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I thought this would be an interesting topic for all of us to ponder given the recent seizure of dogs from Brightstar's founder, Ruth Urban.

I have been working with rescue off and on for the past 8 years. The work is very emotional and I've had to learn to accept that I can't personally save every dog. I can no longer foster because it is too hard on my two seniors so I've had to find other ways to help. I also consider 2 dogs my personal limit in terms of being to provide quality care (food, supplements, exercise, attention). Making and keeping these sorts of limits is something that is really hard for most people in rescue. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to foster and every day is a crisis--there really are dogs (and cats) euthanized every day who could be saved if there were enough foster and adoptive homes for them...but we can't save them all.

One thing I have noticed is that people often start out in rescue as a foster parent and the number of dogs in their household quickly balloons. Because of the crisis mentaility/reality people who may start with one personal dog and one foster often adopt more dogs and then continue to foster so within a year I've seen people go from one personal dog to three or four personal dogs and several fosters. In about half of these cases where the number of animals balloons quickly the people get burnt out and leave rescue, often on very bad terms.

I wonder what other people feel is a healthy number of personal dogs to foster ratio? And how are you able to balance all of the issues involved in fostering and continuing to provide a good quality of life for your personal animals and for your fosters? Do any of you feel you have taken on too many dogs and, if so, do you have advice for ways that rescues might minimize the stress/pressure on fosters? Should there be limits on the number of fosters in a home at any given time? If so, what should those be?

I realize this topic itself could get very heated so please be respectful towards your fellow rescuers.
 

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For me it all depends on the individual dogs. How old (or young)? How much training do they come with? Any vices that need to be worked on?

If I was fostering a young, high drive dog I would say only one.

But if I had a laid back, older dog then I could easily take in another one or even two.
 

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I apologize for the typos and misspellings in my original post. I really am quite literate but I often type without my glasses on!


I think the other issue here that I didn't mention is what a foster home is expected to do with the dogs. When I foster the dogs leave my house with A LOT of training and I would not be able to do that if I had more than one foster at a time.

Also, how do people find the strength to say no? A lot of times things just seem to snowball...the more involved you get, the more dogs you adopt and foster!
 

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I just started helping with the spca and won't be able to foster as I already have three dogs(my personal limit). A couple from my church started fostering in Dec. and now have 5 of their own dogs(just got a Pyrenees from a shelter up north) and are fostering 4 more, mostly medium size mixes. They are helping with the dogs that no-one else notices, so hopefully can get them adopted out faster, as they do train and socialize them. They live in the city, with neighbors close on each side, the dogs live in the house. They do such a great job, and are at the adoption events every weekend with their fosters. I give the foster homes alot of credit, it would really be hard to part with a dog after getting to know it!
 

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Like Lauri, I find it depends on the individual foster and resident dogs involved. When I first started fostering, it was just me and Chance. I had 2 fosters fairly regularly. After I adopted Roxy, it was usually just one foster because she was young and demanding. Before Chance died, we had 3 resident dogs and would sometimes take one foster based on that dog's personality and individual needs - I did a lot of short-term emergency fostering. We were also living in the city and had a pre-teen in the house so our limits in terms of time, energy, space were greater. Shortly after we moved out of the city, Chance's health declined and I asked for a break from fostering to give him more (time, attention, car rides, belly rubs) and minimize stress for everyone. I'm SO glad I did that, but it was hard to see the e-mails pleading for help.

We now have 2 resident dogs and the (now) teenager is with us only part-time, but I think I will probably stick with just one foster. It gives me time to work on obedience and more socialization and not feel like I am short-changing anyone on time and attention. I feel like if I'm doing my job right as a foster home then I won't see that dog again once he or she is adopted. Although, I'd be tickled to get some updates and a picture now and then!

How do you say no? I'm glad I'm with an organization that has guidelines because it would be so much harder if I were on my own. As part of a group I go into an evaluation knowing what SASRA will and will not consider for fostering. Now (big surprise!) those guidelines may get wobbly when we have several open foster homes, but it does help to have some back-up when I do say no. Doesn't make it any easier.
 

