5. FOSTER DOG CARE HANDBOOK
Thank you so much for your interest in fostering a Spaniel for SAR&R. By opening up your home to foster dogs, you’re not only helping to save lives, you’re providing the individual attention and love these dogs desperately need.
Our dog foster program is designed to help vulnerable dogs to get a second chance at finding a home. Many of the dogs who need foster homes require extra care and attention, but in a loving foster home every dog can get the individual attention he or she needs to find a forever family.
Foster homes are asked to provide care for the dogs, as well as transportation to and from veterinary appointments as needed, and transportation to their forever home. Care for foster dogs includes feeding according to size and needs, exercise according to energy levels and interests, and lots of playtime and positive socialisation.
Although fostering is a lot of work, it is a very rewarding experience. By participating in this program you are saving lives, and helping many dogs find the families they’ve been longing for. Through fostering, we can work together to save them all.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Where do the foster dogs come from?
The dogs that are in need of foster care come to us from different situations:
They may be returned adoptions, as at SARR, we make a lifetime commitment to every dog we rescue. This means that if, for any reason, an adopter can no longer keep a pet he or she adopted from us, we require that the dog comes back to SARR.
They may be surrendered by owners. When an owner can no longer care for their dog due to circumstances or the dog’s behaviour, we are happy to step in and find a suitable forever home for them.
They may be rescued from unsuitable or neglectful situations. Vulnerable dogs are often secured by SARR in order to give them a brighter future in a loving forever home.
We want to save as many lives as possible, and the foster program allows us to maximise our resources
2. What Do Foster Families Need To Provide?
- A healthy and safe environment for their foster dogs
- Transportation to their adoption placement and all vet appointments as needed
- Socialisation and affection to help teach dogs positive family and pet relationships
- Lots of exercise, training and positive stimulation to help them develop into great dogs
3. How Much Time Do I Need To Spend With A Foster Dog?
As much time as you can! Dogs come to SARR with very different needs, some will be happy to be left while you pop to the shops, some will be stuck to your leg like velcro and won't be able to cope alone. Some will need their own space, some will happily join in with whatever is going on around them. Some will waggily welcome friends, family and the postman, some will be anxious around strangers and will need to be protected and reassured. And purely in terms of exercise, some will be happy to potter around the neighbourhood on lead walks, some will need to chase, and catch, and jump, and run until you run out of energy (because they won't). All dogs though, regardless of age or background, will need a couple of hours a day exercising and playing with you to ensure that they receive adequate socialisation and stimulation.
4. Can I Foster a Dog if I Don’t Have a Fenced Garden?
A secure garden is best, and we request that you supervise all outdoor activities with the foster dog. Foster dogs shouldn't be allowed off lead, so if you're outside your own secure garden then they should be on a lead, or a long line to give them enough freedom to run and play. There is an advice sheet called 'Choosing and Using a Long Line' in the 'Files' section of the Foster Group.
5. How Long Will The Dog Need To Be In Foster Care?
Ideally, foster dogs stay in their assigned foster homes until they get adopted. These dogs rely on foster homes as their home between homes.
6. Can I Let My Foster Dog Play With My Other Pets?
There are a few guidelines that we ask foster families to adhere to regarding their own pets. While foster dogs playing with other pets is often fine, these dogs can be unpredictable and they must never leave the dog unattended with a family pet until they are absolutely 100% convinced that the dogs are safe with each and behaviour is predicable. We advise that you consult with your veterinarian before fostering to ensure that all of your personal pets are healthy and up-to-date on all vaccines. Dogs are very susceptible to illness and can carry or catch different diseases. If, for any reason, your own pet becomes ill while you are fostering a Spaniel Assist dog, we cannot provide medical care for your own pet.
