When fostering, it’s important to always keep the goal of finding a forever home in mind” – Ravania Reddy (author of this piece)
So, if you are looking to foster a dog here’s everything you need to know. To begin with when fostering it’s important to always keep the goal of finding a forever home in mind. It’s imperative to teach your foster fundamentals such as potty training, loose walking and basic obedience (sit, down, stay and leave it).
Helping your foster dog understand thresholds is also extremely important. For example, waiting for permission to exit the door or vehicle, sitting before crossing the road, not allowing counter surfing. Also, look out for areas of concerns such as reactivity, aggression, resource guarding and separation anxiety. These need to be addressed immediately instead of waiting as these behaviours can escalate and then it might take longer to manage and overcome.
Also read our guest column on ‘How to spot and care for arthritis in dogs’
Be patient with your rescued dog
Often rescued dogs suffer from anxiety and other behavioural issues due to their past experiences. Thus, it is important that a rescued dog is given space to decompress when they arrive. A new environment can be overwhelming. Human touch can be foreign to them so don’t smother or be overbearing. Dogs thrive on patterns and predictability so it’s important to keep a simple routine.
Next step is helping them become calm and confident. Calmness can be achieved by mental stimulation, exercise and sniffing. In our case, it was important for me to teach Aria [my foster turned forever dog] to cope around her various triggers. Calmness needed to become a habit and once this was achieved, we began working on confidence. For confidence building we started with basic obedience on walks such as “asking for a sit” before we crossed the road or “going into a down” at random times outdoors. Gradual exposure to new environments and experiences helps the dog build confidence and overcome fears.
Every dog is different, don’t compare
Dealing with rescues requires patience, dedication and commitment. While some things will work, some won’t. Always remember that you are on a unique journey and comparison is the killer of all joy. For instance, in our case hand feeding Aria for a few months was a game changer for engagement with me around triggers and prevented resource guarding. I became more valuable to her so trusting me became easier.
We have a treadmill for Aria which is great during summer. This helped her training too because a well exercised dog reduces destructive behaviour and is easier to train. Aria walked with a backpack with 5% of body weight. She is a desert mix with strong Canaan characteristics which means she is a working dog. Carrying a backpack gave her a job so calmness around triggers became a norm as dogs cannot multitask.
Allowing her to sniff when she was stressed made the world of difference because when they sniff, they use their brain which helps them to relax resulting in a calmer dog. At the beginning, our walks were very structured where she had 10 minutes of walking by my side followed by 5 minutes of sniffing provided there was no leash pulling. Now our walks are naturally structured without a timeframe. Importantly, for us every training experience that we have gone through has been beneficial in one way or the other. Nothing has been a complete failure.
Fostering and adopting a dog is a huge commitment
I’d like to reiterate that it’s important to be patient as it takes time for a dog to settle in a new environment and learn basic rules of living in a home. I would always advise people to foster before adopting to know if you and the dog are compatible as adoption is a lifelong commitment. In preparation for fostering/adoption, you will need to be committed to provide a safe, loving home environment, affection, training, socialisation and exercise.
Fostering/adoption is an incredible act of selflessness, and it is so rewarding when you see a life thrive and flourish.
By Ravania Reddy
Ravania was born in South Africa where she grew up on a farm. Her love for animals started at a very young age as she was always surrounded by them. Dogs have always been a part of her family. Ravania has also lived in Hong Kong for several years where she and her husband were involved in establishing a rescue organisation which is now run by a team of wonderful volunteers. Animal welfare has always been close to Ravania’s heart.