Foreword by Sarah Brasky, Founder of Foster Dogs Inc
Always wondered, “How can I have it all: kids and foster dogs?” Well, it’s absolutely possible, and can indeed be done safely, successfully, and even with utter enjoyment. With a lot of patience and perspective, this can be an incredible experience for your foster dog - and your family. I have fostered a handful of dogs since giving birth to my child two and a half years ago. Some small, some bigger, some active, some lazy. Considering the fact that I also have two big furry goofs in my home named Ozzie and Shaggy who are basically toddlers themselves, I find any foster I house at this point to be a “win.” My son is accustomed to having seemingly-random doggy visitors in our home, and I am grateful to have shown him so many positive associations with new dogs of all shapes and sizes. Of all the seniors Foster Dogs has pulled from the shelter, about half of them have stayed with us for a bit of time, some just a few hours, some several weeks. For me, it’s a great way to learn more about the dogs before they are up for adoption; for my dogs, it’s a cool house guest to interact with; for my child, it’s a new creature to appreciate and support.
As with my own dogs, I supervise all child-to-dog interactions, and will intervene with interactions with fosters if the situation calls for it. Safety is top priority, and when a child learns compassion for animals at an early age, he or she can become a better person. Here’s a helpful packet on teaching empathy to young children through being kind to animals. Bringing home a foster dog while you have a child or multiple children isn’t always a piece of cake. There’s less sleep at times (yes, less than usual), there’s more “put away your toys or else they will be chewed up” conversations, there’s more “Doggy stole my cracker” dilemmas. But there’s also many beautiful aspects, and once your child says “so long” to one dog, you have the opportunity to welcome a new dog in need. It’s a beautiful cycle, and I hope you’ll give it a try!
Written by Milla Chappell, Real Happy Dogs
When I tell people that we enjoy fostering dogs, the response is usually something like: “Oh that’s such a great thing to do, but I just don’t think I could foster because…” I hear a variety of concerns, such as working long hours, becoming too attached to the dogs, and having young children in the home. All of these are valid and not to be taken lightly, but when it comes to fostering, I love to help people see possibility where they previously only saw a problem.
My husband and I fostered before having a baby, but after our daughter was born, I wasn’t sure if it could work. We live in a small NYC apartment, my husband works long hours, and a child is more than a full-time job for me. I had questions like, “What if we can’t sleep?” “How will I walk a dog with my daughter in-tow?” “Can I trust an unfamiliar dog around a baby?” Most of all, my daughter takes so much time and energy, and I wasn’t sure if I had the physical and emotional capacity.
But… we decided to try it. When Sarah from Foster Dogs first asked us to foster a small terrier who had just been pulled from the ACC, we agreed to a short-term placement. We felt very supported and things went well, so a few months later, we agreed to take another dog… and then another. What I have realized through the process is that by fostering a dog, we are doing something small that makes a difference not only to the dog but also to the people who end up adopting. In addition, by teaching our daughter to show compassion and love animals, I am confident that we are enriching her life and giving her coping skills that will serve her long after she leaves our home. Do you have questions about whether or not you could foster a dog while raising children? Foster Dogs Inc. is here to help!
Here are some practical tips for anyone who is considering fostering:
Be honest with your child about what to expect
When preparing a child to foster, it’s important to be honest about what he or she should expect. From the moment a foster dog comes through our door, we explain to our daughter that this new dog-friend is only staying with us until he finds a family of his own. We talk about how happy we will be when she goes home, and we ask her questions about how she feels about the situation. So far, there have been no tears when a foster dog leaves, only celebration that we helped a friend in need.
Give your child freedom to express emotions
My toddler’s opinions are highly variable without a foster dog at home, and when there’s a new dog invading her space, emotions can run high! One minute our daughter is elated to have a dog in her house, and the next she’s scared because he jumps on her or sad because he grabs her favorite toy. My goal in managing these interactions is always to love and to teach. I try to show love for both my daughter and our visiting dog, and I want to teach my daughter how to acknowledge her emotions and how to interact compassionately with others. Some of my favorite solutions when emotions are running high: we go for family walks, we use baby gates to give everyone their own space, we do calming activities such as reading or coloring, or we give our foster dog some crate time with a peanut butter-filled Kong toy!
Share the love of fostering in your community
Raising kids takes a village, and so does fostering! Our home is very social and we have a constant rotation of friends, children, neighbors, and caregivers come through our door. For me, one of the most rewarding experiences of fostering is watching other children, families, and caregivers learn about the fostering process and grow to love our visiting dogs. For families with young children, talk to your rescue group about their preferences regarding caregivers/visitors, and of course, any interactions with visitors should be highly supervised.
Develop an honest relationship with your rescue group
Every foster dog is unique, and so is every foster family. Be honest with your rescue group about what type of dog you can best accommodate, and if you have questions about what will be expected, don’t hesitate to ask clear questions up-front regarding length of stay, expense, transport, and training. Our fostering experience has always been very positive because we have felt heard and supported by our rescue groups. We have felt comfortable declining fostering dogs who we felt we couldn’t support, and we’ve had a positive experience with each foster dog we brought into our home.
Make sure the whole family is on board and understands responsibilities
Bringing a new dog into your home is fun and incredibly rewarding, but it is also a commitment that requires adjustment and flexibility from everyone in the home. The experience of fostering will be more positive, and therefore more likely to be repeated, if everyone in the home pitches in and helps.
Considering fostering? Talk to the others in your family about how they feel about fostering, and start making a plan for how you can work together to meet the practical needs of a dog in need. Is someone in your family hesitant to begin? Consider going to Foster Dogs Inc’s foster training workshops together, and you can get involved in other ways as you learn!
Be gentle with yourself
Has today been a hard day with your foster dog? We all understand. Are you in a season of life where fostering isn’t feasible? There are other ways to be involved! Did you fall short of your goals today? Tomorrow is a new day. Do you need support from other people who understand? We are here for you! The community at @fosterdogs and your rescue group is here to train, equip, and train people to have a positive fostering experience, so don’t hesitate to reach out when you need advice, support, or practical help. And most of all, be gentle with yourself. Fostering dogs while raising children is no small commitment, but it’s so rewarding.
Read more FAQs on our website, and celebrate National Foster a Pet Month by bringing home a temporary new fur-kid!