7. What If I Want To Adopt My Foster Dog?
If you fall in love with your foster dog and decide you want to adopt them yourself, you will need to complete an adoption application and follow the full adoption process. If you do decide to adopt your foster dog this will only be considered four weeks after foster placement, and at that point you will need to contact Dawn Clough. Many fosters do find that their foster dog has become a much loved member of their family and they then adopt them, at SARR we jokingly call this 'joining the Failed Foster club'.
8. Who Will Take Care Of My Foster Dog if I Need To Go On Holiday?
If you have travel plans while you are fostering a dog for SARR, you will need to contact Dawn Clough. Please provide at least two weeks’ notice to ensure that we can find a Holiday Foster Home for your foster dog.
9. What If My Foster Dog Bites Me?
If your foster dog bites you and breaks the skin (with teeth, not nails), causing you to bleed, you need to report the bite to Dawn Clough within 24 hours of when the bite occurred. If you are unsure, then please report the bite anyway, and take appropriate medical advice if necessary.
10. What If My Foster Dog is Not Working Out?
You are not required to continue to foster a dog if you feel it’s not working out, although we may not have an immediate alternate foster home for the dog. We don’t have our own overnight boarding facility so we rely on other foster homes offering a place. We will work on moving your foster dog out as soon as possible, but ask for your understanding and patience. Please call Dawn Clough if you find yourself in this situation.
PREPARING FOR YOUR FOSTER DOG
When you take your foster dog home, he may be frightened or unsure about what’s happening, so it’s important not to overwhelm him. Prepare a special area for the foster dog to help ease his adjustment into a new home environment. Sometimes it is better to confine the foster dog to a small room or area at first, to let him adjust before giving him free rein in your home. This area should be large enough for his bed and allow the dog access to his food and water dishes and toys.
We request that all foster dogs be housed indoors only. A garage, backyard or outdoor run is not suitable accommodation for a foster dog.
During the first couple of weeks, minimize the people and pet introductions to your foster dog, so that they are only meeting immediate family and your own pets. If you have other pets at home, it is especially important to give your foster dog a space of their own where they can stay while getting used to all the new sounds and smells. Don’t leave your foster dog unattended in your home with your own pets until you are comfortable that all of the animals can interact safely.
Supplies You Will Need
We greatly appreciate that you can provide the basic items that your foster dog needs. Here’s what you’ll need to help your foster dog make a smooth transition to living in your home:
- At least one bowl for dry food and one for water: Stainless steel or ceramic work best. You can also get 'puzzle' feeders or 'Kongs', or there are other ways to add enrichment and interest to the dog's meals.
- A supply of dry or wet dog food: Unless a special diet is needed, we ask that foster dogs be fed a good, high quality diet.
- A collar with an ID tag and a lead, and if the dog hasn't been trained to walk nicely on a lead then a harness is a good option. Even though foster dogs are microchipped, they still need an ID tag. This tag should have your name, address and telephone number, but also the words 'Spaniel Assist - Dog in Foster' and Dawn Clough's name and Telephone Number. Some fosters choose to have two tags, one with their details and one with the SARR details.
We can advise on the best style of harness to help with training, there are advice sheets called 'Loose Lead Walking' and 'Harnesses and Headcollars' in the 'Files' section of the Foster Group.
- A suitable, soft place to sleep: old towels or blankets often work well.
- A baby gate: This comes in handy to keep certain areas of your home off-limits, and is also very useful to separate the foster dog from resident pets, and enable them to get to know each other safely.
- Some dogs are crate trained, and happy to be confined in a crate for short periods or to sleep in at night. If they are, then a crate is useful if you have one, or they may come with one. A dog who has not been properly crate trained to feel happy in a crate should never be crated. A distressed dog can injure themselves badly trying to get out of a crate, so unless you're sure that he's happy being crated, avoid it.
- Dog treats: Giving treats is a good way to help train and build a positive relationship with your foster dog.
- Dog toys: Make sure the toys are durable and appropriate for the size of your foster dog.
