Pawster Parents’ Dog Foster Care Manual includes information on preparing for, bringing home and

caring for a foster dog to prepare him or her for a forever home.

Table of Contents

Section 1: Introduction
         Frequently Asked Questions

Section 2: Preparing for Your Foster Dog
         Supplies you’ll need
         Dog-proofing your home

Section 3: Bringing Home Your Foster Dog
         Choosing a foster dog
         Dog introductions
         Cat introductions
         Children and dogs

Section 4: Daily Care
         Daily routine
         Crate training
         Mental stimulation and exercise
         Safety requirements

Section 5: Helping Your Foster Dog get Adopted
         Frequently Asked Questions
         Instructions for pet adoption center days

Section 6: Medical and Emergency Protocols
         Veterinary care
         Signs of illness and what to do next
         Common ailments in animals from shelters
         Criteria for emergencies

Section 7: Behavior Support

Section 1: Introduction

Thank you so much for your interest in fostering pets for the Pawster Parent Program. By opening up your home to foster pets, you’re not only helping to save lives, you’re providing the individual attention and love these dogs desperately need.

Once you have completed your foster application online, our Pawster Parents Coordinator will get in touch with you to sign you up for one of our scheduled orientation and training sessions. In the session, we’ll go over this manual and answer any questions you have about the program.

Our dog foster program is designed to help adult dogs from shelters get a second chance at finding a home — a chance they may not have received at a shelter. Many of the dogs who need foster homes require extra care and attention, which shelters often don’t have the staff or resources to provide. 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 and needed appointments as well as any local Pawster Parents adoption fairs. Care for foster dogs includes feeding according to size and needs, exercise according to energy levels, and lots of play time and positive socialization.

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 different types of dogs find the families they’ve been longing for. Through fostering, we can work together to save them all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where do the foster dogs come from?

A: The dogs that are in need of foster care come to us mainly from:

Shelter and rescue groups. The Pawster Parents Program takes in animals from local shelters. Our foster care, adoption and rescue is nationwide as foster parents throughout the United States have joined our program to increase the opportunity of a successful foster care and adoption experience for the dog and parent. We want to save as many lives as possible, and the foster program allows us to maximize our resources.

Q: What do foster families need to provide?

A: Foster families need to provide:

A healthy and safe environment for their foster dogs
Transportation to and from the all vet appointments
Socialization and cuddle time to help teach dogs positive family and pet relationships
Lots of exercise and positive stimulation to help them develop into great dogs

Q: How much time do I need to spend with a foster dog?

A: As much time as you can. With that said, the amount of time will vary depending on the energy level and needs of the dog you are fostering. It is ideal to spend around two hours a day exercising and playing with your foster dog to ensure that he or she receives adequate socialization and stimulation.

Q: Can I foster dogs even if I have a full-time job?

A: Yes. The foster application is designed as a survey to help the Pawster Parents Coordinator match you with the best animal for your needs and your current schedule. If you have a full-time job, the Pawster Parents Coordinator will match you with a dog who may be OK alone during the workday. You would then just need to provide ample exercise before or after you go to work.

Q: Can I foster a dog if I don’t have a fenced yard?

A: Yes. Even if you do have a fenced yard, we request that you supervise all outdoor activities with the foster dog. And we ask that you always keep him or her on a leash when you’re on walks.

Q: How long will the dog need to be in foster care?

A: Ideally, foster dogs stay in their assigned foster homes until they get adopted. We do not have a boarding location to house animals overnight, so these dogs rely on foster homes as their home between homes.

Q: Will I need to give medicine to my foster dog?

A: Almost all of the dogs that we have in our foster program are rescued from shelters and have been exposed to shelter illnesses. While we do our best to ensure that we are aware of all the conditions that a foster dog may have prior to going home, many illnesses have incubation periods, meaning symptoms can arise after you take a dog home. So while some dogs do not require any medicine, others may. If your foster dog needs medications, we can show you how to administer them before you take the animal home.

Q: Can I let my foster dog play with my personal pets?

A: There are a few guidelines that we ask foster families to adhere to regarding their personal pets. While foster dogs playing with other pets is often fine, 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 in shelters are very susceptible to illness and can carry or catch different diseases. If, for any reason, your personal pet becomes ill while you are fostering a Best Friends pet, we cannot provide medical care for your personal pet.

Q: What if I want to adopt my foster dog?

A: If you want to adopt a foster dog, you will need to complete an adoption application and follow the full adoption process. If you do decide to adopt your foster dog, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator right away because once the dog is up for adoption, we cannot hold him/her for anyone, including the foster parent.

Q: Who will take care of my foster dog if I need to go out of town?

A: If you have travel plans while you are fostering a dog for Pawster Parents, you will need to contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator to find a boarding facility to house your foster dog until you return. Please provide at least one week’s notice to ensure that we can find a boarding facility for your dog. If your trip is over a holiday, please provide a minimum of two weeks’ notice. If adequate notice is not given, you may be asked to provide payment for your foster dog’s boarding.

