Cefni German Shepherd Rescue | Notes from a fosterer
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Notes from a fosterer

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Interested in Fostering - here are some notes from one of our Fosterers

 

 

Fostering

 

You are sat watching a film on the tele` and the `phone goes, “can you just go and look at a dog for me please, give an assessment and then we can see if we can find him a foster home?”   Next thing is you have driven to the address given and seen the sorriest specimen of dog known to man, you know if you leave the dog there he stands every chance of being turfed out on to the streets, so, you find your journey home is shared with the smelliest, hairiest, dog ever.

Now you have to introduce him to your ever growing collection of canine waifs and strays, this is done best by a meeting outside your home and a long walk with all the dogs so they can say hello and hopefully accept each other. Walk over; now enter the house with all the dogs together to avoid territory issues.   You will soon learn that the history given you by the previous owners was 90% rubbish and 10% lies.  This perfect dog that they had to part with because,  a)work commitments, b)moving house to somewhere too small to take a dog, c) new baby on the way d) sudden allergic reaction to said canine, is nothing like they said he would be.  The first thing he does is chase your cat, the cat that he is so used to living with, the one he has no interest in in his previous home but has now become his sole interest, he must catch that cat at all costs, so there is fur flying and a lot of hissing and spitting until the dog eventually comes away with blood pouring off his face from the cats claws.   He will then mark his territory; the safe haven you have given him now smells from the large deposit he has left on your floor.

If this puts you off then fostering, or even owning a dog is possibly now for you, but, if you can cope with that then read on.   Fostering a German Shepherd is a vital part of his rehabilitation in to the trusting world, the world that has so badly let him down and now he is going to rely on you and watch your every move with great interest and sometimes unfortunately with fear and suspicion. At some point in the future this dog will be adopted to his forever home so now you are responsible for turning him round to be a sociable, friendly trusting dog that you know will fit in anywhere.

 

You will have a team of seasoned volunteers behind you ready to answer any questions you may have and to give you a virtual pat on the back every time you pass a milestone with your new charge; they are also there to give advice on training tips.  Make the most of them, there is hardly anything that will faze them when it comes to dog behaviour or the bad states that some of these beautiful dogs come into foster in.  You will realise why a dog is never rehomed straight away and is always fostered.  They do come with baggage and it is up to you to relieve them of it, gently, fairly but firmly.   You will feel desperately sorry for your new foster dog, however, it is important not to let that feeling mar the way you treat him.  He will have to eventually go to his new home and you will want to know that you have done everything you possibly could to help rehabilitate him ready for his travels.  By all means go straight in with lots of cuddles and love, he will need that as much as he will need training, socialisation and behavioural problems all sorted.  At times you may find this all an uphill battle but think of it in the long terms, the dog you have opened your home and your heart to will be a new and improved dog ready to carry on with his life and it will all be down to your work, the sense of achievement in that is just fantastic.

For the first few days your new charge will be finding his feet and working out where he is in the pack.  Watch his behaviour, make notes of anything you think will need working on, remember to ask for help if ever you need it, no one knows everything but someone in your rescue group may have dealt with that particular problem before and can advise.  You are not a failure for asking, you only fail when you think you know it all and end up doing it wrong.   You and you alone are the pack leader, the dogs in the house will work out their own pecking order but it is vital that no one is higher rank than you.   Do not be scared of saying no to him he may have heard that word a million times over but you will say it with love and not hatred.  He has to learn his boundaries and will look to you to tell him what he can and cannot get away with.

Speak to your local vets about training schools, they are not just there for teaching the dogs, they are great for socialising them and for teaching you too.  Every time you take him out for a walk let him meet people and other dogs, if you are worried he may react badly there is no shame in using a soft muzzle.  Tell people he is a rescue dog, you don`t know his history and do they mind saying hello to him, in time you can take the muzzle off fully confident he will be pleased to see people. Let them give him a treat when they say hello, this will show him that it is nice to say hello and not all people are bad.

 

There is so much more to basic training to go into on this and I will do a more detailed training programme on the next one.  Just remember the ground rules, it is your home, your rules, you are pack leader not him and use love and fairness in training, doing all of that and you are nearly there.

The time will come for him to move on; this is when you find out if you are a “failed fosterer” or ready for a new challenge.  Do not worry if you are told you are a “failed” one, that just means that you now love that dog so much you cannot bear to part with him, you will join the ever growing clan of “failures” it won`t stop you taking on another dog though and this time you will have all that built up knowledge inside you to tackle the new one with more confidence and soon you will find yourself answering questions from new fosterers on how they should best train their first dog.

 

I believe that there is no such thing as a bad dog; they just had the misfortune to start their lives with bad owners.  You have the advantage over them, you have all the love and patience your foster dog needs and you will turn him in to the best dog on the planet. 

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