- Grooming supplies: A well-groomed dog has a better chance of getting adopted, and many dogs enjoy being groomed, making it a lovely bonding experience for dog and foster.
Dog-Proofing Your Home
Foster dogs come from many different environments, and even if they have previously lived in a home, we don’t always know how they will react in a new home. So, before bringing home a new foster dog, you’ll want to survey the area where you are going to keep them. Remove anything that would be unsafe or undesirable for the dog to chew on, and latch securely any cupboards and doors that the foster dog could get into. People food and chemicals can be very harmful if consumed by dogs, so please store them in a place that the foster dog cannot access.
- Never underestimate your foster dog’s abilities. Here are some additional tips for dog-proofing your home:
- Make sure that all bins are covered or latched or keep them inside a cupboard. (Don’t forget the bathroom bins.)
- Keep the toilet lids closed.
- Keep both people and pet food out of reach and off all counter tops.
- Move houseplants or secure them. Some dogs like to play with them and may knock them over.
- Make sure aquariums or cages that house small animals, like hamsters or fish, are securely out of reach of your foster dog.
- Remove medications, lotions or cosmetics from any accessible surfaces.
- Move and secure all electrical and phone wires out of reach. Dogs may chew on or get tangled in them.
- Pick up any clothing items that have buttons or strings, which can be harmful to your foster dog if consumed.
- Relocate knickknacks or valuables that your foster dog could knock down.
If you already have a dog or dogs, you’ll want to introduce them to your foster dog one at a time and supervise their interactions at first. It’s a good idea to introduce them outside in a large yard or on a walk, keeping all the dogs on leash and allowing them enough space to get adjusted to one another. If you can, it works best to schedule a time for your personal dogs to meet the foster dog before you take the foster dog home.
In addition, make sure that high-value items (food, chew toys, plush toys, kongs, or anything else that your dogs hold in high regard) are put away whenever the dogs are interacting. You don’t want to allow the possibility of a fight, so those high-value items are best placed in the dogs’ personal areas.
Finally, never feed your dogs in the same room as the foster dog; always separate them at feeding time.
There is a file called 'Introducing a new dog' in the 'Files' section of the Foster Group.
We can’t ensure that a foster dog has been “cat-tested,” so if you have cats, you’ll need to make the introduction to the foster dog carefully and safely. Start by keeping them separated at first. You can either keep your cats in a separate room (equipped with food, water, litter boxes and beds) or confine your foster dog to a room. Then you can start training them to see each other in a positive light, so they can learn to co-exist peacefully.
Your aim is to keep the interactions positive, safe and controlled, and you can work with the dog and cat to make sure that they see the other as a predictor of good things!
There is a file called 'Dogs and Cats' in the 'Files' section of the Foster Group that explains how to do this.
Children and Dogs
Since we don’t always know a foster dog’s history or tolerance level for different types of people and activities, please teach your children how to act responsibly and respectfully around your foster dog. We will do our best to place you with an appropriate animal for your home situation, but you should still supervise all interactions between children and your foster dog. Key things to remind your children:
- Always leave the foster dog alone when he/she is eating, chewing or sleeping. Some dogs may nip or bite if bothered while eating or startled while sleeping.
- Do not take anything away from the foster dog unless they are swapping it for something of higher value - this will prevent the dog learning to 'resource guard' because he is afraid to lose things.
- Do not tease the foster dog.
- Don’t chase the foster dog around the house or run quickly around the foster dog; it may scare him.
- Pick up all your toys. Most dogs don't know the difference between a dog toy and a child's toy - if they can reach it, it's theirs!
Do not allow young children to walk the foster dog because they may not be strong enough or experienced enough to handle encounters with other dogs or cats who cross their path.
Feed your foster dog once or twice daily; the amount will be based on the age and weight of your foster dog. Make sure the dog always has access too fresh, clean water.