You cannot leave your foster dog with an unauthorized person or pet sitter. We have specific training for foster parents, and pet sitters have not undergone that training or signed the release waivers for the foster program.

Q: What if my foster dog bites me?

A: If any of your foster pets bite you and break skin, causing you to bleed, you need to report the bite to the Pawster Parents Coordinator within 24 hours of when the bite occurred. The law requires that we report all bites. The teeth of the animal, not the nails, must have broken the skin. If you are unsure, then please report the bite anyway.  It is also important to seek medical treatment to protect yourself from infections. The Pawster Parents Program is unable to paid medical bills for any foster parent, family members/friends or associates.

Q: What if my foster dog is not working out?

A: You are not required to continue to foster a dog if you feel it’s not working out. However, we may not have an immediate alternate foster home for the dog. As mentioned above, we don’t have our own boarding facility so we rely on boarding partners. We will work on moving your foster dog out as soon as possible, but ask for your understanding and patience. Please call the Pawster Parents Coordinator during business hours if this situation arises.

Q: Can I foster a dog to fulfill a community service obligation?

A: Unfortunately, Pawster Parents cannot sign off on court-ordered community service hours for fostering. Community service is supposed to be supervised work, and fostering is unsupervised, since it takes place in your home. If you need community service hours, on-site volunteering is an option. You can sign up online at the Pawster Parents website. We always need licensed drivers to volunteer to transport pets to their new homes!

Section 2: 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 an appropriately sized crate for the dog and should 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 a suitable accommodation for a foster dog.

During the first couple of weeks, minimize the people and pet introductions to your foster dog, so that she is only meeting immediate family and your personal pets. If you have other pets at home, it is especially important to give your foster dog a space of her own where she can stay while getting used to all the new sounds and smells. Don’t leave your foster dog unattended in your home with your personal pets until you are comfortable that all of the animals can interact safely.

Supplies You’ll Need

Pawster Parents will provide you with any supplies that you may need. However, we greatly appreciate any help that you can provide in supplying items for your foster dog. 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.
A supply of dry dog food: All dogs are fed dry food unless a special diet is needed. We use Natural Balance and ask that foster dogs be fed a food of that quality or higher quality.
A collar with an ID tag and a leash: Even though foster dogs are micro-chipped, they still need an ID tag.
A soft place to sleep: Old towels or blankets work well.
A baby gate: This comes in handy to keep certain areas of your home off-limits.
A crate: The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in, but not much bigger than that.
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.

Dog-Proofing Your Home

Foster dogs come from a shelter environment, 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 your foster dog. 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 trash cans are covered or latched and keep them inside a closet. (Don’t forget the bathroom trash bins.)
Keep the toilet lids closed.
Keep both people and pet food out of reach and off all counter tops.
Move house plants 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.

Section 3: 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. 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.

Choosing a Foster Dog

The Pawster Parents Coordinator will work with you to select a foster dog who meets your specific requirements. We will always do our best to match you with a dog that fits with your lifestyle and schedule.

When you and the Pawster Parents Coordinator have decided on a foster dog, an appointment will be scheduled for Pawster Parents staff or a shelter staff to bring the dog to your home and if this is your first time pawster parenting a safety home check will need to be conducted. Note: If this is not your first time pawster parenting you may have the option to pick up the dog and supplies at the shelter.  Together, you and the Pawster Parents Coordinator will decide if the dog is the right fit for you. Be honest: If you aren’t comfortable with anything about the animal you may be fostering.

Please note: Once the animal is placed in a foster home from a shelter, the dog cannot be returned to the shelter if the person fostering the dog decides it’s not working out. And Pawster Parents does not have a place to house dogs at this time. If you feel you can no longer foster a dog, a new foster home must be found.

Dog Introductions

If you have personal pets that are 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, rawhides 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. 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.

Cat Introductions

We can’t ensure that a foster dog has been “cat-tested,” so if you have personal pets that are 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. Over a one- to two-week period, let the dog and cats smell each other through the door, but don’t allow them contact with one another. Exchanging blankets or towels between the dog’s area and the cats’ area will help them get used to each other’s smells.

After a week or two, do the face-to-face introduction. Keeping your foster dog on leash, allow your cat out in the same area. (If you have more than one cat, introduce one cat at a time.) Do not allow the foster dog to charge or run directly up to the cat. Try to distract the dog as best you can so that the cat has the chance to approach without fear. Watch the body language of each animal closely and don’t continue the interaction if either pet becomes over-stimulated or aggressive. The idea is to keep the interactions positive, safe and controlled. Finally, never leave your foster dog unsupervised with any cats in your home.

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 away a toy or prized possession from the foster dog.
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. Some dogs may not be able to tell the difference between what is theirs and what belongs to the kids.