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This is a very interesting topic. As many of you know I have three of my own dogs, I'm not able to foster. I have dreams of someday having more land and being able to have somewhat of a sancutary (sp? Ruth, I'm sorry I CAN'T spell lol) where I'm able to take on a couple of Senior dogs at a time. How much is too much for someone??? I think alot of that depends on the person and the makeup of their existing furcrew as well as the fosters. I saw a picture of a man on these boards some time ago and he had, god only knows, how many GSDs-there had to of been 8-10 but I got the impression that he was doing an exceptional job with them.
I've come very close to having a couple of Seniors from these boards sent to me but after talking with a friend, we decided this would not be in the best interest of my dogs and likely not the best for the senior. It does break my heart knowing 'I could' do more at times, but I have to look at the big picture. We all need to know our limits.
I'm also dealing with dogs I will never see. I could see where I could get emontionally overwhelmed if I had to face these dogs and make decisions in person.
I think communication is key to keeping the foster parents from being overwhelmed and would help to catch problems before they turn into something much larger. I would also think that some type of social gatherings would help too. This way they would be around people with the same passion/problems that they have and be able to get support from their piers.
 

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My maximum is a total of of four dogs. I currently have a GSD, since he was pup, a rescue I adopted, and another rescue that should be placed shortly. I would take another rescue, but I will stop there.

I do provide all medical care, food, etc. to my rescues, albeit my rescue group would reimburse me if I asked. However, because of vet expenses they are strapped for dollars right now.

I live in a very dog friendly area so I am able to to socialize my rescues with the neighbor's dogs. However, I have met people that have fove or more rescues, and have no idea how they do it, especially those that live in cities, with crowded streets and restrictions of the number of dogs you can have.

You asked about a number of dogs to have and I cannot answer that because so much depends on your other responsibilities and your environment.

As for training I try and do my best. The rescues I have had need more training, but ironically are much nicer then the shelter they came from described.

I am retired, live in a dog friendly neighborhood, but my father who is 90 and lives 250 miles away is slowly dying. So for now, it is my forever dog, the dog I adopted and two rescues.

This is a great topic and I hope more people respond.
 

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I have always said I would have no more than 2 rescues at a time, however, I recently had 4 fosters as I knew that one would be going home within two weeks of my fourth coming in... I have a very easy, laid back, senior foster, perfect-perfect boy with no issues, and sweet 6 month old and 7 month old puppies- who for puppies, are VERY well behaved. I have my 4- a senior who just wants to sleep quite a bit lately, my 3 yr. old female, 2 year old male, and 2 and a half year old female. My pack is trained well, they listen great, and are comfortable with dogs coming and going. So, because I have my pack pretty well in order, I was able to take on this many and care for them properly as I am home all day, and have the help of my husband who is home by 3:45. Our dogs are walked everyday, by both of us, although we do have to take two trips. He makes three on some days- by himself with our two higher energy dogs in the morning, and the other two with me after work. I basic obedience train all my fosters before they leave (if they need it): heeling, sit, down, we work on stays, recall, I do as much as I can for the time they are with me. No, it isnt always easy, it is very time consuming but when I take on that responsibility I take it seriously. I much prefer to have only 2 fosters, but I believe that every now and then a special circumstance arises and if we can foster an extra and still give them ALL proper care, attention, exercise, then so be it. I never thought I would have more than 3 of my own dogs, but, I believe that certain ones that have come to me came to me for a reason- such as Sage from MD. Not one person wanted this girl, and I fostered her for 5 months... not many had an interest here either... she had HD that is pretty severe for her age, she has behaviorial issues that I have worked through very well with her- and even though Sage will always be a work in progress I believe she was meant to be with me. It is very hard to say no- I have wanted for quite awhile now a sable puppy, and, lo and behold there is a sable female 6 month old on the urgent board. I have been very tempted, but I know that the dog I plan on making a therapy dog is the best match for me and that work. So, I have to keep in mind that if I get in over my head with dogs I "want"... that my personal pack and fosters will suffer because of it.
 

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Perfect discussion for the recent events! I seem to have fallen into the rescue trap myself! I had 1 GSD when i started fostering last summer and intended to only foster 1 at a time!! By fall i had a puppy foster i just had to keep and now am comfortable fostering 2 at a time and sometimes dog-sit but i have to say 3 dogs in the house is the perfect number!!
 

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We foster here.... but right from the get go I had the frame of mind that if I adopted any more then I would not be able to do what I enjoy... foster. There isnt anything more fullfilling for me than watching a shy, mistreated dog come out of his shell.

I have 2 of my own gsd rescues and I foster (usually) 1 on top of them. They are fully vetted before I get them but most have come from a rural Ohio shelter that they have lived in for most of their lives. My last guy was about 18 months when he arrived and had no house manners at all and barely socialized. He stayed for 7 months. He just left last nite to go to his new home. I usually provide love and a lot of patience for the first couple of months. We have many dogs in neighbourhood also and they get socialized and learn leash and house manners while here. If we are lucky they also learn sit, stay etc etc. We always suggest that the new family enrol in obedience.

