Fostering a dog before you adopt may help you decide if a breed is right for you
Photo by Shelley
Rescue organizations are desperate for people to foster a dog until their forever home is found. When I volunteered for Greyhound Rescue, we relied on our foster homes because sometimes it takes a while to find just the right permanent home for the Greyhound. During this foster period, you can determine if this is the right breed for you.
The adoption process for Greyhounds has some special challenges. Greyhounds from the track (and almost all Greyhounds are “retired” from the Greyhound track) have never lived in a home.
They don’t know about stairs. It takes time for them to learn to walk on linoleum. Sliding glass doors are introduced so the dog won’t go through them. Of course the dogs are tested to see if they can live with cats.
The dogs that are eventually adopted are adults, but they are not house broken. Our screening process was the same for everyone. The first interview is the “get acquainted” interview, so we can learn about the prospective owner and inform them about Greyhounds.
The second interview is more in depth. We wanted to be thorough. We wanted to make sure this is a good home for the dog — we didn’t want them to be returned to us. We emphasized that if for any reason the dog had to be returned to call us first. Unfortunately we did get calls — sometimes at 11 o'clock at night — and yes, we were willing to take back any dog we had originally placed. Adoption policies are even more detailed than when I was involved in adopting Greyhounds 15 years ago.
Shelley, who volunteers and provides a foster home for Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue based out of Illinois, finds that the adoption process begins in a number of different ways depending on how the dog was surrendered.
If the dog was surrendered and the original owner is available, Shelley prefers to go to the owner’s home to assess the dog. The dog is more comfortable in the home environment . When they meet the owner, Shelley asks for health records. She also brings another dog to see how the dog will get along with another dog. Shelley also asks the owner to give the dog food to see if it is food aggressive.
“I even make loud noises to see how the dog will react,“ she says.
After the dog has been surrendered, the animal is taken to the vet to check out its health. Shelley also gets to observe if the dog’s nails have been clipped; if its teeth are in need of cleaning and if the dog is dirty. There is a good chance it has not been bathed.
“A lot of Shibas” Shelly says, “do not like water."
If the dog reacts strongly to water, it is a safe bet it has never been bathed.
"When we go to a home that would like to adopt one of the rescue dogs, we look for a lot of things. For example, are there ways dogs can escape? Shibus are escape artists. We bring a toy and treats to see if the new owner would like to play with the dog. Shibas are very active dogs. We ask if the potential owner likes to walk. We try very hard to match the right dog with the right person. We do not deny anyone a dog just because they have never owned a Shiba before. We try very hard to teach people about the breed so they can understand them.”
I asked Shelley about fostering a dog before you know it is the right breed for you. Shelley was very enthusiastic about this.
“You can really find out about a dog and help to match it — if not for you, but perhaps to another person’s life style. You get to learn the personality of the breed.”
Shelley and I agree. This is the way to go if you would like to learn what it is like to live with a particular breed. Many foster dogs go in and out of Shelley’s life, but she has found the breed for her.
“I would definitely recommend fostering. It saves a dog’s life and enriches yours at the same time!” she says.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
P.S. Good news. Shelly just told me that the little guy in the photo has been adopted!
Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training (www.inharmonydogtraining.com) in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-645-4707. Julia provides individual training for dogs and their owners, and also conducts dog training classes at Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.