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 that cross their path.

Section 4: Daily Care


All foster dogs should be fed a diet of dry dog food, unless otherwise specified by the foster coordinator. We ask that high quality dog food be used. 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 to 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 rawhide chews, Greenies, antlers, Nylabones or Dentabones. 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.

Daily Routine

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, potty 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.


It’s unlikely that your foster dog will be perfectly house-trained when you take him or her home. Most of the dogs in the foster program have lived in a shelter for a while, 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 to go potty 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 potty 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. Keep the dog in a crate when you are not available to supervise her indoors.

If your foster dog has an accident inside the house, don’t discipline or punish her. It will only teach her to fear and mistrust you. 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 odors and remove them permanently.

Crate Training

Crate training, done in a positive way, can be an effective component of house-training. A crate can be a safe place for your foster dog to have “down time” and can also limit his access to the entire house until he knows the rules. A crate should never be used as a form of punishment and a dog should never be left in a crate for an extended period of time.

You can prevent problems with crate training by setting your foster dog up for success. He should only associate good things with the crate, so start by putting treats and/or toys in the crate and encouraging him to go in. Some dogs warm up to the crate slowly. If he is afraid to go in, place a treat in the crate as far as he is willing to go. After he takes the treat, place another treat a little farther back in the crate. Keep going until he is eating treats at the very back, then feed him his next meal in the crate with the door open, so that he can walk in and out at will.

Crate training a fearful dog can take days, so be patient and encouraging. If a crate is properly introduced and used, your foster dog will happily enter and settle down.


A clean and well-groomed dog has a better chance of getting adopted, so bathe your foster dog as needed and brush him regularly if he has longer hair or requires more frequent grooming. Contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator if you feel that your foster dog needs to see a professional groomer. If you are comfortable with it, you can trim his nails. But please be careful because you can cause pain and bleeding if you trim the nails too short.

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 behavior to adopters.

You can also offer your foster dog a food-dispensing toy for mental stimulation. You hide treats in the toy and the dog has to figure out how to get the treats out. Try a TreatStik (, Busy Dog Ball ( or Kong product (, available online and at pet supply stores.

Safety Requirements

Foster dogs must live indoors, not outside. Please do not leave your foster dog outside unsupervised, even if you have a fenced yard. 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 backyard that is completely fenced in.

When walking or hiking with your foster dog, please keep her on leash at all times. This means that your foster dog is not allowed to go to off-leash dog parks or other off-leash dog areas. We do not know how your foster dog will act in these situations, or how other dogs will react, 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. Having recently come from a shelter setting, foster dogs can be vulnerable health-wise.

Also, your foster dog cannot ride in the bed of an open pickup truck. When you’re transporting foster dogs, please keep them inside the vehicle.

Section 5: Helping Your Foster Dog get Adopted

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When is my foster dog ready to go be adopted?

A: All animals up for adoption must be spayed or neutered and deemed healthy enough to go to a home by a veterinarian. When you receive or pick up your foster dog from the shelter, the Pawster Parents Coordinator will go over the medical records for the dog and determine what medical appointments the foster dog needs before he/she can find a new home.

Before being up for adoption, all foster dogs must have a basic wellness check with a veterinarian. If your foster dog has any medical issues beyond the wellness check, they will need to be treated and fully resolved. Medical issues could include treatment for kennel cough, dental surgery or spay/neuter surgery.

Q: Will I need to take my foster dog to adoption events?

A: We request that if possible you attend our adoption events with your foster dog so that they too can get the best chance at finding a home.

Q: How can I help my foster dog find a great home?

A: As you get to know your foster dog, we ask that you stay in constant contact with the Pawster Parents Coordinator so that he/she can update the foster animal’s biography online to reflect accurate information about the dog’s preferences and quirks. Some people write their own biography for their foster dogs, which we encourage, though they may be edited. We also welcome any quality photos that you take of your foster dog in your home; we can use the photos to create a kennel card and accompany the online biography.

In addition, we have adorable “Adopt Me” bandannas that can increase the chances of your foster dog finding a home. Simply tie the bandanna around your dog’s neck before a walk, and everyone who sees him will know he’s looking for a home. We also have leash sleeves that say “Foster Dog,” which you can put on the dog’s leash. Please keep in mind that anyone who shows interest in adopting your foster dog will need to go through the adoption screening process and speak with a staff member before taking the animal home.

Q: What if I know someone who’s interested in adopting my foster dog?

A: If someone you know is interested in adopting the dog, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator and give her the details. Also, tell the prospective adopter to start the adoption process by filling out an adoption application as soon as possible. Once the dog is up for adoption, we cannot hold him/her for anyone, but we do want to accommodate referrals from foster parents if we can.

Q: Will it be hard to say goodbye to my foster dog?

