Needed: A few good fosters
We can’t thank you enough for your interest in Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue and in helping even one of the many pit bulls in need in your community today! Your kindness and love will undoubtedly mean the world to your foster dog, regardless of their background (many of whom, we know nothing more than that they ended up in Animal Control).
We don’t require extensive knowledge of pit bulls to be a foster! In fact, some of our best fosters are “newbies” to the whole idea of pit bulls. J What we do require, even for those who happen to be experienced, is an open heart for their foster dog and an open mind, willing at times to do things a little differently than they’ve done in the past for the ultimate success of their foster dog.
Years of pit bull devotion and experience with many, many foster dogs of various ages are the guiding force behind the recommendations we provide through this manual. These are just some of the tips and tricks we have found that help ensure a fun, peaceful fostering experience. Will it still be difficult at times? Of course! Will you still have moments of utter frustration? We imagine so. That’s just one of the perks of working with any living being though, right?! Always know your case manager is available to offer advice, assistance, or even just a listening ear to share both the good and bad aspects of your experience.
Your new foster, the first few days
When you first bring your new foster home, we highly suggest you limit the dog’s interaction with other pets in the family. We encourage this for a couple reasons. 1) It gives the foster dog and your resident pets a more gradual introduction, some time to get used to the idea of each other, which can help reduce tensions when you do introduce them. 2) It gives your foster dog time to bond with YOU, the humans, because really that is the most important relationship your foster dog will have while he/she is with you.
We recommend crate-and-rotate or the use of baby gates (if you feel assured the dog(s) cannot jump over them of course!) for these initial days where contact is limited. If these ideas are new to you or you want to know more, contact your case manager or a Director.
Managing multiple dogs
When it comes time for introductions to your personal family pets, we recommend you follow the guidelines we include from Pit Bull Rescue Central if possible.
Booty sniffs are preferred over nose-to-nose rushed greetings. Be highly astute to the body language exhibited by all the dogs involved; this will be key! If you have more than one resident dog, please do introductions one at a time, rather than having the foster dog meet multiple dogs at once. Meeting a “pack” can be stressful and lead to less-than-desirable behaviors for both resident dogs and your foster. Introducing dogs one at a time and closely supervising their interactions—making sure to keep it short and sweet at first, ending on a positive note—will help keep the peace and ensure the dogs get off on the right foot.
*It is much easier to take it slow than to trouble-shoot once you’ve experienced a scuffle between dogs.
Also, please remember to limit access to toys and treats (like bones) during their initial days together. Resource guarding can be a real problem! Once your foster and resident dog/s have met and everyone seems friendly, go ahead and try to let each dog have a toy or bone (after they’ve earned it of course, even with something simple like a “sit” command) and again, watch closely for any signs of tension or guarding.
What does your foster need more than anything else? Leadership!
You may have thought the answer to that question would be love, right?! Well, that is also high on the list, but it most certainly needs to be balanced with structure and a strong leadership presence from any and all humans in the family.
So what do we mean by leadership? Well, first of all, a leader controls the resources. This means food, treats, toys, even affection and access to stimulating items or new people. We very strongly encourage that your foster dog (and resident dogs for that matter, because let’s face it, it is easier to have everyone follow the same rules) live by the “nothing in life is free” philosophy (or NILF, see handout in your packet). To some, this sounds mean or overly harsh, but believe us when we say, you will be surprised how much happier dogs are who work for their living. J NILF provides a certain amount of structure in and of itself, and this helps dogs to feel more secure, knowing you are in charge and they don’t need to make the tough decisions in life. Trusting that their humans have everything under control allows dogs to just be dogs and enjoy life.
That said, it can still be difficult in its early days of implementation, especially for a dog who previously didn’t have to follow rules or didn’t have a leader to show him/her the way (which describes a lot of our dogs when they first come into foster care). If you struggle with how to make this a reality for your foster, contact us and we can work through it with you! That is what we’re here for.
What do we expect? Some quick guidelines
Without sounding like drill sergeants, we do have some guidelines we would prefer be followed for all our foster dogs. It helps us ensure a certain baseline for trouble shooting if there are behavior problems and for determining the best forever home matches for the dogs when the time comes.
We do respect the individuality of our foster families though too! We appreciate open lines of communication between foster families and their case manager, so that we know what kind of progress the dog is making and can help if needed, or simply join in celebrating all the successes as well. J
We appreciate all our foster dogs to be…
*Crate trained – crating whenever you are away from home or unable to supervise his/her interactions within the home. We recommend crating at night as well, especially in the beginning, though many fosters eventually choose to let their foster dog sleep on a dog bed if house trained. And some even choose to invite them into their bed! That is your choice, but we ask that dogs earn such privileges with good behaviors. ;)
*Fed on a schedule – no free feeding! This is a big one and part of the resource-control aspect of leadership we mentioned. Unless your foster is a young puppy, we recommend twice daily feeding and that the foster dog be able to sit and wait for their food to be dished up and be calmly released to eat (no diving at the food bowl and “hovering” it up if possible!). Initially, it is probably prudent to feed your foster separate from other pets and as they get to know each other and everyone gets along, assuming your personal pet/s have good mealtime manners already, you can attempt to feed them together. Be on the lookout for any resource guarding or attempts to go for other dogs’ dishes!
*Trained in basic house manners – a well behaved dog is easier to have around anyway, right?! Learning basic commands like sit, lay/down, leave it, drop/give, off/no, and the like will make your life easier and give your foster some much needed mental exercise. Use your imagination, take training as far as you desire with your foster! Some people love to teach tricks and fun stuff in addition to the sometimes-boring basics. We say “go for it!” The more the merrier when it comes to commands your foster is able to follow.
*Leash trained to walk nicely – this is a hard one for many! It can be done though. Try your best to not reward your foster for pulling—a good general rule is that pulling stops forward motion and walking nicely on a loose leash means you get to move. This is simplistic and there is a lot more to it, but I think you get the picture. Even if your household and yard set up doesn’t require you to leash your foster on a daily basis for normal activities, try to fit it in every now and again so that the leash isn’t completely foreign to them when they do need to be leashed to leave the house.
*In attendance at least one Adoption Day event a month – your case manager or one of the Directors will be in touch with you regarding dates and locations of Adoption Day events. At the events, we do ask that foster parents observe a reasonable distance between their foster dog and the other dogs in attendance. Events for the rescue, unless otherwise noted, are not play dates for the dogs, but rather a chance to showcase program dogs to human visitors and potential forever families! If your schedule does not allow bringing your foster to events, simply notify your case manager. We may be able to arrange volunteer handlers for your foster dog.
*As well socialized as possible – exposing your foster dog to many different varieties of people and pets, all under controlled situations where you can safely manage the dog’s behavior of course, is great. Don’t worry about doing it all at once, but trying to fit in time for outings and/or visitors at least once a week is a wonderful practice to help ensure a well-socialized and balanced dog.
*Good pittie ambassadogs! The ultimate goal is for our dogs to be the kinds of dogs that help to open people’s minds to how amazing pit bulls can be. Good dogs don’t just happen…it all depends on the people at the other end of the leash. We absolutely will never be able to thank our fosters enough for making our program dogs into the kind we are proud to claim as Minnesota Pit Bull dogs! J