You can give your foster dog treats of any kind (unless he/she has known allergies, of course); giving treats helps you and your foster dog to bond with each other. Most dogs like to chew on things, so try dried meat chews, bully sticks, stuffed Kongs etc. Keep in mind, though, that not all dogs like to share, so only give these treats when your foster dog is confined to his/her own area.
When you first take your foster dog home, take care not to overwhelm her with too many new experiences all at once. Sometimes, too much stimulation can cause a dog to behave unexpectedly toward a person or animal, which is why it’s a good idea to keep introductions to a minimum during the first couple of weeks after you bring your foster dog home. It’s also important to establish a daily routine of regularly scheduled feedings, toilet breaks and walk times. Dogs take comfort in having a routine they can count on.
Also, on a daily basis, be aware of your foster dog’s appetite and energy level. If she’s not eating well or seems listless, something may be wrong medically. You might want to record your observations to make it easier to notice any health issues.
Some of the foster dogs will be perfectly house-trained but some have lived their whole lives outside, often with minimal walks or chances to relieve themselves outside. At the very least, be prepared for an adjustment period until your foster dog gets used to your schedule.
Because a dog has a better chance of being adopted if she is house-trained, please help your foster dog to perfect this skill. Take your foster dog outside for toilet breaks multiple times per day (3-6 times daily, depending on age). Initially, you may need to take her out more frequently to remind her where the door to the outside is and to reassure her that you will take her out for toilet breaks. Most dogs will give cues — such as standing near the door or sniffing the ground and walking in small circles — to indicate that they need to go out.
If your foster dog has an accident inside the house, don't draw the dog's attention to it, and don’t discipline or punish her. It will only teach her to fear and mistrust you, and could just teach her that it's safer to wait until you're out of sight to do it, or find a quiet corner of the house when you're not looking. Clean up all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner. Nature's Miracle and Simple Solution are two products containing natural enzymes that tackle tough stains and odours and remove them permanently, also dilute biological laundry liquid and dilute mouthwash both work well to kill the bacteria.
Mental Stimulation and Exercise
Depending on your foster dog’s age and energy level, he or she should get at least two 30-minute play sessions or walks with you per day. Try a variety of toys (balls, squeaky toys, rope toys, etc.) to see which ones your foster dog prefers. Remember to discourage the dog from playing with your hands, since mouthing won’t be a desirable behaviour to adopters.
You can also offer your foster dog a food-dispensing toy for mental stimulation, something as simple as putting bits of dry food or treats inside a plastic bottle (with the cap and ring removed) or inside kitchen roll inners with the ends folded over, or rolled up in an old towel, or wrapped up in bits of newspaper and stuffed into a cardboard box . . . there are hundreds of ways you can stimulate the dog's senses, keep his brain occupied, and tire him out mentally as well as physically. The Facebook group 'Canine Enrichment' has lots of ideas.
Foster dogs must live indoors, not outside. Please do not leave your foster dog outside unsupervised even if you have a fenced garden, we ask that you supervise your foster dog when he is outside at all times to ensure that he doesn’t escape or have any negative interactions with other people or animals. Your foster dog is only allowed to be off-leash in an enclosed garden that is completely secure, when out he can be on a 'long line' to give him the freedom to run and play whilst still being under control.
We don't allow fosters to be off leash outside your garden because we simply do not know how he may react to other dogs, or how other dogs will react to him, and we need to ensure that all animals are safe at all times. In addition, we don’t know if the other dogs they encounter are vaccinated appropriately or carry diseases, so it is best if your foster dog does not meet any unknown dogs. When you’re transporting foster dogs, please make sure they are securely fastened inside the vehicle.
Medical and Emergency Protocols
In the section above '2. Vet Admin Guidance' you will find a link to a Vet Registration Form which you should complete and pass to your vet when you register the foster dog (within two days of taking the dog into your care wherever possible). You are responsible for scheduling appointments for your dog’s vaccinations and neutering/spaying if required. If you are fostering a dog that is on medication, please make sure that they continue with all prescribed doses, and do not end medication early for any reason. If your foster dog has not responded to prescribed medications after five days (or in the time instructed by a vet), please contact the Vet Admin.