A: Saying goodbye can be the most difficult part of fostering, but keep in mind that many more dogs in shelters need wonderful foster homes like yours. Remember, you are playing a crucial role in helping to save them all.

Instructions for adoption exchanges

You have the option to be a part of the adoption exchange or not per your presence. You may need to transport your foster dog to the placing shelter for the adoption exchange. Please bring in a small amount (sandwich bag or quart-sized bag, depending on the dog’s size) of the food that you are feeding your foster dog. Label the bag with the foster dog’s name and the brand and flavor of food to let the adopter know what type of food the dog has been eating. The adopter may wish to switch the food, but having a small amount of the dog’s current food will help with transitioning to a new food.

If your foster animal is on any medication, please bring that as well so that the animal can go home with it and the adopter doesn’t have to wait for it to be dropped off. If you have any other items that you want to send with your foster dog to his new home, please feel free to do so.

Section 6: Medical and Emergency Protocols

When you pick up your foster dog, you will receive a Foster Goal Sheet that specifies the dates that vaccines are due and any known medical conditions to treat. You are responsible for scheduling appointments for your dog’s vaccines on or around the due dates indicated on your Foster Goal Sheet.

If you are fostering a dog that is on medications, please make sure that he/she gets all prescribed doses. Do not end medication early for any reason. If your foster animal has not responded to prescribed medications after five days (or in the time instructed by a veterinarian), please contact the foster coordinator.

Veterinary Care

Pawster Parents provides all medical care for our foster animals at our approved veterinary clinics. Because we are ultimately responsible for your foster dog’s well-being, our staff must authorize any and all treatment for foster dogs at our approved veterinary partners.

If your foster dog needs to go to the veterinarian, please notify the Pawster Parents Coordinator by email or phone. The Pawster Parents Coordinator will schedule the appointment and issue you a medical voucher number, which is required for your veterinary appointment. Each voucher has a unique number, assigned by the staff member who authorizes and schedules your appointment. Please bring this voucher number to your appointment; the vet will not see the foster animal without that number.

For non-emergency situations, please understand that our veterinary partners book quickly and may not be available for same-day appointments. We ask that you schedule basic non-emergency appointments (drop-off, pick-up, vaccines and supply pick-ups) at least 24 hours in advance.

Remember, foster parents will be responsible for payment of any medical care if they take their foster animal to a veterinarian without authorization from the Pawster Parents Coordinator or placing shelter supervisor.

Please note: If you wish to take your foster pet to a veterinarian who’s not on the Pawster Parents list, you must first have approval from the Pawster Parents Coordinator or risk having to cover the costs yourself.

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 levels in a journal. You’ll also want to record any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of illness.

Eye Discharge. 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 Pawster Parents Coordinator 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 the foster coordinator to find out if a vet appointment is necessary.

If the discharge becomes colored, 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 foster coordinator immediately and follow the emergency contact protocol. Also, once you notice nasal discharge, monitor the dog’s eating habits more closely to ensure that he or she is still eating.

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 foster coordinator. Also, if the dog has been eating well, but then stops eating for 12 to 24 hours, call the foster coordinator to set up a vet appointment. Please do not change the dog’s diet without contacting the foster department. An abrupt change in diet can cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.

Lethargy. The activity level of your foster dog will vary depending on age and personality. Keeping an activity log and journal will help you notice whether your foster dog 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 start the emergency contact protocol.

Dehydration. Dehydration is usually associated with diarrhea, vomiting and/or loss of appetite. To test for dehydration, gently pinch the dog’s skin around the scruff area. If the skin stays taut, the dog is dehydrated. Please call the Pawster Parents Coordinator the next business day to schedule a vet appointment.

Vomiting. Sometimes dogs will eat too quickly and will immediately throw up their food. Occasional vomiting isn’t cause for alarm, but if your foster dog has thrown up two or more times in one day, please notify the foster department. It could be indicative of infection.

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 foster coordinator. Also, if you notice the dog straining to urinate with little or no results, or crying out when urinating, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator immediately because it may be indicative of an infection or an obstruction.

Diarrhea. It is important to monitor your foster dog’s pooping habits daily. Soft stool 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 stool, however, please contact the foster department so that an appointment can be scheduled to ensure that the dog doesn’t need medications. Keep in mind that diarrhea will dehydrate the dog, so be proactive about contacting the foster department. If your foster dog has bloody or mucoid diarrhea, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator immediately and start the emergency contact protocol.

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 veterinarian, so please call the Pawster Parents Coordinator to schedule a medical appointment.

Swollen, Irritated Ears. If your foster dog has irritated, swollen or red or pink ears that smell like yeast, he may have an ear infection called otitis. This type of infection is more common in dogs that have very floppy ears, like basset hounds or Labradors. These dogs may need to have their ears cleaned more often to ensure that the infection does not re-occur.

Hair Loss. Please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator 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.

