their blind partner, you realize that no matter how much you love the dog, having the dog completely changes their life for the better.
posted by procrastination at 8:55 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was about to write the exact same thing as procrastination. We're doing this up here in Canada and it's a great experience.
posted by bluefrog at 8:59 AM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: While I'd love to raise a guide dog puppy, we simply don't have the extra time or dedication at this point.
posted by Tu13es at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2011

Honestly, I think you would be better served by adopting a dog that has been fostered and who has reliably demonstrated the traits you are looking for in the foster setting, rather than fostering yourself. (One) purpose of fostering is not so much to offer potential adopters a "trial run" to see if the dog is a match, but to give a dog that might be harder to place for one reason or another a chance to get some groundwork training and socialization to make it a more suitable adoption candidate.

Even for an organization that fosters all their dogs and not just the more difficult cases, it seems that volunteering as the first foster for a dog would be kind of a crapshoot, when you've got pretty specific temperament requirements. If you wind up with a dog that is barky, jumpy, or poorly housetrained, what then? Why not minimize the chance of disruption to your life and the dogs, and take advantage of the fact that a dog already in the foster system is much more of a "known" quantity?

By taking a dog out of foster rather than fostering yourself, you will most likely be opening up a slot for another dog to be fostered with an experienced fosterer. Thus, the "good deed" aspect is really the same as if you were fostering yourself.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I fostered a few boxers when I had more time in my schedule and a housemate that was happy to help out as well. I don't think I could have done it if he had been on the fence about it... one of our dogs had terrible seperation anxiety and once decided to spray liquid poo all over the place when I left. He was a lot of work and completely untrained to walk on a leash... anyway, fostering is a rewarding experience but it can be more work than most people seem to think.

I was also really commited to training my fosters, I made at least an hour a day free for walks, usually a good one in the morning and at night too, as well as whatever extra time I could spare after work. I did end up keeping one of my fosters as she was a sweety and really old. She died after being with me for less than a year, so that is kind of heartbreaking... fostering can be harder on the emotions too, depending on the dogs. My other fosters had little-to-no training and were much, much harder to train than puppies are so issues like jumping up on people and barking all the time only get solved with a lot of hard work.

I fostered through a boxer rescue organization and they are a fantastic group of people... many popular breeds have rescue orgs so that can help narrow your search for a good foster and they will usually interview you and check your house over before they give you a dog so it's another good reality check at that point too.

I would try and find a nice dog that doesn't need a lot of retraining for your first foster and if you're willing to invest the time in it I think you'll do okay.
posted by glip at 9:08 AM on May 31, 2011

A lot of dogs that need fostering don't have issues. A big part of the problem is that rescues just don't have space and manpower for all the animals that need placing. You can be specific about what kind of dog you would foster. If you don't want a dog that 'needs work', you can absolutely get one. There are so many dogs out there, you unfortunately have an abundance of choices.

I say go for it!

Also, many fosters are short term, even down to a weekend. They just need a place before they can get transferred, etc.
posted by Vaike at 11:08 AM on May 31, 2011

We didn't foster before we adopted, however, I think this is a great way of finding out if a dog is right for you.

We adopted a pup from a rescue and a year later decided that we wanted to get a second dog. Instead of getting one right away, we decided to foster for the same rescue organization. We wanted to find a dog that would fit in with our first dog and also with us.

Fostering was great though it had its ups and downs. My partner was reluctant like yours, though mainly because he works from home and would be the primary caregiver during the day. His concern was mostly dogs with high energy levels, barking and housebreaking. We got all kinds of dogs from big to little usually between 6 months and 2 years old. Some stayed with us for a couple of weeks and others for a couple of months - one only stayed for a day! Most were fine though some came to us after they'd had surgery or were severly emaciated. All had varying levels of obedience (one we had to do Housebreaking 101 - that one broke us and we decided to take a 4 month break).

I was the one pushing for fostering and I made sure to take his concerns very seriously as I really wanted it to work. You are going to have to ask for a lot of patience from your partner when you first get the dog home. Any behaviour issues that come up (like jumping and housetraining) will need to be discussed with her and what you're doing to improve them. I found that giving him a plan of action helped soothe things over until the problem was resolved or improved. I also made sure to handle any accidents in the house/crate and did all the excercising/training during the evenings and weekends.

If your partner is really concerned about getting a "nice dog", see if your rescue has an older dog that you can start fostering. Younger dogs often have loads of energy and not too much obedience training. Sometimes you get a choice and you can talk it over with her. Once you get into fostering, it's a little hard to get out. Rescues are always looking for homes and dogs are always in need.

BTW, we went through 8 foster dogs over the course of a year before we found the perfect dog for us. Good luck!
posted by KathyK at 11:27 AM on May 31, 2011

« Older Help me learn to shoot home movies   |   Career software for academic advisors? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.