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. 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.
However, some fear that placing dogs in temporary foster homes might make them feel rejected once fostering time is up and possibly even leave emotionally scarred. Rest assured that this will not be the case. Rather, the effects of foster care on a dog are overwhelmingly beneficial to increasing a dog's chance for adoption.
Do Foster Dogs Feel Rejected?
Though you might feel that dogs who've been temporarily placed in foster homes may feel rejected when they eventually leave their foster parent(s), you shouldn't. According to dog trainer Cheri Lucas, "dogs live in the moment. Rather than dwell on their past, they are always in the process of moving forward. What's important to them is 'right now,'—if they feel safe and secure, and they're being fed, exercised, and cared for, nothing else matters. Like all creatures of Mother Nature, their goal is to survive and return to balance." Therefore, if the foster dog ultimately finds a happy, loving home, they will be perfectly adjusted and happy in their current situation.
Unveiling True Personality
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.
Preparing for Home Life
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.
Recovering from Medical Issues
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.
Increasing Adoption Opportunities
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.
Decreasing Risk of Euthanization
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.
By Jodi L. Hartley
About the Author
Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for a pet service/retail business, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and an M.B.A.