If you’ve ever walked into an animal shelter you might liken it to a stay at the hospital. While both are places of refuge and recovery, neither are restful with all the noise. The shelter environment is downright stressful for a dog due to all the barking, long-term confinement and little human interaction. Many shelters and most rescue organizations now use foster homes to transition dogs from homelessness to their forever homes. The effects of foster care on a dog are hugely beneficial to increasing her chance for adoption.
Foster care often goes well beyond the basic needs of caring for a dog. Foster parents provide a safe environment to coax their new tenant out of her shell. Dogs who have spent more than a few days in a shelter environment often are fearful, stressed and unhappy, making it hard to determine their true personality. They aren’t getting much exercise and are confined to a kennel most of the time. They don’t get as much attention from their human caretakers as they crave. All this changes in a foster home.
Foster parents provide the one-on-one time needed to help a dog adjust and thrive in a home. This often means housebreaking, teaching her basic obedience commands and how to walk on a leash, helping her overcome fears and behavioral problems and introducing her to common household items and activities. If the foster parents have other pets, the foster dog then has the chance to socialize with them and learn how to co-exist. It can also determine if the foster dog would be happier in a forever home with another pet or as an only pet.
Dogs coming into the shelter environment with medical issues also benefit greatly from foster care. This allows her to receive the care she needs while overcoming an illness or recovering from a surgery. Her progress is more carefully monitored, and she has a peaceful, comfortable place in which to rest.
While a foster dog is living in her temporary home, she is introduced to many more prospective adopters than she may be while in a shelter. Neighbors see her as she learns to walk on a leash, family members of the foster parents witness her polite greeting when they visit, social media friends see her cute pictures online and other dog parents meet her at the local dog park. All of these encounters, along with the standard marketing practices, increase her chance of finding her forever home.
The most important effect of foster care on a dog is that she is saved from being euthanized. Most shelters are overcrowded and only have the resources and space to house individual dogs for a short time. Without foster homes to take dogs who don’t adopt out from the shelter quickly, she would likely be euthanized to open space for another dog.
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