I have had 4 dogs here for the past 3 months, something I would not normally do, however when family calls once must help where they can. Mine are very use to the comings and goings of fosters and are pretty laid back so a rambunctious 18 mth wasnt to difficult to manage. SIL dog is also laid back. But I tell you Dave and I put our feet up last nite after all had left and let out a big sigh ... we wont foster now for a couple of months we are completely exhausted. So I guess you can say we know when we have reached our limit.

Tina
 

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Oh well, here goes. Be kind in your replies to me.
Yes, it is very easy to fall into the rescue issue of too many dogs. I'm probably in it right now, however, all my dogs have ended up with my family at different times and the transition has been an easy one. Probably because of the breeds and the home set-up my hubby and I have created.
Our yard is fenced into three different sections. I have a puppy play area to the side of our home, a 1/2 acre fenced-in back yard with about 20 plus trees and a fenced front yard. All fences are five foot ... stick-built wood in front, chain link on the side and back. Our property is surrounded on three sides by woods, which is great when the collies get in a barking mode, which is quickly stopped by taking a time out inside.
K, here goes. And, all animals are spayed/neutered, UTD on vaccines, HW preventative and Frontline Plus of course. I am retired after 23 years in the Coast Guard and am extremely lucky to be able to be a stay-at-home mom for my two human children and my fur kids. With this ability, I am able to attend all my boy's school functions, make them a good breakfast in the a.m. before school, poop scoop yards every day and water to ensure I keep a nice grassy environment. And of course, care for my fur kids. My neighborhood is pretty rural, so dog walking isn't really great because there are just one too many dogs on chains for my comfort. I do my best to educate my neighbors, but there is just so much they will listen to. So, I really prefer to not walk my dogs past the chains pit bulls. Just too risky. So, we play in the backyard and do obedience in the cul-de-sac.
1. A 13-year-old pug who is really a black pillow you will find sleeping on a bed or couch at anytime except dinner and potty time. He sleeps with my son at night and has since we rescued him at the age of 9.
2. Two seven-year old collies who are extremely social and have helped bring many a foster out of their shell. Love the breed except for the barking.
They have complete free roam of the house or outside anytime, whichever they prefer and typically sleep around our bed at night. They are perfectly housetrained.
3. A nine and one-half year old border collie, which has been with us for nine years. She also has free roam, likes to sleep in the bathroom at night and is perfectly house trained.
4. An eight-year-old beagle, which is just that ... a beagle. She has an open-door policy on her crate and really likes to just snooze on the blanket in her crate. She is one that I have to watch when she goes outside to go potty because if she gets a scent, she will scale anything to get out.
5. A five-year-old Basset that has a keen ability to find the most comfortable spot in the house. My husband typically finds Charlie on his side of the bed in the a.m. after he gets out of the shower and gets ready for work. He gets up at O-dark-thirty, so I am still sleeping. Many times he says that Charlie takes his spot, including the pillow. Goofy dog. Also perfectly house trained and has free roam of the house.
6. My two beautiful GSDs, my male G who is two-years old and his half-sister, Jetta, who is one-year-old. G has been through two levels of obedience and Jetta is a small (50 pounds) very high-drive work in progress. She will soon be attending the three-week course with our trainer as we both need some direction with her personality. They both have free roam of the house, but Jetta does sleep in her crate at night.
7. A 10-month old little 15-pound terrier mix, which wiggled his way into my youngest son's heart, bed and is his complete sidekick. He is an easy, food-motivated little dog that learns VERY quickly.
8. And finally, a personal rescue, which will need very careful placement. He is a almost-five-month-old Tibetan Mastiff. This is not a breed for just anyone. He is a personal rescue, will stay with me at least until he is old enough to be neutered. The youngest this breed should be neutered is six months and that is pushing it. I am working with a WONDERFUL reputable breeder who is a wealth of info and has many rescue contacts. Together, we will find him the perfect, breed experienced home.
So, there is is. Never a dull moment here. But also a very lively and happy home. All animals and humans get along wonderfully, my boys (12 and 13) are very into rescue and are wonderful helpers with the chores.
The no-vacancy sign is lit out front for the time being, but we know, in the future when the numbers have dwindled, we will foster again.
Until then, I do my part with my rescue as their transport coordinator, being the rescue contact and evaluator for my two local shelters when they have a GSD and short-trip transporter when I can.
Remember, be kind to me.
 