Common Ailments in Animals from Shelters

Shelter dogs may suffer from kennel cough, giardia or intestinal parasites. Symptoms of kennel cough include a dry hacking cough, often with phlegm discharge, discharge from the nose and/or eyes, decrease in appetite, dehydration and slight lethargy. Symptoms of giardia or intestinal parasites include vomiting, diarrhea (often with a pungent odor) and/or dehydration.

If your foster dog is displaying one or more of these signs, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator. These ailments can worsen if left untreated.

Criteria for Emergencies

What constitutes a medical emergency in a dog? A good rule of thumb is any situation in which you would call 911 for a person. Here are some specific symptoms that could indicate an emergency:

Not breathing or labored breathing
Symptoms of parvovirus: bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, high fever (above 103.5 degrees)
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 follow the emergency phone protocol. If the animal is vomiting or has diarrhea, but is still active, eating and drinking, you can probably wait until the next day to get help.

Section 7: Behavior Support

One of your goals as a foster parent is to help prepare your foster dog for living successfully in a 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 pet. The basic idea is to reward desirable behaviors and ignore unwanted behaviors.

You must not punish a dog for a behavior that you find undesirable because punishment is ineffective at eliminating the behavior. If the dog is doing something undesirable, distract him or her before the behavior occurs. It is also important for every human 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, refrain from wrestling or engaging in play that encourages the dog to be mouthy and “play bite” on your body. Also, try to refrain from inviting dogs up on the couch or bed. Not all adopters find this habit acceptable.

Some foster dogs will have behavioral issues, which we are aware of at the time of their rescue. Some of these behavior challenges are separation anxiety, destruction of property, fear issues or aggression toward other animals. We will only place dogs with behavioral issues with a person who feels comfortable working with the dog on his/her particular issues. We will provide that person with all the necessary information so that proper care and training can be given to the foster dog.

If you feel unable to manage any behavior that your foster dog is exhibiting, please contact the Pawster Parents Coordinator during business hours to discuss the issue. We will guide you and help in every way that we can. If the behavior is extreme enough to warrant use of a trainer, we will provide one for you. Please understand that we have limited resources, so for basic training and minor behavior problems, we will personally work with the dog.

Introducing Dogs to Each Other
By Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant

If you have a dog and a new one will be entering or visiting your home, there are things you can do to ensure that the meeting goes off without a hitch. A new dog can mean you are bringing home a foster or a new family member, someone who has a dog is moving into your house, or someone is visiting with a dog.

If you know that both dogs are very social with a variety of other dogs, the meeting should be easy. However, some dogs don’t get out and mix with other dogs that much, or may have only had one or two dog friends in their lives. These dogs may seem to have better social skills than they actually do, so introducing them to new dogs may require more care and effort. Another factor to consider is whether or not the dogs have been spayed or neutered; if not, the meeting may be more difficult.

If you are uncertain how one (or both) of the dogs will react, be cautious. First, plan to have the dogs meet on neutral ground. Choose a place where neither dog is likely to feel territorial. Even your dog’s favorite park is not a good spot, unless it is a dog park (since dogs are often used to meeting other dogs there). If you are adopting a dog from a shelter, ask the staff if they can help to introduce the dogs. If your dog is accustomed to meeting dogs at a pet supply store like PetSmart or Petco, you can ask the store’s trainer to help with the introduction. The dogs could casually meet while you are on a shopping trip. If either dog has a history of difficulty getting along with other dogs, the best strategy would be to hire a certified professional behavior consultant to help you gradually introduce the two dogs to each other.

When the meeting occurs, have each dog on lead, each with a calm, relaxed adult handler. Keep the leads loose, since tension on the leash might communicate to the dogs that you are fearful or anxious about their meeting, which will in turn make them more fearful and anxious. Walk the dogs side by side with a safe distance between the dogs. Then, cross paths (still maintaining that distance) and allow the dogs to smell where the other has walked. If either of the dogs barks, snaps and lunges toward the other, consider hiring a certified professional dog trainer or behavior consultant to teach you how to do the Look at That game to help the dogs feel calm and happy around each other before proceeding to the next stage of introduction.

Next, let the dogs meet. As the dogs approach each other, watch their body language closely, paying attention to the entire body. The dogs may need to do a little posturing or make a little noise, but if you don’t know how to tell the difference between dogs getting to know each other and dogs who don’t like each other, have someone there who does.

If the dogs have shown no signs of hostility toward each other up to this point, take them to an enclosed area, drop their leashes, step back and give them space to get to know each other. We have a tendency to micro-manage these interactions, but in general it’s best if we allow the dogs to work it out with minimal interference. Humans hovering and getting too involved can be frustrating to the dogs, which can make them tense and spoil the interaction.

