Dog Fostering – to foster or not to foster?


We’ve always wanted to foster dogs. There are adverts for All Dogs Matter, Battersea, Mayhew Trust and a lot of other amazing animal charities around London. Anyone looking to add a pet to their home will probably contemplate a rescue dog or cat at some point.

What people generally don’t consider, it’s not particularly publicised after all, is the journey there. That interim bit between rescue and rehome when the animal is confused, dragged from whatever life they are used to and generally have no idea what is happening to them.

Rescue places have limited spaces. They do a wonderful job but can only help the animals they have the resources for. And what about the little ones, the timid ones, the poorly ones, the unsociable ones who find being plunged into a noisy, inhibiting kennel just too much.

We’ve had enough experience with cats and dogs to be able to cope with the noise, time involved, toilet training (and the inevitable ‘presents’ that we receive). So, armed with oodles of patience and confidence, we were happy to foster any dog, irrespective of the breed, size or training levels. This wasn’t about the dog, per se. We care about dogs, all dogs. It was about wanting to help.

What we weren’t prepared for, however, is the pure unconditional love we would feel and receive!

Our first foster dog arrived, a little shivering, apprehensive bundle of one-year old shaking fluff. To say she was scared would be an understatement of epic proportions. To watch a dog hiding sadly in a corner, head down, flinching at a stroke and violently shaking is hard to bear. Very VERY heart achingly hard.

Your gut instinct, if you’re an animal lover, is to smother with love and attention. Go in with gusto trying to make it instantly feel safe and secure. You can’t do that with a terrified or anxious dog (unless you find a clever one who can have a sensible conversation!). Overwhelm it and you’ll push it away, even more scared and confused. Feign (or genuinely feel) indifference and you’ll never be able to bond and make progress. Get angry at ‘bad’ behaviour and you’ll agitate it further, potentially reinforcing whatever negative actions it has dealt with previously.

You have to wait. And wait. Reassure. And wait….. definitely (to use a cheesy cliché) a labour of love. Day after day, hour after hour. Each small victory recognised and celebrated.

Toilet training is not easy. I hear people all the time, frustrated that their new pet is not instantly using the garden or park. You can train a dog to know where the toilet patch is (and party like it’s 1999 with treats and more praise than you feel is probably necessary when they use it!) but training to confidently and vocally ask to go outside  when they need to is a whole new ball (sorry!) game. It takes time, a constant watchful eye, floor scrubbing at 3am and patience.

We had our first foster dog for just under three weeks. You’d think we had her for three months. We’re rational, sensible and fairly level-headed souls. So how is it possible to fall in love with a tiny little creature in three weeks?!

She left us toilet trained, sitting on command, fetching balls, walking on a lead easily, interacting with other dogs and people safely. We were proud of that, of course. Like parents sending a well-rounded child off to university – our job was done.

But, most importantly, she left us happy, confident, playful and adorably cheeky. Grabbing a sock and running off with it, tail wagging incessantly, whilst trying to hide it under a cushion. Jumping like a little lamb (no really – I kid ye not) when she knew it was breakfast or dinner time. Throwing herself (literally – she must have been made of rubber!) on her back and stretching her paws up to our hands to make sure she got a good tummy tickle. She licked (ugh!) our faces and clambered around on our heads, peered grumpily at us if we sang badly to her, sighed if we didn’t give her enough attention, got excited if we giggled at her, snuggled up to us when she was sleepy.

The little lady no longer cowed in fear but got excited when her lead and harness appeared. She walked just as proudly and confidently as all the other little dogs with big dog complexes in the park, and rightly so. She demanded fuss from anyone willing to give it, and didn’t flinch when it was offered.

We considered keeping her, wrestled with it a lot. We joked about running away to Scotland with her so we wouldn’t have to hand her over to her permanent home (and by joke I mean genuinely considered it! Scotland’s nice, right??).

But if we did that how could we foster other dogs?

Fostering. For you dog lovers out there – try it. Go for it! Do it! It is a great way to have a dog, especially for those unable to commit to the long term needs of a pet. It’s a great way to help a charity. It’s a wonderful way to help a dog.

But DO NOT underestimate the loving bond you will create!

PS Feel free to have a look at some of my other blogs –

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