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People might remind me I said my max was four dogs, but as all us fosters know, if a dog was ready to be killed I would probably take it. As you said, every now and then a situation might arise in which you take another dog to foster.

Perhaps another topic, but the biggest problem with my rescue group is we tend to take dogs in poor health, and the vet expenses are killing us.
 

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Sounds like a wonderful family Liz!!!
 

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I foster, but will only take in one foster at a time. I just had a 5 month old, and to be honest he wore me out..LOL. He was adopted two days ago. I have my own dogs to think about also, so for me it's easy to say NO. to more than one foster..
 

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I think that number varies - just like the number of personal dogs that is too many varies. I've seen people overwhelmed with 2 or have plenty of time for 6. It just depends on the amount of time a person has, their level of interest, the size and energy level of the dogs as well as their temperament and compatibility with each other.

I've definitely gotten overwhelmed before and had to dial back. I was one of the shelters I work with today and am overnighting several dogs for transport tomorrow. It's after midnight and I;'m finally done walking dogs around the block. Doing things like this reminds me how nice it is when the overnighters leave and we go back to our crew!


Having had everything from 1 foster to 15 fosters - NOT 15 GSDs mind you, 15 that included a large litter of pups or a small litter and several small dogs. Even so, it was way too many. The dogs were well cared for but that was literally all I did, all day long.

I find that 2-5 fosters at a time works for us and I don't normally have more than 1 large dog foster at a time and at most 2. Even that may seem like a lot to some, especially considering that we have 4 personal dogs (2 large, 2 small), but I'm home all the time and I have a teenage son and husband who both help a lot. We also have a huge old house and a large yard, so that helps too.

I'd say 3 fosters that all get along with our dogs and with each other is our optimum number.

My litmus test about our numbers (and whether it's appropriate to get a new foster) is a series of questions:

Are all the dogs clean? Nails trimmed? UTD on everything? Fresh blankets? Did all the dogs get a walk today? Were they out of their crate the majority of the day? Are they tired at the end of the day? Do they seem happy? Did we make progress on training goals? Basically, are everyone's needs met? Do I feel good about the quality of life of all the animals in my care? Am I proud of the job I'm doing? Would I impress any home checker?

How about my son - is he getting enough attention? DH? Is the house clean? Errands and other tasks attended to? And also, am I happy? Do I feel good and not too stressed?

If the answer to all those questions is yes, then things are good. If the answer to any of them is no, then I know I need to change something somewhere. Like many (most?) rescuers, I pay more attention to the first set of questions about the dogs than the second one about the people and I spend way too much time feeling stressed and tearing out my hair but I'm trying to do better about that.
 

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well, i'm not fostering and don't plan to - once neb is here, i'm at my declared limit.

but i think pupresq's list is great.

what i've done for awhile w/animals period, having one cat foster left over from what used to be far more fosters (and i burnt out) - is, in addition to stuff that's specific to adoption - i have a third party give me feedback on whether they think another animal is a good idea - and i think that works well in a fostering situation. someone who knows me well, knows my stresses, my schedule, and is around me and my animals and knows how they're cared for. currently that person is my bf, (though my family as well) and my bf doesn't rescue, doesn't have the rescue attitude of saving one more, and feels like he's dating someone with a bunch of kids.

i think when you're fostering, it's a good idea to keep someone involved with you checking in - b/c it can be tempting to say 'i can take just one more', and other people can be far more objective about your situation than you might be able to.
 

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I dont rescue, however I do want to in the future. Now is not a good time for lots and lots of reasons. One mainly cause we rent and have a weight limit lol, however, the way things are now, even if I had my own home, I still wouldnt be able to.

I think one thing that needs to be looked at are, one, all the questions that pupresq's asked.

I also think that the number of people in the household, ages and who will be helping and not helping makes a difference. Are the kids old enough to help out in some ways? What about the spouse? Is it going to be one person taking care of them or just one person all by their lonesome?

I think that before hand someone should at least try to set a limit of dogs they feel they can properly take care of. A round about guess anyways, like, say.."OK, our limit is four, but in a serious situation we can handle another one if its really needed" sorta thing.

Saying no is hard for some people, esp if you are by yourself. So that needs to be thought about to. I know that I am much much more stronger and find it easier to turn something down when I know my DH is beind me all the way.

um, something that I havent seen mentioned in this thread yet that was in the other thread, is the mental aspect of things.