For the most part, dogs in this situation respond well to verbal feedback from humans. For example, if the dogs are getting too tense around each other, saying something in a soothing tone of voice (such as “It’s OK, guys, cool your jets”) can help them to take it down a notch, shake off and start fresh. If one dog is getting too overbearing and the other isn’t correcting her, we can often help out by saying something like “Hey, knock it off!” If the dogs do shake off their tension and engage with each other in polite, appropriate ways, we can reward them for those behaviors and encourage more of them by speaking in a happy tone (“Good dogs! Well done!”). In most cases, that kind of verbal guidance is all the interference they need from us. We must only step in and physically separate them when they are becoming too excited and cannot give themselves a break, or when it becomes clear that their relationship is headed for conflict.

Here are some general body language signs to look for to get a general idea of where the interaction is headed:

If they stiffen their bodies and stare into each other’s eyes with their hair up and their teeth bared, they probably aren’t going to become fast friends. If they lunge at each other and try to fight, separate them and don’t try further introductions without help from a certified professional behavior consultant. Some dogs cannot safely interact with other animals and therefore should be the only pet in the home. Most of these dogs can be taught to ignore other animals while out in public, but they may never be able to safely interact with them.
Be wary of nose-to-nose greetings. This type of greeting is very stressful for many dogs, particularly those who are fearful or feel threatened by eye contact. For these dogs, nose-to-nose greetings may cause them to make a bad decision and bite out of fear and defensiveness. When dogs first look into each other’s eyes, the appropriate behavior is to give a glance and then look away. A hard stare into another dog’s eyes is a challenge — not a friendly way to greet. If the dogs practice inappropriate behavior like stiffening or staring, try to get the dogs to calm down by offering verbal feedback. If that doesn’t work, you can pick up their leashes and walk them around until they shake off and loosen up, then try again.
If the dogs rush up to each other — with or without the hair raised at their shoulders and at the base of the tail — and engage in loud, raucous play, stay alert. This type of play can often escalate to fighting if the dogs do not know how to calm themselves down.
If one dog pursues the other continually and ignores the other dog’s corrections (e.g., lip curls, growls or air snaps) or requests to take a break, it can turn from play into bullying. These kinds of corrections are frequently mistaken for aggression, but they are actually part of healthy, normal dog communication. Dogs should be able to correct each other when one is being inappropriate; likewise, they should be able to pay attention to another dog’s corrections. It is also important for dogs to take turns being the chaser and the one being chased, and to take breaks when they get too amped up. If they are not able to do that for themselves, pick up their leashes and walk them around until they shake off and loosen up, then try again.
If the dogs try to play by pawing or play-bowing with their legs stretched out in front of them, they may want to be best buddies. Allow them to get to know each other, and give praise for each nice interaction.

If the dogs seem fine with each other, drive them home, preferably in separate crates or cars so that the close quarters of a vehicle won’t create unnecessary tension between them. At home, let them settle in, but make sure you’ve put away your dog’s toys, bones and food bowls first, since these items may be sources of conflict. Whenever you feed the dogs, and certainly if you’re going to offer high-value items like Kongs or chews, it may be best to separate them while they eat. Once the dogs are good friends, they may be more willing to chomp side by side on food and high-value items.

To introduce a puppy to a dog, use the same procedure as above. If the puppy is under six months old, both the dog and the puppy may need frequent breaks from each other. Some adult dogs will quickly lose patience with puppy energy. If the dog does not like the puppy, do not leave them alone together.

Finally, if you are not confident or comfortable at any point, please seek help from a relationship-based trainer who has ample experience with dog to dog interactions.

Dog Bites Child: How to Prevent This Scenario
By Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant

Children can have the most amazing relationships with dogs if both are taught how to properly interact and respect each other. Proper training and management of both children and dogs can prevent tragedies from ever happening.

When a child is bitten, both the child and the dog pay a high price. Even if the child is not physically damaged, he or she is still emotionally affected. The dog may end up homeless (and a poor adoption prospect) in a shelter or be destroyed as a future safety precaution.

What does my child need to know to prevent dog bites?

Teach your children that they should never tease or throw things at a dog. Teach them to be especially gentle and calm around dogs that they don’t know.
Teach your children the proper ways to pet a dog and tell them not to pet strange dogs without asking permission. Tugging on a dog’s ears or tail can be painful, and the dog might feel the need to bite. It is also important to teach your children not to hug dogs, especially dogs you don’t know. That type of “confinement” can be scary to a dog and it brings the child’s face close to the dog’s face, which can make the dog uncomfortable.
Tell your children not to run, jump or scream around an unfamiliar dog, since you are unaware of what actions may cause fear or predatory behavior in that animal.
Remind your children not to stare at a dog when interacting with the animal. Children are often the same size as dogs and may stare into a dog’s eyes without meaning to or without understanding that the dog may feel threatened.
Tell your children not to wake up a sleeping dog. The dog may be startled and react defensively.
Tell your children not to climb on any dog, even the family dog. It may be perfectly safe with your own dog, but children may try this with another dog and get bitten.
Tell your children not to take things out of a dog’s mouth and to leave an eating dog alone. Even though your own dog may not guard toys or food, another dog may. Therefore, it is safer to teach a child to leave all dogs alone during mealtime or while they’re eating treats. In addition, when around a strange dog, your child should not take away the dog’s toys.