If the dog requires neutering/spaying, vaccinations or microchipping this will be done whilst in foster (we don't normally pay for Kennel Cough vaccination). Dogs not fully mature will not be neutered whilst in foster care, as research has shown that early neutering can lead to problems with growing joints etc.
Payment for worming and flea treatment is the reasonability of the foster (unless the dog comes into foster with infestation already present, in which case we will pay for initial treatment).
All vet invoices will be paid by the Vet Admin, as detailed in the section '2. Vet Admin Guidance' above.
Signs of Illness and What To Do Next
Dogs generally do a good job of masking when they don’t feel well, so determining if your foster dog is under the weather will require diligent observation of the dog’s daily activity and appetite levels. It’s a good idea to keep track of these so that you're aware of changes. You’ll also want to record any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of illness.
It is normal for dogs to have some discharge from their eyes when they wake up and some may have more than others, depending on the breed. But if your foster dog has yellow or green discharge, or swelling around the eyes (making it hard for him to open his eyes), or the third eyelid is showing, you need to contact the Vet Admin to schedule a vet appointment.
Coughing and nasal discharge. Coughing can be common if your foster dog is pulling on leash. If the coughing becomes more frequent, however, watch for discharge coming from the nose. If the discharge is clear, the infection is probably viral and medication may not be needed, but check with SARR to ask for advice.
If the discharge becomes coloured, make a vet appointment because the dog may have a bacterial infection. Be sure to monitor the dog’s breathing. If the dog seems to struggle to breathe or starts wheezing, call the Vet Admin immediately and contact Dawn Clough on the Emergency Telephone Number: 07403 578467.
Loss of Appetite
Your foster dog may be stressed after arriving in your home, and stress can cause lack of appetite. But if the dog hasn’t eaten after 24 hours, please notify the Vet Admin. Also, if the dog has been eating well, but then stops eating for 12 to 24 hours contact Dawn Clough on the Emergency Telephone Number 07403 578467. An abrupt change in diet can cause diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration.
The activity level of your foster dog will vary depending on age and personality. Keeping an eye on your foster dog's activity levels on a daily basis will help you notice whether he is less active than he normally is. If the dog cannot be roused or seems weak and unable to stand, it’s an emergency, so immediately call Dawn Clough on Emergency Telephone Number 07403 578467.
Dehydration is usually associated with diarrhoea, vomiting and/or loss of appetite. To test for dehydration, gently pinch the dog’s skin around the scruff area. If the skin stays up, the dog is dehydrated. Please call the Vet Admin the next business day to schedule a vet appointment.
Sometimes dogs will eat too quickly and will immediately throw up their food. Occasional vomiting isn’t a cause for alarm, but if your foster dog has thrown up twice or more in one day, please notify us as it could be indicative of something that needs treatment.
Pain or Strain While Urinating
When a dog first goes into a foster home, he or she may not urinate due to stress. If the dog hasn’t urinated in more than 24 hours, however, please contact the Vet Admin and make an appointment at the vet. Also, if you notice the dog straining to urinate with little or no results, or crying out when urinating, please contact the Vet coordinator immediately because it may be indicative of an infection or an obstruction.
It is important to monitor your foster dog’s pooping habits daily. Soft poo is normal for the first two or three days after taking a dog home, most likely caused by stress and a change in food. If your foster dog has liquid diarrhoea for more than 24 hours however, please contact the Vet Admin and make a vet appointment for it to be checked out. Bear in mind that diarrhoea will dehydrate the dog, so be proactive about making sure the dog drinks plenty of fluid whilst waiting to see the vet.If your foster dog has bloody or mucous diarrhoea, contact Dawn Clough immediately on 07403 578467.