I posted in the other thread, but that is something that can be very very tricky and all I guess anyone can really do is try and get educated on it and find the best possible was to handle some situations. It can be rough, esp. if someone is in denial that they are in over their heads, or will get in over their heads.

I could not foster or rescue or even take in dogs on my own. I have DH to help me and support me and reassure me that im not a bad person for not helping a dog, otherwise, I would end up taking in one after another. From giveaways to strays. Why? I probably couldnt pinpoint excatly way...I mean why do I get up 4 times a night to see that the oven really is off and my kids actually are breathing? lol


But I think there are sooooooo many things to look at its really hard to say, "OK, this is the only amount people can take care of" when in fact, it varies. I know I can at least handle 3 dogs, where as my mother in law couldnt handle 1.



Quote:i think when you're fostering, it's a good idea to keep someone involved with you checking in - b/c it can be tempting to say 'i can take just one more', and other people can be far more objective about your situation than you might be able to.

how did i miss this? omygawsh I am so lacking......lol. You summed up half of my post in that statment...<sigh> I think to much in detail I think. LOL
 

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pupresq, GSDolch, and jarn - you've raised some really helpful questions and "thinking points". If you don't mind I'm going to include them in the Foster Home Handbook we are working on.

In hindsight, I can even see for my own situation how much easier it was to get too sucked in when I was single. I think pupresq's questions that check in on our loved ones and ourselves are especially critical and agree that they all too ofter skimmed over. In rescue I think the 80/20 rule (80% of the work is done by 20% of the people) is probably more like 95/5 and I see so many of my rescue friends on the edge of burn-out and exhaustion way too much of the time.
 

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Feel free!

I think the point about checking in with a loved one or unbiased observer before adding another is an excellent suggestion. It's always good to get an outside view because it's all too easy to get carried away in the desire to save them all.

In my experience, rescuers are not highly motivated to do what is best for themselves (if we were, we wouldn't do rescue!), so telling someone "you need to slow down, you're killing yourself" doesn't usually get you very far. If they're hard core into rescue their mental reaction (and mine myself when people have said that) is "I can handle it. These dogs are dying NOW and they need my help. What is my need for sleep/a break/quality time compared to their need to live?" You end up feeling selfish or like you're doing something wrong when you sit down to read a book or watch television or go on vacation.

But in reality, you DO need to do those things. And the key to staying in this long term is to find that balance. Sometimes you're in it, sometimes you get a bit out of whack and need to find it again.

Anyway, I find a better approach is to appeal to people on behalf of the dogs - and that's where I came up with my list of questions. That gives me objective data about whether I (or another rescuer) are where we should be in our care of the dogs, and it's care of the dogs that is my number one priority - the fosters but also my personal dogs. It's much easier for me to tell myself "I can't take in another foster because the dogs I have now aren't getting walked enough" than "I can't take in another foster because I'm tired." Both are valid and important it can just be hard to refuse when you feel selfish doing it and rescue people tend to abhor that. Unfortunately that can mean competing to see (my imaginary reality show) "Who's the biggest martyr?" And that's a race to the bottom, to compromising on care (the "anything's better than death" mentality) and to burn out or implosion.

I look at rescue like adaptive management - you have assess and reassess constantly where you are and how things are going. If things start to shift, you need to make those adjustments and get things back on track.

I'm probably going to get another personal dog in the next year or two because I want to get back into SAR and also because I want to add the newbie while Grace is still spry enough to enjoy them (and not be royally pissed off about a nutty young GSD). I know that to add another dog I have to be very happy with the care my current dogs are getting. I also know that SAR takes a lot of time and that adding something like that is going to throw off my current balance and will definitely mean taking in fewer fosters and adjusting the way I spend time. I'm okay with that and am looking forward to a new member of the family and chapter in what I'm doing. But if I weren't realistic about what adding a young high drive GSD could mean, then I could easily get into trouble. Same thing when people change jobs, or have a new project, or whatever. Demands on your time change and your rescue practices have to adjust so that your level of care stays high.

I'm glad to see this discussion. I think people get too locked into "good rescue" "bad rescue" and see everything in black and white. The best rescue can have members get into trouble and the worst rescue may have some good people. As the rescue community I really believe we have to get more honest about the fact that rescue is a continuum and when we see people drifting off to the low side, we need to help them move back or if that fails, step up and sound the alarm. The only way to do that is, as people keep saying, transparency. Secrecy and shadow are what makes bad rescue practices possible. When we welcome vet checks, reference checks, site inspections and home visits, we let the sunshine in and the dogs are the winners.
 
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