What does my dog need to know?

Socialize your puppy or dog to children. Watch your puppy or dog as she plays with children; stop the play if the child or the dog gets too rough.
First, handle all of his body parts. If your dog objects to any part of his body being handled, go to an area of his body that he likes to have touched. As you talk soothingly to him, begin touching him there and then move over to the area that he does not like. Praise him if he does not react, and do this over and over until the dog is fine with touch everywhere. Use treats in addition to praise if necessary.

What do I need to know?

Have your whole family go to training classes with the dog. Everyone in your family should have some understanding of acceptable dog behavior
Don’t stare into a dog’s eyes, since this can be threatening to him.
Watch your dog carefully around other people’s children, since he or she does not know those children, and you can’t be certain of how your dog will react.
Get your dog checked out by a vet if your dog’s behavior suddenly changes (i.e., she becomes more irritable). Sudden negative behavior change may mean your dog is in pain and needs medical attention.

Finally, if you have a dog that is not okay around children, it is your responsibility to protect your dog from her tendencies. Never allow her to be in a situation where she might bite a child. If you teach both children and dogs how to properly interact, they will enjoy a wonderful, safe, fun relationship.

House-Training a Dog
By Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant

When you get a new puppy or dog, you’ll need to show him or her what is acceptable in your home. Different people may have different rules: Some want to train their dogs to eliminate in litter trays or on paper, while others want all “bathroom” business to occur outdoors. For your dog to know what you want, you have to establish a predictable routine.

Potty training your dog or puppy

For the first couple of weeks, a new dog of any age should be supervised when he has the full (or even partial) run of the house. During those times when you cannot supervise him, it is wise to restrict the movement of a new animal during the house-training phase. You can potty train your dog by using a crate. Or, for limited periods of time, you can confine the dog to a small, easy-to-clean room, like the bathroom, equipped with a child gate.

Your dog should consider this space a safe place, so add the dog’s bed, water and things to chew on to create a comfortable den. The dog should be fed in this space as well. To keep this space safe, make sure that nothing that would cause her discomfort happens here and keep children out of this area.

Set up a daily schedule where you walk your dog on lead (or carry her) to the desired elimination spot after meals, after naps, and every couple of hours in between. To reinforce that the trip has a purpose, you should not play with the dog during trips to eliminate. Use a word or phrase (like “do your business”) to remind the dog of her duty. As soon as she has produced, praise her lavishly and give her a treat.

What do I need to know about potty training a puppy?

Puppies cannot hold their bladders and bowels for more than a few hours. Even the most intelligent and well-intentioned puppy has to wait until its muscles develop before it can exercise appropriate bladder and bowel control, just like a human infant. If you must be away for more than two or three hours, and you are training the puppy to eliminate outdoors, you will need someone to help by walking the puppy for you.

If you are training a puppy to eliminate on paper or in a litter box, the space the puppy is contained in will need to be large enough for a sleeping area away from an elimination spot. (Dogs don’t like to eliminate where they sleep.) Keep in mind that a puppy, if trained to eliminate on paper or a litter box, may have a lifelong surface preference; that is, even as an adult, he may eliminate on paper if it is lying around the house. Having a puppy eliminate in the house will prolong the process of teaching him to eliminate outdoors.

How long does house-training take?

After a week or so of no accidents, you can begin allowing the dog freedom in the house after each successful trip outdoors. Supervision will still be needed, however, as well as praise and an occasional reward. Supervise the dog anytime he is given free run of the house, watching for signs such as circling and sniffing corners.

How do I deal with “accidents”?

If an “accident” happens and you catch the dog in the act, stop him and escort him to the correct spot. Praise him if he stops eliminating when you ask him to. Be sure not to yell when you catch him in the act because this can cause him to discontinue eliminating in front of you, thus prolonging the potty-training process. If you find the results of an accident after it’s happened, again, do not punish the dog, since punishment could make him afraid to eliminate in your presence. It’s more effective to clean up the mess and put it in the designated elimination spot, so the smell will help your dog recognize that this is where to go.

To clean up accidents, use an enzymatic cleaner. Urine contains pheromones, chemical markers that say essentially, “Go potty here.” Only enzymatic cleaners break down the pheromones, which keeps dogs from sniffing out and using the inappropriate potty area.

If you’re training a puppy, keep in mind that a puppy’s muscles are still developing, so he may not be able to control himself when he eliminates in an inappropriate spot. Puppies mature at different rates, and some will take longer to develop bladder and bowel control.

