One Couple + Two Dogs = Our Waldo Bungie

Thoughts on fostering…

July 28th, 2011 | Posted by Emily in Blog Love | Doggies! | Fostering. | Ginger Rogers

Aleksandra from Love and a Six-Foot Leash asked me and a few of her other readers (including some wonderful bloggers like Happyolks, A & A Friese, and My Life With Tommy) to say a few words about being a new foster parent. So please head over to her blog to see what we had to say about it…

Since she is highlighting why we foster, I thought today would be a great day to highlight some of the W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L support/advice she has given me since we brought Ginger home to foster.

1. Thoughts on fearful dogs…

The hardest thing about working with a timid dog is forcing yourself to leave her alone. It is so tempting to try to snuggle her fears away, or show her that you are not scary by petting, scratching, and giving treats. However — and it was a big breakthrough for me when I finally was able to understand this — the dog doesn’t interpret it that way at all. If the dog hasn’t had much positive human interaction in the past, she can easily interpret your actions as threatening. She doesn’t understand that you are different from others in her past. In dog language, a dog that confidently makes eye contact and approaches without hesitating or making any calming/non-threatening gestures (yawning, sniffing the ground, looking away, lip licking) is most likely trying to challenge the other dog. You don’t want the dog to think that way about you. Just picture a stranger who doesn’t speak your language rushing up to you while you’re minding your own business and insisting on touching you, talking to you, and trying to hand you snacks.  You probably wouldn’t have any of it.
The key principles I have learned are these:
  • The dog will approach you to interact when he/she is ready; you can’t rush it.
  • It will happen much faster if you avoid putting any pressure to interact on the dog.
  • While the dog is getting used to you, don’t talk to it, don’t look at it, and don’t touch it (this is very hard but it really helps!!).
  • Once the dog will readily be near you without appearing nervous, you can start incorporating treats.

2. On describing your dog to possible adopters…

I want to caution you to avoid the very tempting assumption that she was abused, neglected, fought, bait, or whatever — unless you know for a fact that it’s true. As dog welfare people it makes our hearts open a little bigger to consider this possibility, but studies have shown that adopters don’t really care, and many are actually more likely to hesitate to adopt dogs that have some kind of sad/traumatic history. What I have learned from my seasoned dog rescue friends is that focusing on the dog’s current and future, not their past, is the best way to get people interested. And the truth is, most dogs who end up at shelters, even the ones who have scars or are very timid, were not abused or neglected, just undersocialized at a young age, undersupervised, and left out on their own too much.

3. On making sure your forever dogs don’t feel neglected…

Don’t forget to ALWAYS treat your guys like they’re more special and more important than the foster. It’s hard sometimes because with a foster you want to make up for all their sad past by giving them extra love and cuddles, but you really can’t. Forever dogs get treats first, get walked first, get fed first, and get petted more.

It was so nice to have a fostering veteran like her to help walk me through some iffier moments with Ginger. She actually inspired me to name my foster Ginger Rogers (since she gives adorable names to her fosters, like Lollie Wonderdog, Gonzo Bunny Ears, and Stevie Wonder)! She inspired me to blog about my fostering experience. Shoot, she inspired me to foster in the first place!

So thanks, Aleksandra, for all you’ve done for Miss Ginger and for keeping me from feeling like a complete foster mama failure!!! With your help, Ginger has blossomed from shy and scared to an outgoing and confident creature!

Ginger would totally be willing to share her Kong or let you have some of her treats as a thank you…if you’re interested.

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12 Responses

  • avatar Aleksandra says:

    Wow, what a nice post. I am so flattered that you have found some of my ideas useful enough to not only use yourself, but also share with others.

    I’m humbled to be in such great company. Thanks for the selfless work you do for the animals.


  • Some great tips there, thanks for sharing!
    We actually have an “all dogs equal” rule in our house though. As Billy often spends time at both my house and my boyfriend’s with other dogs (boyf’s dog Buster and his roommate’s dog Clover) we like to make everything fair. It keeps it easy to apply the same rule for fosters, if one gets a treat, all do!

    • avatar Emily says:

      We definitely give everyone treats – just Turk and Rufus get them first! :) Especially with dogs like Turk and Ginger (who are both a little food aggressive), it’s been helpful to have the “forever dogs first” rule to make sure we don’t cause any problems! :)

  • avatar Kate says:

    Great post! I love that you highlighted how important it is to think about your own dog when you bring a foster home. It’s easy to gush and worry over the new dog in the house, but it’s so important to pay an equal amount of attention (or more!) to the dog(s) you already have.

    • avatar Emily says:

      Yes, Kate! I would not have even thought to do that (especially since Turk and Rufus are SOOO spoiled!) so I was so glad that Aleksandra told me about it. It’s made a huge difference in allowing Turk and Ginger’s relationship to become more friendly and less adversarial.

  • Nate and I have enjoyed your foster experience as well! Ginger Rogers is a gem. Between Ginger, Turk, and everything you’ve taught me about the breed, I am a full-fledged pittie convert!

  • avatar Kristine says:

    Your dogs, both of them, are just beautiful!

    Thanks for putting together all of these great suggestions. Fostering is not an easy thing to do but it is so rewarding. I really admire people like you and Aleksandra who are willing to work so hard to change lives for dogs. It’s inspiring.

  • avatar Of Pit Bulls and Patience says:

    We’ve made our way to you via Love and a Leash, and we love miss Ginger Roberts!! Thank you for giving her a chance at a great life!

  • avatar Cori says:

    Em, you and Daniel are seriously amazing (he doesn’t get much blog time, but I know he’s a big part of this too!). I may be driving Andrew nuts with how much I talk about a) Ginger b) Pit Bulls c) Fostering. For now, I’ll just have to be an avid supporter and cheerleader for those of you that can foster/adopt!

    • avatar Emily says:

      Thanks Cori! :) We would love if (someday) you guys got a pittie too…so that way we’re not the only crazy pittie people we know from college!