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How Can I Be An Effective Foster?

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Guest blog by: Dawn Day, Owner/Trainer of A Pawsitive Dawg

Taking that first step…volunteering to foster…puts you on the road to helping a pet find their forever home. Fostering a rescue dog or puppy, assisting with basic training, and addressing undesirable behaviors is key. Your time, attention, dedication, and devotion are all commendable, and your intentions are well meant, but there are a few pitfalls to be aware of:

Being able to emotionally “detach” yourself from foster dog’s history:

  • Try not to emotionally “absorb” what the dog has been through before coming to you. Many of these animals have heartbreaking stories, but effective fostering can help them overcome their past. Dogs live in the present. They can and will be shaped by past experiences, but they still have the potential of becoming a different dog.

  • Don’t hold onto the dog’s history to allow for unwanted behaviors to develop. In other words, keep his history in mind, but don’t let that “define” your expectations of ongoing behavior. Give your foster the ability to grow and develop into their potential rather than having their past define them.

  • Prepare your foster dog for hit future home and not the home you are currently providing. As much as you’d like for him to snuggle on the couch with you, realize his future home may not allow him on the furniture. You’ll need to separate how you allow your resident dogs to behave from how you handle your foster dog.

  • Acknowledge that some foster dogs will and do experience a form of PTSD, but like us, can work through it over time and thrive.

Burdening our dogs with our human emotions:

Dogs can interpret many of our emotions and attitudes and are able to exhibit empathy to us. Dogs are NOT, however, able to interpret sympathy directed toward them or understand that we are being compassionate and will keep them safe. Many times that compassion or leniency translates to your foster “you are too soft to keep me safe”. Dogs need to know that you, as their caretaker, provider, protector are the true “leader”.

Working with hundreds of rescue dogs that have been successfully adopted into forever homes, I have learned if I put their NEEDS BEFORE MY EMOTIONS, the rehabilitative process is much more effective. That being said, it's not always easy to set my desire to offer the foster dog softer emotions and try to prove to them that they are now safe.

Initially, I work hard to suppress these emotions until the foster dog is fully settled into the new environment and routine. He needs to gain the confidence to know they he is safe and can survive, then I can take time to “baby the baby”.

Allow your foster dog to learn (and embrace) the art of self-soothing:

Crate training can be tough, but it is absolutely essential skill for almost every dog.

  • Gives them a space to decompress and relax with no fear of feeling threatened

  • Prevents separation anxiety and destruction in the home

  • Makes them a LOT MORE ADOPTABLE

While dogs are completely reliant on us for almost every aspect of their survival, they need to experience and understand that being separated/isolated is okay for short periods of time (ideally no longer than a 4- 6 hour period) followed by 10-15 minutes of quality time with you.

Following this schedule will in no way make your foster feel abandoned or that you don’t care. If you have resident dog(s) that are not crated, you can and still SHOULD CRATE your foster.

Remember that as a foster, you are temporarily caring for a dog that will be going into an adoptive home that may have different routines and/or schedules.

The above is based on what I have done with foster dogs that have come to my home. This is a general starting-off point and I adjust the schedule to the needs of a specific dog. Please follow the Standard Operating Procedures of the Rescue Group if the following is not consistent.

– Dawn Day, Owner/Trainer A Pawsitive Dawg


Meet the Trainer, Dawn Day. Owner/Trainer of A Pawsitive Dawg.

Contact Dawn by emailing:

Dawn's Training Philosophy : "I consider myself to be a Relationship Based trainer, who uses Instinctive and Behavioral based training for companion dogs and their families. I also utilize a form of Balanced Training which is neither All-Positive nor Punishment Based. My goal is to help you communicate with your dog that builds your bond and make the quality time, you spend together, enjoyable and fun."


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Who is Dallas Dog? Our rehabilitation efforts address the physical and emotional needs of rescued animals and prepare them for the second chance they deserve. You can make a difference by fostering, adopting, or making a donation toward these worthy animals.

Thank you for supporting Dallas Dog. Our mission is to create a safer place for animals by rescuing and rehabilitating those who are neglected, unwanted and abused across Texas or displaced by natural disasters nearby and finding them a permanent home. You can visit our website at to follow our amazing journey.

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