Finally, there’s a difference between a dog who “marks” his territory and a dog who isn’t house-trained. Early neutering will reduce a dog’s inclination to mark surfaces with his scent. But, if a dog who is already potty-trained starts having accidents, check with your veterinarian because there may be a medical cause.

Crate Training: The Benefits for You and Your Dog
By Sherry Woodard, Best Friends animal behavior consultant

Why should I consider crate training my dog?

Dogs are hard-wired by their genetic history to be den animals. A den is a small, safe, well-defined space. It is a place in which dogs feel instinctively safe. It is also a place that they instinctively avoid soiling. The combination of these two native traits are what make crate training, done in the right way, a kind and effective component in house-training your new puppy or dog.

A crate can also be a place for your dog to rest or have “down time.” If you have just acquired a dog, a crate can limit access to the entire house until your new dog knows the house rules. A crate can help with house-training by setting up a routine. For example, you can feed the puppy in the crate and, afterwards, carry him or walk him on a lead straight out to an elimination site where you can use a word or phrase to remind the dog what the trip outside is for.

There are other benefits of crate training. At some point in your dog’s life, it may be necessary to use a crate when you are traveling with your pet or when your dog is recuperating from an injury. Such potentially traumatic situations will be much less stressful if your dog is already familiar with and comfortable in a crate. Crates are also useful for keeping destructive dogs out of mischief when you’re not home to keep an eye on them.

Where do I purchase a crate and how do I know which one to buy?

Most pet-supply stores carry dog crates; pet catalogs sell them as well. Considerations when buying your crate: Make sure the crate is big enough so that the dog can stand up, turn around and lay flat on his side in comfort, but small enough that there isn’t enough room for the dog to sleep and eat at one end and eliminate at the other. If you are training a growing puppy, you can buy a larger crate with a divider for adjusting the crate as he grows.

How do I introduce the crate?

You can prevent problems with crate training by setting your dog up for success. Your dog should only associate good things with the crate, so start by putting treats and/or toys in the crate and encouraging him to go in. Some dogs may need to warm up to the crate slowly. If your dog is afraid to go in, place a treat in the crate as far as he is willing to go. After he takes the treat, place another treat a little further back in the crate. Keep going until he is eating treats at the very back, then feed him his next meal in the crate with the door open, so that he can walk in and out at will. Crate training a fearful dog can take days, so be patient and encouraging. If a crate is properly introduced and used, your dog will happily enter and settle down.

Should the crate be used at night?

Sure, you can use the crate at night. Put the dog in with a treat and a cue like “kennel” or “kennel up” delivered in a cheery tone of voice. The crate should be situated close to you so that you can hear the dog whine or whimper if he needs to eliminate during the night. (Dogs will usually make some kind of noise rather than make a mess where they sleep.)

If you are training a puppy, be prepared for one or two trips outside at night to eliminate. If the puppy goes outside and doesn’t produce, do not allow any extra time for play or long drinks of water when you come back inside. Instead, encourage the pup to return to the crate. He may whine a bit, but if you have given him ample opportunity to eliminate, try to ignore the protest and the puppy should settle down quickly.

How much time in the crate is okay?

No dog, young or old, should be living in a crate full-time. Dogs are social animals, so for a dog to have a good quality of life, social isolation should be kept to a minimum. All dogs need daily exercise and some interaction with others. Even four hours in a crate without a break during the day is a long time for many adult dogs. If you must crate your dog when you’re not home, arrange to have someone stop in and let her out for a potty break and to stretch her legs. Except for nighttime, crating a dog for long periods of time is not advised.

Puppies, especially, should not be left in a crate for long periods of time (more than two hours). It is important that puppies not be neglected and forced to break their instinctive aversion to soiling their sleeping area. Unfortunately, this is what happens to many pet-store puppies and it can lead to serious house-training difficulties. Also, since they are still developing, puppies have even more need for social interaction than adult dogs. If they aren’t socialized to the world while they are young, they can develop fears and aberrant behaviors of many kinds.

Most adult dogs can stay in a crate for the entire night without a trip outside. However, young puppies and some old dogs cannot physically hold their bladders and bowels through the night.

When should a crate not be used?

A crate should not be used as a form of punishment. As mentioned earlier, your dog should have only warm, fuzzy feelings about her crate. Even though a dog can come to see her crate as a safe place, it is not the solution for a dog with separation anxiety, since she could injure herself trying to get out.

Thanks You for reading the Pawster Parents' Dog Foster Care Manual! We hope this information was helpful. If you are a new Pawster Parent and reading this information as part of your foster care training, please fill out the below form to be credited 25 points towards your required 100 training points.  

VILLAGE FIRST -- Family, Friends, Fosters instead of Shelters

Thank you Best Friends Animal Society–Utah for granting us permission to adapt this manual to suit Pawster Parents’ unique requirements.

Pawster Parents

Dog Foster Care Manual