Fostering is a way of life, and once you go down that road, there is no turning back. I didn’t really know what I was doing the first time it happened. I just found a dog outside my house, picked him and brought him home. Of course I did keep that first one – the first one is always difficult to let go.
After that one thing led to another and the neighbors are used to seeing dogs come and go all the time. Some stay for a couple of months, some for a few days. If you are wondering what you can accomplish in just a few days, the answer is: a lot – but this is an issue for a different post.
After the first dog had resolved its issued, the second one came
Most people ask me how I do it, if I have a garden (which I don’t, and I always thought that to be a ridiculous question) and they suggest that I should stop “collecting” dogs. First of all, fostering is not about collecting, but about letting go – the exact opposite of collecting.
So, let’s just focus on how I do it:
1 Keep a stable, calm pack
First of all, I have three very stable and calm dogs. They were not that way to begin with – all of them had their issued at first. After the first dog had resolved its issued, the second one came. Having a stable environment at home, with a dog already knowing what to do, when to be calm and when it’s time for a walk, Apollo, the second one, just followed the schedule and the home routine. So did the third, the fourth, and the fifth.
I never bring on a new dog, unless I know that the pre existing ones, adopted and fosters, have already got accustomed to the home routine, have no anxieties and no issues
2 Know when the pack is ready to receive a new member
I never bring on a new dog, unless I know that the pre existing ones, adopted and fosters, have already got accustomed to the home routine, have no anxieties and no issues. When Marta, the fourth dog came at home, the three previous ones, Laura, Apollo and Pela had such a stable routine and were so certain of some things (when to eat, when to play, when to relax), that the new member did not cause them any anxiety. In fact, they could not care less about her being here.
They don’t mind being the first or the last, they just need to know their place.
3 Always respect the hierarchy
Dogs are animals that live in packs. This is what they know, this is what they like and this is what makes them feel safe. They don’t mind being the first or the last, they just need to know their place. The first place belongs to Laura, my first dog, and always will. All my other dogs know that, and they respect it. I respect it too. Laura gets to walk first, to eat first, is the only one allowed on the furniture and the only one who spends the night in our room. Apollo also know he is second – so, below Laura, but definitely above Pela and the rest, and so on. Hierarchy is key for me, and I help each and every one of them understand their position. It helps me and it helps them.
Home is where the pack relaxes, and this is very helpful.
Laura, the first dog that came home, is a very human centered dog, and never really likes to interact with other dogs. This helped a lot. She is actually the one who helped me foster so easily. One day, I just opened the dog and brought a new dog home, and she just looked at him and went back to sleep. Laura has set the rules in the house, and they are very convenient for me. The dogs at home do not interact with each other, never. It is like they live in a parallel universe, where I am their leader and that’s that. Some of them have their playmates, but they only meet them in the park or the mountain, where they get to play, run around, and go crazy. Even very social dogs like Blue, who loves to interact with other dogs, realize that in this house, playing is out of the question. So, like the rest of them, she just laid in her bed with her chewing toy, since nobody would play with her. Home is where the pack relaxes, and this is very helpful.
they are never left unattended with the rest of the pack
It is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it is very helpful. Every new dog that comes home is confined at first (crate or separate room), especially when I am not around. They get their daily exercise, they get to spend some time with me at home, but they are never left unattended with the rest of the pack, unless enough time has gone by and they are ready to follow the rules and the routine of the rest. Marta, for example, slept in a separate room when I was away, and so did Blue. This helps them relax more and helps my dogs not get anxious, having to cope with me being away and a new member wandering around their home.
Exercise is key. A lot of proper exercise can work wonders. All dogs get a lot of exercise every day – some are walked together, and some alone. Having exercised the dogs properly every day, helps me trust that they will fall asleep while I am gone, and basically, it helps relax at home. They lay off steam when outdoors (a lot of steam) and indoors, they lay in their beds, exhausted and happy.
This is what I do. I love it, I have been doing it for some years now and I have proven to be good at it. Sometimes we ask for foster homes, and people comment saying: “I wish I could, but I have a dog at home” or “I can’t because my dog will be jealous”! Dogs don’t get jealous, they just fight for their position in the pack, and if things are not clear, they will get frustrated – and if things are not clear, it can only be our fault, not theirs.
Basically this post was for me, because I reached my fostering peak last week. I was lucky enough to see my Blue and my Marta get adopted, so a new place is available. I just need a few weeks to make sure my three dogs are calm and secure, and probably a next dog in need will join us.