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Magwart 12-10-2013 12:55 AM

"Green fosters" and their expectations
Let's talk about your favorite rescue's training program for new fosters.

Now that we're launching a new rescue, it's a question that's been on my mind. I have a handful of friends who foster who are all in their thirties, forties, or fifties, have had dogs all their lives, train together, and are great with dogs who have "issues." The key is the "train together" part -- they all get that dogs are moldable and progress from point A to point B with a plan and patience. And they all get the need for building trust with a dog, and taking things slowly.

It's the green new foster homes that worry me. I've seen a lot of them at the local shelter here. In this college town, they are typically early 20s. They grew up with a dog and love animals. They want to help save them. They've never professionally trained their own dogs, or been part of a training club, and are clueless about dog behavior. They emulate whatever their parents did to "train." ("No, no bad dog!")

I've noticed a pattern with this type of green foster at our local public shelter. They are so excited and thrilled at first, delighted to take a sad, miserable dog from the shelter and help it. And then within three days, they want to return the dog. Naturally, they didn't crate train it, turned it loose with their personal animals the first night, let it roam in the house unsupervised for hours....and bad things happened. :headbang:

How do your favorite rescues keep new fosters on the right track? Is it in your foster contract? Do you have mandatory foster training?

misslesleedavis1 12-10-2013 09:12 AM

I always tell potential fosters that,

- the new dog probably has many issues
- the new dog most likely has food agression
- when introducing your new dog to your dogs do it off property
-the new dog will most likely cry all night if in a crate
the new dog with most likely get into garbage or chew if he is left unsupervised
- the new dog will take off because it has no idea who the **** you are
- i hope you like cleaning up poop because your new dog is most likely not housetrained

I like to employ the negatives about fostering and give no false hope. there are also many positives i tell them about! i just dont see a point in holding back.

Remo 12-10-2013 09:15 AM

We have a system where we assign a "mentor" (i.e. experienced foster home volunteer) to each new foster home. That way they have a specific person to go to for help/questions.

We also have a foster home manual on the volunteer section of our web site that also provides guidelines/information.

JeanKBBMMMAAN 12-10-2013 09:16 AM

Foster mentors help. :)

I like the idea of training though - a 2 hour class would be a great way to start. Cover what to feed/not, when to call for vetting permission, paperwork, adopter relations and followup, behavior, stages of the rescue dog, grooming basics. Okay, maybe 2-2 hour classes!

misslesleedavis1 12-10-2013 09:26 AM


Originally Posted by Remo (Post 4647137)
We have a system where we assign a "mentor" (i.e. experienced foster home volunteer) to each new foster home. That way they have a specific person to go to for help/questions.

We also have a foster home manual on the volunteer section of our web site that also provides guidelines/information.

I love this!!!! we have fb connections and support, but not a mentor! awesome fabulous ideas :)

Merciel 12-10-2013 09:39 AM

Mentors help.

I have a foster wiki that I send them all a link to: WAGS Wiki (I wrote that almost two years ago and haven't really looked at it since, so it might be horribly outdated by now, who knows).

We also try to give first-time fosters the "easy," highly adoptable dogs who are likely to be placed within a couple of weeks even if they have no training and the foster has even screwed them up in some small way. Puppies and small-breed dogs without behavioral issues almost always get adopted within two weeks around here, so they're usually good starter dogs for new fosters.

Other rescues in our area have mandatory volunteer orientations before you're allowed to take a new pet home as a foster. One of them runs a two-hour session and the other is a pair of two-hour sessions split over two separate weekends. I think that's a great idea if you have enough personnel to make it work, but it's not feasible for my rescue because there are only a couple of people who could teach the class and nobody wants to do it. (I'm one of the possible candidates and I don't want to do it, so I can't blame anybody else there.)

sit,stay 12-10-2013 09:53 AM

Mentors help a lot. I discovered that a new foster might not feel comfortable calling the office with what they considered "little problems" or "stupid" questions, but they were much more likely to open up to an experienced foster parent mentor who called and checked in with them every couple of days initially.

Also I think it helps to assign their first three foster picks. Those people who don't have much experience training dogs (or in some cases, living with dogs at all) tend to pick the really tough cases. Which, in my experience, is the last thing they need to start off their fostering life with. I like to pick the easy ones for them, so they can gain some experience and feel good about it.

I think that offering as much support as possible also helps to make it a success for everyone. Training classes, etc. are a great way to focus efforts and I think it is a great way to grow a cohesive group of foster parents.

LifeofRiley 12-10-2013 11:03 PM

Wow! Lots of great responses.

I think the mentor idea is a great one. I have never fostered with an organization that had a formal mentorship program, but I benefited a lot from informal mentoring. I have found that small organizations that have a lot of adoption events provide a lot of opportunities for the type of informal mentoring that has helped me.

I also think it is really important to have a Foster Handbook with general information as well as key contact info for the various issues that may arise. The best experiences I have had (as a foster home) are ones where I know exactly who to contact if a health issue surfaces, etc.

Finally, I have found that a one-on-one in-person orientation is better than a general mandatory training. By in-person orientation, I mean meeting-up with the coordinator at an adoption event prior to beginning volunteer activities to talk through guidelines and procedures together... this happens only after a foster application has been accepted.

In my experience, the formal (and mandatory) training sessions I have been a part of are not tailored enough to any specific volunteer role to be particularly useful... in other words the sessions cover all forms of volunteer activities at a shelter/facility. Truth be told, I think some of these facilities make these sessions mandatory only to filter out those who are less committed vs. trying to give attendees useful information for the volunteer role they will be taking part in.

LifeofRiley 12-11-2013 12:15 AM


Also, as you are starting your own rescue, I think one thing that is often overlooked in terms of upfront foster training is paperwork management/reporting - intake/transfer, vet check, vaccinations, application checks, adoption forms, microchip.... what are the reporting standards - what needs to stay on file, what is given to the adopter, what needs to be sent to the State and what companion documentation is required, etc., etc.

llombardo 12-11-2013 01:53 AM

I am a new foster mom and this is is how it went. I filled out application, they had me come out Saturday(I chose to bring Midnite), they gave me food, the dog, and crate and I was on my way. I do kinda know someone involved in the rescue, so I'm not sure if all fosters are introduced the same way. On Monday I got an email to sign a waiver and a copy of the handbook. No one ever called to see how the dog is doing or how I'm doing for that matter. They haven't updated any info on him on their page, they have lots of dogs/cats now. I have no problem with the dog and he can stay as long as needed, but I feel a lack of support. I have no clue if he is suppose to be getting heartworm medicine, what adoption events if any I am suppose to go to,etc. I was told I can trim his nails and to contact them with any questions. I can see how someone that isn't familiar with dogs or fostering can be overwhelmed. They didn't even go over the waiver , it just states that basically they aren't monetary responsible for damage, injuries, or death...that is scary.

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