Tips From The Trenches
A collection of ideas, tips, suggestions, and products, recommended by people who foster. We receive no incentives for recommending these products.
Send an email to suggest something for inclusion on this page.
Also consider joining our yahoo group, where many of the following ideas were suggested and discussed.
Most foster homes recommend keeping some sort of identification on our fosters. New foster dogs may appear to be constantly searching for their previous owner and may tend to wander or bolt if given the opportunity. Since they are often shy, nervous, and untrained, they may not readily come when called. Although we hope you'll never have to use it, an ID tag can be a lifesaver for your foster dog.
Tags As Mementos
Tammy Hartwig likes to get a new tag for each foster dog. When the dog moves on to its permanent home, she keeps the tag as a memento.
I have a tag that I reuse for each foster dog. To attach the tag to the collar, I use a handy gadget called Tag-It made by Cetacea. This allows me to easily transfer the tag between collars without having to deal with s-hooks (which can be dangerous if they get caught in something) or split rings, which are a hassle to use.
Jan Carpenter cautions us about the potential dangers of hanging tags. Instead, she recommends a tag that is affixed directly to the collar, such as these CollarTags sold by Boomerang Tags. They can be used with buckle collars or adjustable collars and are guaranteed not to fall off or become illegible.
To avoid injury, collars should be removed when confining a dog to its crate.
Choke collars should never be left on an unattended dog, and are not meant to be used for affixing ID tags.
Many of us like to have something eyecatching on our fosters when we take them out into the community, like a vest or bandana with "I'm Adoptable!" or "Adopt Me!" printed on it.
A very nicely made vest (they call them ID capes) can be purchased from Wolf Pack. They don't sell an appropriate patch for foster dogs (they are made for service dogs), so you will have to make your own. I used an iron-on transfer, then sewed the resulting patch to the vest.
For Adopt-Me coats, bandanas and collar covers, check out Thankful Paws. They also have coats with pockets for collecting donations, and items for deaf, blind, and shy dogs.
For nice vests at a reasonable price, C.J. Anderson recommends these Adopt-Me Vests from dogbooties.com. Since these vests are made to attach to the dog's collar, Stacie Becker suggests using one collar to keep the vest in place and a second collar for the leash.
Mike Curran uses these custom made Adopt Me bandanas with velcro closures sold by Bandana Mania.
Your goal should always be to teach your foster dog to walk properly on a loose leash without any special equipment. However, there are some tools that can help you fill the gap when you need to move or exercise your foster dog before he is fully trained.
People often have a negative reaction to pinch collars because of their appearance, but a properly fitted pinch collar can be a life-saver for a small person walking a large, unruly foster dog. The mini-prong collar with the smaller links works well, even for larger dogs. Additional links can be added to get the correct fit. This collar should fit fairly snug, high up on the dog's neck, right behind his ears. This collar is not designed to be slipped over the dog's head like a choke; you should remove one of the links to get the collar on and off. Some dogs are more sensitive to the feel of the pinch than others, so use with caution and consult an experienced trainer for assistance.
Headcollars are another good tool for gaining control of a dog that doesn't know how to walk nicely on a leash, and work on the premise that if you can control of the dog's head, you can control his whole body. The Gentle Leader head collar by Premier is well made. It can take some work to get a dog to accept wearing a head collar. Jerking the leash or allowing the dog to hit the end of the leash while using a head collar can cause neck or back injury, so please use with caution.
The Double Dog Coupler made by Sporn has a slider in the middle to adjust the length of each side. It has a ring to attach a lead, but depending on the size of the dogs it could be used without a lead. Nicely made, rather heavy. Useful for walking two dogs of different sizes, assuming both dogs are leash trained. Also check out their Double Dog Leash.
Many new fosters either arrive with diarrhea, or develop it due to stress or a change in food. After many bouts of diarrhea with quite a few of my new fosters, I began to assume most of them would have some digestive issues, and often used the following as a preventive measure upon arrival. This is probably not necessary in most cases but also will not harm the dog with short term use. This method can also be used as needed for diarrhea, assuming the dog has no other medical issues.
Withhold food for approx. 12 hrs (or overnight) when the foster first arrives. Be sure to offer water.
Offer the dog a small meal consisting of one part cottage cheese to two parts white rice. You can substitute boiled hamburger instead of the cottage cheese, but I find the cottage cheese to be much simpler. Most dogs go crazy for this. You can serve slightly warm to make it more palatable. If dehydration is a concern, mix in a small amount of water.
For very small dogs (and for cats), you can use a jar of plain chicken baby food. (Cats can skip the rice, just use the chicken.) They will go nuts for this. Make sure there are no spices added.
If this is well tolerated, you can offer several small meals throughout the day.
Gradually begin to mix in a small amount of the dog's regular food. Over several meals, increase the amount of regular food and decrease the cottage cheese/rice mixture until the dog is eating only the regular food and is tolerating it well.
Using this method I generally find it unnecessary to purchase a supply of whatever brand of food the dog was eating before -- I just start with a short fast, then the rice/cottage cheese, and then begin adding the brand of dog food I will be using.