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Pet Fostering 101: How to Help Dogs Transition to Adopted Homes

Introducing the second story in The GOOD Guide to Making the World Better for Pets (Even If You Don't Own One).

Introducing the second story in The GOOD Guide to Making the World Better for Pets (Even If You Don't Own One). This five part series, brought to you by GOOD in partnership with Purina ONE®, explores how we can all share the benefits of having pets in our lives. Check out more stories at GOOD Pets.

For many of us who aren’t able to own a pet full-time, fostering one is a great opportunity to enjoy the rewards of companionship while also experiencing the satisfaction of helping a pet build confidence, learn obedience and social skills, and ultimately increase its odds of finding the right adopter.

“It’s so rewarding to see a foster dog blossom and bond with me and the other members of the pack,” says Bobbi LaPlaca, who currently has three fosters of her own as a volunteer of Retriever Rescue of Colorado and Friends of Retired Greyhounds.

Lisa Sallie, president of New York’s Grateful Greyhounds organization, says that her operation couldn’t function without foster parents. “We don’t operate a kennel,” she says, explaining that the greyhounds come straight off the racetrack and into temporary homes. She estimates that she’s housed hundreds of them since she began fostering in 1993. “Foster homes are crucial for being able to evaluate the dogs, which helps us make the best permanent placements possible.”

Before signing up with a local shelter or rescue organization to foster a dog yourself, LaPlaca advises that you consider whether your household is ideal for a new canine stranger. “It’s best to have a quiet, safe home with a fully fenced yard and no hazards, like open stairways,” she says. “Younger children might also be problematic because they could yank on ears or a tail.”

If your home fits the bill, LaPlaca advises brushing up on the basics: reading books on behavioral techniques, familiarizing yourself with health issues that might crop up, and talking to current foster parents to gather advice on introducing the dog to your home and family members. “Often foster pets can be scared and very shy, so it takes patience and knowledge to overcome these issues,” she says. “It’s a constant learning process!”

LaPlaca points out that knowing what to expect is one of the most important ways to plan ahead. “Be prepared to sacrifice completely clean carpeting!” she says. “I have a contract with a carpet-cleaning company to have them come on a regular basis. Housebreaking is easy to learn and implement, but expect a mistake here and there.”

But both women say that helping bring out the best in a dog is worth the messes and inconveniences. LaPlaca says, “Often the most difficult part is saying goodbye when adoption happens, but that means that a space is open for the next needy pooch! One of the best parts for me is getting updates and photos from the adoptive families.” Sallie agrees: “I love seeing the dog afterwards enjoying the life he deserves.”

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