Frequent Ear Scratching
Your foster dog may have a bacterial or yeast infection (or, in rare cases, ear mites) if she scratches her ears often and/or shakes her head frequently. These conditions can be treated by a vet, so please contact the Vet Admin and book an appointment with your vet.
If your foster dog has irritated, swollen or red or pink ears that smell like yeast, he may have an ear infection called otitis. Spaniels may need to have their ears cleaned more often to ensure that the infection does not re-occur.
Please contact the Vet Admin if you notice any hair loss on your foster dog. It is normal for dogs to have thin fur around the lips, eyelids and in front of the ears, but clumpy patches of hair loss or thinning hair can indicate ringworm, dermatitis or the early stages of mange. It is important to check your foster dog’s coat every day.
Criteria for Emergencies
What constitutes a medical emergency in a dog? A good rule of thumb is any situation in which you would call 999 for a person. Here are some specific symptoms that could indicate an emergency:
- Not breathing or laboured breathing
- Symptoms of parvovirus: bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, weakness, and high fever
- Signs of extreme dehydration: dry mucous membranes, weakness, vomiting, tenting of the skin (when the skin is pulled up, it stays there)
- Abnormal lethargy or unable to stand
- Unconsciousness or unable to wake up
- Cold to the touch
- Broken bones
- Any trauma: hit by a car, dropped, stepped on
- A large wound or profuse bleeding that doesn’t stop when pressure is applied
- Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours
If your foster dog displays any of these symptoms, please contact Dawn Clough on the Emergency Telephone Number: 07403 578467
BEHAVIOUR AND TRAINING SUPPORT
One of your goals as a foster parent is to help prepare your foster dog for living successfully in a new forever home. So, we ask that you help your foster dog to develop good habits and skills through the use of positive reinforcement training, which builds a bond of trust between you and your foster dog. The basic idea is to reward desirable behaviours and manage the dog’s environment in such a way that undesirable behaviours are less likely to occur.Dogs will always repeat behaviour that they find rewarding, so we always recommend positive reinforcement, force-free training as research has proved that it is the most effective way of teaching a dog how you want him to repeat, without damaging the bond of trust between you.
You must not punish a dog for a behaviour that you find undesirable because punishment is ineffective at eliminating the behaviour. If the dog is doing something undesirable, distract him or her before the behaviour occurs (Google ‘teaching a positive interrupter’ for how to do this). It is also important for everyone in the foster home to stick to the rules established for your foster dogs, which will help them to learn faster.
When interacting with your foster dog, it’s usually better to avoid wrestling or engaging in play that encourages the dog to be mouthy and “play bite” on your body, you may be happy with this kind of play, but potential adopters may not be.For the same reason, it’s better to teach the dog to settle on the floor rather than inviting them up onto your couch or bed, as not all adopters will be happy to allow the dog on their furniture.
Some foster dogs will have behavioural issues, which we are aware of at the time of their rescue. Some of these behaviour challenges are separation anxiety, destruction of property, fear issues or aggression toward other animals. We will only place dogs with behavioural issues with a person who feels comfortable working with the dog on his/her particular issues, and will provide that adopter with all the necessary information so that proper care and training can be given to the foster dog.
If you need help or advice on any aspect of training or behaviour please get in touch with us, we will always offer support and guidance in any way that we can, and the sooner we know about it the sooner we can help. We have a qualified behaviourist who is always happy to advise, but in the first instance please contact Dawn Clough so that she can pass your details on to someone who can help you.You can contact Dawn by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by telephone on 07403 578467, or by Facebook PM.
There are several files covering different aspects of training and behaviour in the 'Files' section of the Foster Group, please have a look in case there is something already there that will help you.
Bringing Home your Foster Dog
Taking care of a foster dog requires a commitment from you to make sure the dog is happy and healthy, and we never take that for granted. Thank you so much for opening your heart and your home to these dogs that desperately need your help. Without you, we could not save as many as we do.